The Perfect 3-day Itinerary for a Relaxing Weekend in Vancouver
Vancouver is the perfect location for a quick West Coast weekend getaway with friends. You could also easily take this trip with a partner or family, but we went for a girls’ weekend so that is the lens through which this guide will be laid out. The city is easily accessible by driving up from a West Coast city in the US like Seattle, or by flight. Though Canada is not the cheapest country to travel to, if you split the costs between friends and enjoy the natural beauty this city has to offer, you can make your weekend in Vancouver work on a budget.
Read our guide on how to travel on a budget here!
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Things to Do on a Weekend in Vancouver
Know before you go–
This part of the country is located in the Pacific Northwest which is notorious for its rainy and grey winter months. While the weather stays a fairly mild temperature, you are sure to run into some rainy days if you visit between the months of September to at least May. The rain can be pretty mild, so if you don’t want to bring along an umbrella (this is the one I pack) be sure to at least pack a rain jacket just in case.
Day 1 – Hiking and Mani/Pedis
Stretch your legs
Our first order of business after checking into our accommodations was to grab some bubble tea and then stretch our legs after hours in the car (or plane if you fly in) so we decided to head north to do some hiking. The air was so unbelievably fresh and cool and even though we had driven only a few hours it felt as though we had ended up in a completely new world.
We reached out to our friend April over at Just Leaving Footprints for her expert advice on her favorite things to do in Vancouver as a local and here is what she had to say:
For hiking on a splurge, check out Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Capilano Suspension Bridges are a must-visit in Vancouver. They make a perfect day trip for any time of year. The longest of the bridges has been around since 1889 and millions of people have visited it. After you cross the longest bridge, you will find yourself in the middle of a lush green forest. In this forest, you go for a treetop walk which takes you up to the tops of the trees and across seven more suspension bridges. The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park has also recently added a Cliffwalk where you can walk along a bridge high atop one of the cliffs looking over the entire canyon. Each suspension bridge is unique and offers stunning views of the canyon and rainforest.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park also has a Story Center and an Exhibit that teaches people about the Kia’palano First Nations People of British Columbia. In the Story Center you can also see photos, murals, and artifacts depicting the history of the suspension bridges.
If you visit the suspension bridges near Christmas, you can choose to go during the Canyon Lights. The Canyon Lights is a Festival that takes place every winter. All the bridges get lit up with millions of festive lights turning the whole park into a true Winter Wonderland. You can visit Santa, drink hot chocolate, listen to Christmas music and part of your ticket fare goes to help local charities!
For more things to do in Vancouver around Christmastime, read April’s full post on Christmas in Vancouver!
Exploring Deep Cove
If you ever visit Vancouver you must go to Deep Cove. Deep Cove is a cute neighborhood right on the ocean filled with adorable shops, Instagram-worthy cafes and some of the best donuts in the whole city! Make sure you stop by Honey Doughnuts & Goodies before heading down to the ocean docks for a sunset stroll. The food at Cafe Orso is amazing as well!
Deep Cove is also famous for its hiking trails. One of these trails is called the Baden Powell Trail which goes from Horseshoe Bay all the way to the Burrard Inlet. You can also check out Panorama, Myrtle or Cates Parks in the area to have a picnic or just enjoy the ocean and mountain views.
Thank you April! You can keep up with her sustainable travels and more over on Instagram. Now, on to the rest of the itinerary:
Budget / Free – Hiking in North Vancouver
There are tons of trails to choose from and you could spent an entire week hiking in this beautiful area. To see a suspension bridge on a budget your best bet is the Lynn Canyon at the start of the Baden Powell Trail that April mentioned. The park is over 600 acres of beautiful old growth forest, with trees nearly 100 years old.
When you first arrive, you can orient yourself by checking in with the ecology center at the front, and also grab something to eat if you get hungry at the cafe. We headed straight to the bridge to catch a glimpse then spent some time hiking through the dense, flourishing forest around the canyon. I was hoping to catch sight of some wildlife, but other than the lush green flora I only spotted this banana slug, pictured below.
We recommend allotting at least an hour to explore; you will be glad you did as there is a lot to see in this beautiful park.
Have a Girls’ Night In
After your hike you are sure to be starving, so grab a quick bite to eat in town on your way back – we chose Baoguette Vietnamese Bistro- then get some mani pedis and head home.
One thing I will note is that while normally we use Yelp to judge reviews of where to go, they were never accurate in Vancouver! We tried places with great reviews and they were more meh, and we went to restaurants and even the nail salon with iffy reviews that all turned out to be great. So, at least from my experience, don’t trust Yelp, at least in Vancouver.
Day 2 – Brunch, Market, Wine
Start off with brunch
Grab breakfast then head into downtown Vancouver to explore the market on Granville Island. We tried to hit a popular breakfast spot called The Jam, but it was pouring rain and the line wrapped around the block. We decided to try a little counter down the road called The Dirty Apron which is also a cooking school and it did not disappoint. I couldn’t decide between the green breakfast smoothie or the avocado toast so I got both! Paired with a delicious latte and thick slices of Canadian bacon it made the perfect breakfast to fuel a day of exploring.
Explore the market
Head to Granville Island to explore the public market. There is so much to see on the island -we mainly stuck to the public market- but we included a map below to help you plan out your trip. The public market on Granville Island is filled with vendors and small local business selling art, fresh produce and flowers, specialty cheeses, meats, and other foods as well as handmade goods- everything from sustainable soaps to delectable macarons and other sweets. You can easily snack your way through without needing a formal lunch, or pick up ingredients for a picnic and head to the courtyard or up to Stanley Park to sit by the water while you enjoy your bounty. This is also a great place to pick up souvenirs or mementos, so bring an extra bag to stash what you find.
End your day of exploring with a decadent girls night out. Grab dinner and wine at Novo Pizzeria & Wine bar – everything was delicious. The salads, pizzas, and wine selection were all outstanding, and we enjoyed decompressing from the day’s adventures over carbs and delicious wine.
Day 3 – Cafe, Bicycling, Head home
Our last day in Vancouver started with coffee and breakfast at Olive + Ruby – we read that it took a long time for food to come out so we showed up early and were the first customers. The wait was indeed fairly long so, if you are in a rush, skip this recommendation or come early like we did! The cafe is absolutely precious with a wall covered in plants and hanging window seats, plus a vegetarian and plant-based menu of delicious offerings and crafted beverages.
Go biking before you hit the road
If time permits, get in one last sight-seeing adventure by renting bikes and cycling around Stanley Park. The historic first park in Vancouver is a whopping 1,000 acres (400 hectares) and contains an aquarium, miniature railroad, water park, and miles of trails that are both paved and dirt, so there is sure to be plenty of space for you to get your blood pumping before the ride home.
Time to Head Home
If you are driving back across the border to Washington State, you’ll want to get on the road earlier rather than later. As you can see in the photo below, there are exorbitantly more cars crossing the border into the US, and the wait can take several hours, especially since the US is more stringent about their re-entry process. Once over the border, be sure to grab a cup of coffee at Woods Coffee to fuel the rest of your drive.
Heading to Seattle? Check out our guide for over 50 of our favorite free and cheap things to do in Seattle
Until next time!