Just north of Seattle you’ll find Vancouver, British Columbia, a true gem of the northwest.

By Nicole Allen Bumbaugh and Ben Young

AAA World Article

Just north of Seattle you’ll find Vancouver, British Columbia, a true gem of the northwest. Its good weather, natural beauty, and welcoming spirit make it a must-visit destination for 2018 and beyond. Check out some of our favorite reasons you should visit Vancouver:

Imagine hiking along a wide, bark-mulched trail through an old-growth forest of towering trees, their branches mixing together in luxurious tangles. A goose honks in the distance as you see a rabbit cross your path. This is just one scene you'll find in Stanley Park on the Vancouver's Downtown Peninsula. The city is just plain stunning, with its mix of city streets, skyscrapers, and natural beauty. It's no wonder that this coastal city with a backdrop of snowcapped mountains appears on Forbes’ list of “Most Beautiful Cities in the World” year after year. Locals take great pride in their city and keep the streets welcoming, clean and safe, so you’ll feel comfortable roaming the boulevards and trails.

If you’re like us, you probably don’t associate any city in Canada with having great beaches. But Vancouver has some of the best beach options in the Pacific Northwest, each with its own personality. Visitors even have their choice of ocean or freshwater lake beaches.

Consider checking out Kitsilano Beach (locals call it Kits Beach), which is similar to Venice Beach in California, full of joggers, volleyball players, and sun worshippers all enjoying the sand with the city skyline in the background. Or, if you’re looking for a peaceful beach, check out Spanish Banks. This urban escape is the perfect place to enjoy the sand or to skim board once you’ve learned the optimal tidal conditions.

Vancouver is one of the warmest cities in Canada, and the weather is pleasant just about any time of year. Featuring mild winters (average temperatures of 38°F are definitely tolerable) and summer highs in 60s and 70s, exploring the city year-round is a pleasure.

There’s no shortage of parks in Vancouver—in fact, the city has close to 300 parks and gardens. The most famous is the 1,000-acre Stanley Park, considered one of the top urban parks in the world. It’s a natural rainforest with towering trees, complete with nature trails, totem poles, ever-blooming gardens, and an aquarium. Queen Elizabeth Park is the highest point in the city and has one of the most spectacular views around. Bring your camera and take in downtown’s skyline and floral displays while enjoying the park’s dancing fountains.

If you have kids (the two-legged or the four-legged kind), John Hendry Park should be a summer selection. Situated around Trout Lake, this park features an off-leash dog park, a sandy beach and a popular children’s playground overlooking amazing views of the northern mountains.

The number of motion pictures filmed in Vancouver isn’t the only reason the arts and culture scene is so hot; the city’s diverse cultures have helped create a thriving arts community. Vancouver is home to a number of professional theater companies, as well as the Vancouver International Film Festival—the city’s biggest event of the year. Be sure to enjoy the symphony or opera, or enjoy live music at one of Vancouver’s thriving night spots.

Check out the symphony or opera, or enjoy live music at one of Vancouver’s thriving nightspots. Don’t miss the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Museum of Vancouver, or Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center, all of which showcase the spirit of the Northwest.

Foodies rejoice—Vancouver chefs go out of their way to serve local produce and seafood, and as a result, the city has become a popular farm-to-table foodie destination. Be sure to enjoy the fresh salmon when you visit for a true taste of Vancouver, whether it be at a AAA Four Diamond restaurant or a local street-side café.

Of course, no visit to Canada is complete without sampling poutine. While poutine was originally an east coast Canadian dish, Vancouver has added its own twist to the steaming hot fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. While you can get poutine just about anywhere in the city, including McDonalds, consider checking out a local eatery like Fritz European Fry House or La Belle Patate for your first taste.

When you look at the residents of Vancouver, your eyes aren’t playing a trick on you—they’re incredibly fit. With so many recreational activities available, it’s clear why. There’s no shortage of swimming, ice skating, golfing, kayaking, biking, fishing, or skiing to keep you active. Plus, nothing completes a visit to Vancouver like whale watching.

You don’t have to take our word for it that Vancouver is one of the most modern and diverse global travel destinations—more than 10 million people visited in 2017, including Pennsylvania native Amber van Niekerk. “I love that Vancouver combines the best of a big city and the outdoors,” she says. “One day you can be walking around fabulous shops and restaurants, and the next you can be deep in the mountains or lounging on the beach.”