I’d venture to say that Vancouver is one of the most perfect long weekend trips you can make in North America. It’s got some of everything—a vibrant, fun city with amazing food and drink, a surplus of natural beauty, and easy day trips you can add as time allows.
I have a couple different posts detailing our adventures, where we ate and stayed, and what you absolutely can’t miss, but wanted to pull everything together in one place so you have the ultimate guide for a long weekend in Vancouver.
Pro tip: this is a 3-day itinerary, but make sure to check the weather and plan the order of your three days accordingly—two of them are very nature-intensive and require good weather, which can be challenging sometimes in the rainy Northwest. So plan carefully and adapt as needed.
Day 1: Drive the Sea-to-Sky Highway up to Whistler
Make sure to read this post detailing all the places to stop along the gorgeous route, where to stay in Whistler Olympic Village, and why you absolutely have to drive up to Joffre Lakes.
One of the best things you can do when visiting Vancouver is get *out* of Vancouver. No knock on the city, but there are so many gorgeous things to see in the surrounding areas that it would be insane not to explore some.
What this day entails:
- An early start with coffee and pastries at Thierry patisserie in downtown Vancouver
- Taking your time along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, stopping at Porteau Cove, Squamish Falls, lunch at Fergie’s Cafe,
- Another hour’s drive up to Joffre Lakes and Nairn Falls
- A relaxing walk and dinner in Whistler Olympic Village
Even if you’re not an early bird, the West Coast time change will probably get you unless you’re based there, so make the most of it and hit the road early. Trust me, the almond croissants at Thierry will make it TOTALLY worth it. Some of the best I’ve ever had. Pray for good weather, because the views along the Sea-to-Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler are to die for.
There are tons of awesome stops along the way, which are well detailed and can give you legs a break. The entire thing only takes about two hours, but will certainly be longer with stops.
This is one of those cases where the journey *is* the destination.
Whistler village is cute but touristy, and crazy expensive (everything in Vancouver is too). If the weather is still nice, I recommend immediately heading up to Joffre Lakes to see the insanely gorgeous scenery. There are a number of stops along the way to explore here too, including a hike to Nairn Falls (plan 45 minutes or so each way on this hike).
Once you make your way back to your hotel, do some research on where to eat. It’ll all be expensive but hopefully good. My meal wasn’t great (meh steak makes me sad) but the goat cheese and honey appetizer was to die for. We made it an early night because we were still on East Coast time and knew we’d be up early to head back to Vancouver.
Day 2: back to Vancouver, explore the food/drink scene
Now you get to spend about 48 hours exploring Vancouver, a gorgeous city with an amazing food, beer, and wine scene. I definitely recommend reading this post for a detailed recommendation of what breweries we toured, where we walked, where to stay, and how to make the most of a couple short days in this awesome city.
What this day entails:
- Get up early and make the drive back to Vancouver; either return your rental car (at the airport for us), then take the train into Vancouver and get checked in at your hotel, or park at your hotel (but don’t recommend, you won’t need it the rest of the trip)
- Depending on the weather forecast, you can swap this day with Day 3…for us, Day 2 was rainy and gloomy, so we focused on beer and wine tastings and delicious food, then outside activities on Day 3
- Ask for brewery, winery, and restaurant recommendations from locals, the concierge at your hotel…heck, even the doorman at the hotel (who gave us some awesome recommendations)
- Public transportation is your friend if you’re wanting to go to Granville Island Public Market. We walked & regretted it, and definitely took the bus back.
- Walk along the Sea Wall at sunset and watch the sea planes take off
After a long day of eating awesome food and tasting lots of different beer and wine, we took a relaxing and beautiful stroll along the Sea Wall, starting near the convention center and walking toward Stanley Park. Our goal was Cardero, a great seafood place on the water, but didn’t make it because @farewhispers started feeling really sick, but the sea planes were a highlight of the night.
Day 3: Suspension Bridges & Stanley Park
I have a lot of tips for making your visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park the best it can be, because it’s definitely crowded and getting good pictures can be challenging. This post on my weekend in Vancouver outlines everything.
What this day entails:
- Another early start, with coffee and pastries at Thierry again
- Get the first shuttle/bus over to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park to beat the worst of the crowds
- Take the bus back and have them drop you off at Stanley Park
- Walk around the park, then make your way to Cardero on the Sea Wall for lunch
- Take the ferry over to Lonsdale Quay Market…not because the market’s awesome (it’s not), but the ferry is great. Or see if the ferry is going somewhere awesome and do that instead—but get out on the water.
Our flight home was around 4 or 5pm, so we didn’t actually have a full day, but we definitely still packed a lot in. Another early start with amazing pastries fueled us for a beautiful walk through the treetops of Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. In addition to the giant bridge, there’s a treetop walk and cliff walk, plus we watched a cool presentation with a falcon and owl that was really educational. The free shuttle makes it super easy to visit, and then it dropped us off in Stanley Park on the way back.
After a walk around the park and down the Sea Wall, we finally made it to Cardero and had a delicious lunch with a view of the water. We decided that we had time for the ferry ride over to Lonsdale Quay and back, but then had to grab a taxi to the airport. Our long weekend in Vancouver was amazing, and I hope to visit again soon!
What Vancouver area must-visits did I miss? I definitely plan on a return visit, so let me know in the comments!