Autumn is a beautiful time to get to know Vancouver. Temperatures are mild, but there’s a pleasant nip to the morning air, and the changing trees suddenly accent the scenery with orange and red. There’s lots of urban action — festivals, concerts, theatre, art crawls, seasonal food events — and outdoor adventure is still going strong.
Here are our top 10 Vancouver to-dos in fall:
1. Take a foodie tour
Granville Island Public Market is a colourful feast for the senses. If you can imagine it, it’s probably there: artisanal goods (cheese, pasta, sausage, chocolate, bread), gleaming produce, fresh seafood and meats, coffees and teas, spirits, including small-batch sake, wine, artist studios and offbeat boutiques, cafés and restaurants. You could, and should, spend an entire day exploring. Take a behind-the-scenes guided culinary market tour with Edible Canada or book a city food tour. Vancouver Foodie Tours also leads eating and tasting sessions on foot all around the city.
2. Walk in the park
World-renowned Stanley Park is larger than New York City’s Central Park, and its urban forest of old-growth trees is the city’s cherished green heart. Stroll the park’s huge network of trails, circle a lake, or stop and smell the flower-filled gardens. Other picture-perfect places to enjoy the fall foliage and fresh air are Queen Elizabeth Park and VanDusen Botanical Garden.
3. Join a festival
Fall is festival time. Aimed at fans and filmmakers, the Vancouver International Film Festival in late September and early October screens 300 flicks from 60 countries, attracting movie buffs, directors, and celebrities. The festival is also home to one of the world’s largest selections of Canadian films. Also in September is the Vancouver Fringe Festival, a celebration of alternative and independent theatre which hosts 800 performances around town. Both festivals feature the requisite talks, workshops, concerts, exhibitions, and — perhaps the best part — parties. Check the film fest’s Facebook page and the Fringe fest’s Twitter feed for details.
4. Hike, kayak, bike
Vancouverites embrace the outdoor lifestyle, and you can too. In great shape? Take on the challenging the 2.9-kilometre Grouse Grind, a hike composed mostly of stairs built into the mountainside. Enjoy the gondola ride down the mountain and look out for foraging bears. Or hit the rainforest trails: Lynn Canyon Park (North Vancouver), Lighthouse Park (West Vancouver), Quarry Rock (North Vancouver), and Pacific Spirit Regional Park (Vancouver, near the University of British Columbia) are favourites. Kayak in and around False Creek, Jericho Beach, or English Bay to experience life on the water. For Instagram-worthy views of downtown and English Bay, cycle or rollerblade the 10-kilometre paved Stanley Park Seawall.
5. Make art and new friends
Paint Nites see you take up a seat in a studio, pub, or restaurant, nibble on gourmet goodies, sip wine and microbrews, sometimes listen to live music, and try your hand at acrylic painting or collage. Sessions are generally two hours. If you’re not the next Picasso, don’t stress. Find a new friend and have fun.
6. Eat, just eat
If you visit in mid-October for Canadian Thanksgiving, look for great dining deals and seasonal holiday tasting menus. If you like the idea of sampling grilled squid, Japanese crepes, hand-pulled ramen, bubble waffles, and hurricane potatoes (skewered spiralized spuds) with a little carnival-game madness, troll the 140 stalls at the buzzing Richmond Night Market, North America’s largest. It goes full tilt on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until mid-October (bring Canadian cash).
7. Get into Halloween
October 31st in Vancouver is second only to Christmas for hoopla: parties, parades, pumpkin patches, horror movie marathons, haunted houses — you can find it all. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden puts on an evening mid-autumn moon festival with traditional moon cakes, astronomers, storytelling, tea, and kung-fu masters. It’s as much for the grown-ups as the kids. If you want to channel your inner child, Fright Nights at the PNE Playland Amusement Park are super fun in that old-fashioned, town carnival way, with haunted houses, creepy rides, shows, and attractions.
8. Stroll the gardens
Every year, graceful Japanese maples paint VanDusen Botanical Garden in autumn crimsons and golds. This oasis is a top-10 North America public garden, with paths winding through woods, around lily pad-dotted lakes, over bridges and green hills. Find a private spot in the 55 acres filled with meticulously curated flora and fauna from around the globe. The Elizabethan Maze is a fave. Leave time for the LEED Platinum visitor center, a sustainably designed building with a roof resembling a native orchid, plus an upscale café and superb gift shop.
9. Go flightseeing
Vancouver is about sea and sky, and seeing it from a bird’s eye view is something special. Try a seaplane tour with Harbour Air. Options range from a 20-minute city panorama; to alpine lakes and glaciers; to a whale watching day jaunt. Float planes jet off the water from downtown’s Coal Harbour. As you take off, check out the living roof of the Convention Centre, added for the 2010 Winter Games, and when you land have a sunset drink at marina-side Cardero’s.
10. Watch ice hockey live
It’s true, Canadians love hockey. If you attend a Vancouver Canucks, you'll quickly understand why. The season kicks off in late September at Rogers Arena. For a cheaper but perhaps even more lively alternative, check out a Vancouver Giants giant. This junior ice hockey team is adored by local fans, who are sure to make your experience a memorable one.