I’ll be the first to tell you that I loathe the word “tourist.” I am a traveller; I do not peruse from attraction to attraction, sightseeing without actually absorbing my surroundings. However, in some cases, the top-rated attraction really is a must-see, and I would regret missing out on that tour.

As a resident of Burnaby, I can’t help but feel a little silly at how many touristy activities I’ve partaken in in and around Vancouver. I’ve hiked the Grouse Grind, gone on a photowalk, visited Dr. Sun Yat Chinese Gardens and embarked on a fantastic 3-hour walking tour with VanCity Asks. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all of these activities, but my top two are hard to beat.

Whether you’re just visiting the rainy city for the afternoon or live here but have never really looked at it with unfamiliar eyes, take the time to be a tourist for the afternoon. Yup, I said it.


1. Vancouver Harbour Tour

Sight-seeing Boat Cruise


Cost: Adult: $34.95, Senior (60+) & Youth (12-17): $28.95, Child (5-11): $12, Child 4 and under: free
April 23rd – September 30th
Daily: 11am, 12:15pm, 1:30pm & 2:45pm
501 Denman Street, next to Devonian Harbour Park

 InsideAlison Karlene Hodgins

The clouds cleared overhead just as my mom and I approached Vancouver Harbour Cruise’s office, located in Coal Harbour. We purchased our tickets for the 12:15 cruise, which is supposed to be the least crowded departure of the day.

Boarding began at noon. My mom immediately sparked up a bubbly conversation with a nomadic couple from Liverpool. I found us seats on the sundeck, next to a group of pre-school children. The announcements began almost immediately. I listened (mostly) attentively, especially when I heard:

“This vessel is fully licenced. We sell cans of beer and cider and have Granville Island’s Pale Ale on tap, as well as a selection of snacks at our concession.”

Beer and boating? Don’t mind if I do.

 beer sunglassesAlison Karlene Hodgins

We pulled out of port and cruised past downtown; glossy high-rises glinted blue and black in the afternoon sun. Our cruise ship was the only propeller-fueled boat in the harbour, pushed along by the bright red rotating wheel at the back of the boat. A Canadian flag danced in the breeze above.

We sailed through the Burrard Inlet, past crimson-red cranes hovering above loaded cargo ships. We turned towards North Shore and passed by the yellow pillars of Lonsdale Quay. The smell of freshly cut wood from the chip pile in the Seaspan yard blew on the ocean breeze, intermingling with the scents of salt and fish. “See if you can spot the harbour seals,” the intercom challenged us, and we leaned over the boat, counting silky black heads that popped out of the waves. I took the opportunity to head downstairs for a beer to meet the voice behind the loudspeaker.


Boat crewAlison Karlene Hodgins

Our tour guide was full of character, snappy jokes (he even made fun of the Trump tower), and was all-in-all a captivating, informative guide.

One quick hour and a large chunk of information later, we arrived back at the dock near the glassy towers from where we had departed. The crew bid us farewell and my mom said goodbye to her new British friends. I was sad to leave the view from the water, but excited to explore more on land.

Want to take the same one-hour sightseeing tour with Vancouver Harbour Cruises? Click here!


2. Horse-drawn Carriage Ride


Cost: Adults: $39.99, Seniors (65+) & Students: $37.50, Child (3-12): $19.99, Tots (2 and under): free
March 1st – October 31st
Daily: every 20 minutes 9:40am – 5pm (depending on season)
735 Stanley Park Drive, inland from the Vancouver Rowing Club

Horse drawn carriageAlison Karlene Hodgins

While I lean towards exploring on my own two feet or a set of wheels, sometimes it is nice to sit back, relax and be pulled through a tourist attraction. Especially when said attraction spans 1,001 acres. The horses that pair up to pull 26-passenger trolleys through Stanley Park were bred for towing heavy weights: Clydesdales, Belgians, Percherons and Grey Shires. The horses live in the on-site stables and transport tourists around the park a few times a day.

My mom and I climbed aboard the open-air carriage, which was shielded from the rain with a stripped green canopy. We snuggled up beneath the provided blankets as the horses began to clod out of the parking stall.

ViewAlison Karlene Hodgins

Our tour guide fed us facts through a microphone and speaker system. He was knowledgeable, friendly and encouraged questions. Some of the information was an echo from our earlier boat cruise, but I didn’t mind—if anything, the repetition secured the details in my memory.

We toured the park, stopping for a photo-op and bathroom break at the totem poles. We snapped pictures of the ‘Girl in a Wet Suit’ sculpture and learned the disturbing history of Deadman’s Island.

The hour blew by. Being pulled through the park at a leisurely walk and trot made me feel like royalty–especially because pedestrians kept snapping photos of us. I was satisfied by how much of Stanley Park I had seen without pushing my legs on roller blades or a bicycle.

This is a great option for anyone otherwise unable to make their way around Stanley Park’s Seawall, horse-enthusiasts or those who just want to snuggle up beneath a blanket and see the sights.

 HorsesAlison Karlene Hodgins

All in all, it’s a good choice for almost everyone.

Want to take the same one-hour sightseeing tour with Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours? Click here!



What is your favourite tourist attraction in Vancouver?
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