Top 10 Vancouver Attractions

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All eyes will be on Vancouver when the opening ceremonies kick of the 2010 Winter Olympics on February 12th. Any Vancouver travel guide will tell you this British Columbian city offers more than just winter sports though. It's a year-round city with a surprisingly temperate climate and lots of fun things to do for all ages. Keep reading for ten great Vancouver attractions, from a mountaintop restaurant to botanical gardens to the city's best beach. That's right, we said beach.

10. Vancouver Art Gallery
Every major city needs a stellar art museum, and this is Vancouver's. Located in a neoclassical building that was previously a courthouse, the museum displays everything from native Inuit art to European masters to current works by the Vancouver School of photo conceptualism. The museum also has an extensive collection of paintings by Emily Carr, a now-iconic local artist who became famous in the 1920s for her canvases of the province's rainforests and of the people and symbols of the First Nations of British Columbia. Look for the museum's collection to get even bigger when it makes a planned relocation in 2013.

9. Punjabi Market
The first Indian immigrants arrived in Vancouver in 1890 and today the large Indo-Canadian population is centered in the southern part of the city. This is not a traditional market but six blocks of Main Street with authentic curry restaurants, sweet shops, and stores selling imported goods like saris, silks, and Indian gold jewelry. The area will have a new draw in the coming month when a grand new India Gate will be completed to serve as the official entrance to the market.

8. Granville Island
This "island" within the city limits is actually a peninsula and is a great place to spend an afternoon. The former industrial area is now full of shops and galleries, making it a must-stop on your list of Vancouver attractions. The large food market has around 150 vendors and is perfect for putting together a picnic of local goods. Then head to the Granville Island Brewery for a beer or have a tasting at the city's only artisanal sake maker. For more family-friendly Vancouver activities, visit one of the glass blowers or totem pole carvers. And if it's warm, swing by the water park.

7. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Based on a 15th-century Chinese garden, this small tranquil space is the place to go for a respite from city life. First opened in 1986, the garden was named in honor of one of the revolutionaries who helped overthrow the Qing dynasty in 1911 (he visited Vancouver to raise funds from the local Chinese population). The grounds contain a lake and plants that are said to have mystical powers like bamboo (resiliency amid diversity) and winter-flowering plum (triumphal rebirth) as well as four pavilions, including one that seems to float out over the lake.

6. Gastown District
This is the oldest part of Vancouver, having sprung up in 1867 around prospector John Deighton's tavern. He earned the nickname Gassy Jack due to his long-winded stories, which is why the area came to be known as Gastown. There are still great pubs in the Victorian buildings that line the cobblestone streets, as well as small museums and boutiques. The main street is anchored by the famed steam clock (one of the city's most photographed monuments). Built in 1977, the clock chimes every fifteen minutes and releases a burst of steam.

5. Kitsilano Beach
Going to Vancouver for sun and sand may seem a little strange, but this is where Vancouverites who are usually on the slopes go when temperatures rise and the snow melts. And don't worry, it's not just some sad stretch of pebbles squeezed in between the city and the water. Kits Beach (as the locals call it) has tennis and volleyball courts, restaurants, and spectacular people watching. Forbes Traveler even rated it one of the sexiest beaches in North America, ranking it on par with Miami's South Beach and Cabo San Luca in Mexico.

4. VanDusen Botanical Garden
The city's botanical garden is relatively new, opening to the public in 1975. It doesn't matter what time of year you visit. The 55-acre garden has been laid out so that there is always something blooming, including the winter when witchhazel and viburnums are at their peak. The biggest event is the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring when the more than 100 cherry trees turn bright pink. One of the newest editions is an organic Time Machine garden planted with heirloom vegetable varieties that would have been found in Vancouver in 1896, including Pencil Pod Black Wax Beans and Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce.

3. Vancouver Maritime Museum
Vancouver's location on the Pacific coast gives it a long and watery history and this nautical museum covers it all. The collection includes the schooner St. Roch, which miraculously survived the treacherous Northwest Passage, and a bell from the Princess Sophia, which unfortunately did not survive a collision with the nearby Vanderbilt Reef. Other attractions at the museum include a Pirate Cove full of treasure and a children's museum where kids can steer a tugboat, dress up in oilskins, and visit the museum's resident model maker in his shop.

2. Whale Watching
Grab your camera and book a whale-watching tour to see some of the ocean's largest occupants. Many whale-watching trips originate from ports just minutes from downtown Vancouver. Orcas are typically found in these waters year-round-it's also possible to see migrating grey and humpback whales. But that's not all-visitors also have the opportunity to spot dolphins, sea lions, and seals.

1. Grouse Mountain
This 4,039-foot mountain is only 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver. Take the gondola up the mountain to ski one of the 26 runs, snowshoe the four trails, or ice skate on the 8,000-squar-foot rink. In the summer you can explore the mountain by zip lining or taking a leisurely hike. And be sure to make a reservation at The Observatory, one of the cities best restaurants. Book early to get a table at the window, where you'll have an unparalleled view of watching the sun set and the city illuminate.

Looking for more Olympics coverage? Check out FanHouse's Winter Olympics Page.

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