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When Is the Best Time to Visit Vancouver?
What Are the Seasons Like?
What Sightseeing Fits the Season?
Everyone has heard that Vancouver has a mild climate. But, what does this mean? After all, Vancouver is part of Canada!
Here you'll learn what you need to know about when to travel to Vancouver, Canadathe pros and cons of each season. These are what the seasons are really like, as told by someone who lived many years in Vancouver.
Then, based on when you visit, you'll find out what sightseeing you absolutely must do.
Above: Robson Square in downtown Vancouver. Even in the heart of the city, Vancouver goes green.
Spring provides a wonderful time to visit Vancouver if you enjoy breathtaking gardens and tolerate mild, but still often damp weather.
With one of the warmest climates in Canada (similar to southern England), spring often lasts from late February through much of June. Some years, flowers start blooming in Vancouver as early as late January.
Vancouver still gets lots of rain during spring, but it is usually light.
Temperatures are not extreme. The average March high is 49F with a low of 36F and it becomes warmer each month thereafter.
If you visit during spring, be sure to enjoy the beautiful VanDusen Botanical Gardens, which is part of the outstanding Vancouver park system.
Also visit the Botanical Garden at the University of British Columbia, whose Asian garden is outstanding throughout the spring and summer. Follow some of the narrow grass and bark covered paths into the more intimate areas of the Asian plant section. (Note that the Asian garden is in a separate area of the university than the Nitobe Memorial Garden, the Japanese garden.)
Residential areas of the Kerrisdale, Shaughnessy, and Spanish Banks neighborhoods of Vancouver, as well as residential districts in North Vancouver and West Vancouver among others show off the joys of spring in Vancouver.
You are in for a real treat.
In general, you find the best weather for Vancouver's many outdoor activities from late June or early July through Labor Day—especially July and August. I love the spring, but most people consider summer the best time to visit Vancouver.
Most days are sunny and warm, but not hot, and you'll notice little or no humidity. You'll also notice far fewer insects than in much of North America at this time of year.
Vancouver's gardens remain beautiful and residents and visitors take to its many beaches.
Above: Walking along Vancouver Harbour toward the conference center and Canada Place. A walk in the other direction takes you to the Stanley Park seawall described below.
- Kitsilano Park beach and pool: You'll find a great beach for all ages at Kitsilano Park, just across English Bay and False Creek from the city center.
From the large saltwater Kitsilano Pool (the longest in Canada) and adjacent fine beach, you'll have outstanding views of downtown Vancouver, English Bay, Stanley Park, and the mountains beyond, as well as the entrance to Vancouver harbor, an exhilarating experience.
- Stanley Park seawall: Another wonderful summer activity (or on any fine day throughout the year) is to walk along the seawall at Stanley Park.
Start close to the park entrance on Georgia Street and go around to the right on the north side of the park to at least as far as the pillars of the Lions Gate Bridge. Your views are magnificent!
Because Alaskan cruise ships tend to depart Vancouver at around 5:00 p.m., if you time your walk then, you may be able to watch them leave Vancouver Harbour from the northern section of the seawall. You'll feel that you can almost touch them, as they pass surprisingly close to you.
- English Bay walk and False Creek: If you rent a bike or are a fit walker, you can continue around the south side of Stanley Park along the seawall path and then follow the shoreline path along English Bay all the way to Kitsilano Park across the first bridge you reach, the Burrard Bridge (with perhaps a detour to dine at the Granville Island farmers market).
Burrard Bridge takes you over False Creek at the end of English Bay for pleasant views.
- Pacific Spirit Park and Stanley Park hiking: Both Pacific Spirit Park located adjacent to the University of British Columbia campus and Stanley Park also offer many forested hiking trails, which can be enjoyed all year. The larger cedar trees you see, especially in Stanley Park, may remind you of California coastal redwoods.
- Lighthouse Park and Stanley Park sunsets: Other summer treats are watching the sunset from Lighthouse Park near Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, which offers a very natural setting, and from the western shoreline of Stanley Park along its seawall.
- Wreak Beach: The more adventurous may choose to watch the sunset from Wreck Beach, the most popular clothing optional beach in North America, located adjacent to the University of British Columbia. As many as 12,000 people enjoy this long beach on warm weekend and holiday days. (Map)
Best access to Wreak Beach comes via very steep stairs, which begin just north of campus gate six along Marine Drive. Because of limited street parking, park in one of the nearby university parking structures called "parkades."
You may witness people drinking beer or smokiing marijuana at this beach, but these are not legal. Royal Canadian Mounted Police constables are not wearing their easy-to-spot scarlet dress uniforms as they walk along the Wreak Beach giving citations.
And, please don't bring a camera. These are the pet peeve of beach users
and incidents can get ugly.
- Grouse Mountain Skyway: On a clear day, look down on Vancouver and all the way to Mount Baker in the U.S. If you wish, hike back down. See GrouseMountain.com.
All locations mentioned on this page can be easily reached by public transportation.
In Vancouver, summer often continues into September and early October.
You may have fine weather at this time, but you face a greater chance of rain (usually light), which obscures the mountains. This is particularly worrisome if you plan to cruise from Vancouver to Alaska during this season.
Temperatures remain very mild and Vancouver remains outdoors as much as it can.
By November, most people find Vancouver to be too damp and too gloomy to enjoy fully its natural setting. Days also are shorter than you'll find further south.
The city remains fun to visit, but it is not at its best, unless your focus is world class skiing at Whistler or on the nearby slopes above North Vancouver.
In winter, Vancouver turns inward. Its numerous cafes, clubs, theatres, and concert halls reclaim those who had been outdoors.
During winter, Vancouver has cold (but usually light) rain nearly every day. Temperatures remain above (often just above) freezing most of the time.
If snow falls, it usually melts quickly. During late December or January, Vancouver may become colder with no clouds or rain for several weeks. Lawns usually stay green, however.
The average January nightly low is 32F (compared to 14F at Chicago O'Hare Airport). You'll find no better example of a moderate marine climate.
Enjoy your time in Vancouver!
Vancouver bargain hotels:
Hotels.com offers excellent discounts in Vancouver.