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Want to know where to find the best viewpoints in our newest west coast destination? It's hard to go wrong in a city as superbly situated as Vancouver, but here's some dependable favourites to start you off...
Whether you opt for the 8-minute cable car trip on the Skyride Gondola or challenge yourself to the 90-minute, 2.9km 'Grouse Grind' hiking trail, the views from Grouse Mountain's summit are the most all-encompassing in the city. And gawping down at the skyline is only the start. Outdoorsy type? Take a guided eco-walk with a mountain guide, whizz along the five-line zipline circuit at top speeds of 80km/hr, or drift back down to sea level on a half-hour tandem paraglide flight. Wildlife lover? Check out a birds of prey demonstration or visit Grinder and Coola, two orphaned grizzly bears living out their days in the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. Or if you just want to relax, grab a table at The Observatory and feast on sustainable seafood as the city twinkles to life before your eyes. All this and just 15 minutes from downtown.
Cloud 9 at the Empire Landmark Hotel
One of two revolving restaurants in Vancouver, Cloud 9 is located on the 42nd floor of the Empire Landmark Hotel, formerly the Sheraton Landmark. Located right on Robson Street – one of the city’s major thoroughfares – this is the tallest hotel in the West End, and 20-feet tall floor-to-ceiling windows ensure diners can take full advantage of the venue’s bird’s eye views. Time your visit to coincide with a clear night and you’ll get an unobstructed 360-degree take on downtown Vancouver and the North Shore, the Strait of Georgia, the harbour and mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
BC Ferries' Queen of Capilano
BC Ferries serve British Columbia's island and coastal communities, and the journey to Bowen Island aboard the Queen of Capilano is a great way to experience the lofty scenery of Howe Sound; North America's southernmost fjord network. If the weather is fine, brave the top deck. You'll get fantastic views of Snug Cove as you approach the island, with yachts bobbing in the marina and holiday cottages dotted along the waterfront. The excursion is one of Vancouver's most popular daytrips, with hourly departures from the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal in West Vancouver.
Want to drink in the city's skyline views from the moment you wake up? Vancouver's five-star blue-tinted Shangri-La hotel occupies the first 15 floors of the city's tallest skyscraper, known as Living Shangri-La. Full width glass fronted hotel rooms overlook all that makes Vancouver special: a winning combination of mountains, water and city lights. Visiting in the warmer months? Splurge on a balcony room for the full al fresco experience, or book a table for dinner at gourmet restaurant MARKET if you're staying elsewhere. Skip the main dining room and bag a table on the glamorous outdoor terrace. It's not particularly elevated but comes with close-up downtown views.
Vancouver float plane tour
Those tiny planes you see buzzing overhead are not just a quick way to get from A to B (though in the watery wilds of Greater Vancouver they're certainly one of the most convenient). These float planes, or seaplanes, are also one of the best ways to orient yourself with the city, with tourist flights available over the sparkling waters of Burrard Inlet, English Bay and the Strait of Georgia. Harbour Air Seaplanes offer a range of tours, from 10 minute city loops over Coal Harbour and downtown, to flights over the hanging glaciers of Mount Mamquam, including a landing on a secret alpine lake. And what could be more exciting than taking off and landing on water?
Where are your favourite Vancouver viewpoints? Got any other special spots to share with us?
Virgin Atlantic operate seasonal flights to Vancouver from London Heathrow, with our summer service starting on 14th May 2013.
Header photo of Grouse Mountain © blumpy
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.