Top 10 cultural adventures in and near Vancouver

Find the cultural heart of Vancouver through places and experiences that are refreshingly different, in a uniquely Canadian kind of way.

Some of these recommendations will catch you by surprise, like visiting a tree top suspension bridge and watching the Canucks play at Rogers Arena.

Unless you've visited Vancouver before, we're sure this list will raise your eyebrows. There's a lot to see and do in this city, especially if you make use of the world-class rapid transit system. And when you want to breathe some fresh mountain air, it only takes half an hour to leave the high-rises behind. Grouse Mountain is an easy escape you'll discover on this top 10 things to do list.

1. Learn about the First Nations people in Stanley Park

The big, beautiful area of green near Vancouver's CBD is Stanley Park, a place for walking, biking, dreaming and exploring. A great way to discover the park is with a 90-minute interpretive walking tour. Your First Nations guide will keep you enthralled with stories about nature, people and places. The totem poles at the edge of Vancouver Harbour make more sense when you know what they mean.

2. Breakfast with the bears at Grouse Mountain

Grinder and Coola are grizzly bears who were orphaned as cubs. They wouldn't have survived on their own, so they became residents of Grouse Mountain Wildlife Refuge. The bears have a five-acre habitat and a 'bear hotel' for winter hibernation. They forage for food and live a life that's as natural as possible. With Grouse Mountain's 'Breakfast with the Bears' experience, you can see Grinder and Coola while you enjoy a delicious breakfast and learn about bears from a wildlife ranger.

3. Walk through the treetops at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

You may have heard of the Capilano Suspension Bridge - it's possibly the most famous of Vancouver's tourist attractions. But did you know about the Cliffwalk in the same park? Opened just a few years ago, this vertiginous cliff-side journey leads you along cantilevered and suspended walkways that are attached to the granite cliff face above Capilano River. Trees all around you, sky above, water below - awesome!

4. Explore the forbidden history of Gastown

The historic inner-city suburb of Gastown has a dark and interesting past that you can hear about on a night-time walking adventure. Based on real history, the tour takes you through cobbled back streets and alleyways, where it's easy to imagine the gold prospectors, gamblers, saloon girls and tricksters of Gastown's murky past. The tour includes a visit to Vancouver's oldest hotel.

5. Catch an exhibition at MOA

The Museum of Anthropology (MOA) is endlessly fascinating if you're interested in how people have learned to live on this planet. Located on the Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia, this museum has a special focus on the First Nations people. The building itself is a work of art, drawing inspiration from the cedar post and beam constructions found in traditional northwest coast villages.

6. Savour unique Canadian cuisine

On Granville Island there's a bistro that specialises in bold Canadian flavours. Called 'Edible Canada', many people believe it's one of the best restaurants in Vancouver. The menu will wow you with dishes like roast duck poutine, Alberta wild boar terrine, Humboldt squid and charcoal-grilled bison flank. Show up for brunch and you can look forward to pork cheek hash, clam chowder and blackened steelhead po' boy.

7. Take a selfie with the Flatiron Building

Hotel Europe in Gastown is a brilliant example of triangular architecture. Often called the Flatiron Building, it was built in 1908 and is believed to have two ghosts. This iconic hotel starred in the 1980 supernatural thriller The Changeling. Other films shot in Gastown include Catwoman, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Legends of the Fall and I, Robot.

8. Go wild in Squamish

An easy day trip from Vancouver is Squamish, which means 'Mother of the Wind' in the language of First Nations people. This area has a history of farming, logging and mining. Today it's a centre for eco-tourism. Catch the Sea To Sky Gondola for views of the sound and nearby Shannon Falls or get adventurous with an Eagle Float tour down the Squamish and Mamquam Rivers. Squamish has a healthy population of salmon-eating bald eagles.

9. Watch a game of ice hockey or indoor lacrosse

Being a spectator at a live sports match is an excellent way to witness everyday Canadian culture in action. In winter, ice hockey rules supreme at Rogers Arena as the Vancouver Canucks take on teams from all over Canada. In summer, indoor lacrosse is what you'll be looking for. It's played within an ice hockey rink on turf carpet and the action is fast and furious.

10. Live on seafood

From oysters and gooseneck barnacles to Dungeness crab and smoked sockeye salmon, Vancouver's proximity to fishing grounds make it a seafood lover's dream come true. The city is also respected for its Japanese cuisine, the best outside Toyko according to some. Bring these two facts together and you're all set for a sublime seafoodie time.

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