It is not easy to choose favourites when Vancouver has so many great things to see and do, but having lived and worked in the Vancouver area for most of my life, I feel at least somewhat qualified to recommend some fun things to see and do along with some good restaurants, and accommodations.
Beaches Parks and the Great Outdoors
Queen Elizabeth Park: This park is situated at the highest point in the City of Vancouver and offers great views towards downtown Vancouver and the North shore mountains. The park features a beautiful quarry garden which is especially vibrant from Spring through early Autumn when the flowers are out. There are also water features and of course the McMillan Bloedel Conservatory on top; an exotic biosphere filled with tropical plants, fish and birds.
Stanley Park: This famous Vancouver classic is a favourite of many. I particularly enjoy the seawall where you can walk or cycle for several miles and take in the great views of the surrounding city, mountains and water. If you make your way all the way around the perimeter of the park you will be treated to an ever changing vista. It is also neat to see the Lions Gate Bridge from the varying vantage points as you make your way along the seawall.
Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area and Simon Fraser University: Located 1200 feet above sea level, yet easily accessed by bus, Simon Fraser University Campus features some neat architecture and is a great place to explore and take pictures. There is an easy hiking path between the University and the Conservation Area and for refreshments there are a number of good restaurants and coffee shops. The Conservation Area offers some terrific views of Vancouver, Burrard Inlet and the North Shore Mountains, especially on a clear day.
Lighthouse Park: You'll enjoy the scenic bus ride to Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver almost as much as the rugged beauty of the park itself. Once there, a 10 minute hike through the gigantic west coast trees, some up to 500 years old, gets you to the main attraction, the old 1914 Lighthouse that has served as a beacon over the entrance of Burrard Inlet for many years. Be sure and click through to the full page to see the video and photos of this spectacular park.
Historic Districts and Markets
Gastown: Cobblestone streets and heritage buildings give this historic neighbourhood a quaint atmosphere taking one back in time. Highlights include the "Steam Clock" and the statue of 'Gassy Jack'. Located just east of Waterfront Station, it is easy access this historic part of Vancouver.
Lonsdale Quay Public Market: Getting there on the Seabus is half the fun and poking around the market and enjoying the nice views back toward the Vancouver Skyline is the other half (you can tell I like views). In anycase I'm sure you will enjoy the ride over on the Seabus and checking out what the market has to offer.
Science, Museums and Architecture
Museum of Anthropology: This world class university museum is, without doubt, one of Vancouver's most popular attractions. Not only does it boast a striking architectural design by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, it's home to an expansive display of unique West Coast First Nations Art. A focal point is, Raven and the First Men by Bill Reid, featured on the Canadian $20 bill. I also has a great collection of artifacts from other parts of the world.
Telus World of Science and OMNIMAX Theatre: The geodesic dome containing Science World and the OMNIMAX theatre is a pretty neat sight from the outside, but even more interesting on the inside. With a continuously changing program of exhibits and shows it is a great place to bring the family.
Theatres and Entertainment
FlyOver Canada: Strap yourself in for an exciting ride in this simulated flying adventure conveniently located right downtown just a brief walk from Waterfront Station. You'll feel like you are actually soaring through the air in this full motion simulator ride where mist and scents add to the realism. You'll experience Canada from coast to coast. Time it right and you may even get to see one of their double features.
Orpheum Theatre: It is worthwhile taking in a show just to see the elaborate and ornate interior of this historic Vancouver theatre. Most recently refurbished in 2009, this beautiful theatre is officially designated a National Heritage Site.
Metropolis at Metrotown--(Burnaby): If I had to pick one shopping destination in Metro Vancouver this would be it. The second largest mall in Canada along with adjacent Crystal Mall and Station Square there are nearly 700 stores in this one area. There is something here for everyone and of course there are also numerous restaurants and the food courts!
Granville Island Public Market: Granville Island Public Market is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the city of Vancouver. Situated on reclaimed former industrial land beneath Granville Street bridge, Granville island is and mix of galleries, theatres, merchants, and craftsmen. Food vendors and market stalls sell everthing from fresh produce and seafood to exquisite handmade chocolate.
The Old Spaghetti Factory : I do like spaghetti, and this restaurant offers good meals and service in a relaxed atmosphere. With sourdough bread, salad, coffee and desert all included with your entree, you get good value for you money and won't leave hungry. They also have a gluten free menu. See the Dining section for locations.
Earl's: Earls offers a well rounded menu of West Coast dishes salads, pizzas and more. Consistently good food and great service combined with reasonable prices that fall somewhere in between fast food and fine dining, make any of Earls many locations a good bet. See the Dining section for locations.
River Rock Casino Resort: Reasonable rates for a 4-star hotel the River Rock Casino has a separate bedroom or bedrooms with its own TV in each guest suite. The beds are very comfortable. There are several options for eating onsite covering the full range of prices. Many of the rooms feature nice views. If possible request a corner room for an even better view. Linked to the Bridgeport SkyTrain Station with a 'Skybridge' this resort offers direct access to the transit system, so it makes a great base from which to explore Vancouver. If you enjoy plane spotting, as I do, you'll see plenty as they approach and depart right over the hotel however it is still quiet inside due to the good soundproofing. The resort also features a large Casino that is open 24/7 with a huge variety of slot machines, poker tables, Baccarat tables and more along with an indoor swimming pool, spa and fitness centre.
Accent Inns - Burnaby: This motor inn is away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Vancouver yet convenient to SkyTrain (7 minute walk) and several good restaurants are within easy walking distance. For shopping Brentwood Town Centre--(Burnaby) is only one SkyTrain Stop away. The rooms are clean and quite spacious. They all have a microwave, small fridge and coffemaker and free wireless internet. The rates are reasonable and the staff are friendly and courteous. Highly recommended.