Breathe. Just breathe. Skulking across the Capilano Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, I tell myself not to look down, yet I have to. It is dreamily lush and woody. I must take in the rainforest splendor, but the distance between me and the Capilano River below is a nasty 230 feet. That part I, the acrophobe, do not like.
One foot in front of the other. I have made it across the 450-foot, undulating arm of steel supports. It was not so bad, and I feel sense of victory, for I did it without beads of sweat breaking across my forehead. On the way back, another tourist is not so fortunate. An adorably tiny, young Japanese tourist is clinging onto the steel suspension cable with a grip so tight I think her fingers will not be able to unfurl. The guide is trying to calm her down, but all she is doing is shaking her head with eyes shut tight crying, “No, no, no!”
Taking a trip this summer with your outdoor lovin’ pals? Look no further than Vancouver where you will be mesmerized by the sheer volume of adrenalin-rushing things to do inside the city and on the outskirts. And yes, if you are like the Japanese tourist described above, you will be relieved knowing low-intensity, non-death defying activities are also in abundance.
While the Capilano Bridge in North Vancouver has been around since 1889, the bridge has become quite the tourist attraction and is now called the Capilano Bridge Park. It has evolved to become a natural adventure zone that includes, as of 2011, Cliffwalk, a series of cantilevered walkways and suspension bridges that jut out from a granite cliff. Also included in the $31 adult admission is the Treetop Adventure, seven suspension bridges that link fir tree to fir tree. While there, families can spend the day watching First Nations performances and bringing their kids to the soaring tree house made with recycled wood.
Also found in North Vancouver is Grouse Mountain, a ski and summer resort replete with a zip line, snow sports, an aerial tram, hiking trails, and casual and fine dining at The Observatory which has 360-degree views. Both soft and hard core explorers will benefit here, for no one will go home feeling like she was not challenged. The annual Grouse Grind Mountain Run is a 1.8 mile sprint where participants zip straight up the Grouse Mountain. Locals call the incredibly steep trail “nature’s Stair Master.”
About two-hours outside of Vancouver are the famous communities of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain, both renown for their Olympic level ski mountains. You do remember that the Vancouver and Whistler region hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, yes? So you are in for a treat when you go skiing here. Everything was remodeled and retooled in time for those games. And the surrounding lodging consisting of condos and hotels was also spiffed up. Around the Whistler and Blackcomb area are a number of lakes for fishing, boating, and swimming. Like Grouse Mountain, while known mainly for skiing, the Whistler region is popular in summer as well with many, many activities to enjoy for all ages.
Need another reason to come to Vancouver? Best times to come are winter or summer, all dependent on what you love to do. Several major festivals will show you how Canadians can party with gusto. In April, the Vancouver Sun Run features some 54,000 runners who will trod the six-mile course. Then in June, the Vancouver International Jazz Festival brings talent out to 40 venues throughout the city. The same month, the Dragon Boat Festival celebrates with 5,000 dragon boat contenders from around the world. In the fall, keep on the lookout for the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival. And during the holidays, a myriad of celebrations sprout from every suburb and village.
Skiing, hiking, festival hopping. In winter or summer, you’ve come to the right place for adventures both physical and cultural. When you plan it right, you can partner a festival with excursions to remember. For a family trip, multi-generatoinal reunion, guy or girlfriend getaway, Vancouver is suitable for all activity levels and all ages.
For more information about Vancouver, check out California Tours Vancouver Vacations.
Kathy Chin Leong is an award-winning travel journalist who has trekked the world. As founder of www.bayareafamilytravel.com, she is passionate about helping people step out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves to try new things and visit new places. Her work can be found in National Geographic Books, Sunset Magazine, and many others.