Deciding how best to spend your time in Vancouver  and the surrounding area is a personal thing—outdoorsy budget travelers will spend their days (and money) in a very different way than a honeymooning couple looking to kick back and relax for a few days. But this is one of the true joys about visiting Vancouver—there really is something for everyone.
Regardless of whether you have a weekend or a full week scheduled for Vancouver, plan on rising early and heading out to Stanley Park  at least once for a walk or ride. Visit the two major museums—Museum of Vancouver  and the Museum of Anthropology —-in the mornings. Leave the afternoons for outdoor pursuits that can be active (kayaking on False Creek ), educational (Capilano Salmon Hatchery ), or breathtaking (Grouse Mountain Skyride ).
Once you’ve finished exploring Vancouver, you’ll be faced with a decision—where to next? The second part of this chapter covers the two main options. Your choice is dependent on two main elements: the time of year and your interests. The first option is to jump aboard a ferry for the Sunshine Coast , from where ferries make the link to Vancouver Island  (make a detour to delightful Lund  en route).
Regardless of the season, you’ll want to include Whistler  in your British Columbia travels. The resort is close enough to Vancouver for a day trip, but it’s easy to spend at least a full day exploring the main mountain by gondola, which means that if you want to bike, hike, or golf, you’ll need at least two days here. Winter is high season in Whistler; in return for skiing or boarding some of the world’s best known slopes, you’ll be paying big bucks for accommodations.
A third option is heading west into British Columbia’s Southern Interior .
Vancouver  isn’t a particularly easy city to find your way around, although an excellent transit system helps immensely. Downtown lies on a spit of land bordered to the north and east by Burrard Inlet, to the west by English Bay, and to the south by False Creek , which almost cuts the city center off from the rest of the city. Due to the foresight of city founders, almost half of the downtown peninsula has been set aside as parkland.
The City of Vancouver officially extends south and west from downtown, between Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River. Here lie the trendy beachside suburb of Kitsilano (known as “Kits” to the locals) and Point Grey, home of the University of British Columbia . To the east, the residential sprawl continues through the suburbs of Burnaby , New Westminster , and Coquitlam , which have a combined population of well over 250,000.
Farther south, the low-lying Fraser River Delta extends all the way to the U.S. border. Between the north and south arms of the river is Richmond , home of Vancouver International Airport. South of the south arm is the mostly industrial area of Delta, as well as Tsawwassen, departure point for ferries to Vancouver Island. Southeast of the Fraser River lie Surrey and the Fraser River Valley towns of Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack—all part of the city sprawl.
Across Burrard Inlet to the north of downtown, North Vancouver is a narrow developed strip backed up to the mountains and connected to the rest of the city by the Lions Gate Bridge. To its west are Horseshoe Bay, departure point for Sunshine Coast  and Vancouver Island  ferries, and West Vancouver, an upscale suburb.