48 Hours in Vancouver – A Perfect Weekend Getaway From Seattle

If you find yourself basking in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, why not take a weekend to spend 48 hours in Vancouver? The city is just a scenic two-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle and perfect for a quick 2 day getaway. We stayed downtown in the heart of all the action – Vancouver is packed with parks, waterfront views and cool places to explore. Whether you love outdoor adventures, enjoying great food or just wandering through interesting neighborhoods, Vancouver has something for everyone.

Taking selfies during 48 hours in Vancouver - it's a great city for a weekend getaway.

We walked most places on this weekend getaway, so bring your walking shoes and get your steps in!

Here’s How We Spent 48 Hours in Vancouver

day trip to vancouver from seattle

2 Days in Vancouver: Day 1

Breakfast: Start the day at Waffleland

We made sure we were fueled for the day with fresh coffee and waffles from Waffleland, located in the Gastown area of Vancouver.

visit waffleland when you have 48 hours in vancouver

Waffleland offers a variety of waffle dishes, from classic Belgian waffles topped with fresh berries and whipped cream, to unique savory options like the smoked salmon and cream cheese waffle.

waffleland in vancouver is delicious

They even have vegan options and lite bites – there’s literally something for everyone. For drinks they have delicious fresh juice, coffee and tea selections, but if you fancy something more festive, they offer a great selection of Mimosas and Martinis.

eat great food in vancouver

The atmosphere is fun, cozy (really fab music selection playing!) and the friendly service is a perfect start to your 48 hours in Vancouver.

Morning: Walk through Downtown Vancouver to Stanley Park

After breakfast, walk to Stanley Park. The walk should take about 30 minutes from any hotel in the downtown area.

walk to Stanley Park Vancouver

Stanley Park is huge, and smack in the middle of Vancouver. If you only have 2 days in Vancouver, plan to spend at least two hours here. There are plenty of things to see including the totem poles at Brockton Point, the Vancouver Aquarium, and Siwash Rock – an offshore rock formation.

visit the totem poles with 48 hours in Vancouver

The Stanley Park Seawall is a 5.5-mile walking and cycling path that circles the perimeter of Stanley Park, and if you decide to rent a bike you’ll pass many of the park’s attractions. It takes about an hour to circle the park by bike and 3 hours if you’re walking at a decent pace. The Seawall starts at the Vancouver Convention Centre on the north-east side of the downtown peninsula and heads north around to English Bay.

visit the Lighthouse in Stanley Park in Vancouver

Walk along the Seawall, snap pics of the totem poles, and soak in the views – you won’t want to leave. Enjoying nature is a perfect start to your 2 day weekend in Vancouver.

walk along the Seawall with 48 hours in Vancouver

Day 1 Afternoon: Granville Island

Leave Stanley Park, head south, and follow the waterfront path to the Granville Island Ferry Dock. This is about a 30-minute walk past English Bay.

things to do in Vancouver

Hop on a ferry for a short ride to Granville Island and explore this posh and artsy neighborhood. The Granville Island market is filled with everything from fresh produce, flowers and places to pick up sweet treats and food. Our chicken pot pie was to die for and this is the perfect place to grab lunch.

Granville Market in Vancouver

You’ll see live theater and street performers too. It’s the perfect spot to find some delicious food, enjoy the local entertainment, and recharge after your morning at Stanley Park.

Day 1: Take the Ferry to Granville Island and Back to Vancouver

The False Creek Ferry (or Aquabus) is easy to navigate. It runs from various locations in downtown Vancouver to Granville Island, with departures every 5–15 minutes. The fare for an adult ticket on False Creek Ferries is $3.75 CAD one-way trip and $6.50 round trip. For children and seniors, it’s $2.50 one-way and $4.50 round trip. The Aquabus fares are similar, with a one-way adult ticket costing around $4.00 or $7.00​ for a return trip.

take the ferry to Granville Island from Vancouver

Spend a couple of hours on Granville Island, then take the ferry back to the dock and walk back to your hotel to rest and get ready for the evening.

Day 1 Evening: Visit Gastown

Downtown Vancouver has lots of cool neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm, and with 48 hours in Vancouver, you should be able to wander through many areas and see quite a bit of the city.

things to do in Gastown in Vancouver

Gastown is filled with cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and a famous steam clock that lets off steam (literally) every 15 minutes. There are plenty of cool shops, trendy bars and fab restaurants, so be sure to wander around.

eat dinner at Water St. Cafe when you have 48 hours in Vancouver

Day 1: Dinner at Water St. Cafe

Water St. Cafe is a beautiful restaurant located in the heart of the Gastown area, right across the street from the famous steam clock. The 1906 heritage building that was once known as the Edward Hotel has huge windows, and the outdoor patio makes sure you have great views for people-watching.

listen to jazz at Water St. Cafe in Vancouver

During Jazz Fest, starting June 21st 2024, the 2nd floor of the Water St. Cafe has live music from Thursday to Sunday starting at 6.30pm. They offer a special Tapas Menu as well as the full Water St. Cafe dinner and drinks menu.

upstairs at Water St. Cafe

We opted to eat upstairs and listen to live jazz from The John Gross Trio, and nibble on small plates from the new Tapas Menu, curated by Director, Eli Brennan, and Culinary Director, Chef Alan Tse.

Each dish we tasted from the Tapas Menu was bursting with unique flavors and texture. We started with warm olives mixed with artichokes and citrus. The garlic cheese toast was a hit, with its chewy herby garlic butter, and the clams in miso sauce were so light.

Where to eat in Vancouver

The grilled asparagus and broccolini were super fresh and were served with a lovely salsa verde and crispy garlic – so delicious! The lemon pepper fries were also a hit paired perfectly with a creamy garlic sauce. I think one of my favorite dishes however, was the butternut squash ravioli served with asiago, ricotta, sage butter and pistachios.

things to do in Vancouver

Each dish from the Italian potato salad to the West Coast crab cake, was clearly made and presented with love. We enjoyed a very special evening, and highly recommend when you have 48 hours in Vancouver you do too!

You can make reservations at the Water Street Cafe here. 

dinner at water st. cafe

Day 1 Late Night: Visit Richmond Night Market

If you’re up for an adventure and not too tired, it takes about 30 minutes by car, cab or Uber to get to the Richmond Night Market just outside of Vancouver. This night market is open from about 7 PM to 12 AM, and located in the city of Richmond. There are over 100 colorful food stalls here, serving food and drinks from all over the world. Inside the market there are games to play and live entertainment to enjoy – it’s packed with things to do and a fun atmosphere.

richmond night market

48 hours in Vancouver: Day 2

Day 2 Morning: Vancouver Art Gallery

Walk to a local cafe or patisserie for breakfast. There are plenty around and you won’t need a reservation.

things to do in Vancouver if you like art

If you love art, especially art that makes you think, you can’t skip the Vancouver Art Gallery, located in the heart of downtown Vancouver. The art gallery opens at 10am and is dedicated to inclusive and thought-provoking art, showcasing local and international artists.

check out the art with 48 hours in vancouver

On the top floor, the gallery has pieces from Emily Carr, a famous British Columbia artist, and on the first and second floors, there are many exhibits and installations that are quite controversial and challenge issues of race and culture. Spend a few hours enjoying interesting art and appreciating our diverse culture.

You can find the exhibition schedule here.

visit Vancouver Art Gallery for controversial art

Day 2 of 48 Hours in Vancouver: Eat Lunch in Chinatown

Walk from Vancouver Art Gallery to Chinatown for lunch, which takes about 15-20 minutes. Vancouver has the world’s largest Asian community outside of Asia, with 47% of its population being of Asian descent.

chinatown in vancouver is amazing

We wandered around the streets, enjoyed sights like the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden (one of the city’s most ornamental green spaces), and ate delicious Dim Sum and Dumplings.

visit chinatown when you are in Vancouver

Day 2 Afternoon: Browse Robson Street

After lunch walk about 10 minutes towards Robson Street for some retail therapy. Robson Street is Vancouver’s main shopping district and filled with fancy boutiques, quirky souvenir shops, food trucks and cafes. Spend some time browsing around, do a spot of shopping, and maybe grab a drink at one of the cafes or restaurants lining the street.

visit the sculptures in English Bay Vancouver

Day 2 Evening: Hang Out Near English Bay Beach

Walk to English Bay Beach, it’s about a 20-25 minute walk from downtown Vancouver. You’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants along the coast with stunning waterfront views. Don’t miss the “A-maze-ing Laughter” statues (take your pics for the gram obvi) and other public art. Wander around the beach area, shop at the art fair, and stay for the sunset. As your 48 hours in Vancouver winds down, this is the perfect time to relax and soak in the laid-back vibes.

visit the sculptures in English Bay Vancouver

The Honda Celebration of Light is an annual offshore fireworks competition held at English Bay each year and takes place on July 20, July 24, and July 27, 2024. It’s a three night event featuring pyrotechnic displays by teams from around the world, at this free family fun event. The event attracts over 1.25 million people each year to enjoy the festive atmosphere, food trucks, music, and cultural celebrations.

reasons to spend 48 hours in Vancouver

Reasons to Spend 48 Hours in Vancouver

Vancouver has something for everyone. But, full disclosure, Vancouver is pretty pricey – think Chicago or Montecito levels. But, the unique experiences make it totally worth the visit. Whether you’re a nature lover, architecture lover, or foodie, grab your camera and comfy shoes, and enjoy 48 hours in Vancouver. If you have longer than a weekend in Vancouver, keep reading for day trips you should consider.

reasons to spend 48 hours in Vancouver

Top 5 Day Trips from Vancouver

1. Drive to Whistler Mountain

About a two hour drive along the Sea-to-Sky Highway you’ll reach Whistler Mountain, a year-round resort. In winter it’s a world-class ski resort, and during the summer you can hike, mountain bike, and zip-line. Enjoy this pedestrian village, visit Olympic Park, or take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola for panoramic views.

2. Visit Victoria

Hop on a ferry or take a seaplane to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. This city is located on the southern end of Vancouver Island. Wander through the stunning Butchart Gardens, explore the Royal BC Museum, and visit the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel. Victoria is a great day trip or weekend getaway filled with unique sights and experiences.

3. Grouse Mountain

Just a 30-minute drive from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain has plenty of activities. Take the Skyride gondola for amazing views, hike the Grouse Grind trail during the summer, or visit the wildlife refuge. In winter enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. The mountain also has ‘Eye of the Wind’, a unique wind turbine with an observation deck.

4. Harrison Hot Springs

About a 90-minute drive from Vancouver, Harrison Hot Springs is a relaxing spot if you’re looking for natural hot springs. Soak in the water at the public pool or enjoy the resort’s private facilities. The area also has beautiful lakeside beaches, water sports, and scenic hiking trails. Don’t miss a boat tour to spot local wildlife and explore the lake’s many islands.

5. Steveston

Richmond is just a 30-minute drive from Vancouver, and Steveston is a quaint fishing village located there. Visit the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site, wander along the waterfront, and enjoy fresh seafood at a local restaurant. For film buffs – Steveston is also the filming location for the TV show “Once Upon a Time.”

These day trips from Vancouver will allow you to see more of British Columbia and experience more of this area.

the perfect 2 day Vancouver itinerary

Travel Tips for 48 Hours in Vancouver

Here are a few things you should know to make your 48 Hours in Vancouver run smoothly:

1. Bring Your Travel Documents

It’s important to remember a valid passport or officially accepted documentation proving citizenship in order to cross the international border into Canada. Also, since you only have 48 hours in Vancouver, it’s important to plan your border crossing timing around rush hour traffic. You can find more information about the USA-Canada border crossing here.

tips for crossing the border from US to Vancouver

2. Bring a Raincoat

Vancouver is known for its frequent rain, so pack a light raincoat or travel umbrella. You’ll be grateful for it when those sudden showers hit.

3. Be Prepared for the Open Drug Use

While Vancouver has a lot to offer, we were shocked by the open drug use on the streets just two blocks from our nice hotel. We recommend avoiding Hastings and Pender Streets, where we witnessed people using heroin and cooking crack openly, despite a heavy police presence. It’s clear this is a significant issue in the area.

open drug use in vvancouver is a problem on hastings street

4. Wear Comfy Shoes

The city is very compact and walkable. You can walk from one corner of downtown to the other in about 40 minutes. Most attractions are within an easy twenty-minute walk, and the roads are mostly flat, however, comfortable shoes are a must!

5. Explore Areas Other Than Downtown

Downtown Vancouver is great, but don’t spend all your time there. Other neighborhoods are unique and within biking distance, some are even walkable. Plus the public transportation will get you anywhere within 40 minutes.

tips to drive from the US to Vancouver

6. Use Public Transportation

No need to rent a car. Everyone either walks or uses public transit in Vancouver, and you should too. If you want, you can also rent bicycles. Walking is reliable, efficient, and will save you the hassle of driving and parking. The SkyTrain light rail will get you almost anywhere you need to go.

7. Dress Comfortably

Vancouver is stylish but also casual. No need to bring fancy clothes – comfort is key here. You’ll fit right in with casual, yet chic attire.

see the totem poles in vancouver, canada

8. Respect Indigenous People

Refer to the original inhabitants of the area as Aboriginal people or First Nations people, not “Indians.” Vancouver is home to many Indigenous nations, and it’s important to use respectful and accurate terms. Vancouver’s history goes back thousands of years. Vancouver is on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples—the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. The totem poles in Stanley Park honor Indigenous heritage, educate visitors and celebrate the traditions of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.

9. Be Prepared For The High Cost of Living

Vancouver is an expensive city. Prices listed usually don’t include sales tax, which is an extra 14%. Plus tipping is customary, so factor that into your budget.

Following these tips will help you navigate Vancouver like a local and ensure you have a fantastic visit.

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If you’re looking for other day trips in the Pacific Northwest, you may find these articles interesting:

Whidbey Island – A Perfect Day Trip from Seattle

The Lanzarotta Bed and Breakfast: Luxury Meets Nature in Eugene, Oregon

*** this article was sponsored but all opinions are my own ***

Did I miss something during my 48 hours in Vancouver?

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About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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