If you ever travel to the Canadian west coast or to Alaska from the US, then most likely Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada will be on the itinerary. This major North American port city sits on the southwest corner of British Columbia and is about a 3.5 hour drive from Seattle, Washington. Named after British Captain George Vancouver who landed in the area in 1792, the city was originally a sawmill settlement called Granville. The largest city in BC, Vancouver is also the 3rd largest in Canada, holding a population of just over 1/2 million.
Two hours north is Whistler and Blackcomb, where portions of the 2010 Winter Olympics will be held. The scenic drive up the Sea To Sky Highway to Whistler makes the trip absolutely worth it, even if you're only staying a few days as we did. We made sure to pad the drive time appropriately to visit various places on the way up, including Howe Sound, Shannon Falls (the 3rd largest falls in BC), Brandywine Falls, the old mining community of Britannia and of course Squamish.
The city of Vancouver is filled with photographic opportunities. There's a ton of areas to visit in the city itself, as well as outside the core area on the North Shore, and in places such as Stanley Park and Granville Island. The city is also very clean and safe. Even the edge areas such as Gas Town and parts of China Town felt relatively safe walking to, although most travel books would say otherwise.
This gallery includes some of Vancouver's more popular photo spots. For lighthouse fans, there's two which are a must see. Point Atkinson is in Lighthouse Park, which is a 20 minute hike on a dirt road with dense forest on both sides. A very cool place for a picnic or afternoon get-away. This park was actually named by Captain Vancouver, and contains one of Canada's first manned lighthouses. Brockton Point is the other main lighthouse in Vancouver, and is more easily accessible in Stanley Park.
We spent close to a full day at Stanley Park. This park was once a Royal Navy base, and is an extremely popular place for those living in and beyond Vancouver. It's about 1,000 acres of evergreens, flowers, hiking and biking trails, and various wildlife including black squirrels and families of raccoons (these were everywhere - and not a bit scared of humans). There's an aquarium, and bird sanctuary, Totem Polls, several restaurants and rose gardens, plus many activities going on at any one time from arts and crafts to children's holloween shows (we were there in the fall). If you hike, there's even a trail that'll take you down the Seawall and under the Lion's Gate Bridge.