there are better beaches, and FAR better places to swim, but english bay is a great neighbourhood on the downtown penisula that is full of people, close to cafes and restaurants, and just a wonderful place to hang out,or bike,rollerblade,etc
right next to the entrance to Stanley Park, surrounded by a very densely populated residential area.
Visit Main Street
If you have never been to vancouver before and woud like to avoid the touristy thing, then I suggest meeting some of the young locals on MAIN street. Main street is where all the artsy people are and you can get a great cup of coffee to. The street is very large and spread out (this is Canada folks!) but between East 8th and 30th you will find really cool hole-in-the-wall boutiques such as Vintage clothing, antiques, small cafes, and local designer boutiques. Definatly visit Main Street! Davie Street. Davie Street is in the heart of the West End of vancouver. this is also known as the "gay village". The street has become less cool these days but there are still some cheesy shops along the strip and Vancouvers only good gay club "The Odysey" is located at Homer and Davie. Cheers to Davie
go to Stanley Park and walk or...
go to Stanley Park and walk or rollerblade around the Seawall, take the Skyride up to Grouse Mountain, cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge, do some shopping in Granville Island and Robson Street (but buy your souvenirs in the dollar stores -- they're way cheaper!). Oh the scenery.. The picture below was taken at the Stanley Park seawall with the downtown Vancouver skyline at the background. More info and pics on Stanley park are in my travelogue.
hang out at False Creek. This...
hang out at False Creek. This is another picture of it as we participated in the Save False Creek campaign which was trying to draw attention to the clean-up and rehab of False Creek. Although you can't see it in this picture there is someone swimming through False Creek surrounded by Voyageur canoes, Haida War Canoes, rowers, kayakers, etc. The waters in Flase creek have undergone a major improvement since it's early days as an industrial dumping ground and some of the local sealife has returned and the water no longer has that somewhat repugnant smell. You can also see some of the many condominium developments that have sprung up as a legacy to Expo 1986 held along these shores.
Sometimes refered to Vancouver's "Haight-Ashbury", though I'm not sure if there's anything else like it in other cities. In the first half of the 20th century Vancouver's Commercial Drive area used to be the city's major Italian neighbourhood. If there were new Italian immigrants, this is where they settled. Italian coffee shops, bakeries, grocery stores and restaurants were key ingredients to Commercial Drive. Over the past few decades, Commercial Drive has attracted immigrants of other nationalities, but since the 1980's and 90's it became the "Mecca" of the locals subcultures; an artist, hippy, punk, vegetarian, and lesbian hangout. Multicultural indeed! Now, fast forward to the 21st century and you have a mix of all the groups combined into one area spanning dozens of city blocks along Commercial Drive, from Broadway north to Venables.