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North Vancouver Lions Club Japanese Exchange Program Tour

Posing on the Sea to Sky Suspension Bridge

Where do you take teenaged guests from overseas to show them an amazing time in Vancouver? To parks, tourist attractions, shopping and on adventures.

For ideas on world-class places to take young people in the Lower Mainland, and to learn about an amazing North Vancouver youth exchange program and the experiences it offers students, see below.

Showcasing the Vancouver Region to Teenaged Guests in the Summer

Millions of people visit Vancouver from abroad each year. Many Vancouver residents host guests from overseas. When you have visitors, especially young ones, where do you take them? When you want to show off the best of the Lower Mainland, and want to give your friends the experience of a lifetime, where do you go and what do you do?

There are so many incredible places to visit, adventures to experience and potential activities. Given that visitors have a limited amount of time, how do you choose what to do? That’s a challenge that North Shore Lions Clubs face each year.


To learn more about the Lions Club program check out the North Shore Lions Youth Exchange website or see the About the Lions Club Youth Exchange section near the bottom of this article. To learn about the amazing places the program takes students in the Lower Mainland (which will give ideas on best places to take your own teenaged friends and visitors), continue reading.


North Van-Chiba Event at Waterfront Park

What’s in this Article?

Below is a description of an amazing Japanese-Canadian exchange program and the Vancouver side of its tour. The article is of interest to North Shore youth wanting to apply for the program, but also for young people and their families in general, international travellers and local folk wanting ideas on where to go and take teenaged out-of-town guests.

This article includes a video featuring some of the amazing adventures a group of foreign Japanese and local Canadian students do together in the Lower Mainland each year. It’s of interest to anyone wanting ideas on experience-of-a-lifetime adventures in the Lower Mainland.

The video is followed by a list of some of the many venues North Shore Lions Clubs take their Japanese youth guests, a description about their exchange program and then information about Lions Clubs in general.


Click on any of the following links to jump to a specific section, or continue reading to learn all about the Canadian side of the program and the places it visits:

2019 Vancouver Tour Video | Best Places Visited | North Shore Attractions | Vancouver Destinations | Sea to Sky Region | Fraser Valley & Other | About the Lions Club Youth Exchange | About Lions Clubs | Other Information


Vancouver Adventures Tour Video

The following video features highlights of a tour of the Lower Mainland by participants on the North Shore Lions Youth Exchange program in August of 2019. Five local North Vancouver youth got to spend two weeks with five Japanese high school students.

As you’ll see in the video, the Canadian youth and local Lions Clubs took the Japanese visitors to Deep Cove for kayaking and up the Sea to Sky Gondola for a hike and views of the region. They also went with their Japanese guests on a sea safari boat ride in Howe Sound and to the Cultus Lake Waterpark and Cultus Lake Adventure Park in the Fraser Valley.

The program took the group of high school students to dozens of other “best places” too. For a list of all the destinations and activities on their two-week tour, see further below.

Top Vancouver Places to take Teenagers

The above video features just five of the adventures the North Shore Lions Youth Exchange program takes its Canadian and Japanese teenaged ambassadors.

Prior to the Japanese group’s visit to Vancouver, participating North Shore youth and Lions Club members plan what to do and where to take their guests. If you only have two weeks, where are the absolute best places to take teenagers from another country to show them the best of Canada and the Vancouver region?

Below is where the group chose to go. And if you have out-of-town teenaged guests visiting and wanting a Canadian West-Coast experience-of-a-lifetime, these are places you should take your friends too!

As you’ll see, the following includes many (but not all) of the region’s most amazing places. The dates of the tour were from August 5th to 19th in 2019, so it was in the heart of the summer.

Places selected for the tour depended on a number of factors including cost, financial support of venues, weather, time limitations and how each option fit with other activities on the schedule. Of primary importance, though, was whether the activity would contribute to memories of Canada that would last a lifetime.

The 2019 Vancouver Showcase Tour

Below are places included on the tour schedule that all the youth participants went. Also included are some of the extra “best places” that individual North Shore host families took their guests as well as locations visited on the program in past years.

Japanese Kayakers at Deep Cove
Kayaking at Deep Cove

2019 North Shore Tour Destinations

Places the North Shore Lions Youth Exchange took their Japanese teenaged guests in 2019 included the following parks, attractions and places of interest:

  • Capilano River Regional Park – the group visited the park and checked out the Capilano River Hatchery which already had a good number of salmon swimming through the display area. What’s so special about this venue? It’s a fabulous free place to see salmon, experience nature and enjoy the hiking trails.
  • Capilano Suspension Bridge – the group loved visiting this attraction (as one might have expected). They enjoyed the bridge, the views and walking up among the trees.
  • Deep Cove – the group had a wonderful time renting kayaks and exploring the area. They also hiked the Baden Powell Trail up to Quarry Rock and took in even more amazing views. What an experience everyone had! The Japanese students wanted to experience nature and here they certainly did!
  • Horseshoe Bay – one of the most memorable experiences for the Japanese students was the sea safari from Horseshoe Bay out into the Strait of Georgia. On the trip the group got to see birds, sea lions and stunning views of the North Shore Mountains. A highlight of the boat ride was going fast!
  • Lonsdale Quay – the Japanese students wanted to shop, so an excellent place for them to visit was Lonsdale Quay. They loved the market, enjoyed a meal at the Tap & Barrel and had fun commuting on the SeaBus to and from downtown Vancouver. Unfortunately the Shipyards Night Market didn’t fit with the rest of their schedule, but we’re sure they would have loved that! Hopefully next time!
Sea Safari Boating Fun
Sewell’s Sea Safari

Staff members at Vancouver’s Best Places hosted one of the Japanese students in 2019. Additional “best places” we took our guest were the following:

  • Ambleside – for a stroll along the waterfront and a quick peak at the Harmony Arts Festival.
  • Cypress Mountain – one of the best views of the Lower Mainland is from the lookout halfway up the mountain. We made sure to take our guest there for a look at the city and surrounding area.
  • Lynn Canyon Park – this is one of our favourite places to take out-of-town guests. They love the hiking trails and the suspension bridge, and it’s free! You just need to make sure to go during a non-peak time to avoid the crowds and find parking.

One other place that the Lions Club tour has taken its Japanese exchange students in past years is Grouse Mountain. Between the gondola ride up the hill, films, grizzly bears, summer Lumberjack shows and Birds in Motion demonstrations, it’s a great place to spend an entire day.

The Shipyards Night Market is arguably one of the North Shore’s best places to take young guests from out of town (or anyone for that matter). Between the live music, selection of exotic food truck cuisine, artisan vendor stalls, views of Vancouver and free admission, it’s a world-class attraction. Regrettably, in 2019, a trip to the Night Market just didn’t fit the group’s schedule, which was unfortunate as we’re sure they would have enjoyed it. The students did get to explore Lonsdale Quay though, so that was good.

2019 City of Vancouver Tour Destinations

The following are places students on the Lions Clubs’ North Vancouver-Chiba, Japan exchange program went in downtown Vancouver:

  • Canada Place – this is a must-see place for an urban stroll and views of the city. It’s also where the students went to see the FlyOver Canada multi-dimensional theatre attraction which they absolutely loved!
  • English Bay – the Lions Club’s Japanese group didn’t spend any time at English Bay Beach, but they did see it when they rode by on their bike tour of the city. The students rented bikes and rode from Coal Harbour to False Creek and passed English Bay along the way. What a beautiful bike ride that was!
  • False Creek – the students’ cycling trip took them along the False Creek Seawall as far as around the Granville Street Bridge on the north side of the water. That was far enough, especially as they had already biked around Stanley Park for a bit too. In total they rode for about two hours. They had so much fun, got some exercise and saw some spectacular city views.
  • FlyOver Canada – the students visited the multidimensional flying film experience at Canada Place and got to see Canada from coast to coast to coast. It’s one of our favourite places to take out-of-country guests and the Japanese students agreed that it was a “best place” to visit.
  • Gastown – this is the old part of downtown Vancouver. It was a hit with the Japanese teenagers because of the quaint streets and souvenir shops. They also ate at the Old Spaghetti Factory and thought it was great.
  • Robson Street – if you ever have out-of-country teenaged girls visiting Vancouver of course you’ll want to take them to Robson Street. The Lions Club’s group of Japanese girls loved the street and all the shops!
  • Stanley Park – this is a place that everyone takes out-of-town guests! It’s free, beautiful and can be appreciated by people of all ages. The Japanese group visited the park a couple of times. On one occasion a few of them went to see an evening outdoor musical play at the Theatre Under the Stars. On another day the entire group rented bicycles and rode around the park. On the trip they saw nature, the totem poles and spectacular views of the city.
  • Vancouver Lookout – the Lions Club made sure to take the Japanese girls up the Vancouver Lookout to see the 360-degree views of Vancouver. From the top they could point out North Vancouver (Chiba, Japan’s sister city and where their Canadian host families lived). They could also see how big Vancouver’s downtown area was, see other municipalities in the distance and admire all the beautiful city, ocean and mountain views. Fortunately, on the day they went, the weather was good and so the views were great.
Stanley Park View from the Lookout
View from the Vancouver Lookout

A couple of places some host families took their students were Granville Island and Nat Bailey Stadium. Our student went with a group to see a baseball game at the stadium between UBC and Tokyo University (who happened to be in town at the time). She said it was fun. Some students also went to see a play at the outdoor theatre at Stanley Park.

  • Theatre Under the Stars – live theatre can be a challenge for people for whom English isn’t their first language. Musical theatre can be a safer bet, as can performances that involve a lot of dancing. If the show is outdoors, that can make it even better. In 2019 some host families took their Japanese guests to see Disney’s Newsies at Stanley Park. They didn’t understand all the words spoken and sung, but they still really enjoyed it.

2019 Sea to Sky Corridor Tour Destinations

The exchange program went twice on trips up the Sea to Sky Highway during the two-week program in 2019. The first time was to go camping for a couple of nights in Paradise Valley. The second was to spend a night at Whistler. Both trips proved to be among the top highlights of the Japanese student’s Canadian experience. They wanted to see nature and loved what they saw!

  • Britannia Mine – on their way up to spend the night in Whistler the Lions Club took the group to the copper mine museum where they got to learn about the history of the mine, pan for gold and go on a tour inside one of the tunnels. It was a good educational experience.
  • Paradise Valley – one of the absolute favourite experiences for the Japanese visitors was camping for two nights in Paradise Valley. The students, a couple of Lions Club members, the chaperones and the host families rented campsites at the private campground and had a wonderful time. They played games in the field, roasted marshmallows, had a pancake breakfast, played cards at night, listened to guitar playing around the campfire and made memories that will last a lifetime. They also went hiking along the Sea-to-Sky Trail one day and to the Sea to Sky Gondola on another.
  • Sea to Sky Gondola – while camping at Paradise Valley the group took a trip to the Sea to Sky Gondola which was only about a 20-minute drive from the campground. The group loved the ride up, the mountain views and the hike at the top. They had said they wanted to see nature in Canada, and on this day they certainly did!
  • Whistler-Blackcomb – each year the North Shore Lions Clubs take their Japanese guests on an overnight trip to Whistler. This year they stayed at the Fireside Lodge and had a blast! They got to go up the chairlift and from Whistler to Blackcomb on the Peak to Peak Gondola. They saw a black bear from a distance, and a marmot right up close. For one Japanese student, the marmot was quite possibly the highlight of her entire trip! The students also got to explore Whistler Village (which they said looked a bit like Main Street USA at Tokyo Disney) and had dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory.
Enjoying the Sea to Sky Suspension Bridge
On the Sea to Sky Gondola’s Suspension Bridge

In addition to the above attractions that all the exchange students visited, we took our student to three other places which we also rate as some of the Lower Mainland’s top places to visit. They were Alice Lake, Porteau Cove and Shannon Falls.

  • Alice Lake Provincial Park – after packing up from camping at Paradise Valley we took our Japanese guest to Alice Lake. She had said what she wanted to do more than anything in Canada was see nature and Alice Lake is a great place to do that. At the park we walked all around the lake. The trails there are pretty level and go through the trees. The views of the lake and forest are beautiful. This would also have been a great place for the camping trip, although due to its popularity it was already full by the time we tried to make a reservation.
  • Porteau Cove Provincial Park – this is another great place to camp in the Sea to Sky region (although there is a train that sometimes runs nearby at night). The park also makes for a nice spot for a stretch and look at the views. On our way to Paradise Valley for our camping trip we stopped here for a picnic lunch.
  • Shannon Falls Provincial Park – we often drop by this park on our way to or from Whistler when travelling with out-of-town guests. It makes for a nice break from the driving, the walk to the falls isn’t too long or strenuous, and the waterfall itself is quite spectacular. There isn’t a lot of water flowing in the middle of August, at least not compared to the spring or after a period of heavy rains. The place can also get fairly crowded in the summer. It’s a great place to explore though and our Japanese guest agreed!
Cultus Lake Adventure Park
Having fun at Cultus Lake Adventure Park

2019 Fraser Valley & Other Tour Destinations

Some of the Lower Mainland’s best places are in the Fraser Valley. These include Harrison Hot Springs, Rolley Lake Provincial Park, Bridal Veil Falls and various other favourite spots. Because of limited time we were not able to take our Japanese guests to all these places. We were, however, able to take them to the following:

  • Cultus Lake – one of the best places in the summer to take teenagers (or families with young kids too) is to Cultus Lake. The provincial park would have been another ideal location for our group’s camping trip, but, like Alice Lake, by the time we were ready to make our reservations the campground was full. That didn’t stop us though from taking a trip to the area for a day of amusement rides and water sliding. When Chiba, Japan hosts North Vancouver’s Lions Club students they take their guests to Tokyo Disney (as the attraction is actually located in Chiba prefecture). Arguably the Lower Mainland’s closest things to Tokyo Disney are the two attractions we list next (which the Japanese students absolutely loved)!
  • Cultus Lake Adventure Park – this place was an absolute hit with the girls from Japan! It’s obviously nowhere near as big as Tokyo Disney, but nor does it cost as much or have anywhere near the lineups. The views of nature from a couple of the rides at Cultus Lake also beat anything you’ll see at a Disney attraction! Some of the students’ favourite rides were the Windmill Drop, Buckin Bronco and Runaway Train. The Cloud Buster and Round-up 360, meanwhile, were the top picks for the more adventurous teens. As the students would attest, the Cultus Lake Adventure Park is an amazing place for young children, but also thrill-seeking teenagers!
  • Cultus Lake Waterpark – if you have young guests visiting from out of town and you want them to have a good time, there is arguably no better place to take them on a hot summer day than the largest water slide park in British Columbia. The Japanese students had such a blast! The program’s adult chaperones did too! Wow! What an amazing day that was! The Lions Club hosts expected to be at Cultus Lake for only a few hours. The group stayed all day though and some didn’t want to leave! It was an absolute hit!

The Cultus Lake amusement park and water slides were the two Fraser Valley places that the entire Lions Club exchange program group went to. Harrison Hot Springs would have been another ideal place to have visited – especially with its own waterpark, beautiful beach, boat tour opportunities and hot springs. There just wasn’t time to do everything. Maybe they’ll get to Harrison Hot Springs next year. We’re sure that too would be a top highlight of the Japanese group’s Canadian tour.

Lions Club Japanese Exchange Program
Japanese Students at Cultus Lake Waterpark

During the two weeks that the guests from Chiba, Japan were in Canada they toured a lot of the region as a group. Each student also got to spend a fair bit of time though with just their host family. When we had one-on-one time with our student we took her to a couple of our other favourite Fraser Valley places. They were Fort Langley (to see the fort and learn about both Canadian and BC history) and to the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival (which is in full bloom in mid-August).

  • Fort Langley – the National Historic Site is one of the best places in the Lower Mainland to learn about early British Columbia and the region’s history. If you travel to Europe or Japan you’ll see castles that are several hundred years old. At Fort Langley you’ll see what some believe is the oldest original building in the province. Admittedly a structure built in the 1840s isn’t old compared to what you can see in Japan, but the fort in general is pretty cool. If you want to show guests what colonial BC and Canada’s “Wild West” looked like, Fort Langley is a great place to take them! Our Japanese student really enjoyed it.
  • Chilliwack Sunflower Festival – if you want to take overseas guests to the countryside and farm country, then the Fraser Valley is an ideal place to go. And in August, a great farm to visit is the one where you’ll find the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival. There aren’t any farm animals, but there are acres and acres of sunflowers and dahlias. It’s a place that gardeners love, and it’s an attraction that’s especially popular with senior citizens. We bet our teenaged Japanese guest would like it too, and she certainly did!

There are so many “best places” that the Lions Club could have taken their Japanese guest, and so many places we could have taken our own student guest. There is only so much time though, and different activities have to fit together in the schedule.

Steveston Village, with the Gulf of Georgia Cannery and Britannia Shipyards, is a place that the Lions Clubs have taken their Japanese exchange student guests in past years. It didn’t fit into their schedule this year, but it will likely again another year in the future. Steveston Village is always a wonderful place to take out-of-town guests. There are great trails to walk or ride a bike along, the area is of historical significance, and admission to the Cannery is free to youth under 18 years of age.

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North Shore Lions Youth Exchange

The North Shore Lions Youth Exchange is a program where a group of Canadian high school students get to travel to Japan for two weeks in the summer and a group of Japanese students visit Vancouver. In 2019 the program celebrated its 50th year!

The program is for both boys and girls. In 2019, by chance, all five of the participating students from Japan were female. That’s not always the case, however. Of the five Canadian high school students in 2019, three were boys and two were girls.

The City of North Vancouver’s sister city is Chiba, Japan. Every year North Shore Lions Clubs sponsor five North Vancouver students to travel to Chiba as representatives of the city. While the Canadian group is hosted by families in Japan, five Japanese students and their chaperone visit North Vancouver.

The Canadian side of the program is funded by the North Shore Lions Clubs with support from the City of North Vancouver. The program’s purpose is to foster friendships between the cities of North Vancouver and Chiba, Japan and to introduce the student participants to the cultures of the two countries.

To participate in the program, Canadians students need to attend a North Vancouver high school and be either 15 or 16 years of age. Students apply for the program early in the year, get selected in the spring, travel to Japan in August and then host a Japanese student for two weeks in August of the following year.

Participating Canadian students need to pay half their airfare and provide their own personal spending money (for souvenirs, snacks and just a small number of meals). In total students can expect to spend about $1500, which for a two-week trip abroad is amazing. They and their family also have to agree to host a Japanese student for two weeks the following year. Pretty much all other expenses though are picked up by the North Shore Lions Youth Exchange Committee. It’s a wonderful program, and unbelievably affordable too.

To learn more about the program click North Shore Lions Youth Exchange.

Japanese Students in Squamish
2019 Japanese Exchange Students in Squamish

About Lions Clubs

The Lions Club is a non-political service organization with 1.4 million members and thousands of club locations all around the world. They do charitable work locally, nationally and abroad.

In many cases, at least here in Canada, Lions Clubs own apartment complexes that provide subsidized housing to low income families. Club members can also frequently be seen at community events with their barbecues and pancake breakfasts. They also do Christmas tree sales, paper-shredding events and other fundraising activities in their communities.

Lions Clubs from around the world have worked over the years to fight blindness, hunger and poverty. Many of their projects are youth-focused, but they also support seniors. They provide public housing and scholarships. They also help communities suffering from natural disasters and support worthwhile charitable causes in their communities.

Lions Clubs are great organizations. Guests are welcome to their meetings and they are always looking for new recruits. Qualities they look for in new members are good moral character and reputation, leadership skills and potential, positive attitude, hardworking and a willingness to serve others and volunteer.

In the Vancouver region, from Squamish and the Sunshine Coast to the Fraser Valley and everywhere in between, there are close to 70 different clubs. They have meetings once or twice a month at which often there is a guest speaker.

On Vancouver’s North Shore there are five clubs and they all contribute to and support the North Shore Lions Youth Exchange program. They are the following:

  • Ambleside Tiddly Cove Lions Club – founded in 1975, this group has around two dozen or so members and raises around $100,000 a year for local causes. They meet on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 7:30 pm at the West Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club at 650 20th Street in West Vancouver.
  • Deep Cove Lions Club – founded in 1999, this is one of just a small number of women-only Lions Clubs. They meet every second and fourth Wednesday at 7:00 pm at Lions Garey Ham Court at 936 Bowron Court in North Vancouver.
  • Lynn Valley Lions Club – founded in 1970, this club has about 20 members and is the organization behind the annual Lynn Valley Days event in North Vancouver. Their address is 1055 Premier Street in North Vancouver.
  • Mount Seymour Lions Club – chartered in 1966, this group manages buildings that provide close to 200 affordable housing units. Their address is #147 1300 Parkgate Avenue in North Vancouver.
  • North Vancouver Host Lions Club – this group meets on the second Tuesday and third Monday of the month at 7:00 pm. Sometimes they meet at Andrew’s on Eighth, which is a coffee shop at 279 East 8th Street in North Vancouver, and sometimes they meet at Lynn Valley Den (where the Lynn Valley Club meets).

The official stated aims and objectives of Lions Clubs are the following:

  • To create and foster a spirit of understanding among the peoples of the world.
  • To promote principles of good government and good citizenship.
  • To take an active interest in the civic, cultural, social and moral welfare of the community.
  • To unite the Clubs in the bonds of friendship, good fellowship and mutual understanding.
  • To provide a forum for the open discussion of all matter of public interest; provided, however, that partisan politics and sectarian religion shall not be debated by Club Members.
  • To encourage service-minded men and women to serve their community without personal financial reward, and to encourage efficiency and promote high ethical standards in commerce, industry, professions, public works and private endeavors.

To learn more about the organization see the Lions Club International website.

Japanese Students in Deep Cove
2019 Japanese Students in North Vancouver

Other Information

To learn more about the North Vancouver-Chiba, Japan exchange program, click North Shore Lions Youth Exchange.

To learn about North Vancouver’s sister city, see the Chiba Japan Travel Guide.

Check out our article about North Vancouver to learn more about Chiba, Japan’s sister city.

Other articles that might be of interest include the following: