Planes of all types are a common sight in the skies over Richmond, home of the Vancouver International Airport. But where are some of the best places for die-hard aviation fans visit in Richmond? Buckle up, return your tray table to its upright position, and take off to these five aviation hot spots in the city.

Larry Berg Flight Path Park - Photo: John Lee
Larry Berg Flight path Park is the perfect place to watch some runway action. | Photo: ​John Lee

Public Observation Area at Vancouver International Airport

Level 4, Domestic Terminal

While observation decks used to be all the rage at airports around the world, many have been closed in recent years. But the folks at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) know how much visitors love peering across the runways at the ever-changing airplanes as they takeoff and land or taxi to and from their gates.

Head up the escalator above the food court in the Domestic Terminal and you’ll find a covered, table-lined viewing area that’s popular with in-the-know airport visitors and YVR staff taking coffee breaks. Its floor-to-ceiling windows provide west-facing views across the airfield, while telescopes and information panels add to the fun. You can also pick-up a free copy of the airport’s aviation-themed SkyTalk newspaper here to read in between spotting a variety of planes.

Vancouver International Airport
Planes come and go from Vancouver International Airport. | Photo: ​Tourism Richmond

Larry Berg Flight Path Park

Near the intersection of Russ Baker Way and Airport Road

Located just beyond the perimeter fence of YVR’s south runway, Larry Berg Flight Path Park is an inviting destination for airplane fans of all ages. Kids love the runway-marked pathways, benches shaped like paper planes, and the dome-like model of a globe that you can climb on top of to create your own walkable ‘flight path’ from Vancouver to Rome and beyond.

Opened in 2013, the grassy, triangular-shaped park isn't just for children, though. It’s also studded with information panels full of detailed plane-spotting insights. And, encircling its globe installation, there are additional flag-shaped displays that illuminate the work and decades-long history of Canada’s second-busiest airport—including some cool vintage photos.

Larry Berg Flight Path Park - Photo: John Lee
The climbable dome at Larry Berg Flight Path Park. | Photo: John Lee

Flight City

#105 - 6080 Russ Baker Way

Not far from the park sits a gaggle of anonymous-looking retail units—one of which is a friendly magnet for aviation buffs from around the region. Flight City is a large store with high ceilings and a three-part approach to retail: it’s a pilot and crew supply shop selling essential items for airline staff; it also carries a huge array of die-cast plane models for avid collectors; and it stocks enticing merchandise for anyone with even a passing interest in flying.

Hats from Flight City
There’s a tempting array of aviation merchandise for sale at Flight City. | Photo: John Lee

On our visit to Flight City, we loved checking out the detailed models: collectors covet specific planes and airlines, with some models retailing for up $200. The merchandise was just as temping, including airport code mugs, de Havilland Canada T-shirts, vintage-look RCAF bags and Boeing and Airbus ball caps. There’s also a wide array of aviation history books here plus an aisle of plane-related kids’ toys (seaplane bath toy recommended).

Keen to try building your own plastic scale models of historic or latter-day planes? A couple of doors away, Imperial Hobbies stocks a wide selection of detailed kits.

Model airplanes at Flight City
There’s a vast array of model planes to peruse at Flight City. | Photo: John Lee

Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel

3111 Grant McConachie Way, Vancouver International Airport

If checking out real planes is more your style, do it in pampering luxury at a hotel located right inside YVR’s terminal building. Named North America’s Best Airport Hotel eight times at the World Airport Awards, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel is less than 100 steps from the US departures area. And while the floor-to-ceiling windows in its Jetside Bar offer great runway views, booking a room is an even better way to plane-spot in style.

Many of the hotel’s triple-glazed guestroom windows overlook YVR’s busy airfield. And if you’re keen to know exactly what you’re looking at, the Fairmont provides handy in-room guides to help you differentiate your SAAB 340 from your Embraer ERJ-190. Need a close-up? If you’re staying on the hotel’s posh Gold Floor, many rooms also have their own telescopes as well.

Fairmont Vancouver Airport
The Fairmont is a fantastic hotel option for aviation fans. | Photo: Fairmont Vancouver Airport

Flying Beaver Bar & Grill

4760 Inglis Drive

Close to YVR’s South Terminal, one of Richmond’s favourite destination pubs is arguably the perfect place to toast your aviation-themed city excursion. Located on a riverfront stretch where seaplanes takeoff and land, the friendly Flying Beaver Bar & Grill serves up a thick slice of cozy bar ambiance, waterfront views, and a full array of thirst-quenching drinks ranging from Red Tuck Ale to raspberry mojitos.

But it’s the pub food that keeps many hungry aviation fans coming back for more, including salmon burgers, butter chicken, and hearty beer-battered fish and chips. Need dessert? Stick around after the planes have stopped operating to catch a tangerine-striped sunset across the mirror-calm water.

Mojitos at Flying Beaver
Enjoy a drink with a view at the Flying Beaver. | Photo: ​Flying Beaver Bar & Grill