While the City and District are separate entities, each with their own mayors, councils, and operations departments, they share several core services such as the North Vancouver School District,the North Vancouver Recreation Commission and the North Vancouver detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The differences between the two municipalities are most apparent to their respective residents. For the most part, other Lower Mainland residents rarely distinguish between the District and the City, referring to both collectively as "North Vancouver". The same is true for commercial advertising, and even for certain government departments, including Canada Post. There have been several proposals over the years with regards to merging the two municipalities, but none have progressed beyond the concept stage.
There are, however, some distinct differences between the two municipalities, both physically and socially:
The District of North Vancouver is by far the larger of the two. Bounded by the Capilano River to the west, Indian Arm to the east, Burrard Inlet to the south, and the North Shore Mountains to the north, it sprawls in an east-west direction across the mountain slopes, characterized by rugged terrain, frequent rain and steep and winding roadways. The District is primarily made up of single-family residential housing, with an industrial base along the shoreline of Burrard Inlet. It has more than twice the population of the City, but with a much lower population density. There is no clearly defined "downtown"; instead, a series of commercial areas such as Edgemont Village and Lynn Valley serve as local community hubs.
The City of North Vancouver, on the other hand, has a much more urban feel. Surrounded to the west, north, and east by the District, the City is home to the majority of the North Shore's high rise buildings, rental properties, and commercial operations. As with the District, there are industrial sites along the shore of Burrard Inlet, although in recent years several of these have begun to convert to residential and commercial areas. The City also has the Lonsdale Quay public market and the northern terminal for Vancouver's Seabus transit ferry. Regional planners have identified the City, and specifically its Central Lonsdale and Lower Lonsdale neighbourhoods, as the "downtown" of the North Shore.
The very rugged nature of the North Shore Mountains, including, predominantly, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour, have contributed to this area's reputation for hiking, skiing, and perhaps most famously, mountain biking. Many trails are featured in popular mountain biking videos. The Baden-Powell Trail runs from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. This trail is host to the annual Knee-Knacker, which is a half day long run along the trail's entire length of 50 kilometres. (The race is so named for the cuts and bruises frequently covering the runners knees when they cross the finish line.) The District is also home to the renowned Grouse Grind hiking trail, a steep vertical climb sometimes referred to as "God's Stairmaster."
The North Shore is also the birth place of "Shore Riding"; a specific style of riding that involves hand made ladders, bridges and logs. The structures range from the simple to the elaborate, the best being made of cedar. They are used to navigate difficult terrain, rivers, swamps and muddy areas. The Shore is also known for its steep, slippery, wet, technical, rooty and generally nasty terrain.
The Capilano River is the site of the Capilano Suspension Bridge, one of the biggest tourist attractions on the North Shore. Indian Arm, an offshoot of Burrard Inlet, is well known for its sea kayaking and is the setting for Deep Cove. Other prominent tourist attractions include Lynn Canyon Park, the Capilano Fish Hatchery at Capilano River Regional Park, and the Maplewood Flats conservation area.
Some of the local drinking establishments in the city and the district were immortalized in "The Crawl," a song by local folk-rock band Spirit of the West which recounts a pub crawl across the North Shore.