This past week, my family and I took a vacation to the West Coast before my sister heads off to college and I head to Europe. Like any family vacation, it had its highlights and a few challenges (I'm sure you know what I mean). Unfortunately, our 7 p.m. flight was delayed until 11 a.m. the next morning due to some technical difficulties, so we only had two days to see Vancouver. Here are a few of the must dos:
We stayed at a hotel on Hornby, right in the heart of downtown, which was great because most things were in walking distance. There were plenty of shops and restaurants to choose from:
1) Robson Street - the main shopping strip was only a few streets over. It was also just a few blocks to the water's edge, which was definitely worth a walk down to see the sunset.
2) Gastown - this fun, hip neighborhood had tons of boutiques and restaurants that would definitely appeal to a young adult crowd. If I had more time, I would have spent some more time walking around this area and maybe grabbed a drink and bite to eat.
3) Granville Island reminded me a lot of the Rastro in Madrid - you walk inside and there's hundreds of booths and counters set up. You can get anything from fresh bread, fruit, and flowers to paintings, purses and magnets. Go around lunch and grab some fresh food from one of the many vendors and enjoy it by the water (beware of giant seagulls though).
4) Stanley Park was really beautiful with some totem poles and a nice trail right next to the harbor. We only walked for about 20 minutes, but you could easily spend an hour or two walking around the park....
Touristy and Pricier Attractions:
We rented a car, which made things easier to get to, but one difficulty with Vancouver is that Uber isn't around yet. While there are cabs to hop into, reaching places like the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain can be difficult since it’s about a 20-30 minute drive (I'm not really sure what kind of public transportation they have). Both of those were really fun attractions (pretty typical tourist stuff), but if you budget for a trip to Vancouver, you might have to pick your attractions wisely since these both ran about $40-50 per person.
There's another suspension bridge called Lynn Canyon a little farther away that might be worth looking into if you're on a tighter budget because it’s free. I would also recommend getting to the bridge early because there was just an insane amount of people crossing when we went late morning. When I’m doing vacations on my own, I’m usually pretty cheap, so I probably would have ventured to the stuff farther away and spent more of my time on the free attractions. P.S. If you’re looking for something a little more high exercise to balance all the eating out and gelato you’re doing on vacation, Grouse Mountain has some trails you can hike.
If you're in Canada, you have to make it to a Tim Hortons, a Canadian based coffee and donut shop, and you should probably try the Poutine while you’re at it. Overall, I felt like Vancouver was basically a lot of overpriced food. One thing I did notice is there's a lack of convenience stores in the downtown area, so just finding a soda or bottle of water at night was not an easy task. Good luck finding an ice cream shop, although there are plenty of expensive gelato shops. But I did manage to sip some sangria (of course). My all time favorite meal was definitely lunch at the Altitude Cafe on the tip of Grouse Mountain about 3,000 feet up. It had an absolutely beautiful view.
To be totally honest, we probably could have saved a lot of money had we planned and done more research instead of asking a hotel Concierge or just walking into what ever place looked good. For us, this was more of a splurge trip since it will probably be our last family vacation. The city is so big, I have no doubt you could find somewhere tasty and affordable if you're willing to do a little digging on TripAdvisor or Yelp.
Even though Vancouver is really big and busy, it’s very clean and easy to navigate. My favorite part was how International the city felt. Everywhere you looked there were very different people, and you could hear at least 5 languages being spoken anytime you were in a crowded area. This took me straight back to Europe, and I enjoyed people watching almost as much as any of the places we visited. They call Vancouver the jewel of the Pacific for a reason.
Have any other fun Canadian cities to visit? Let us know!