I Want to go Back to Vancouver!
I thought now would be a great time to do some summer reminiscing… now that we’re still getting over winter and I have no warm-weather getaway to look forward to anytime soon.
Last summer my husband and I celebrated 16 years of marriage by jetting off to Vancouver. My amazing parents took our three kids for a week and we were off. Such a strange sensation, to be with just him for a whole week. Flashes of pre-kid life came rushing back to me…
Here are a few glimpses from our amazing week…
RELATED: SPRING BREAK IN ST. LOUIS
We decided to make Vancouver our home for the week. Since the city has FABULOUS public transportation, we went without a car. We also found a one bedroom apartment on Air B’N’B for less than the cost of a hotel room. It had a kitchen, bath and laundry facilities, which made living like a local possible. We were right downtown, about a mile from Stanley Park. Awesome location for trains, nightlife, shopping, etc!
And the view from our apartment was a wonderful cityscape…
GRANVILLE ISLAND MARKET
Pick up any tourist brochure and you’re going to read about Granville Island. But that is because it is so cool! Grand Rapids’ newish Downtown Market is little sister to this bustling foodie mecca. Fresh fruits and veggies, bread, meat and fish mongers, plus restaurants galore line the market.
We rented bicycles and rode out to Granville Island – not once, but twice – during our trip, we loved it that much!
Outbuildings with artisans, wine, cheese and more spread across the area, too. There is even a water playground/park next door if you happen to have kids along on your journey. My advice? Go on a weekday when it’s less busy, and go hungry! Also, bring cash; it’s so much easier to buy your goodies. Most vendors accept US dollars.
It won’t take you long to discover that Vancouver, like many other large cities, has a variety of neighborhoods and all with their own flavor.
Gastown is a famous historical neighborhood that is popular with tourists. There are some great restaurants here and fun souvenir shops. Just know that they are higher priced than other parts of town.
We visited Gastown on a rainy day. If you’re headed to Vancouver bring rain gear!
OUTDOORS OR BUST
One of the reasons we chose to vacation in Vancouver was because of its reputation as an outdoor play paradise. My hubby and I love hiking and being outside, so this was a great fit. And where else can you take a bus into the mountains, hike for miles and catch a bus at the other end of the trail, to land you right back at your apartment??
We took the bus and water taxi out to the base of Grouse Mountain one day, hiked a few miles across a mountain (we found our trails by using this helpful Vancouver Trails website). We ended that day at the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge (this one is free, there is another in the area that you pay for). I almost peed my pants walking across this bridge, but it was worth it!
Because we had so much fun hiking the first time around, we did it again a few days later. This time, we tackled what Vancouverites call the Grouse Grind. And since my husband found that locals do it in less than an hour he had to test himself. The Grouse Grind is essentially a rock “staircase” two miles strait up a mountain that normal people access using a gondola. We did it the crazy way- with our feet!
At the top of the mountain we were treated to a funny lumberjack show. We ate lunch on top of the mountain, inhaling gorgeous views of the city and surrounding bays, and then took a (yikes!) ride down in the gondola.
Another day, we rode bikes out to the University of British Columbia. The rose garden was heavenly, and the views beyond description. If you’re here, you literally need to stop and smell the roses.
This was NOT a flat ride, but the rewarding views at the top made up for the huffing and puffing.
We hiked, biked, and walked a LOT. And we also ate. A lot! The food in Vancouver is amazing. Very fresh, local, and tasty.
There are all types of food, so you can find something to fit almost every mood. Some nights we bought food at the Market and prepared it in our apartment. Others, we ate out. Sometimes we hit the food trucks. I think our favorites came from the food trucks.
STANLEY PARK AND THE HARBOR
Water defines Vancouver as much as the mountains. The harbor is lined with bike paths and walkways and are used abundantly.
Not far from downtown is Stanley Park, the crown jewel of parks in Vancouver. Stanley Park is on a peninsula and rimmed by a bike path. It’s popular with joggers, bikers and bladers.
There are beaches at points, and restaurants, too. Trails weave throughout inland park areas. We went to Stanley Park twice, once to hike and once to bike. It was beautiful each time.
VICTORIA – on VANCOUVER ISLAND
We decided to take a little side trip while in Vancouver to Vancouver Island.
There are three ways to get there from Vancouver… by car/car ferry, by bus/water taxi, or by float plane.
Guess which one we picked?
(We came back via water taxi/bus/train, which took longer but was cheaper. And was still a lot of fun!)
If you’ve been to Meijer Gardens, you’ve seen great gardens. If you go to Butchart Gardens expecting it to be like Meijer Gardens, though, you’ll be in for a surprise. Butchart Gardens cover less physical space than Meijer Gardens but probably contain more plants.
Butchart Gardens are formal, and manicured to a tee. There are all types of gardens represented here- including the famous sunken garden. Plan to spend a leisurely morning or afternoon and grab a bite to eat in their restaurant or cafe.
IF YOU GO
Summer weather is amazing in Vancouver, so those are great months to visit. Days are long this time of year, making it easy to fit in all of your outdoor adventures.
Plan ahead for flights and accommodations. This is a world-renowned tourist destination and things fill up quickly. We were amazed at how many different languages we heard spoken everywhere. We booked our room and flights about five months out.
Use public transportation whenever possible. You can drive, but it’s really nice to not have to worry about parking, etc, when you go out.
Make sure your passport is up-to-date, or you have the enhanced drivers license; you will need it to cross the border.
Have fun, and share your pics with me… I want to go back!