Being from landlocked Alberta has its advantages, like the majestic Rocky Mountains, but it also lacks one key element – water. I think it’s my Scottish heritage, but I miss the smell of the sea. I miss being able to walk barefoot down a beach (even a chilly one) and have the tide lap at your feet. So, when a seat sale came up to head over to Vancouver for a long weekend, we jumped at it!
I’d been to Vancouver many, many times before, but it was David’s first time, and his second Canadian city. There was a little self-imposed pressure to make sure he enjoyed himself. After all, I’m the reason he moved to this country, so I want to make sure he enjoys it!
Things To Do in Vancouver
Bike the Sea Wall
Okay, many of you know my fear of cycling. It’s irrational, I get it, whatever… move on. David adores cycling, so I decided to swallow my fear and we rented bicycles at English Bay Bike Rentals. It’s very close to the start/end of the Stanley Park bike loop, their bikes are well-maintained and they’ll make sure you’re equipped with helmets and a map.
What I loved about the track was that it was a single direction. Especially where the route gets tight, I didn’t have to worry about who was coming around the corner. I just needed to focus on my own balance! There’s very few hills to tackle, only at the end. Plenty of stops to take photos, rest at a bench or dip your toes in the water. If you zip along it only takes an hour, but I suggest you stop along the way and explore. Once you’ve returned your bike, head on over to English Bay for an ice cream!
Explore Granville Island
This goes under food also, but Granville Island is full of neat little stores, stalls and public spaces to enjoy. While most people go for the Public Market to grab a bit, the Kids Market lets you relive your childhood. There’s even a child-size door at the front that made me squeak with joy. Across from the Kids Market is the Granville Island Brewery where you can grab lunch, do a beer tasting tour or just pick up some beer for later (which David did) in their store.
There are so many neat stores on Granville Island that you must take the proper time to explore. You’ll find stores catering to those with the outdoor adventurous spirit and others focusing on unique artwork. You might even see an artist at work, which is quite the thrill.
No doubt that once you walk through the market your belly will begin to rumble, so I suggest you plan to have a meal on the island and even grab snacks for later.
Ride the Aqua Bus
It’s kitschy, for sure, but a ride on the rainbow coloured Aquabus through False Creek is a rite of passage. You can take it all the way from Granville Island the Science World, even if it is a bit pricey. How many people can say they hopped on a water taxi to their next destination? Exactly.
You’ll interact with both tourists and locals. While David and I were waiting for a ‘bus’, this gal with her dog walked down the pier with us. We assumed she was also waiting for a bus, but to our surprise, she climbed off the pier, into a rowboat, grabbed her dog and paddled across False Creek. Apparently that’s how locals do it!
Capilano Suspension Park
Caveat – major caveat – this site is impressive, but it’s busy! Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is impressive, no doubt about it. While the suspension bridge creates the adrenaline pumping thrill, for David and I, the best part was in exploring the nature walk. We were able to have the magnificent trees to ourselves and enjoy the quiet. This is what Vancouver and BC are all about. For another neat thrill you can do the treetop walk or the cliff walk, but be prepared for lines.
My best advice would be to either go first thing in the morning when they open, or towards the end of the day with the golden hour sunset glow. You only need an hour at the site, and wouldn’t it be magical to have it almost to yourself? I think so.
Forbidden Vancouver Tours
Walking tours are right up my alley. You get to explore on foot, learn the history and probably end it with a beverage. Win, win, win. Forbidden Vancouver were top of our list because of their Prohibition City tour. We discovered what Vancouver was like back when booze was outlawed, mobsters made it available, and the government occasionally got in on the deals. We had a blast and I look forward to going back and trying one of their other tours.
Where to Eat in Vancouver
To save those who have already read my entire post on Foodie Finds in Vancouver, let’s just say that the food options are amazing! Whether you’re on a budget, or ready to splurge, Vancouver will feed your taste buds and have them begging for more. Above all, I suggest you head to Granville Public Market, a destination for both foodies and visitors alike.
How do you find good places to eat in Vancouver? We relied heavily on Yelp and it didn’t let us down. You could focus it on your area of Vancouver, rank the listings by price, rating or by cuisine type. Incredibly helpful and each meal we had thanks to a Yelp recommendation was to die for!
Where to Stay in Vancouver
It’s no secret, Vancouver is expensive. That means accommodation can eat up a large chunk of your budget… if you let it. Having previously stayed at the SameSun Backpackers on Granville Street (a great location for a hostel!), David and I wanted something a little more low-key, a private room and a kitchen. Instead, we opted for AirBnB.
We found this apartment, right in the heart of downtown, for an absolute bargain. It had all the amenities we were looking for, was within walking distance from the SkyTrain to get us to/from the airport, and the balcony was to die for. Given we had gorgeous weather, I got to enjoy my coffee with a view of the sunrise over downtown Vancouver each morning. For about $125/night including taxes and the cleaning service, it was far cheaper than most hotels in downtown Van on the weekend. Well worth it.
Another great option is to cash in your travel points at one of the many chain hotels downtown. Free is even better than bargain!
To round up, there are a million and one cool things to do in Vancouver. I didn’t mention many museums or galleries, and there is plenty of shopping or microbrewery tours to be had. This is a snapshot for those going for a few days on their first visit.
Have you been to Vancouver? What would you suggest for the perfect long weekend? Where’s your favourite place to take a long weekend, not far from your hometown?