Vancouver, a place where you can experience adventures in the forest, along the snows or by simple exploring the city life. It is the third largest city in Canada and surrounded by beautiful mountains and magnificent Pacific coastline. Throughout my stay I could feel the salty breeze of the ocean and the freshness from the dense forest making me want to explore Vancouver even more. There is something for everyone to enjoy and can be done throughout the changing seasons. It explains why it keeps being rated as the most liveable place in the world time and time again.
I was in love with Vancouver the very minute I stepped there and started exploring it. Be it Stanley Park or Grouse Mountain or even Capilano Suspension Bridge there is a glimpse of nature at its best and a respect for preserving its beauty.
TIME TO VISIT VANCOUVER
I am more of a summer person and hence choose August as my time of visit to Vancouver. It is said Vancouver has a mild climate, coming from a year’s stay in Toronto I agree. In the winter, its rarely snowing in the city and the summers are warm with cooler evenings. My personally suggestion would be visiting anytime between May and September. This is also the tourist time so you will expect crowd like we did.
TRAVELING AROUND VANCOUVER
Since we were traveling from Calgary we used plane as a mode of transport.
Car is also used for those coming from the US border.
VIA Rail, Amtrak and Rocky Mountaineer also provide scenic views to and from Vancouver.
BC Ferries are used to explore smaller islands around Vancouver- namely Sunshine Coast, Haida Gwaii. They also provide connection between Victoria. Greyhound buses run across Whistler, Victoria and other destinations.
Aquabus and False Creek Ferries provide transport around False Creek areas which stops at Yaletown, Granville Island, Science World and Vancouver Maritime Museum.
Within Vancouver we enjoyed using the public transport. TransLink is the transportation authority who look after the buses, Seawall Walk, Ferries/Water Taxi and SkyTrain
For travel within Vancouver there are plenty of taxi services as well from Vancouver airport and also in downtown.
For Skytrain and Seabus the fares are charged as per zones (Greater Vancouver has three fare zones). The bus fares are charged on one fare zone regardless of the distance travelled. After 6.30 pm during weekdays and in the weekends everything is considered one zone.
Fares can be paid by exact cash, single use compass ticket and refillable compass card. There are also DayPass fares which is unlimited travel over the three zones in one day. Personally for tourists DayPass is the best option.
To get from the airport to Downtown you have to use the Skytrain. There is a surcharge of $5 being charged on top of the fare.
Definitely try out the Seabus. It takes you to North Vancouver from Waterfront Station. Here you will have two zones to cross.
The passes are available at the vending machine, Vancouver tourism desk, 7 eleven and London Drug store.
I would strongly recommend understanding the whole transit system to make full use of the day passes.
WHERE WE STAYED IN VANCOUVER
Since we visited during the tourist season we really struggled getting a hotel in Downtown. Although prices of hotels in downtown can be really expensive I would still recommend staying there.
We stayed at Comfort Inn & Suites in Surrey. During my stay I found the rooms very spacious and clean. The staff were also very friendly and attentive. The property is in a quiet location and since we used public transport there was also bus stop walkable distance from the hotel. We had opted for the complimentary breakfast and didn’t have any complaints as such where the basics were provided and replenished immediately.
My only negative for this hotel would be the distance to the main tourist attractions.
THINGS TO DO IN VANCOUVER
At a height of 553.16ft (168.60 m) is the panoramic observation desk to enjoy the view of Vancouver. Taken in a glass elevator up 32 storey and then entering the observation deck for a 360 degrees view. Ideal vantage points for the city’s downtown, Stanley park, Gastown and Coal Harbour. The tickets do give access for the whole day which is a good deal. Personally for a lookout I found the views ok, maybe because I was comparing to the others.
The 8 minute ultimate flying ride takes you through Canada’s most spectacular scenery and natural works.
The effects of the winds and scents all makes you feel like you are truly flying. I did find the pricing to be little expensive considering it was only for 8 minutes. Not a must do, can be skipped according to me.
Right in the heart of Waterfront you will find Canada Place. Vancouver Convention Centre, The Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, Vancouver’s World Trade Centre and the virtual flight ride FlyOver Canada are walkable distance from Canada Place.
I loved the fabric roofs showing resemblance of sails. There are also further information you can read in the forms of videos, animated graphics, historical artefacts and ships models. It is also the main place where the stops to Alaska originates hence a busy area when cruise ships are on port.
Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood which is named after John “Gassy Jack” Deighton who opened his first saloon in 1867. It was said where whiskey went others followed. In the Coast Salish Land the loggers and mill workers started calling it Gastown in honour of his generous pours.
Now the neighbourhood is recognised as a hip and heritage with a mixture of old and new. It has some award winning restaurants, boutiques and home to some of the eclectic group of residents just like old times. I personally loved the neighbourhood and felt there was a unique charm to the place.
GASTOWN STEAM CLOCK
There are very few steam clocks which are functioning and exist and to get to see one was definitely a must do. It was first built in 1977 to stop people from sleeping on top of steam heating system in cold weather. The clock produces a puff of steam from its top ever hour. Through the glass you can still see the engine however to keep the time accurate there had been some changes done to the mechanics. Some may say nothing great about it, but not me.
Underneath the Granville Street Bridge is the Granville Island where the warehouses are renovated and now used as shops & galleries for entertainment, food and outdoor markets.
Can you believe the place was initially used as bars for fishing? It changed further thanks to the Canadian Pacific Railways and the Klondike Gold Rush. During World War II the factories were in big demand but after the war everything was abandoned. In 1970 it was dirty and in need for clean-up. It was policeman Ron Basford who decided to make it a cultural centre and had the whole place repainted.
You can easily spend a whole day at this place without getting bored. I have done both shopping and trying out food and had no complaints spending time here.
DR SUN YAT-SEN CLASSICAL CHINESE GARDEN
In the heart of Chinatown is the garden which embodies the Taoist philosophy of ying and yang. It was named the no.1 city garden in the world by National Geographic in 2011. Every part of the garden be it light, vegetation or texture is balanced and symbolic. Trees and plants add to the symbolic side and rocks and water form the integral part of the elements.
It is said that fifty three master craftsmen came from China with 950 crates of materials to construct the garden using traditional methods- which means no glue, screws or power tools were used. I would recommend doing it with the guided tours to understand the beauty of the place. I found the place very peaceful and was wondering how I can use its ideas in my house.
CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE
It’s a place for testing the nerves of visitor. My husband is scared of heights so imagine my dilemma of visiting the place.
But when I saw the cliff walk which are supposed to be 213m (700ft) and at an height of 91m (300ft) I just felt I had to drag him and make him overcome his fears (and he did). The long bridge which is 70m (230ft) in height and 137m (450ft) long takes you through seven suspension bridges where you experience treetops adventures.
A part of me did feel like a kid, enjoying the tree houses which I never had as a kid. We had done it in the evening, before it got dark hence enjoyed the cooler temperature.
A place where you can easily spend a day with family. There are plenty of activities for everyone to make the most of from their trip. From riding the largest tramway in North America to meeting the Grizzle Bears, birds and exploring the hive definitely worth the effort.
For those that want more there is also Mountain Zipline, Peak chairlift, Heli-tours, North shore Paragliding, guided bird watching tour, eye of the wind, breakfast with the bears and beehive tours.
There are various ticket options available, we had choose the Ultimate Experience as we wanted to do the eye of the wind.
Personally I found the eye of the wind view better than the Vancouver lookout view.
Located in Stanley Park you can enter into the aquarium world. Dolphins, belugas, sea turtles, otters, sea lions and jelly fishes all teaching the importance of aquatic-life conservation.
There is also a 4D theatre experience and also 3D film with thrilling sensory effects. Those with kids would love to spend the day here as there is plenty to do. I also loved the way the animals were cared for. I wasn’t bored and definitely enjoyed my time here.
It is said the park is as densely forested as it was in the late 1800s. In order to really enjoy the place you have to walk along the less travelled paths. The Coast Salish artwork expresses the history of the land and people who lived here.
The totem poles which are colourful actually show the visual language of the First Nations culture.
It is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path. At a length of 28km it includes a Seawall which extends from Vancouver convention centre to Spanish Banks Park. For me personally the park was truly a beauty, nature at its best.
Around the perimeters of Stanley Park is the stone wall built to prevent the park’s foreshore erosion. I have walked along the path and seen locals enjoy a bike ride, exercising, inlay skaters, walking their dogs or simple having an evening stroll. The surrounding views of the park and the harbour makes you want to be lost in the beauty of the place. This may not be a must do for many but for me it was a welcome break from any set agenda and I loved it. I did read many people telling how unsafe it is cause of the cyclist but I wasn’t one of them. I found it safe to explore the whole area.
Nice way to continue walking and enjoy the surrounding. We saw locals having an evening stroll, kids playing and tourists wondering around. There are also benches put up for those wanting to sit and enjoy the river.
LONSDALE QUAY IN NORTH VANCOUVER
A beautiful place to explore North Vancouver. Having over 80 shops which includes fresh food market, kid’s shops and play area, restaurants and brewery, boutique hotels and international food court. During the summer the place is thriving with concerts and family events. We also came across farmers who were selling products which are locally grown. The main reason we went here was because we wanted to use the Seabus and also experience how North Vancouver is. We weren’t disappointed doing it and would recommend, there never can be a dull moment.
It is said to be the culinary capital of Canada. There are many Chinese restaurants as you walk along. We had gone to see the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden and hence walked along the street. I wasn’t very happy with the place itself as I felt it to be scary neighbourhood and also found it a little dirty. By the end I had mixed feelings about it.
Initially it was an industrial area dominated by warehouses and rail yards but now it has changed to high ride apartments, parks, restaurants and shopping. I loved walking along the narrow streets and enjoyed many of the architecture. There is also an engine 375 museum which displays the steam engine built in Canada. It is also supposed to be a Wi-Fi district.
CF PACIFIC CENTRE
Shopping mall located in downtown, which is also said to be the largest mall with over 100 stores. We didn’t have shopping in our mind but that didn’t stop us from visiting the place. Many have complained it to be a pricey mall, since I only did window shopping it wasn’t much of a deal for me.
Another place for shopping with many of the top brands in the vicinity. It is also said to be an area which the most expensive properties. During the weekend and in the summer it is also popular with exotic, rare cars and motorcycles.
LIONS GATE BRIDGE
Opened in 1938 and known as the First Narrow Bridge is the suspension bridge which connects the City of Vancouver to the City of North Vancouver and West Vancouver. ‘The Lion’ refers to the mountain peaks north of Vancouver. In 2005 it was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. Unfortunately, I never used it.
COAL HARBOUR MARINA
You can see various high rise residential apartments and condo towers. It lies between Canada’s downtown and Stanley Park. Again a very nice place to walk and enjoy the surrounding. Another beautiful place to also enjoy the waterfront. There were seaplanes also which took off in the vicinity.
There are still many more places of interest in Vancouver. We however, restricted to these places due to the time constraint.
OUR ITINERARY IN VANCOUVER
Since we did most ours by foot, below is a map to help you with the directions.
Vancouver Lookout, FlyOver Canada, Canada Place and Gastown.
- Did early morning Vancouver Lookout to avoid the crowd. It’s 1 min walk from Waterfront Station.
- Walked back to do Canada Place and explored the place. On the way also did FlyOver Canada.
- Walked to Gastown and enjoyed the evening here.
Granville, Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Capileno Suspension Bridge
- We used Skytrain to reach Granville Station and then walked. Spent half a day here to fully enjoy the whole place.
- Took the train from Granville Station and got off at Stadium-Chinatown Station and walked for 6 mins to reach Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
- Took the train from Stadium-Chinatown Station to Waterfront Station. Then took the shuttle service (246 bus from Canada Place) to Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Took the Seabus to Lonsdale quay then the bus 236 (shuttle bus) to Grouse Mountain. Spent the whole day here.
- There are various rides to enjoy in Grouse Mountain which helps to get from one place to another.
Vancouver Aquarium, Stanley Park, Waterfront, and Lonsdale Quay
- We had taken combination of Skytrain and bus option to reach Vancouver Aquarium. We got off at Main Street-Science World Station. Then took bus 19 to Stanley and got off at Westbound Stanley Park Dr @ Pipeline Rd and walked for 9 mins.
- From Vancouver Aquarium we decided to walk around Stanley Park.
- We took the Seawall route which would make us arrive at Waterfront and enjoyed some time here.
- Took the Seabus and went to visit Lonsdale Quay market.
Chinatown, Yaletown, CF Pacific Centre & Robson Street, Waterfront Station, Coal Harbour and then back to airport
- From Waterfront Station walked to Pan Pacific where we stored our luggage for the day.
- Decided to walk to Chinatown which is roughly 1.2 Km from Pan Pacific. Alternatively various public transport also take you there.
- Took the 23 Bus to Beach from Westbound Keefer [email protected] Taylor St and got off at WB Pacific Blvd at Cambie St to explore Yaletown
- Took the Canada Line from Yaletown-Roundhouse and got off at Vancouver City Centre Station to get to CF Pacific Centre.
- From West Georgia Street & Seymour Street we took the 250 bus to Horseshoe Bay. Got off at Westbound W Georgia St @ Bute St and walked for 3 mins to reach Robson Street.
- We decided to walk to Burrard Station and then took the expo line to Waterfront Station and walked to Coal Harbour.
- Spent some time here and then went to pick our bag and headed to the airport.
THINGS TO NOTE IN VANCOUVER
- Book hotels in downtown as it saves on journey. Since we booked late we suffered a lot on this.
- Keep luggage at Pan Pacific should you have late night flights and want to explore the town more.
- Tips or service charges are generally expected. For restaurant bills its roughly 15 to 30 percent of the pre-tax amount. Porters at airports, hotels and railway stations are generally given $1 to $2 per bag
- There is public Wi-Fi throughout the city so use it.
- Most people in Vancouver love to do things on foot and the town has given nice thoughts to walking paths. Nice way to enjoy the surrounding as well.
- It rains a lot in Vancouver so umbrella or water proof jacket would be handy to carry.
- The Day compass pass also works for SeaBus so make full use of it.
- Before exploring head to the Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre and get the Vancouver attraction information. There are usually coupons which can be used which helps reduce cost in the entry fees.
- There are free shuttles for the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Grouse Mountain, check pick up points.
- Check out offers the evening price is cheaper in Capilano Suspension Bridge.
- The shuttle services to the Capilano Suspension Bridge can be long and busy so those with kids and wheelchairs have to take the necessary precautions
- The eye of the wind in Grouse Mountain can get busy so suggest doing it early morning like we did.
- The ride down in chairlift and shuttle In Grouse Mountain on way back can be busy so be prepared for the same.
I may have spent a year in Toronto, now when I think about it Vancouver would have been better option for us. I still have to visit Whistler so I guess my journey to Vancouver is not yet complete.