Why I went here? I wanted to ski but not necessarily go on a ski holiday so I looked at cities with skiing opportunities nearby, and Vancouver won the toss up.
Best time to visit? If you’re keen on winter sports (and since that’s one of the main reason I went), then yes. However, Vancouver is truly an all year destination. Spring will see to the blooms (there won’t be a shortage of that) especially since Vancouver is one of the greenest cities in the planet as well as the Chinatown Night Market. Summers here will see you with such fantastic weather you won’t want to spend your days indoors. Fall, well, it’s almost just like summer with slightly shorter days.
What to see/do? Vancouver has offerings that will satisfy all your travel cravings. Foodies, history buffs, outdoorsy type, even fashionistas will find something to their liking during their stay. The city itself is known to be many things but it is first and foremost, a foodie town; so much so that they dedicated an entire island for it. Granville Island is a foodie favourite. It has an enormous food market where one can easily get lost within. There are vendors of all sorts serving a variety of culinary offerings; from the local catch of the day, to some aromatic far eastern concoction. There are also quaint shops selling the unique and eclectic (one stall we ventured into sells only postcards) as well as your typical boutique stores where one can buy local arts and crafts. It is a fascinating place to spend an afternoon. If it is a bit of adventure you seek, head north into Capilano State Park where you’ll have the opportunity to cross one of the oldest simple suspension bridges in existence. The bridge is 446 feet in length with a 230 feet drop. It is the most visited attraction in Vancouver. After you’ve had your adrenalin back to normal, but would like to continue to scour the depths of nature at a more normal elevation, pay a visit to Stanley Park. Parts of this city oasis used to be the living quarters of indigenous tribes and presently offers a variety of recreational sites including beaches and hiking trails. The city zoo is located within and so are the totem poles, which are symbolic to the first nationals of Vancouver. These lengthy wood carvings are synonymous to the city itself and miniatures of them can often be seen in souvenir shops all over the city. Vancouver also offers all the major transportation options you will expect in a major city, however, for a truly unique experience, ride one of their water taxis commonly known as “Aquabus”. These small boats will take you from port to port and along the way, provide some of the most beautiful sceneries of Vancouver.
Food and drinks: As mentioned earlier, Vancouverites like to eat and due to the city’s proximity to the Pacific, it has a definite advantage for having some of the best seafood in North America. Pacific Sockeye Salmon is king here so definitely try some of that; whether you opt for the smoked or jerky version will be up to you. Vancouver is known not only for seafood but for their sushi. It is claimed by some guidebooks that there are more sushi bars here per capita than any other city outside of Japan. For the best value sushi, head to Sushi Mart/Sushi Itoga on Robson. This unsuspecting cafeteria-like place has some of the freshest sushi I’ve tasted and for a mere bargain. As for drinks, head to independent coffee shops Revolver and Matchstick for your morning dose of caffeine and try a glass of or two of wines bottled from the nearby Okanagan Valley. Vancouver is also a proud brewer of beers. The city even has a few of its own located within the city. Most famous of this is the Granville Island Brewery located in Granville Island. Alexander Street in Gastown also has several pubs, clubs and bars serving local taps.
Where to sleep? The best locations are in downtown or by the waterfront. During my visit, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver on Burrard. The location is unbeatable from my point of view. Almost everything is within a mile radius or can easily reached via public transportation. There’s a metro stop just across from the hotel and the visitor’s center is a mere ten-minute walk. I highly recommend staying here, although, be forewarned, that walls are rather thin in some rooms.
Daytrips: There are several places suitable for a day’s travel from Vancouver. Cities like Victoria in Vancouver Island, Whistler, and even Seattle are easily within reach.
Why I would go back? My inaugural trip to Vancouver was actually very nice, much nicer than I had expected. I had my doubts about this city, but I was blown away by the natural beauty of it. The air you breathe seems cleaner and had it not rained on some days during my stay, I probably would have done plenty more of outdoors-y type activities. Something about this city makes me want to be active.
Of course, skiing at Whistler was also one of the natural highlights, but it was actually the drive up there that rendered me speechless. I’ve been privy to many spectacular scenic drives in my lifetime (the Turkish Riviera and the Romantic Road comes to mind), but it’s safe to say that this is perhaps the best one thus far. Unfortunately, due to shorter days, I was only able to catch a glimpse of it so it warrants a return up north just to be able to experience it fully in the summer. Another reason to head back is the Chinatown Night Market. Vancouver has the second biggest Chinatown in the Pacific coast (next only to San Francisco) and a visit here will surely introduce me to some foods I didn’t know existed. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I love to eat, and what better city to do that in? Vancouver specializes in some of my favourites: seafood and sushi. I can eat until my heart’s desire and not feel guilty about the accumulation of calories because I’d feel compelled, shortly thereafter, to burn them.