When visiting Vancouver, BC, the question is not what to do but what to do first. I’m excited to share our recent adventure and then you can take it from there. It’s glorious to get out and travel again!
To/From the airport: It’s a breeze to take the Canada Line Skytrain from Vancouver airport to downtown. Built originally to handle visitors to the 2010 Winter Olympics, it will take about 25 minutes and cost under $10 per person to ride to downtown. Purchase tickets on the platform-signs in the airport will lead you to the platform. An Uber will cost you about $50 at least for that trip and take at least an hour in the heavy traffic that Vancouver has most of the time.
Vancouver is a walking town but, if your legs wear out, we had no problem getting an Uber or Lyft within 5 minutes. If you don’t use those apps, my advice is to find the nearest hotel when you are out and about and ask their doorman to get you a taxi.
WHERE TO STAY
As a former frequent business traveler, I’m still local to the Marriott brand, which includes the Westin Bayshore. It is right on the water next to Stanley Park and has both an inside and outdoor pool. I’ve also stayed at the other Marriott hotels in downtown Vancouver, and they were fine as well.
If you want more of a boutique hotel, I walked by the Sylvia Hotel, which is on the opposite side of Vancouver from the Westin Bayshore but it is across from a beach and close to lots of cafes including their own outdoor patio with a lovely view. I could imagine myself sitting there with a cocktail watching the waves roll in. Next trip!
I am not a foodie but there is one restaurant that I always go to when I am in Vancouver, and it never disappoints. Water Street Cafe has a variety of delicious menu items but I had the salmon on this trip, and it was SO good. On past visits, I’ve had the risotto and wanted to lick the plate clean. Seriously.
We also enjoyed a nice happy hour with a view of the water at Cactus Club Cafe Restaurant | Casual Fine Dining at their Coal Harbor location. Again, I had delicious fresh seafood.
Try some dim sum at New Town Bakery/Restaurant at 148 Pender Street in Chinatown. Check out the hours before you go-everything closes early in this neighborhood and bring some cash-no credit cards accepted. Don’t miss taking some bakery items (egg tarts!) back to the hotel for dessert.
I read an Anthony Bourdain book recently, “World Travel”, and he recommended Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca | Vancouver (cioppinosyaletown.com) and Home – JAPADOG for a more casual meal. Next time!
I love to see concerts, theater, and sporting events when I’m travelling. I usually go to Ticketmaster and check out what’s happening in a town when I will be there. You never know!
Queen Elizabeth Theatre | Vancouver, Canada | Latest Events and Tickets is a great venue in downtown Vancouver-no bad seats. We saw Hamilton there on our trip. Fabulous, of course.
Local brands abound to check out in downtown Vancouver. Walk down Robson Street and check out all the cool stores. They even have Muji, a favorite Japanese chain store we shopped at in China. Here are some other favorites:
Fluevog Shoes in Gastown showcases their handmade unique shoes-I have several pair and can attest to their quality and design. I get so many compliments on them!
Roots chain for true Canada clothing-heavy duty sweats and flannel!
Lululemon for exercise wear primarily but I have a pair of Lululemon black travel pants that I wear on every flight. Comfy, tailored, and non-wrinkle, they are perfect in every way, and I love them.
Our hotel was near Stanley Park, so we took advantage of the proximity to really enjoy this urban oasis. Walking/running/biking around Stanley Park should definitely be on your list! Our hotel graciously supplied bikes free to guests, which we took advantage of! There are also many bike rental places close to the entrance of Stanley Park. The paths are nice and flat. Get a map from the hotel concierge and take off. If you get hungry, stop off at Stanley Park Brewpub in the park. Yummy food and local brews to try out. Just don’t try too many brews-the bike paths are one way and you have a healthy ride to get out of the park from there.
Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tour 2022 – Vancouver (viator.com) was a fun way to learn about the history of the park and get the lay of the land. You can book in advance or just show up to the kiosk that is near the front of the park as you enter from downtown Vancouver. We went on a rainy day and our group had almost the entire carriage to ourselves. We snuggled under blankets and had a great time!
If you have time, get out of town and take in the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s still on my “to do” list but I swear next time I will carve out time to go there. I’ve heard it’s fabulous. To get there, you can take the free shuttle from the waterfront. There is a fee to enter the park.
Plan for a shopping/eating trip to Granville Island. Take the tiny tugboat over from downtown Vancouver. Check out the farmer’s market with gorgeous fruits and vegetables as well as handmade merchandise of all kinds. It’s a great place for everyone to get a different item from the many food stalls and grab a table outside on the water. We love the broom store (they’ll ship your brooms home for you!) and there are many other artisans selling their beautiful items. If you have kids, they have a whole building annex with children’s shops, food, games, etc. to keep everyone busy. Lots of seafood restaurants and brewpubs on the island for the adults. You can easily spend a whole day there.
Raining on your trip as it does often in the Northwest? No problem because Vancouver has a lovely art museum you can walk around for hours in the heart of downtown and it’s conveniently located right across the street from the sprawling Nordstrom store. Win-win! Have kids and it’s raining? Check out the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. It is lovely or so I heard from my sister who attended a private party there for her conference that she was attending. She shared lots of pictures and it definitely looks like a winner, especially if it’s raining outside.
Since we lived in China, we have longed for a great foot massage. We used to go every week for 90-minute foot massages in Shanghai-heaven! I booked our group of six for foot massages at Toe to Soul in downtown Vancouver, an easy walk from our hotel. I had pretty high expectations, but they exceeded them, treating us all to a thoroughly wonderful experience. Some of us got 75 minutes and others, who had never had a foot massage and couldn’t fathom having their feet rubbed for 75 minutes, opted for the 55 minutes. Later, those doubters wished they had gotten 75 minutes because it was just that good. Book in advance. Next door is a fancy gelato shop, making for an end to a perfect evening!
I didn’t get time to do these tours, but they are on my list for the next visit to Vancouver:
Vancouver Lost Souls of Gastown Walking Tour 2022 (viator.com)
Vancouver Harbor Sightseeing Cruise 2022 (viator.com)
Tripadvisor | Whale-Watching Tour from Vancouver provided by Vancouver Whale Watch | Richmond, British Columbia
Enjoy Vancouver-a true gem of a city!