Doing a Vancouver trip has been on my list for many years. So when we were contemplating where to travel to celebrate Chrismakah, heading up to Vancouver, BC, was a possibility that quickly gained steam.
Our road trip to BC was pretty uneventful. It was a big surprise that it only took us 3 hours to travel the 200+ miles to the border. Especially since that involved driving through Tacoma (which has major freeway construction going on), Seattle, and Everett.
The border wait time wasn’t too bad. Having had so much success, I figured the rest was going to be super smooth, too. Until I discovered they basically take 5 lanes of traffic and reduce them to one to get through a tunnel. We arrived during rush hour, so it took 2 hours to drive the next 30 miles.
Tigger joked how we weren’t seeing a lot of the stereotypical Canadian kindness on the road.
By the time we got to the hotel, we were pretty tired. But we were also excited to get out and explore as well as move our legs. Restaurants in the area were pretty packed, and we ended up in the food court of a mall since we were both starving. They had a decent Thai place which made me fairly happy.
It was interesting when we discovered the street our hotel was on happened to be one that was full of sex shops, strip clubs, bars, and a concert hall. In addition, it was full of homeless people. Our evening walk was full of the aroma of marijuana and urine.
An interesting combo for the nose.
On other days we took different streets and found that even one road over had a very different personality from our street. Pretty much every place we went to in the downtown area, though, included someone yelling at unseen entities and/or themselves.
Rather than bore you with our various activities, I figured I’d just break down our experiences and thoughts as well as give you some tips.
Tips for a Vancouver trip
- Attractions can be quite expensive. It’s definitely worth checking out sites like Groupon for discounts. The aquarium charges $36 CAD (which was $30 USD when we were there) for an adult, for instance. Had we gone to the park with the famous suspension bridge, it would’ve cost $54 USD for the two of us. I’m not sure if they also charge for parking.
- If you’d rather save some money and be around less of a crowd, skip Capilano and go to Lynn Canyon. The latter is free. Their suspension bridge also moves, so you may find it more thrilling of a visit as well.
- People I spoke to who really enjoyed the city all mentioned staying in places that weren’t downtown. Unless you just love big cities, I think it’s a better idea to get lodging away from the downtown area. You’ll get a much different feel of Vancouver. While our hotel was very nice and comfortable, I think avoiding Granville Street for lodging is a good idea. Aside from the kind of “dodgy” element, it was pretty noisy late into the night.
- If you like street food and food trucks, download the phone app called Street Food Vancouver. It gives you great information, helps you see what’s near you, shows hours, etc. Some of the popular food trucks move around the city, and this app will tell you where they will be today. That’s super helpful!
- Two places I’d definitely recommend trying are Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck and Empanada Papa. Both had really great food. If you want a fancy schmancy restaurant, I can recommend Five Sails. Service was fantastic and the food was quite delicious. Dress code was “smart casual,” which was pretty easy to accommodate. One guy was wearing dark sweat pants. I think as long as you don’t show up in swimwear and/or tattered jeans you’d probably be fine.
- Gastown was really cute and had some of the best views of the harbor and mountains. There are some interesting historical structures and sights as well.
- If you visit Chinatown, there is a beautiful garden and park called Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. One side is a garden and small museum which you have to pay to visit (and includes a tour). However, on the other side is a park that is free to enter, and in our opinion it was even more beautiful than what was inside the garden.
- If you like shopping or eating at more hipster type of places, check out Yaletown.
- If you don’t really care for big cities, I’d check out other places in BC. Vancouver is a big city that feels like one. If you don’t love hustle and bustle, it may not be your best destination choice. Although, you can escape that feeling in some of the areas like Gastown.
Have you done a Vancouver trip? What was your experience?