This past weekend we had a girl’s trip to Vancouver, BC. While the trip was mainly for the Lululemon Seawheeze Half Marathon, it was also a chance to explore a new city. We arrived on Thursday morning and because it was such a short trip, you could say we hit the ground running.
We opted to do most of our walking on Thursday to make sure our legs were rested for the run on Saturday. Luckily, customs was a breeze and we were at our hotel in no time. We stayed at the Westin Bayshore in the West End, mainly because they had a special rate. I’d recommend it anyways because of it’s proximity to Stanley Park walking distance to other neighborhoods. AirBnB is always an option, but we found the rates comparable to the hotel.
Granville Island Public Market
Granville Island Public Market is kind of like Seattle’s Pike Place or the Borough Market in London. On Thursdays, there is also a farmer’s market. It’s a short cab ride from the hotel, and depending on where you are staying, you might even be able to take the Aquabus there.
Come hungry, because you are going to want to eat everything that you see here. One of the buildings/warehouses houses all of the stands that sell produce, chocolate, meat, pastries, pre-made pasta, etc. The second area is like a food court – stands sell pizza, freshly made bread, greek food, vegetarian food, gelato, even pickles. Are you hungry yet? Because I’m getting hungry writing this. Deciding where to eat was tough, the struggle was real folks. After a walk up and down both sides, I got some greek food and we sat outside since it was such a nice day. After you are done eating, take some time to browse the other stands before leaving.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Many have heard of or seen all of the Instagram pictures of the Capilano suspension bridge. Originally spelled Kia’palano, it means “beautiful river”. The bridge is 230 feet (70 metres) above the Capilano River. If you put the Statue of Liberty in the canyon, the bridge would be at her shoulder. While it is probably the most crowded site in Vancouver, it is still worth a visit. If you are staying at the Westin, there is a free shuttle that comes every 15 minutes. The shuttle stops at a variety of hotels, so check out the schedule to see if it stops at your hotel.
Once inside the park, there are a few areas to explore, but everyone is there mainly for the suspension bridge. I recommend going later in the day or right when it opens if you are aiming for less people; a rainy day is your best bet to have the bridge to yourself (or at least a smaller group of people). If you are like me, it is a little unnerving when you first start to walk on the bridge because there are a lot of people walking across in both directions, but you get used to it pretty quickly. We did have the wobbles/sea legs for a short time when we were back on standing ground.
Besides the bridge, there is the ‘Treetop Adventure’ which has 7 small suspension bridges that allow you to roam around the top of the fir trees.
There is also the ‘Cliffwalk’; you walk through a series of bridges and stairs with views that look out to the suspension bridge and the rest of the park. I didn’t notice until halfway through that the walkways are not attached to anything. They are held up by anchor points that extend from the cliff – so your views below your feet are not obstructed.
Stanley Park and the Seawall
Another popular and well-known attraction is Stanley Park and walking along the Stanley Park Seawall. I had to visit it twice because the first time, was running in the race – the seawall was a major part of the race course. The seawall lines the perimeter of the park and has walkways designated for both pedestrians and cyclers and skaters.
On the weekend the seawall is quite crowded, so I recommend doing it in the morning – maybe a way to walk off brunch. At the park there are a few attractions including the Vancouver aquarium, beaches, forest trails and the totem poles at Brokton Point. While you are walking along the seawall, it is likely you’ll see some sea otters swimming in the water.
Gastown is an area that is walking distance from downtown Vancouver. It has some shopping and a lot of restaurants. We had dinner and dessert here on our first night and did some shopping here after the race on Saturday. If you are looking for a good coffee, I recommend a visit to Revolver – which has an adjoining space for reading or working, called Archive.
- Tuc Craft Kitchen – We had a delicious dinner here. The plates are a good size for one person, but recommend family style to try more dishes.
- Mosquito Dessert & Champagne – This is about 1.5 blocks from Tuc; the dessert is seriously out of this world. My girl friends and I are usually down to share, but they were all so good, nobody wanted to share. My favorite is the Bounty Opera – chocolate and coconut opera cake, passion fruit tapioca sauce, Tanzanie chocolate ice cream.
Yaletown is in a historical area of the city. It’s warehouses have been transformed into restaurants, cafes and even a distillery. We stumbled up a tea shop called Cha Le. They have kombucha from the tap and an eclectic selection of teas. We ended up chatting with the two guys working there for over an hour while sipping our kombucha.
Spend some time walking around the warehouses in Yaletown then make your way to Granville street if you want to do some shopping. This is the biggest shopping area in central Vancouver. Keep your eyes and ears out for the colorfully painted public pianos that are sprinkled around the city as a part of its summertime Keys to the Streets initiative.
Food for thought
- Catch122 – Brunch with a short wait but delicious food, I highly recommend the ‘Dirty Breakfast’ and the potatoes are amazing (Gastown).
- Chambar* – If you don’t feel like waiting in line at Cafe Medina or Jam Cafe, Chambar is a great choice for brunch. The decor inside is chic but inviting and the patio is pleasant on a warm night (Gastown)
- Tavola* – Great Italian food in a cozy atmosphere (West End).
- Dinesty – Chinese food with juicy pork dumplings (West End).
- Medina Cafe – This cafe is known for its brunch, but especially the waffles. Expect a wait even if you get there when it opens; otherwise go on a weekday (Downtown).
- Cartems Donuterie – As someone who professes to love fried dough, I was disappointed we didn’t make it here – supposedly one of Vancouver’s best donuteries (Downtown).
- Bella Gelateria – Lavender gelato, enough said (Coal Harbor & Yaletown).
- Thierry Chocolates – If you are looking for a gift to bring home and don’t want maple syrup, stop here. The chocolates are decadent and unique – try the dark chocolate with passionfruit ganache (Downtown).
- La Pentola – Family style Italian food in a cozy atmosphere. No reservations so get there early (Yaletown).
*Make reservations in advance for dinner
If you some extra time…
If you’ve covered the main attractions and areas of the city, here are some last few places to explore if you have some extra time.
- English Bay – Have a laugh with the A-maze-ing laughter sculptures.
- Vancouver Art Gallery – Skip the lines and buy tickets online. Its a smaller gallery but has a nice variety of local artwork and special exhibits. There was a Monet exhibit when I was visiting.
- Visit Lynn Canyon – there is a suspension bridge here and it is not as crowded as Capilano. There are also some natural pools you can swim in.
- Take a ferry ride (or drive if you have a car) and hike Ammonite Falls.
I know it doesn’t look like it based on everything we did in one weekend, but I swear we ran a half marathon, worked in some yoga and a music festival in Stanley Park. If you are curious about the Lululemon Seawheeze Half, I 100% recommend it to anyone of all running levels. Lululemon does a great job organizing the race/the entire race weekend; and to me, running is a great way to explore a new city.
Lastly, you can’t forget the Obligatory Victory Beer after finishing the race. Cheers!