Vancouver, British Columbia – Canada
Vancouver was one of the first rough draft itineraries when the pandemic lockdown started as I had planned for us to visit in July 2020. The city and surrounding areas looked so amazing that I knew a trip there would be forthcoming. When my cousin mentioned wanted to visit Banff, we threw it on the calendar for Labor Day weekend 2022 and adding Vancouver to that trip seemed like a great way to close out the Summer Revenge Travel 2022 season. With COVID requirements slipping away, visiting Canada this time was much easier than earlier this year – signs of progress ahead!
Direct flights are easy to find from the east coast and we had no problems with our flight to Vancouver – perhaps the summer crazy has started to chill out now that we were closer to September. The immigration area when we landed was a bit crowded. While Canada had dropped testing requirements for vaccinated travelers, the ArriveCAN app was required to generate the arrival QR code. Random COVID testing was still in place as well but it was done differently than our trip to Quebec – the testing notifications would go to your email address with information on how to complete within the first 24 hours of arrival. Lucky for us this time, we did not get that email and were good to go once we were cleared to leave the airport.
Our first stop was picking up a car nearby from Turo rental so we took a short ride share to the pick up location and collected our rental. Our original car on Turo broke down so we had to find a last minute rental – luckily this newer listing popped up and we grabbed it significantly cheaper than traditional car rental agencies.
The Airbnb was closer to downtown Vancouver so a short fifteen minute drive took us to a quiet neighborhood in East Vancouver. We have had such success staying outside the downtown area in big cities giving us the ability to explore the surrounding areas which generally have the best gems of the city. The Airbnb was a lovely basement apartment that was perfect for our stay. The hosts were extremely welcoming and helpful. The place was centrally located close to public transit and bike rentals as well so it really felt like we hit the jackpot. Could not recommend this spot more if you are visiting Vancouver!
We quickly unpacked, showered off the long travel day, and passed out ready to start our vacation.
I thought it would be less crowded in the city during the week so I scheduled our day trips for the weekend. Today, we drove an hour outside Vancouver to drive the Sea to Sky Highway with stops along the way to Squamish. We were able to lean into the jet lag and use the early morning wake up to our advantage. I had heard so many good things about this area we were very excited to be starting the trip this way.
Read about our day driving the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Squamish here!
Back in Vancouver, we showered and got ready for our dinner a forty minute walk from the Airbnb. We decided to walk to get to see more of the city and our walk to dinner included walking through their Little Italy section! It was fun to see all the different shops and restaurants in this way – we love how walkable Vancouver is. We were very excited for our first dinner in Vancouver – Straight and Marrow.
Read about the dining review for Straight and Marrow here!
Amazed by the dinner and pleasantly full, we decided to walk back to the Airbnb for our own passeggiata (Italian post walk after dinner). A wonderful first day in Vancouver and we still had so much more ahead!
Our second day in Vancouver was once again taking us out of the city into the beautiful mountains. One of those most popular things to do around the city is visit one of the many suspension bridges. When I created a rough draft itinerary, I posed the question of which suspension bridge is the best to visit. There are two popular ones in the area that we considered – Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and Capilano Suspension Bridge.
- Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge – free, located in a neighborhood, off the beaten path, untouched in nature, locals visit frequently, need a car to visit
- Capilano Suspension Bridge – entrance fee, attractions to explore, educational activities, could get via tourist bus or public transit of did not have a car
So we decided to visit both and find out for ourselves.
Read about our visit to Lynn Canyon Park here!
Ready for breakfast, we stopped in the town of Edgemont Village at Delany’s Coffee House. This downtown was adorable and we were very happy to have found this spot. Kevin grabbed coffee and we split a blueberry lemon scone and a breakfast wrap – all of which were delicious. This was the perfect spot to full up before our next stop at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
Read about our visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park here!
I wondered why I could not find a definitive answer to Lynn Canyon vs Capilano and I now know why – you really can’t compare them. They are attracting two very different groups of people. I am glad we visited both and I think if time permits on your trip, you should definitely visit both as well.
A short drive from Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is another popular attraction shared by both locals and tourists. Grouse Mountain entertains all year round – to world class skiing and snowboarding in the winter to hiking and zip lining in the summer. There are two ways to the summit in the summer time – the gondola or the hiking trail. Known as the Grouse Grind, this 2.5 km trail up gaining 853 meters for a very difficult but very popular trail. It is so popular that there are not only races up the mountain but also rolling leaderboards of top performers with their times and how many times they have completed the grind. You cannot go down this trail though – it is one way only and then at the time you takes discounted ticketed (since it is one way) down the gondola back to the car park.
While the Grouse Grind would have tempted us, we were still so sore from the Stawamus Chief Trail yesterday so we happily opted for the round trip on the gondola. The tickets were $69 CAD / $53 USD which felt a bit steep but I knew there were activities at the top so I was hoping the price was justified.
We pulled up after 11AM and the parking situation was a bit nuts – mostly due to the number of people completing the Grouse Grind. One lap around the lot and we luckily found a spot. Once again, parking has a fee but this one was much more reasonable that the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
The wait for the gondola was short and we were able to secure a prime viewing spot. The view on the way up the gondola is spectacular – you can see the entire city of Vancouver as well as the sound along the Sea to Sky Highway.
When we arrived at the top, we took in the view then headed to the visitor center to assess the activities for the day. There are zip lines and ropes courses that are bookable for an additional fee and the chair lift to the top, lumberjack show, disc golf, birds of prey encounters, and a grizzly bear habitat that is all included in the cost of the gondola. Unfortunately when we arrived many of the activities had already completed or were several hours away so we just did not get up there at a good time. We walked around a bit before heading back down to the bottom. So I would say for our visit, the price of the gondola was too much for what we got out of it.
With that, we made our way back to the car and drove back to Vancouver. We freshened up before heading out for the rest of the day. We decided to go closer to where dinner was located in the Kitsilano area and tried out the bus system. The public transit has touch to pay so we did not have to purchase bus passes. The buses were super easy, widely used, and can get you around much of the city.
Since we skipped lunch and had only a few hours to dinner, we stopped at Rain or Shine Ice Cream which came highly recommended. I am happy to report this lived up to the hype and was definitely one of our favorites of the trip. We got the malted milk chocolate honeycomb and the blueberry balsamic – both were delicious. I definitely wanted to hit this again before we left Vancouver!
Kevin’s afternoon coffee was a few blocks down at the very popular 49th Parallel Coffee with a donut partnership with Lucky’s Doughnuts. Both got two thumbs way up.
We continued exploring this neighborhood by heading in the direction of the beach. This area of the city had so much going on so definitely make sure to make your way out here. The beach area was much larger than I thought – it was amazing to have this urban city and a beach getaway all in one. And the beach was bopping! People relaxing, playing volleyball, grilling, and there is even a dedicated dog beach. Wish we had time to enjoy this beach!
With some time before dinner, we stopped in Robba Da Matti for drinks (Kevin is on a Spitz kick) as they had a nice outdoor patio space. It wasn’t long before we had to head down the street for dinner at AnnaLena and I have to say, this one we were very excited about.
Read the full dining review of AnnaLena here!
Goodness, Anna Lena really knocked it out of the park – what an incredible meal. We decided to take the bus back to the Airbnb which again worked perfectly. After two days out of the city, we were really looking forward to our time exploring Vancouver proper tomorrow!
Vancouver day! And we had lots to cover so we started nice and early hoping aboard a bus to take us close to our first destination – Granville Island. And we took so many photos, it needs it own post to showcase it!
Read about our time at Granville Island and see the photo journal here!
It was time to leave the man made island and move to the downtown part of Vancouver. While walking over the bridge seemed like a viable option, we did not know how to get up to the bridge to do so. Kevin recalled seeing boats along the harbor and sure enough, boat taxis were available to take us across the water way to downtown Vancouver.
The one way ticket that we were able to purchase online right before we got on the water taxi was $4 CAD each for the short ride across the way – it was very convenient and a fun way to see the area as the harbor here is quite photogenic. We walked to the downtown area and enjoyed observing the skyline and historic buildings.
I have read a lot about Gastown and the need to visit so we made our way towards that direction and it did not take long to find the famous Gastwon steam clock built in 1977. What makes it famous is it is said to be the second steam clocks in the world and placed to attract visitors to the Gastown area and is one of only a handful of steam clocks operational in the world Every 15 minutes, the steam goes off to produce a chime melody with a larger rendition that can be heard on the hour. The steam clock still draws a crowd to this day!
We grabbed Kevin’s afternoon coffee at Revolver before heading east towards the boat harbor. The shipping area here is very visible and Kevin loved watching how the carrier ships dock and the containers get offloaded. The train station is right across from the port so then the containers get placed on the trains and off they go. Commerce at its finest!
The cruise ship port was nearby – I have never been on a cruise ship before so it was fun to see an enormous ship parked ready for an adventure. But what I did not expect was to see a Disney Cruise ship! We spent an embarrassing amount of time looking at this ship – it was so darn pretty! The Disney Wonder was set to leave in a few hours to take guests to Alaska and we were so curious to learn more. Maybe one day Disney!
The rest of the harbor area included personal yachts and boats as well as a large fleet of sea planes. We had done a sea plane ride at Lake Como but if you have not done one, Vancouver is a fantastic spot to do one.
Our final stop on our downtown walking tour was Stanley Park. The park perimeter is over 9km around with many walking and biking trails throughout. Given the time and at the recommendation of many, we decided to rent bikes through the city bike program and explore Stanley Park.
The views around the park were beautiful both of the park itself but also of the water and surrounding areas. The park was also very crowded with people doing similar activities as the weather was wonderful.
After over an hour of bike riding, we made it to the other side and I demanded ice cream for all our efforts. We went to Earnest Ice Cream to try yet another well rated Vancouver ice cream shop. Kevin ordered the cookies and cream and I ordered the peanut butter chocolate ripple (which was vegan!) and both flavors were super rich and delicious.
Vancouver has a fantastic brew scene and I wanted to make sure Kevin got a chance to check out some of the local brews. We swung by 33 Acres Brewing Company. We had several other breweries on our Beer Christmas list but with a short trip, these would have to wait until next time. Dinner tonight was nearby our Airbnb so we stopped by to freshen up before making our way to Hanai.
Read the dining review for Hanai here!
We had a very early morning so we hurried to bed ahead of a big day trip tomorrow.
A big day trip out to Vancouver Island!
We had an early wake up call for our day trip to Vancouver Island to explore the area in and around Victoria – the capital of British Columbia – and the famous Butchart Gardens. The ferry port is about 45 minutes from Vancouver so we packed our day backs the night before and headed out before the sunrise.
Read about our very long and active day exploring Vancouver Island here!
We arrived back at the Airbnb extremely late so we immediately when to bed – this definitely is an overnight contender if you do not want to pull this off in one day!
Our last day in Vancouver! Our flight was not until later in the day so we took the morning to relax since we got in so late the night before. One thing we desperately needed to do was laundry so we made it a pretty uneventful morning by Launder All Laundromat to wash practically all of our clothes in preparation for the second half of our trip. This place was great so if you need a place to do the wash – two thumbs up. While the laundry was going, we stopped a 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters for coffee and donuts.
With clean clothes, we packed everything up and prepared for the next leg of our trip to Banff National Park. Our last spot I wanted to hit before we left was a few blocks away for a late lunch at Anh and Chi.
Read the full dining review for Anh and Chi here!
Goodness what a delicious meal! At my request, we made one final ice cream stop at Rain or Shine Ice Cream – winner of my unofficial Vancouver ice cream competition.
And with that, our time to Vancouver was coming to a close. We walked back to the Airbnb, we packed up the car, returned the car rental, and headed to the airport. Time for the second half of our trip in Banff National Park!
Vancouver was on the list for a reason and it out shined all the expectations. We had the best time exploring the area both in and around the city and it is all very accessible. There is plenty of outdoor activity for those that want it as well as solid city vibes that make a great combination to keep each day of your trip fresh. This is definitely a livable city and while most people we interacted with are transplants from other parts of Canada, everyone loves living in Vancouver.
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