If I were pressed to choose a favorite city in the Pacific Northwest, the honor would have to go to Vancouver, B.C. (but don’t tell that to my home city of Seattle). If you’re a lover of the outdoors, spectacular views, great food and drink, then this city will rock your world. Yes, we have these same great things in Seattle, but Vancouver simply knocks it out of the park. Parents will love that it’s super kid-friendly, too, offering many indoor (very important during the rainy season) and outdoor activities for all ages.
Recently, I took a quick 24-hour tour of our sister city to the north and just barely scratched the surface of what this great destination has to offer. And it left me begging for more.
Where to Stay...
The Fairmont Waterfront
You can’t go wrong with any of the three Fairmont Hotel properties in Vancouver. I enjoyed a most comfortable stay at the beautiful and modern The Fairmont Waterfront, located in the heart of downtown. What’s buzzing at the hotel? Head up to their organic rooftop garden for a peek at their honeybees, which produced about 500 pounds of honey last year. Check with the hotel’s Bee Butler for complimentary (seasonal) tours of the hives. You can also enjoy menu items from ARC, the hotel’s local-in-focus restaurant, and cocktails that feature honey from their bees.
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
Looking for a classic experience? Stay at the landmark “Castle in the City,” The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Enjoying its 75th birthday this year, The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is one of Canada’s old luxury railroad hotels. Don’t miss a quintessential Afternoon Tea of sweet and savory nibbles, or a handcrafted libation with stunning city views from The Roof Restaurant & Bar.
The Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel
Or, unpack your bags at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, a sophisticated yet casual hotel that combines the best of the Pacific Rim in both naturally-inspired decor and culinary offerings. Enjoy a classic cocktail and live music in The Lobby Lounge, a Vancouver hot spot, or relish in a locally-sourced meal at ORU. Italophiles could easily lose themselves (as this one did) in giovane, an Italian-inspired café, winebar, deli and imported Italian goods marketplace. Here you’ll find a stunning selection of regional Italian olive oils (tastings are available as well), chocolates, pasta of shapes and sizes rarely seen outside of Italy, and more. Be sure to indulge in the deli items too, such as made-on-the-spot pasta, and cheeses and salumi to die for.
Ditch the Car...
Leave the car at the hotel and opt for a fun ride aboard one of the replica trolleys by The Vancouver Trolley Company. They’ll take you on a 24-stop sightseeing tour of the city’s major neighborhoods, gardens, parks and shopping areas. And, you can hop on and off as you please!
Whales and Water Views...
Don’t miss a whale-watching excursion on one of the Prince of Whales Zodiac boats. It’s also the perfect way to see beautiful views of the city from a unique perspective - the water! They offer a diverse selection of tours and boat-styles to match the experience you’re looking for, so let them help you choose what’s right for you and your family. It’s simply a blast!
Head out to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and enjoy an exhilarating walk across the 460-foot-high bridge (you’ll feel like a stumbling drunk but without the hangover the next morning). The view of the Capilano River Canyon below will simply take your breath away. Then, enjoy the Treetops Adventure, a series of seven suspended walkways amongst towering trees, including Cliffwalk, a glass and steel walkway that clings to the side of a cliff. It’s simply majestic!
The Sky’s the Limit...
Continue the outdoor fun and hop on the Grouse Mountain Skyride, a gondola that takes you 3,700 feet up to Grouse Mountain, just 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver (guests with prepaid tickets can hop a shuttle from various pick-up points downtown). This fun-for-all-ages adventure is a must-see! Grab a bite to eat at Altitudes Bistro and enjoy the sweeping view of the city below (great for a romantic night out), catch the free Lumberjack Show (daily shows May-September), go on a guided eco-walk, or have fun zip-lining through the trees. You may even see Grinder and Coola, two rescued grizzly bears who live in Grouse Mountain’s Refuge for Endangered Wildlife.
Food and Fun...
The Public Market
You simply cannot leave the city without a visit to Granville Island, a mecca for food lovers. The Public Market (open 7 days a week from 9am-7pm) offers a bevy of fresh produce vendors and artisan food producers whose products will simply make your mouth water and your camera go wild. Plus, there’s a plethora of restaurants within stones throw to satisfy every palate.
Edible Canada at the Market
This charming bistro and artisan foods marketplace is a must-stop for a meal. Edible Canada celebrates the cuisines found across Canada (like the Duck Egg Poutine above and local seared albacore below) as well as the country’s wine, beer and spirits in a casual yet fun, open-kitchen environment. Be sure to stop by their marketplace for unique and delicious items like birch syrup (not just for pancakes, we put this tasty elixir in our cocktails!) and other regional specialties. Edible Canada is open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
What better digestif than a tasting of hand-crafted artisan spirits? We headed to the newly established The Liberty Distillery (located next to Edible Canada) for a sampling of their award-winning, premium spirits made from 100% British Columbia-grown grain. Sip on vodka, whiskey and gin and watch the triple distilling process done in their own handmade copper stills from the tasting room.
There’s plenty of stuff on Granville Island for kids (and kids at heart!) to enjoy, too. Head over to the Kids Market for over 25 shops of super fun stuff, play indoors or enjoy the patio and play area beside the pond! Or, splash around in the water park that is right next door. Kids Market is also one of the Top 3 Favorites in the Westcoast Families Reader's Choice Award for Best Local Family Attraction Category (2013)!
More to Explore...
I became a 6-year-old girl again at the amazing Telus World of Science, a place where kids (and adults in touch with their inner child) can immerse themselves in a multitude of fun and educational exhibits, displays, and demonstrations. There’s even an OMNIMAX® Theatre for larger-than-life productions. This place is perfect any day, but especially for those rainy days when you need to entertain and wear out the kids!
Natural history buffs of all ages will revel in Beaty Biodiversity Museum, a natural history museum featuring over 500 spectacular exhibits. Upon entering the museum one is greeted by the stunning view of a suspended blue whale skeleton, the largest creature ever to live on Earth. Walk downstairs to discover the multitude of compelling and beautiful exhibits including the third-largest fish collection in Canada, and myriad fossils, shells, insects, fungi, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plants from around BC and across the world. It truly is a jaw-dropping place to visit!
The squealing 6-year-old girl in me resurfaced again at FlyOver Canada, a breathtaking flight simulation ride that “flies” you from Eastern Canada over the Provinces to Vancouver. The 30-minute film - complete with a mist of water as you fly over Niagara Falls! - is so stunning it brought both tears to my eyes and peals of joyous laughter!