Vancouver is the most popular destination for those living in the Pacific North West as an introduction to Canada. Many people have stereotypes of Canadians, thinking that they are the nicest people with the supposed arguments about who is the sorriest. With my previous experiences, Canadians aren’t as nice as they are advertised to be. Regardless, everybody should visit this beautiful country. In this post, I will include all of the information you need in order to visit Vancouver for your first time.
How to get there: Coming from the United States, you can fly or drive. If you are visiting or near Seattle, I would suggest road tripping to Vancouver, that’s the route I chose and was the cheapest. Keep in mind that you do need a passport in order to cross the border and be sure to have it ready because the border patrol will have no patience for you.
Getting Around: When I visited Vancouver, we rented a car from Seattle and drove it to Vancouver. It is possible to travel around Vancouver without a car and visit all of the tourist spots but it might take a bit longer. Public transportation is easy to use and there are taxis if you want to get somewhere directly. Generally, Vancouver is compact and walkable in the downtown area but would require another mode of transportation otherwise.
Accommodations: I would suggest booking an Airbnb, but if you can find a nice, affordable hotel within budget then I would choose that route instead. I booked a hotel off Hotwire and ended up getting a pretty dingy hotel but a central location in West End. If you are without a car, I would recommend staying somewhere in downtown so you can walk everywhere.
Currency: Bring a travel credit card where it is accepted everywhere and does not charge you a foreign transaction fee. I found it wise to bring some Canadian Dollars around with me in case there was ever a reason where cash is only accepted. Don’t assume you will be able to use US Dollars at the restaurants and stores in Vancouver, you might even offend them for thinking that.
Other Tips: Alcohol is only sold in liquor stores and government ran liquor stores in Vancouver. Most liquor stores are closed on Sundays in Downtown Vancouver. If you are planning to buy liquor, make sure you check their operating hours or buy it Monday-Saturday from 9 AM – 6 PM. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way while I was trying to buy alcohol during my trip to Vancouver.
Take the most scenic bike ride in Stanley Park
Stanley Park is a beautiful public park with spectacular views. This is the best place to walk, ride bikes, and admire the nature and its surroundings.
Make sure you rent a bike and bike the seawall! This MUST be on the top of your to-do list as it has remarkable views of Vancouver from all sides of Stanley Park. There are bike rental shops nearby and you pay by the hour. We went to EzeeRiders Bike Rentals Robson, which was about $5.50 an hour and pro-rated by every minute after. It should normally take only 1 hour to cycle around the park if you don’t spend a ton of time off-track.
Until this day, biking the Sea Wall was one of my favorite things to do during my trips and I can’t recommend this activity enough. I found myself always getting off my bike and taking photos constantly. I had to try my best to refrain from stopping every minute. The pictures definitely do not do it enough justice.
Make coffee runs to Tim Hortons like Deadmau5
If there could be one thing that I could bring from Canada to California, it would be Tim Hortons. I visited Canada for a month-long before, Toronto to be exact, and the Tim Hortons Iced Capp was pumped through my veins daily.
Tim Hortons is a staple in Canada and best known for its coffee and donuts. To get a sense of what it is, think “Dunkin Donuts” but better (in my opinion). Not only do they serve donuts but they also serve other breakfast items (think McDonald’s and Starbucks). I would suggest grabbing a quick breakfast at Tim Hortons to kickoff one of your mornings. Do keep in mind that there are some locations where Tim Hortons is opened for 24 hours.
Stuff your face at Richmond Night Market
8351 Number 3 Road, on the corner of Number 3 and River Rd
An annual summer food fair with rides and entertainment held in Richmond city. Richmond is a predominately Asian area and the Richmond Night Market is very similar to what other Asian communities around the world hosts. Here, you will find innovative and new food fads along with different fusion food. There is an admission fee of $4.25 and opened at night from 7PM to 11PM or midnight.
Visit the Queen Elizabeth Park
Camble & 33rd Ave
A stunning large park filled with many different sights to see and explore. You can view Vancouver at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park and truly see how green and picturesque the city is.
You can take photos with man-made items such as water fountains or these statues…
or with the various natural gardens of flowers and trees. You will even find a waterfall inside of Queen Elizabeth Park. Whichever sparks your interest, you could definitely spend 1-2 hours wandering around here and admiring the beauty that the world has to offer.
Relax at Kitsilano Beach
If the weather is beautiful and warm, stop by Kitsilano Beach to relax and soak up the sun. Kitsilano Beach is one of many popular beaches in Vancouver. What sets Kitsilano Beach apart from the others is that there is a pool known as Kitsilano Pool right alongside. This is one of the longest and only saltwater swimming pool in Canada.
Sounds a little bizarre right? There’s a pool next to the beach…how offbeat! Make sure to check the pool schedule when you decide to visit.
Grab a beer in Mt. Pleasant
Mainly a residential area but is also starting to become more hipster with indie boutiques as well as breweries with craft beers flowing. Many of these breweries do have beer flights available (my favorite), but if a beer is not your thing, there are also charming cafes and restaurants available to fill your stomach.
33 Acres Brewing
15 W 8th Ave
2148 Main Street
261 E 7th Ave
In order to get to Granville Island, you need to cross the Granville Bridge. There is no mandatory toll and is completely free to get to the shopping district. Here, you will find a vast majority of things such as distilleries, breweries, shops, restaurants, bakeries, and cafes. There is also free parking throughout Granville Island if you can find it. I would suggest visiting on the weekdays for a higher chance of fewer crowds.
Since Granville Island is basically a small patch of land and surrounded by water, don’t miss the opportunity to take beautiful photos with the water and the boats.
Similar to many indoor food court style markets, Public Market serves its visitors with a one-stop place for art, food, and boutiques. Grab a cup of tea at Granville Tea Company or a pot pie at A La Mode and sit outside to enjoy the entertainment. The hours for Granville Island Public Market are 9 AM – 7 PM daily.
Again, I love beer flights and I thought 4 x 5 oz for $7 was a good price. I ended up getting one of everything they had available and some chicken wings on the side. They were pretty good but probably not for the price they were charging.
A Bread Affair
Get your sandwiches and sweet treats here! Whether you’re craving for a cookie, brownie, or muffin, A Bread Affair will have what you are looking for and have a funny name to go along with it. It is often recommended to try the Kouign Amann. Stop by and listen to live music out in front.
Get into the Canadian routine and eat poutine
One type of food that most identifies with Canadians is the gravy and cheese curd-filled dish called poutine. This has got to be a national dish of Canada, and should not be missed. It is perfect for a quick snack or after a night out of drinking. As poutine is the food of the Canadians, there are many shops placed all around town to please its starving customers.
Every place has its own way of making poutine, whether it be the french fries, the gravy, the cheese curds or the various additional toppings. There is never one true standard poutine to be compared to. It is all based on your taste buds for which holds the title of the best poutine in Vancouver. Try them all, taste the differences, and decide who makes the best poutine. There are a few poutine places that most people recommend and they are:
La Belle Patate
1215 Davie St.
Hours: 11 AM – 10 PM
Fritz European Fry House
718 Davie St. in Granville Entertainment District
Hours: 1 PM – 2 AM
718 Nelson St., Vancouver, BC
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11 AM – 3 AM/4 AM; Closed Sundays
The last two places are perfect for a late night snack after you danced the night away.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
Most people would tell you to visit Capilano Suspension Bridge and spend $30-50 just to take a photo on the bridge. For me, I would highly recommend skipping that and going to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge instead, for almost the same photo (minus the many photo bombers of other tourists). I could not find myself justifying the pricey admission ticket to be around hundreds of other people wandering around tree houses and bridges. But if that’s your thing, don’t let me stop you.
At Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, however, there was free parking and free admission. It was also a very short walk from the parking lot to the suspension bridge. For less foot traffic, arrive early in the morning. There were also maybe 3-5 people around while I was there and was understanding enough to stop on the other end of the bridge while I took a quick snap.
Lions Gate Bridge
Lions Gate Bridge is a majestic beauty that connects Stanley Park to North Vancouver. It can be seen and admired when biking around Stanely Park. This teal suspension bridge is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge, although it is about half the size.
Downtown Vancouver is divided into several communities known as Yaletown, Gastown, Coal Harbour, and West End. Yaletown is largely filled with industrial buildings and warehouses and occasional outdoor patios for dining and cocktail lounges. Gastown is a historic part of Downtown Vancouver with historic buildings and the steam clock to remember what it had been. Coal Harbour is a calm area along the water with upscale dining and modern condos and hotels. West End is diverse with its mixed population, accepting community and dining experiences. Here is where you will find Davie Village which is known as a gay village filled with gay bars and fun people.
Vancouver’s homeless community is very large and I had several unpleasant encounters with them. For the most part, they will leave you alone and mind their own business. As I was observing the homeless, it seemed more of a lifestyle in Vancouver where they have accepted that this was their lives and owned it. They made it more enjoyable and have the nights pass by quicker by gathering in groups to sing and play guitars, reminded me of a hippie group.
Breakfast and Brunch
780 Richards St.
Hours: 8 AM – 3 PM
Get the delicious and fresh Belgium waffles with the milk chocolate lavender dip alongside a lavender latte to start your morning.
568 Beatty St.
Hours: 8 AM – 12 AM
1087 Granville St.
Hours: 9 AM – 12 Midnight
Get the Blueberry banana pancakes
Best known for its shopping and entertainment. This is the place to be for stores, boutique shops and bars. For high-end retail luxury items, visit Alberni street and for boujie shopping alongside upscale hotels, stay on Burrard street. There are also seasonal public art displays that you can look at and try to figure out what it is.
Granville Entertainment District
During the weekend when there is high foot traffic of people looking for a good time, Granville Street is closed off to all motor vehicles. There is a vast assortment of nightlife entertainment such as clubs, bars, and adult entertainment to help you have a fun night out. There are hip-hop and EDM clubs such as Republic, Venue, and Aura where you can show off your dance moves at.
530 Robson Street
899 Burrard Street
510 Burrard Street
Hours: 10 AM – 10 PM
Located throughout Downtown is a Japanese-style hot dog food stand. Try the many different combinations of hotdogs they have to offer along with their known shake fries. Personally, I wasn’t too impressed with the hotdogs I ordered.
Gastown is the oldest part of Vancouver but also home to its thriving fashion scene, galleries, and boutiques.
Listen to the whistles of the Gastown Steam Clock
As one of the few steam clocks in the world, the Gastown steam clock draws an audience every hour. If you have no patience to wait for when the long hand strikes twelve, the steam clock gives off a little whistle and steam every fifteen minutes.
370 Cambie Street
Hours: 11 AM – 5 PM
62 E Cordova St.
Hours: 11:30 AM – 11 PM
102 Water Street
Hours: 11 AM – 12 AM
There is happy hour available from 4 PM – 6 PM and another location in Yaletown.
1001 W Cordova St.
Hours: 10 AM – 10 PM
A popular gelato shop that has won best gelato awards for many years. They have many fun and unique flavors that include but are not limited to banana bread, earl gray, lavender, and fior de latte.
- You must order the large garlic fried chicken wings at Phnom Penh. Not to be confused with it being solely Cambodian food due to its name, it is actually an Asian fusion of Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisines. I ordered it to-go because there is usually a long wait and I didn’t have the patience for it. It is also recommended to get the butter beef.
- Check out the McDonald’s and see what they offer different from the McDonald’s in America. When I dropped by, McDonald’s has poutine and a Chocolate Fudge Brownie McFlurry.
- Nearby our hotel was Ramen Danbo. We decided to give it a try due to high reviews online. It is a decent place to get your ramen fix if you are craving.
- Some popular souvenirs to bring back home are ketchup chips and maple syrup.