If you find yourself wanting a quick getaway but don’t much in the way of funds, there is a tempting option just a three hour drive away. Our friendly neighbour to the north has a beautiful, diverse, burgeoning city on the coast called Vancouver. Though, I am a little biased; I was born and raised in Vancouver, B.C. and so I’m just slightly partial to it.
That being said, I’m not alone. U.S. News just ranked Vancouver the third best city to live in in the world, topping any American city. Plus, as the exchange rate is so favorable towards the American dollar (hopefully, not for long), this is the perfect opportunity to drive about 100 miles north and see what the city has to offer for yourself. Currently you’ll save 24 per cent on every transaction, too.
Here is a brief list of what to do, see, and eat in Vancouver, minus all the tourist traps, as told by a local.
Kitsilano: Beachfront and with lots of Lululemon and Starbucks Coffees
Tractor Foods: A great lunch spot with salads that actually taste good, plus sandwiches and soups. Great to take to go and bring to the beach.
Kits Beach: A popular beach offering grass areas and a swimming pool (since the water here isn’t great to swim in).
Shopping: Check out Broadway and 4thAve. for all your shopping needs: bakeries, restaurants, popular clothing brands and stores.
Bars: Colony Bar, Local Public Eatery (patio), Coppertank (these are all casual places with large tables where you can grab a beer or a cocktail).
Main Street/Mount Pleasant: Hipsters unite
Ernest Ice Cream: There are lots of ice cream joints in Vancouver, but this is by far the best one. The cookies and cream flavor is out of this world. Way better than Molly Moon’s, Frankie and Joe’s and Salt and Straw – combined.
Shiro Japanese: If you do anything in Vancouver, it should be taking advantage of the cheap and far superior sushi. Especially at this place. The rice is the correct temperature, well seasoned, the fish is always super fresh and their spicy sauce hits the spot. I get the small tempura roll and the spicy tuna roll, but their salmon sashimi and chicken karaage is melt in your mouth good (well the sashimi, not the chicken).
Brewery Hop: This is the hub of all the great local breweries are in Vancouver. Some honorable mentions are R&B Ale and Pizza House, Main Street Brewing Co., Brassneck, Strange Fellows Brewing Company, 33 Acres Brewing Company, Postmark Brewing (which shares a space with Vancouver Urban Winery).
Shopping: From King Edward Ave. to the end of Main Street there are plenty of shops: vintage, knick knack, local clothing retailers.
Bars: Uncle Abe’s (a hip bar with cheap beers decorated like it’s someone’s living room), The Narrow Lounge (a popular bar serving beer, wine, and spirits in a novel “narrow bar” with an intimate back patio).
UBC: Nice views, nice houses but that’s it
University of British Columbia campus: A nice campus and a great spot to work remotely if you need Wi-Fi. But other than that, you can skip this.
Wreck Beach: The only nude beach in Vancouver, but also has one of the nicest sunset views in the city.
UBC Endowment Lands: Trails in a temperate rain forest right in the middle of the city! Great trails, dog-friendly.
Downtown areas in a sentence or two:
English Bay: A nice beach area downtown, where the Seawall ends. Check out Cactus Club English Bay for a happy hour drink alongside sunset views.
Granville Strip: The big Downtown shopping area with all your usual suspects. Pacific Center Mall offers a Zara, Aritizia, and All Saints. Brandy Melville, Noul, Urban Outfitters and Adidas are all walking distance.
Yaletown: Find great restaurants and happy hours here and nice Seawall views, but that’s about it.
Gastown: Our equivalent of Pioneer Square. With the oldest part of the city you can expect a sizable homeless population, cobblestone streets, unique restaurants, some great local clothing shops and some less-great souvenir shops.
Chinatown: Great food lives here
Juke Fried Chicken: Amazing fried chicken! A fun fusion menu of southern fried chicken and classic southern sides with Asian influences.
Phnom Penh: An out of this world Vietnamese and Cambodian joint – get there early, the line usually trails out the door.
Bars: The Cobalt (especially on Wednesday nights for cool live artwork being done and a chance to win some pieces in a raffle), Fortune Sound Club (more of a club to be honest).
Granville Island: Expensive but a good day trip
Granville Island Public Market: Our equivalent of Pike Place Market in that it’s fun to walk through but not to pay exorbitant amounts on food and produce.
Granville Island Kids Market: A little arcade hidden inside here with tickets and prizes…especially fun after a drink or two at Granville Island Brewing Co.
Granville Island Stage, Arts Club Theatre Co.: An intimate venue offering shows and musicals.
Stanley Park: Rated best park in the world and rightly so
Vancouver Aquarium: I usually wouldn’t recommend a tourist trap like this but it’s a seriously amazing aquarium. Sharks, dolphins, whales, jelly fish, sloths, tropical birds, the list could go on. It also does incredible conservation work so no guilty feelings here.
Seawall: The Seawall wraps around False Creek, which is a body of water in the middle of the city. If you want to go for a bike ride, rollerblade, or a super long walk, and do a loop of Granville Island to Yaletown to Stanley Park, go to the Seawall.
Davie Village: The Gaybourhood
The best way to see Davie Village is to grab a coffee and prepare yourself for some great people and sightseeing. Start at Burrard and walk towards the water and you’ll pass LGBTQ-friendly book stores, boutiques, bars, and plenty of spots to refuel.