Vancouver is beautiful, it doesn’t have freeways and is surrounded by mountains and water. The city is diverse, safe and is compact and walkable.
WHERE TO STAY
The best place to stay is in the West End. It’s mostly residential, with relaxed atmosphere and is one of the easiest neighbourhoods for visitors to explore, walking distance to downtown, close to SkyTrain and the airport.
Vancouver’s public transportation system is the most extensive in Canada and includes service to all major tourist attractions. I prefer not driving especially if you are staying in downtown area. We walked, rode a bicycle, and took local buses and it was very convenient.
Looking towards the Pacific Ocean on Granville Island in North Vancouver
SIGHTS TO SEE
Stanley Park – I simply love this park. So much to see and do! It contains a miniature railway, four restaurants, the Vancouver Aquarium, Malkin Bowl, tennis courts, beaches, gardens, playgrounds, a pool, a spray park, a pitch and putt golf course and more. The park is vast and is almost entirely surrounded by waters of English Bay and Vancouver Harbour.
The first time we walked the seawall, I noticed a lot of people cycling and there is a well-maintained bike trail. I liked everything about the park, so well-maintained, safe and people are friendly. The Totem Pole is a quick stop for photo op. The next day we rented a bicycle and made a loop, it was so much fun, highly recommend renting a bicycle and exploring there. Beaver lake is a peaceful and a quiet spot to check out and the rose garden is beautiful. The aquarium is a must see in my opinion.
Wear good walking shoes or sneakers and take a light sweater. You will notice there are ‘mile’ markers on the seaward side and oh so many endless photo opportunities.
Capilano Suspension Bridge – The ticket to visit this was $46.95 for adult and it is very touristy and very commercialized. The suspension bridge is beautiful and well maintained. There were too many people on it though. The bridge sways but that’s the fun of it. The Cliffwalk was a beautiful structure. The tree top adventure was ok, it was just a walk. I was expecting more adrenaline but it was super easy walk for all ages.
Beaver balls (like sweet dougnuts) at the coffee shop were tasty. The trails are full of signs and educational about science and environmental facts. The staff seems to be knowledgeable. We missed out on Raptor/Birds of Prey exhibit.
There are 10% AAA discounts and discounts to students and after 5pm tickets were 30% off. We took advantage of the free shuttle that goes to the bridge from a couple of places in the city.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden – It is the first Chinese or “scholars” garden that was built outside of China, and is located in Chinatown. We were walking in Chinatown and came across this garden. From May 1-September 30th, the price for admission is $14 for adult. The guided tour is included in your gate admission. The garden looked small from outside so we decided not to enter but when we walked on the other side, there is an access to a separate part of the garden next door for completely free.
The garden was beautiful and was well- maintained. This garden is the first classical Chinese Garden in all of Canada! It is also the perfect place to visit year-round. They are covered walkways and beautiful pavilions. I like the jade green pond and koi fish. There are also collection of 150-year old miniature trees and tai hu rock imported from China. This place was built in 1986 constructed using 14th century methods.
Vancouver Aquarium – Definitely one of the best aquariums I have experienced in my lifetime. My favorite is the jelly fish exhibit which was so colorful and breathtaking. Never have I ever seen so many varieties of jellyfish. Adult ticket costs $38, worth every penny.
I also enjoyed Treasures of the BC Coast, and Tropics wing with colorful coral reefs. There is a rain forest room, filled with ducks, birds, turtles etc. Don’t miss the Steller’s sea lions and otter shows. I wasn’t too crazy on the 4D show. Very well maintained and nice lay out. If you are hungry there are cafeteria, coffee bar, and ice cream stand, and for shopping there is a souvenir and gift shop.
We spent almost 4 hours here. If you love marine life like me, you will love this aquarium. Btw, the staff are very friendly and knowledgeable.
English Bay Beach Park – We stayed at a hotel near English Bay Beach. I learned that it is also called First Beach, and is located along Beach Ave between Gilford St and Bidwell St. It is the most populated beach area in Vancouver’s downtown area and is well- maintained. I really liked sunset-watching at this beautiful beach. The water is too cold for swimming but great for beach walks, picnicking, sunbathing etc.
There are benches, public washrooms, beach umbrella and chair rentals, Kayak rentals and storage, Two sand volleyball courts, and also pay parking. One good way is that you can easily bike there from Stanley Park or False Creek area. What I noticed unique about Vancouver beaches is that plenty of logs on the beaches for people to sit. This beach has beautiful views of the Pacific Oceans.
RESTAURANT AND BARS –
The Shameful Tiki Room – This tiki bar offers excellent food, cocktails and a tropical escape from reality. We came here on a Sunday night ( Sep 9th). The decor incorporates elements of classic tiki featuring puffer fish, fish traps, blow fish, tiki idols etc. Make reservations, or you may have to wait a bit for a table or seat at the bar.
There are so many creative concoctions to try. We had Pain killer, Navy Grog, Zombie and something else I don’t recall and each were expertly crafted and beautifully garnished. When someone orders a “Mystery Bowl”, thunderous sounds emit from the speakers, and multicolored lights flash on and off. That is so cool! I was also surprised at how tasty the food were. We had the Tuna Apple Avocado Salad and Half avocado. Such a fun place to hang out!
Guilt & Company – I was looking for a hidden bar to chill and listen to some music. I did a Google search and I ended up here.
e thoroughly enjoyed our evening there. You walk down and is located in the basement and might be a bit of a challenge to find it. There is no entrance fee, the guy at the door mentioned that the musicians/bands will be playing and the donations goes to them. The place was rustic and hip and I enjoyed the live music. It was fun watching the musicians arrive and setting up the stage for performance. They have dancing area at the front, close to the stage.
The cocktails were tasty, delish and has unique names. Our waitress were super nice and attentive. If you enjoy live music, you will have so much fun. This is definitely a place to check out in Gastown!
Stanley’s Bar and Grill – We came back here twice while on vacation. Beautiful historic lodge and cozy setting! Located at the Stanley Park Pavilion. Great place to sit outside on the huge terrace/patio overlooking the garden. The place was very clean. The menu is simple as well as diverse with unique choices to satisfy different palates. The menu includes vegetarian options, appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, and Chef’s plates. Their daily Happy Hour is from 3pm – 5pm. The drinks were tasty.
Tea House in Stanley Park –
We got hungry while biking in Stanley Park and came across this restaurant. The cute garden outside immediately caught my eye. It is quite an attractive, charming restaurant and the location is ideal for water/coastline views by day, and for watching sunsets at dusk. The Pacific Northwest menu includes local fish, steaks, rack of lamb, and other options, including gluten-free pasta. Also there are various tasting boards–charcuterie, cheese, seafood, and vegetarian.
The cocktails were strong and tasty. We had a rack of lamb which was flavorful and grilled just right. I wasn’t too crazy for the Thai prawn bowl. The roasted mushrooms were delicious. It’s a classy high end restaurant. The waitress was attentive. We had a lovely dining experience.
Lunch at Tea House
Rad on Denman – We were walking the street and saw this restaurant. We went in for lunch as soon as they open. As soon as we walked in, I noticed and like their ambiance and the music. I was very happy to see their reasonable price point. For only $13 you get a piping hot delicious hotpot with your choice of broth, choice of meat and a drink. Also some rice and a sauce of your choice.
I went with their Sukiyaki ( similar to soy sauce) broth with seafood and their House sauce. The broth was just right, not too salty and came with a generous amount of meat, veggies, noodles, and other toppings. My babe tried their Fried octopus ball and Deep fried squid legs. Both were very tasty and flavorful. The waitress was attentive. Overall, such a great hotpot and value for the price!
Dark Table – A unique experience everyone should try at least once! I was excited to learn Vancouver had a dining in the dark as I wanted to go to the one in Vegas. And better yet at Dark Table, food was served by the visually impaired. You are given a menu to choose your meal before you enter the darkness. There are a handful of entrees to choose from. I chose a fish dish and my bf chose a lamb dish. The appetizer and dessert are both mystery items.
Sharan was our server, and she was friendly and patient. She guided us to the table not far from the door. The salad came out first. I could see some light everytime when server came through the kitchen but the dining area was still dark. There was a birthday group and we all sang Happy bday.
The fish was pretty tasty and my babe’s lamb dish was ok. My bf expected lamb chop but it was shredded lamb. We had 3 soda water and it was $5 each for a tiny bottled soda water. It was funny trying to feed each other in the dark. All in all, an interesting experience to have at least once.