Luckily, the instant we entered our art-inspired hotel, I started finding reasons to stay that trumped my dismal impression of Vancouver, and these reasons grew the longer I remained. In fact, Vancouver proved to be a hidden gem, and to make up for my quick judgment, here are 5 fantastic things Vancouver, BC has to offer any visitor:
5. The Views
Being what it was, my first impression of Vancouver captured only the interior city streets lined with run-down buildings and an unadorned Starbucks on every corner. Little did I know what lay in-store on the coast of this seaport city. Within about an hour of checking in, Mr. O&O and I ventured out to rent bikes and explore Stanley Park. After securing our bikes and helmets (required by law), we set out along the 13.6 mile seawall. My change of heart was almost instantaneous. The first noteworthy sight I noticed along our waterfront ride was the outline of the five sails of Canada Place against the late afternoon sky. We soon happened upon several other picturesque landmarks, including the Brockton Point Lighthouse, a “Girl in a Wetsuit” statue, and English Bay Beach, a small sandy area where we stopped to admire a beach bridal portrait session. The endless beauty the panoramic seawall provided was the perfect way to kick off our stay in this city of hidden treasures.
In addition to being an easily walkable and bikeable city, the mountains of North Vancouver offer excellent hiking trails in the summer and skiing for the winter months. The two main spots for these activities are Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain. Capilano boasts a huge suspension bridge to hike over, while Grouse’s main attraction (other than skiing in winter) is the infamous “Grind,” a 1.8-mile stone stair master. According to a local, the MLS soccer players run the Grind as part of their workouts. If you aren’t much of a hiker, I do NOT recommend this trail. On the way up we passed a poor little boy crying to his father about how he couldn’t go on. I totally felt his pain! It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I only made it about a quarter of the way up! But it was pretty fun, and even the little bit I did was a great work out.
3. The Sports
One of the reasons we came to Vancouver when we did was to catch a Whitecaps game. Second in local popularity only to the NHL Canucks, the streets were a buzz and newly-renovated BC Place was packed, although the weather wasn’t quite nice enough to open the retractable roof. They played the Portland Timbers and unfortunately lost, but we had a blast and the fans were diehard. Hockey and soccer fans aren’t the only ones enjoying the sports playground of Vancouver either; you can also see the BC Lions play football from June – November, or try to catch a fly ball at a Vancouver Canadians game over the summer.
This is the one aspect of Vancouver that, from the cheerful hotel clerk checking us in to the woman who generously paid our cab fare on the way out, never wavered from excellence. Everyone we came into contact with was incredibly pleasant, helpful, and friendly. The entire staff of our hotel, The Listel, earned our undying loyalty. They happily recommended restaurants, bike rentals, walking routes, and even dancing venues. We also made friends with our tour guide, chatted like old friends with our waiters, and even found willing photographers every time we asked.
1. The Food
Three simple words can sum up my amazing food experience in Vancouver: Gourmet Food Tour. If you read my review on whale watching in Victoria, you know how completely enamored of that excursion I was. This food tour was just as excellent, and will now be my go-to dining method in every city I visit. Led by Vancouver Foodie Tours, this Guilty Pleasures Gourmet Food Tour allowed us to try mouth-watering fare from 5 of the best restaurants in the city all in one afternoon. We whet our appetites first with traditional Chinese dim sum at Kirin, 6-time winner of Vancouver Magazine’s Best Dim Sum award.