Happy Easter! What a lovely celebration we had this year at my in-laws' country club after church followed by a relaxing and festive day at their home. Even the snow didn’t stop me from pulling out my spring polka dots and Easter hat.
But when I was pouring over friends' social media pictures at the end of the day, I couldn’t help reminiscing about when I last wore polka dots and pearls: the 2017 White House Easter Egg Roll! If you haven’t heard of this annual Easter Monday tradition, you must add it to your bucket list. What a treat for families! The tickets are completely free and distributed on a lottery system with sign-ups in February, but if you know someone on staff, you can usually get around the lottery and snag a spot (thanks Mr. O&O!).
Aside from tickets, the only other obstacle is the entry line. Our experience started out a little rainy, which seemed to deter more people than previous years, so we only waited about an hour from arrival to stepping on the South Lawn. Historically, however, lines have snaked blocks and people have waited several hours. Once you get inside, the lines are pretty minimal and thankfully they pass out snacks and drinks while waiting in the initial line, but I’d recommend bringing an iPad or something similar to entertain the kiddos.
The Presidential Tennis Court is one of the first things you pass entering the South Lawn, so we stopped by and tossed balls around with a crew of Special Olympics athletes. Baby O&O also got to kick a soccer ball to the D.C. United Women’s soccer team at another station, comprising the top sports highlights of the day.
The namesake event is a must-do once you get there. The roll (and the actual egg hunt) are the only other substantial lines we had to stand in once inside, but the wait was 20 min or less, and the line for the egg roll was actually rather enjoyable. We passed by The Beast, enjoyed music by the United States Marine Band (added to the event by Indiana’s own Benjamin Harrison in 1889), and even spied the White House Rose Garden and the Oval Office windows as we waited. Before we knew it, it was our turn. The basic concept is you scoop/roll a hardboiled egg down a lane with a spoon, racing others to the finish line. Baby O&O needed a bit of help but happily played along. It was exhilarating to take part in the 140-year-old tradition!
Countless other activities sprinkle the lawn from live music to arts and crafts, with many photo ops in between. On the way out, every attendee receives a wooden egg keepsake and a goody bag of Easter toys and treats. It was wildly successful and I would highly recommend it to any family!
Coming from several sunny days in provincial Victoria, BC this past August, the dreary, gray city streets of Vancouver took me off guard upon arrival. Even as our bus entered the nicer area of the city (as indicated by the Tiffany storefront we pulled up to), I remained unimpressed. The chilly rain didn’t help, and as Mr. O&O and I lugged suitcases past more and more uninviting facades, I wondered if we shouldn’t turn around and spend the remainder of our holiday back where we came from.
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.
4. The Outdoors
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.
Luckily for the boy, the mountain has another way up, which includes some spectacular views and several unique activities at the top, including a birds of prey show, logging skit, grizzly bear refuge, and warm lodge at which to refuel.
However, one important caveat to riding the Skyride as opposed walking the Grind is price: Hiking the Grind is completely free, while taking the Skyride costs 40-some dollars per person. Even if you are willing to pay, check the weather before you go. If it is too foggy, you will see nothing on your way up, freeze at the top, and the birds, grizzlies, and loggers aren’t worth the visit alone.
If you’re staying downtown like we were, you can catch a free shuttle from either Canada Place up to Grouse Mountain or from Blue Horizon Hotel up to Capilano. If you have the whole day, good weather, and are up for it, try tackling both! Just take the shuttle from Canada Place to Grouse first, hop on city bus #236 (takes exact change in Canadian coins ONLY) down to Capilano and show your Grouse Mountain ticket for $2 off at the bridge, then use your Capilano ticket to take the free shuttle back to Blue Horizon.
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.
2. The People
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.
The most touching encounter we had, however, was at a small church we visited for Sunday morning service. We made a special 15 minute taxi trip to the Westside of Vancouver to try Lucky’s Doughnuts, Pinterest-proclaimed best doughnuts in North America, for breakfast (worth the trip!) and decided to worship with the locals. I googled churches nearby and, despite a torrential downpour, we walked several wet blocks to Westpointe Christian Church. The instant we arrived, the senior pastor greeted us, and within minutes I was having coffee with his wife, chatting with his 2 kids, and trying a congregationalist’s homemade coffee cake (after 2.5 doughnuts!). When the service started, the speaker specifically welcomed the “two out-of-country guests,” and when it ended, the drummer insisted he and his wife drive us back to our hotel. I have never experienced that level of invitation and kindness from strangers before, and I will never forget it. If you want to meet some salt-of-the-earth people, Vancouver’s the place to do it.
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.
After pouring tea like a pro, we headed to Urban Fare, a gourmet grocery shop, to try local wines and cheeses. We loved this grocery store so much that Mr. O&O and I returned after the tour and purchased some spectacular natural white chocolate pretzel peanut butter and chocolate banana peanut butter to take home. We weren’t disappointed.
Next, we visited Italian Kitchen for an upscale taste of their signature meatballs, fresh burrata, and heirloom tomatoes paired beautifully with a not-too-sweet 2013 Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer.
My favorite stop was Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurant, Market, a combination of contemporary elegance evident from the plush velvet seats to the chic modern bar. Here, we savored a mini gourmet burger, sashimi over fried rice, and a ginger margarita. I’m typically not a sashimi person, but I went for it, figuring, eh, when in Rome; best decision ever! The tender fish paired perfectly with the crunchy rice and chipotle sauce.
As if our waistlines weren’t already busting, we ended the tour with a sweet taste of 3 flavors of gelato from Bella Gelateria. Owner James Coleridge took first place in the Gelato World Tour for North America, and his craft proved worthy. The line was out the door and wrapped around the block every time we walked by, but through the food tour we received our treats within a few minutes of arriving.
Whether it be the delicious variety of eats, the crisp mountain air and its jaw-dropping views, or the genuine kindness of the Vancouver residents, I hope you’re convinced not to judge Vancouver too harshly upon arrival!
I'm a Virginia-native uprooted to Indianapolis to marry my husband and start our sweet family of 3. As an overdressed editor, I love planning parties and good reads.