I went to Vancouver last weekend (because my little sister had a baby! A story, perhaps, for another time…). But while there, I remembered how much I love Vancouver. My husband and I were born and raised in Ontario. We decided to move to the West Coast a decade ago, after having lived much of our lives in the “East” of Canada (sidebar: it’s not actually the east of Canada so much as the center–there are several provinces farther east than Ontario–but everyone on the West Coast refers to Toronto as the East. Some people even refer to it as the East Coast…which is hilarious. Because there is no ocean in sight. Anyway, I digress.)
Essentially, we moved west because we were ready for a change. We promptly fell in love with Vancouver and lived there for several years. Although we now live in Victoria, just off the coast, we visit the mainland frequently.
So, here’s my list of awesome stuff to do if you visit Vancouver. Bear in mind this list is not even remotely comprehensive. Consider it a sampling. Also, these aren’t necessarily tourist activities, per se. This is stuff the locals do.
Yes, I grew up in Ontario but, to be honest, I don’t even know what Tim Hortons tastes like anymore. Vancouver is a Starbucks city all the way. In fact, until very recently there were two Starbucks at the same intersection downtown, diagonally across from one another. Vancouver is a serious coffee-loving city. But don’t take my word for it. About Vancouver, Bette Midler was quoted as saying: “I’ve never seen so much coffee in all my life.” And Charlize Theron described Vancouver thus: “Clean, with lots of coffee.”
I’m a big Shakespeare fan. And I have seen his plays performed in many locations, including an unforgettable performance at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. But Bard festival in Vancouver is something truly special. See what I mean, here. (And trust me, if you go, you’ll want to take it up a notch by ordering the gourmet picnic basket before the show. Truly fabulous.)
This is mandatory. I didn’t even really like sushi when I moved to the West coast, but it’s a staple for us now. Where is the best place for sushi? I had a hard time coming up with a “best” (there is truly a sushi place on every block), so I consulted my sister (the other one, not the one who just had a baby). She lived for two years in Japan and now lives in Vancouver, and her recommendation: Alpha Sushi. In spite of the Greek-sounding name, she says it’s the most authentically Japanese place in Vancouver.
Go to Science World.
Especially if you have kids–but even if you don’t. It’s unbelievably cool and fun. When we lived in Vancouver we had family memberships to Science World and went at least every couple of weeks. A good second choice is The Vancouver Aquarium. The Aquarium is awesome, to be sure, but it’s more of a looky thing. I happen to have two sons who are very hands-on and they must. Touch. Everything. Buttons, pulleys, levers…there is an ENDLESS supply of all that at Science World.
Sure, Robson Street is the obvious choice. Better? South Granville Rise. You’ve got your big destinations like Anthropologie, Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids, plus there are some very cool boutiques and independent art galleries. And Meinhardt Fine Foods, which is a must.
You don’t, technically, have to take the Aquabus to get to Granville Island (you can drive there, too)…but the parking is horrendous, and you definitely don’t need a car (I’m not sure why they don’t just make it pedestrian). But the Aquabus is too cute for words, and you get great views of the Vancouver waterfront as you journey along. If you are allergic to the fragrance of patchouli, the Public Market might not be the place for you. But you don’t have to be into everything granola to appreciate the luscious variety of farm-grown veggies, gorgeous cheeses, fabulous bakery-fresh breads, and a thousand other yummies.
My recommendation for this: head to Yaletown. In this neighborhood, you can take your pick, there are so many super-chic watering holes. Keep your eyes peeled for some of the locals and frequently-spotted hometown heroes: Michael Buble, for example. Sarah McLachlan. Kim Cattrall. Ryan Reynolds (my husband chatted with him in a Yaletown bar once. I still haven’t forgiven him for not calling me that instant and insisting I march straight over.) Kurt Russell & Goldie Hawn (I’ve seen her in Vancouver a number of times, but never him…strange…). Or, any of the thousands of stars who come here to film their movies.
My husband and I love Mexican food, and this is, hands down, the best we’ve had in Canada. The salsa…oh the salsa. Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano is a terrific neighborhood, so take some time to explore the shops while you’re there. When we owned a bookstore, Las Margaritas was right across the street, so we went all the time. Yes, we owned a secondhand bookstore…another story…
There are a lot of beaches in Vancouver. Everyone has their favorite, and every beach has its own vibe. Best for people watching: Kits Beach. Best for peace and tranquility: Spanish Banks. Best for avoiding pesky tan lines: Wreck Beach (yes, people, we’re talking clothing-optional).
The fact that you can golf year-round in Vancouver (yes, I do mean that literally and no, I’m not exaggerating) means there are a lot of superb golfers on the West coast. I do not happen to be one of them. I would like to be. And, once I get a little more time on my hands (er, whenever that might be…) I totally plan to take lessons and get serious. In the meantime, the Pitch and Putt is perfect. A little taste of golf, no pressure from semi-pros breathing down your neck, and you’ve got time left over for all the other awesome things to do in Vancouver.
So how about you? Have you visited Vancouver? What’s on your must-see-and-do list?
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