Destination: Vancouver, BC

 
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Destination: Vancouver, BC

Ah, Vancouver. The city I called home for six years while I completed my studies in Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia. Starting our trip in Vancouver was one of the easier decisions: good food, great friends, plenty of forest and ocean adventures right at our doorstep. Did I mention unbeatable views?

Parking in Vancouver city wasn't as difficult as we thought it would be. There's a lovely RV park right off Lion's Gate Bridge heading into North Van, with wifi, laundry and hookups. Otherwise plenty of street parking around the Point Gray/Kits area -- just make sure to read the signs. The little garden strip along Arbutus and side streets near Queen Elizabeth Park are also lovely. I would steer clear of East Hastings/Main St to Commercial St area, as smash-n-grabs do happen.

 

Vancouver City

Each neighborhood in Vancity has its own character (see this map for a funny summary). Chock full of restaurants, breweries, beaches and bike routes, VanCity has a lot to offer to the urban explorer. If you're short on time I've listed some things that can't be missed. Summer is, by far, the best season to explore the city: you get temperate weather, bright, sunshine-filled days and plenty of events around town. Winters are often drenched in rain--though there's been increasing amounts of snow these past years.

It's a great city for walking and cycling: street parking is limited and meter parking can get expensive in certain neighborhoods ($4/hour around Mount Pleasant, for example). Transit is also a great option: the buses and Skytrain are on time, not overly crowded and very clean. Get a Compass card for easy payment.

UBC

  • UBC botanical garden and treewalk: feel like an elf walking on suspended canopies that hang off giant Douglas fir trees!
  • Wreck beach: the largest nude beach in BC, right on campus. Bit of a hike getting back up, but well worth the experience.
  • Museum of Anthropology: check out the giant totem poles!
  • Japanese garden: great for an evening walk.

West side

  • Spanish Banks, Jericho beach, Kits beach and Granville Island: speaking of beaches, the chain of sandy heavens that you can access while existing UBC can't be missed. Makes a great bike trip or long run. Granville Island is a bit of a tourist trap, but for good reason - you get epic views of the downtown skyline, a farmer's market and plenty of restaurants and bars.
  • Burrard and Granville bridges. Two bridges that lead into downtown Vancouver. Highly recommend walking or biking them: you need time to soak in the views :)
  • 4th street. One of the major shopping arteries outside downtown, 4th is packed with boutiques, restaurants, markets and the occasional oddity (for example, a sensory deprivation experience shop). Great for people watching.   
  • Queen Elizabeth Park and VanDusen Garden. The former boasts Vancouver city's highest point (downtown vista, anyone?) while the latter transforms into a winter paradise during the festival of lights around Christmas. 

Downtown and Stanley Park

  • The west end: leads to Stanley Park, packed full of coffee shops, restaurants and always bustling with energy.
  • Yaletown: the uber posh side of Vancouver.
  • Robson St: shopping paradise.
  • English Bay and the seawall: THIS is what I missed the most while away. There's really nothing like the seawall -- a walking/biking trail that hugs the jagged edges of Stanley Park's shores. There are three beaches, each with concessions and events (outdoor movies) during the summer. If you like the ocean breeze, this is heaven.
  • Vancouver aquarium: great for a visit, plus they host adult only nights for a little extra fun.
  • Gastown: go for the steam clock, stay for the pubs and breweries.
 

restaurants in vancouver

Canadian. Vancouver is home to a very particular dining experience: posh decor, servers in black dresses, good caesars and decently priced. Several chains exemplifies this: Earl's, Cactus Club Cafe, Browns Social House and Joey. Give one a visit and try out what the locals call upscale casual dining. Happy hour is a great time to go, hang out and people watch.

Sushi. Ah sushi. It's hard to find a Vancouverite who isn't at least somewhat obsessed with raw fish. There are two main kinds of sushi restaurants: Japanese-run, pricier but higher quality, and bargain sushi. That said, it's hard to go wrong with either: the fish is extremely fresh, the rolls creative and serving portions generous. Green Leaf Sushi on the west side of Vancouver city is a great one to visit, with its perfect balance between price and quality. 

Southeast Asian. With its massive Asian population, Vancouver boasts authentic and cheap asian food. Richmond is the place to go for a good Chinese meal, while other parts of town offer a huge selection of Vietnamese, Malaysian and Singaporean deliciousness. Banana Leaf is a good one to get your feet wet with their huge selection of curries, noodles and seafood side dishes. 

Japadog and food trucks. The Japanese-inspired hotdog deserves a category of its own. Your traditional hotdog gets an exotic overhaul with ingredients like seaweed, teriyaki and miso goodness. The city's had a recent explosion is food trucks. Check out the map below for some more recommendations in the downtown area.