5 things to do in Vancouver
5 things to do in Vancouver, Canada
Summer nights in Vancouver are very long. It’s light, even sunny until at least 9.30- 10 pm. This is something I didn’t know. After an all night flight from a different time zone, things were very confusing. Did I have the right time on my watch, should I go to sleep, whats going on?. Welcome to summer in Vancouver.
If you plan on visiting Vancouver, you need to stay in the Downtown area. It is close to everything and is very easily walkable. The City/ Downtown is only a small part of the municipalities that make up Vancouver, the suburbs are spread out over a large area and if you are lucky you might get to visit a few of those. It doesn’t matter much what part of Downtown you stay in, it’s a small area and easy to get around. When I was booking I had no idea that Downtown was small and I spent quite a bit of time trying to work out where to stay.
So here are 5 things to do in Vancouver
Tour Granville Island:
I visited here twice, the first time I took a food tour of Granville Island with Vancouver Foodie Tours. Whether you go on a tour or not this is a must destination.
Fact: This market attracts 10 million visitors a year including locals and tourists alike. It is the 2nd biggest visited attraction in Canada after Niagara Falls.
In 1979 a visionary Mayor began to convert the abandoned industrial land and buildings into a market. There are reminders all over the market of it’s industrial past in the old converted buildings and the one remaining 90 year old business, Ocean Cement company, who try to fit into their new surrounding by being as colourful as possible. You will notice their cement trucks are painted up as vegetables and the silos where they keep the mixes have been painted in colourful urban pictures. The graffiti artists responsible for the work were commissioned from Brasil
The market is made up of local produce including fruit and vegetables, seafood- fresh smoked and cooked, butchers, cheese and other dairy, patisseries, bakers, tea, coffee, smallgoods, honey, maple syrup a brewery, a distillery, wines, cafes, restaurants, artefacts, street performers ( there are 21 in and outdoor busking spots) and a handful of clothing outlets.
There are so many interesting things to try here at this market. If you can resist the food court offerings or any of the cafes and restaurants, buy a whole bunch of different things and head to the outdoor area for a picnic. This is why I returned for a second visit.
The Foodie tour only runs a couple of times a week but it starts at Edible Canada, just opposite the main market hall, this is a Farm to Table Restaurant owned by a local chef and business identity, that also has a food store at the back. 70% of the food here is sourced from the surrounding BC district 20% from other parts of Canada and 10% from other places. The tour starts and ends here, and the offer of wine at 11 am means we begin in style with choice of red or white from one of BC’s (British Columbia’s) oldest family owned wineries Gray Monk Winery. This is offered with a Farmers Harvest Bowl of roasted vegetables and hummus along with a house cured Arctic Salmon Gravlax. The informative and fun tour winds on through the market with tastings of coffee at JJ bean, Vancouver’s favourite single origin medium roast coffee, (with over 18 outlets around the city) and moves through extensive tastings of one of 5th generation Charcuterie maker, John van der Lieck’s wares at Oyama Sausage Co. A bag of samples from Terra Breads a small batch sourdough bakery that has a 20 year old starter are handed out and we are encouraged to move onto tastings of local BC Farmhouse cheeses from Benton Brothers, including 6 year old cheddar. The next stop is The Granville Island tea Company where we try a very generously sized an Iced White Tea Lemonade.
If this weren’t enough we try some of the summer seasons ruby fruits, giant cherries and sweet perfumed strawberries from #1 orchard, finishing with cinnamon glazed light as air doughnuts from the 31 year old shop, Lee’s doughnuts and complete the round trip with a tasting of truffle salt from Edible Canada.
The tour is a beauty and after it is finished I head inside to try Edible Canada’s version of a Canadian Favourite snack food Poutine. Have you heard of it?……. yes, well it is a large plate of fries covered with cheese curds, gravy and then melted under a grill. This version includes a braised oxtail and a fried egg with hand cut fries. It’s delicious.
2. False Creek Ferries, Vancouver
These cute little ferries are a feature in Vancouver. The tiny character ferries ply the waterway known as False Creek. It looks anything but a creek these days, but 30 years ago this area was a swamp.Now the creek can be traversed from one side of the city to the other and best of all they stop at Granville Markets. The journeys are cheap and a fun way to sight-see from the water.
Take a hop on hop off cruise around the city in your own time or do a circuit cruise. Alternatively just hop on and go to one destination. Prices range from about $5-$15. There are special occasion tours and celebrations so check their website.
3. Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
This is a great place to visit for a picnic or a hike, it’s green and cool and makes you feel a million miles away from the world. The Suspension Bridge was built for pedestrians within Lynn Canyon Park, in North Vancouver. The bridge is suspended 50 metres from the bottom of the canyon. It was built by a private company in 1912 and has been a feature of this park since then. There are a few easy walking paths that take you through the beautiful forest, past crystal clear pools of water and babbling water courses.
The bridge itself swings over the abyss, and when it gets busy it can be a nerve racking experience. If you are a bit nervous about being on a swinging bridge over a canyon with a crowd of people, then get there early, live on the edge- literally. The park is accessible by public transport and it is highly worth visiting.
4. A Trip to Whistler
A snap decision to visit Whistler was a very good one. I contacted Landsea Adventure Tours and they had space on a trip the very next day. Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are the largest ski-able area in North America, with roughly 12 meters of yearly snowfall. The road to Whistler follows the beautifully named “Sea to Sky” highway and travels past waterfalls and glaciers and all within a day trip from Vancouver.
The trip is around an hour and a half, an incredible landscape transformation from city to ski slope without ever feeling like much of an incline. But those views out through the bus window as you pass waterfalls, vertical rock faces and those snow capped peaks that seem to follow you all the way, is exhilarating.
Whistler and the lower town of Squamish are both winter and summer playgrounds and when you arrive at Whistler village, there is plenty to do. In fact the list of things you can do in the summer is so long, the Village is booked out and completely packed with people. The sun is out but there is still snow on the peaks of both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains making the “Peak to Peak” the perfect summertime activity. The ride to the very top involves an initial Gondola trip to the top of Whistler where there is a restaurant.
In the summer you can look down onto the slopes below the Gondola and spot Black Bears foraging for berries and peer with awe at the dare-devils hurtling down the dirt tracks and over jumps on their bikes. Once you are at the top of Whistler, you can stay if you like but the Peak to Peak really just begins here when you catch the next Gondola from the Peak of Whistler to the Peak of Blackcomb mountain, kilometres across the valley. The sight of the bottom of the valley below and the sweeping Mountains in a 360 degree view of the village, glaciers, forests and lakes are the reward for being brave enough to ride high above the ground. It is quite spectacular.
If Peaks aren’t your thing there is a huge variety of other activities besides, mountain biking down the (snowless) ski slopes you can go hiking, zip lining, fishing, white water rafting, bungee jumping, Canoeing, Helicopter sightseeing, horse riding, as well as eating, drinking, shopping, joining in community BBQ’s and joining a tasting tour. It’s a very well organised village.
5. Finding Exciting places to eat
No trip is complete without giving the local cuisine a nudge. He’s a couple of places I tried :
- Gringo in Gastown- Fun filled casual, cheap, cocktails, tacos: Blood Alley, Gastown
- Timber- Canadian based foods with local wines and smoked meat sandwiches a specialty : 1300 Robson St, City
- The Distillery bar and Kitchen – Great cocktails with very enticing happyhour specials on food and drinks. indoor and outdoor eating. They also have a very imaginative Brunch menu 1131 Mainland St, Yaletown
- Rodneys Oyster House Fresh seafood, raw bar, fish tanks, 1128 Hamilton st Yaletown
- Meet, Vegan with a bar and great food: 12 water street, Gastown
- Forage- Farm to plate , creative same chef owns Timber: 1300 Robson St, Vancouver
- Zefferellis, Italian excellent service great food, large servings here 1136 Robson St, City Vancouver,
- Miku sophisticated, trendy, fun seafood and drinks : 200 Granville st City
- Japa Dog Creative Hotdogs with a twist a social media sensation : 530 Robson St, Vancouver,
- Bella Gelato, Best ice cream in Canada- theres lines : 1001 West Cordova Street
- Edible Canada Locally sourced ingredients imaginative food: Granville Markets
- Belgard Kitchen and Postmark Brewing at the Settlement Building, brewery, wine making and brilliant food : Railtown
Above a Beef salad from Belgard Kitchen, the doorman (Ben) from Melbourne (the bearded one) made the night at at Gringos too much fun and crazy kitchen antics at Gringos, Smoking Brisket with the chef at Timber, Tacos at Gringos, Beef Carpaccio with 60 degree Egg, Ponzu , Jalapeno and Lotus root at Miku Japanese on Granville Street.
Baby Flatiron Building, Gastown Vancouver
Vancouver is a city that is serious about the environment and intends to be the greenest city in the world by 2020 by having zero waste.