Are you visiting Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and questioning what to do while you’re there? British Columbia is a province with vast beauty. Vancouver and Whistler have so many intriguing experiences it can be hard to narrow the field. Hit some of the major tourist destinations AND travel off the beaten path on a road trip.
Scandinavian spa. Check. Wading in mountain streams. Check. Eateries and urban shopping. Check. Farmer's Market, food, and brewery. Check... There’s a little for everyone in this post.
These were the highlights:
*Kitsilano. The beach in Kitsilano runs for kilometers upon kilometers and provides views of the ocean and the Vancouver skyline. We spent a half day there relaxing, people watching, taking photos and walking on water. There is also a salt water pool that boasts the title of "Canada's longest pool." It is $5.98 to get a pass as an adult. That's in Canadian dollars.
*Granville Island. This was a fun, "living like a local," colorful choice for a half day adventure. Features include a farmer's market, brewery, restaurants with patio and outdoor seating, ice cream, shopping, and people watching. We enjoyed a short ferry ride and sat outside for lunch, taking time to stop and smell the carrots. Its location is dockside and also presents opportunities for harbor and bridge photos with a variety of vantages and photo backdrops.
*Whistler. It's worth it just to go for the drive. For crying out loud, the name of the roadway 99 says it all, "the Sea to Sky Highway." We popped out of the car at multiple rest stops along the way to our destination. It was overcast and misty, a typical PNW day. Spontaneous jump-outs happened at Porteau Cove with a great location for shooting low tide photos; Shannon Falls including a forested hike up to the 3rd largest falls in BC through a cathedral of trees and a mountain stream that inspired impetus stripping and wading; and Tantalus Lookout with panoramic vistas. On our way back from our destination (the spa in the next experience), we stopped in Brackendale, BC (near the more well-known town of Squamish) at the Watershed Grill. What beauty. It is located on the banks of the Squamish River and boasts a back porch view that is only comparable in dreams. Fireweed and mountains, river and sky all met. It felt close to heaven and full of life. We ate on the back patio and tried to blend in with the locals.
*The Scadinave Spa in Whistler. This is a spiritual place. For an all-day fee in Canadian dollars of $65, you'll feel like you won the lotto. It is suggested that you experience bouts of hot, then extreme cold, and a period of relaxation through a series of saunas, eucalyptus steam rooms, dipping pools, cold showers, solariums and outdoor lounges. This was a recommended activity for us and we took full advantage. We did not know, however, until we showed up jibber-jabbing away that this is a SILENT spa. Although not expected, it was very restorative, and we just rolled with it as we didn't get the memo ahead of time. You can also get a massage or other wellness treatments. A healthy cafe is on premise and there is free fruit throughout beautifully displayed in baskets.
*Gastown is the old city of Vancouver. Cobble stone streets, gas lamps, and old timey architecturally beautiful buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s make it feel like you're stepping back into a relic, but with a modern twist. This area of town lays in stark contrast to the steel and glass architecture along the water near Granville Island. The restaurant and shopping scenes were on point and it felt very different in this neighborhood, which we visited during twilight hours for dinner. When the soft illumination fueled by gas lit the corridors and alleyways, it was almost eerie and intimate at the same time. The shadow play and soft lighting along with raucous groups of people out-and-about gave the streets a seductive and somewhat risky feel, like you were rendezvousing with a secret lover (photo above unfortunately not of said secret lover). We, on the other hand, were just moseying along like observers in the theater.
*The Stanley Park Sea Wall on an unpopular day. Can we stress the UNPOPULAR DAY part of this equation? We decided to bike the wall on a beautiful sunny day, that very well could have been a weekend. This was the wrong choice because we weren't channeling our tourist ironical sense of humor at the time. If you want to get caught behind people that likely haven't ridden a bike in 20 plus years, then this is the place for you. We still recommend that you do it because the ride is an experience and uncommonly beautiful, just know that you might get stuck behind multiple clusters of inexperienced riders. The saying that goes, "It's like riding a bike".... hmmm not sure what that really means because these folks weren't picking it up too well. You'll be fine if you bring along a healthy dose of patience and good humor. For the sake of the group, please make sure you're not hangry! It's a bit of a ride around the whole thing. It might have taken us an hour at a leisurely pace. Views were incredible and it was good exercise, BONUS! Bicycles hailed from Bayshore Bike Rentals. They were ugly, smelly, and they had the bad type of helmet, but they did the trick. We were able to rent for multiple days and ride them in all their putrid glory for longer than we could have ever dreamed.
Now for the BONUS points, dubbed so due to their seasonality:
*MOTU Summit or the"Masters Of The [U]niverse" was part of the impetus for our trip. You'll learn a lot about yourself, meet a tribe of beautiful and expanding people, and have the privilege of learning how to be a better master of your life. Mark Groves only has 18 spots left for this on May 6 & 7, so get on it!
*Random poppy field in the middle of the city. We visited in July, and these little gems caught our eye. We popped off the bikes and had a whole poppy field photo shoot. Pure magic. Seek and you might find it. Hint: this is near False Creek.
Whatever you decide to do, Vancouver is one of those cosmopolitan cities, that you'll want to visit again sooner than later. Next time we head out there, I'll invite you along on our adventure as long as you've signed up for updates here on the blog. There were so many things we didn't see, like the Museum of First Nations, Victoria, Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. There's always more room in our hearts and itineraries for the Pacific Northwest.
**Tip: There is also a Vancouver, Washington, USA. If you are headed to Vancouver from a place like Seattle, make sure you double check the destination. We learned this the funny way and had a comedic adventure.
Have you been to Vancouver or Whistler? What were the highlights of your trip? We'd love you to share. If you would like to share with me directly, email me (hello [at] bricrowley.com). If you want to have the conversation publicly, let's talk on instagram... @bri_crowley.