I’ve been hearing about how amazing Vancouver is forever. After moving to LA, it became the best choice for a Thanksgiving trip. Anywhere in the US would be shut down for at least a day, and it’s only a three hour plane ride away. We loved it. The food is great, the shopping is chic, the nature is stunning, and the nightlife is fun. It did rain for nearly the entire duration of the trip, but it was hardly an issue. We didn’t make it everywhere but we checked most things off the list and got a great feel for the city. 100% would go back. Here is a rundown of our itinerary:
Day 1 – Late Night Arrival, Cocktails, and Dinner
We were questioned very harshly by the customs officers upon arrival in Vancouver. I’m guessing that, with the recent election (we were visiting in late November), he didn’t trust that we’d return to the US. Or maybe it was hard for the officer to imagine that people just go to Vancouver for fun. I don’t know why though-Vancouver is awesome! I already knew I loved it when I realized how easy it would be to get downtown from the airport.
Our flight got in at 8:30pm and we hopped on the train into city center – easy peasy and such a nice change from our home airport, LAX, which is nearly impossible to get out of. From the station we walked to our Airbnb located downtown, a five minute walk from BC Place Stadium. We were walking distance to China Town and Gas Town as well – it was a perfect location! Unfortunately, we had an uncomfortable reception in the building. Our Airbnb host had mentioned that the neighbors weren’t fans of having Airbnb guests, and that we should be “discreet.” He wasn’t joking. We were pretty obvious with our suitcases and our inability to make the elevator function, while three people stood there silently watching us struggle. When we finally figured it out, one of them said “You’re Airbnb cats, aren’t you?” We asked around over the next couple of days and discovered that, because of a very serious housing crisis, the legality of Airbnb is being contested and residents are angry that people are making money off of places they don’t live in while others can’t find an apartment. Fair enough. We had only booked the place for two nights anyway.
We settled in and then walked to Bao Bei, which was recommended by so many friends and online sources I can’t even keep track. We were hoping for dinner, but we arrived at almost 11pm, 15 minutes after the kitchen had closed. We stayed for a delicious cocktail, asked our waitress about late night food, called some places, and found that The Diamond in Gas Town had sushi until 1am. It was pretty good too! The Diamond is very charming and was pretty busy for a rainy Tuesday-there was even a live DJ and a girl puking in the bathroom. We walked back to our place in the rain in about ten minutes.
Day 2- Eating and Shopping in Downtown and Gastown
Woke up late to another rainy morning. First stop was an awesome breakfast at Medina. This place often has lines out the door, but we got lucky on a Thursday morning and didn’t have to wait. The food is Moroccan influenced with things like olive tapenade, hummus, merguez, tagine, cous cous, moroccan lamb meatballs, and my favorite hot sauce, harissa.
As we wandered through downtown toward Gas Town, we discovered a small little vintage/thrift shop called Lady Madonna, where I proceeded to spend almost two hours and over $120 CAD (which is less than $100 USD – the exchange rate was great while we were there!). The owner is an American ex-pat with great stories who loves clothing. She has been running this shop for years in the lower floor of her husband’s backpacker hostel. As a sewer, she has altered some of her items to repair damage or jazz them up, and makes some of her own clothing as well. Her incredible caftans were peppered throughout the place.
My boyfriend had left Lady Madonna pretty quickly, and I met back up with him at Revolver for great coffee. We wandered in to Rowan Sky to check out very cool but very expensive shoes and then sat down at Pourhouse in Gas Town for happy hour. It was a great deal, with $5 drafts, $8 negronis, and 50% off plates. The chicken liver toast and devils on horseback (prunes stuffed with greyere wrapped in bacon) were both awesome. On the way out we stopped in Community Thrift and Vintage, another great one.
Getting beer or wine isn’t so easy in Vancouver – you won’t find it in a convenience store. You can find more info on that here. We stopped at Crosstown Liquor to grab some beers for a little down time at home. There is a pretty blatant and serious homelessness problem here, and it was on this walk that I saw someone smoking meth on the street for the first time!
Back at the Airbnb, our key fab was no longer letting us in to the building. This was our last strike for the Airbnb, and we ended up cancelling for the night and moving to the Ramada Hotel downtown. This was in no way a nice hotel, but the feeling of walking in and being welcomed was nice, and having a concierge to call cabs and give advice was great too.
We took a $10 car from the hotel to Bao Bei and this time we ate- the pork and fennel dumplings were meh, but the rice cakes, the seasonal veggie (turnips), the steamed buns, and the sichuan cucumber salad were all good. I guess after the build up I was surprised I wasn’t blown away more, if we’re being honest.
Day 3 – Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Main Street
We had to try the Canadian chain, so we got a quick bagel sandwich and coffee at Blenz in the morning, which was not too shabby. Even though it was raining, we stuck to our plan and took a bus to the Hyatt for the Capilano Bridge free shuttle. Taking busses in Vancouver is easy, just get a card or have $2.75 ready (although they don’t seem to care what amount you put in there).
It costs almost $40 to get in to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, but I have decided, after much deliberation, that it is worth it. There are other suspension bridges in other parks that are awesome and free, but since I had time to do both, I am glad I had the Capilano experience as well. I imagine it is even better if you’re not extremely afraid of heights, since the bridge moves a lot, but it’s a beautiful view of the rushing Capilano River way down below, waterfalls pouring in to it everywhere.
Once across, there is a section of the park called Treetop Adventure, which is a series of suspension bridges through the temperate rainforest (these are much lower to the ground). There are also pools of water to walk around and gorgeous lookouts. With all of the tree cover, we barely noticed it was raining. Since we were there at the end of November, there were holiday lights everywhere that added a magical touch. An outdoor cafe serves over-priced “beaver balls” which are a stick of tiny, stale pancakes covered in sugar water. When in Rome!Back on the other side of the bridge there is also the cliff walk, a structure that hangs off the edge of the cliff on one side of the river. It’s gorgeous, albeit scary if you’re afraid of heights. This side has a burger grill that serves beer too.
We took the free shuttle back and hopped on a bus to Main Street where we walked through lots of cute book stores, antique stores, thrift stores bars, and cute restaurants. At The Regional Assembly of Text we found the lowercase reading room, a tiny book library, as well as stationery, a button-making station, and mail-in clubs like the letter writing club and the tiny book club.
We ended up at The Shameful Tiki Room for happy hour. They have great pork nachos and an overwhelming drink menu. Ask for recommendations based on the kind of liquor you like to drink because there’s a big secret menu too. The place definitely has a cool vibe.
Looking for the next place to stop for a drink and a bite, we stumbled in to a local art fair. It was not too impressive but it was cool to meet some local artists and we found a couple of cool stalls. Afterwards, we settled in at the Cascade Room for a cheese plate, the most unique selection of olives, and “the Diablo” to drink. It was good and it looks like they have great deals for happy hour as well. We ended the night with a drink at Morriseys, because it was attached to our hotel. It was mediocre at best.
Day 4 – Stanley Park and Nightlife
In the morning we took the c23 bus to Stanley Park, the world’s largest urban park. Lucky for us, this was the only day it didn’t rain during our trip (it did rain that night though). We ate nearby at Acacia Fillo Bar, a small little Bulgarian cafe with amazing food I cannot recommend enough.
In order to see as much of the park as possible, we decided we’d better get bikes. It was easy to find a rental place just a couple of blocks away, but the pricing was just about the same as it would have been to rent the bike share bikes directly on the park.
We took the bike path to Beaver Lake and walked around the gorgeous area. We had learned from our Capilano shuttle driver that employees have to clear away a beaver dam every single day to keep the place from flooding. We happened to get there just when this was happening, and we spoke to the men doing it. They were real characters, and had ideas of their own about how to solve that problem once and for all.
The whole park is beyond beautiful with rushing streams, tall trees, and beautiful lookouts like Prospect Point and Siwash Rock.
We continued down to the sea wall, which runs along the water for over 13 miles.When our hands got too cold, we stopped into the Teahouse for a snack and a drink.After a nap we head out to meet a local friend at The Keefer Bar in Chinatown, right next to Bao Bei. It has a great apothecary-meets-modern technology kind of vibe. We tried various shots and cocktails, but the Skeleton Kiss was my favorite. The duck tacos and steamed buns were great too. We finished our last night in town at our friend’s queer drag show and dance party, Man Up at The Cobalt. We had the best time!
Day 5 -Yale Town and Lynn Valley
This morning we put our name in at the Twisted Fork and drank a french press at the counter while we waited a good amount of time for a table. The baked eggs were worth the wait, and I tried my first Caesar, the very popular Canadian drink made with vodka, Clamato, and some sauces and spices.
Afterwards, we walked through Yale Town to check it off the list and found a very lively outdoor market taking place even on this rainy day.
Then, we hopped into our friend’s car and drove to Cypress Mountain for the views, but unfortunately we couldn’t see much in the rain. I trust it is a great spot in the sun! Next we headed to Lynn Valley in Lynn Canyon Park. This place is the insider’s Capilano Bridge Park. If you can get here, you will find gorgeous hiking paths that lead to two suspension bridges high up over a rushing white river.
We finished the night with some ramen at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, which was ranked #1 on Foursquare. It was good, but probably not worth the long line we had to wait in to get in.
Day 6 – Heading Home
The next morning we had a gross breakfast across from our hotel at Two Parrots, and then headed to the airport. We will definitely be back – in the summer.
Written by Evy Bround