As an East Coast native, I have heard the buzz about Vancouver for years. Its’ diversity, forward thinking, charming neighborhoods and damn good food. That side of the world is a long way from home, so when I found myself on an Alaskan cruise that wrapped up in Terminal City, I knew I had to spend a few extra days exploring.
I am happy to report that all of the hoopla is merited. The urban planning, green spaces and sea ferries as well as the interesting neighborhoods like Gastown, Eastside and Granville Island impressed us. Not to mention the food. There were too many noodle bars to count but we think we hit the best. We can’t figure out where the nickname, ‘Blandcouver’ came from because the bars, restaurants and the people we encountered were anything but.
We are all about renovated motels like The Saguro in Palm Springs and The Standard in Miami so The Burrard fits right in. Built in 1956 as a Motor Inn, the building was renovated in 2006 and sits right off the major shopping artery of town and is a cab ride away from everything. Container Coffee is right off the lobby for breakfast, lunch or just to sit and people watch (very worthwhile, trust us).
This was our first stop during our wanders for a quick snack.
Their zucchini raisin cupcake hit the spot and we appreciate that they encourage patrons to pay it forward and buy a cup of coffee for someone less fortunate.
We spent a lot of time researching noodle bars in Vancouver since there are so many, and through word of mouth we found Marutama. You know it is good when most of the customers are Asian. With locations in Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, there is no denying they know what they are doing. Marutama is famous for their ‘cloudy’ chicken soup. They are known for using chicken stock instead of the typical pork stock. If you are still hungry and have more stock than noodles, you can simply order extra noodles in a variety of firmness.
This place made us feel like we were in the East Village when it was still filled with goofy kids and not stockbrokers. The owners welcomed us and shook our hands and brought us two pints before we could blink. We tried the variety plate of tacos and were not disappointed. The best was the brisket and the pricing is ‘cheap and cheerful’.
Two doors down from Gringo, this wood laden space transports you from East Village to Italy. From cured meats to artisanal wines and cheeses, you can pop in here at the beginning of your night or simply make it your night and order till you pass out.
For a big night out, take a cab or seabus to North Vancouver for a great dinner and an Instagram-worthy skyline view. The space is great looking but you must have a skyline view to really make it, so call ahead and request. We tried the chef’s panko breaded fried chicken and we wanted more. Their prawns and beet salad are refreshing too.
While Water Street can border on touristy, the area near Maple Tree Square is where we spent nearly all of our time. For the design minded dude, this is your mecca. From Opinel pocketknives to Daniel Wellington watches and Aedle VK headphones, you won’t be disappointed.
If you want a feel for the local artists, look no further. Right around the corner from Nelson the Seagull, we found great gifts and stellar canvas bags and aprons made on site.
This menswear store blew away the competition from New York to London. From housewares, footwear, fragrances, outerwear and even a well edited magazine collection, this place has it all. Great brands from Mismo, Jed & Marne, Sunspel and Our Legacy.
One reason Vancouver is so dynamic is the number of outdoor activities surrounding the big city.
Spend a day or two biking, hiking or just strolling through the largest park in town. The totem poles are pretty iconic and you can even get a good lunch at four great spots throughout the park.
While the island is famous for it’s farmers’ market, it can get a little tight when the cruise ship brigade is marching through. Regardless, take a peek. But there is a plethora of other cool shops and places to explore including the Broom Company.
It is fairly obvious why this is the most popular attraction in the city so either get there early or after 4pm to avoid the masses. Only a mile from Stanley Park, there is a variety of activities here from the suspension bridge to the cliff walk and tree top adventure. And if you have kiddies in tow, there is everything from bird shows, tree houses to fudge shops to have them passed out by days end.
Don’t think of this as a chick thing to do as it is so much more than a gardnen. It’s kind of like just walking into China. Seriously. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was the father of modern China so this ‘scholars’ garden honors him. Vancouver is a similar climate to Suzhou, China so many of the plant varieties here are found in its counterpart across the globe. We took a guided tour and learned a plethora about Feng-shui, Chinese history and even Chinese zombies. Apparently some walls are built at a stagger so as to prevent ‘Jiangshi’ from hopping towards you and stealing your soul. See, we told you it’s more than a garden.