*****This article takes much longer to write down than I expected (I like to blog about my city, but I’m pretty busy, and a perfectionist too)… I’m putting out this “BETA” version in the meantime, for someone. ;) Forgive the “bugs” and I hope the pictures are enough to get you excited about visiting Vancouver anyway!*****
Someone on the verge of relocating to Vancouver and coming for a “reconnaissance trip” soon asked me which attractions would make her family fall in love with the city. Here is my 2 day virtual guided tour of some of the best attractions around downtown Vancouver.
First things first. Here’s my approach to this weekend tour:
Overpriced tourist attractions are not on my agenda (Capilano Suspension Bridge, Harbour Center tower, Grouse Mountain SkyRide)
Wake up early to enjoy the most of your stay here.
- Keep lunches quick and simple for the same reason.
Dinner will be more elaborate and relaxed.
8:10AM – BURRARD SKYTRAIN STATION (SEASONAL)
Yes, it’s early, but you’re here for just a couple of days and you want to enjoy Vancouver to the fullest, right? Right. You’ll have all the time you want to rest soundly at the end of your stay and reminisce about all the wonderful things you saw. Right now, we have a fun-filled day ahead of us! ;)
Alright, back to the tour. The Burrard SkyTrain station (located here) is not an “attraction” per se, but 2-3 weeks out of the year, it’s worth the detour. In late March/early April, the cherry blossoms — now in full bloom — form a huge “tunnel” of pink flowers that is quite impressive — just ask the hords of people taking pictures under the foliage. Well, early one Saturday morning you might have a better chance at getting your solo shot, but any other time, there’s bound to be heavy traffic in the tunnel!
8:30AM – WALKING THE COAL HARBOUR SEAWALL
From the Burrard SkyTrain station, enter the Coal Harbour seawall area at the corner of Bute St. and West Cordova St. (see map), where an original and unusual work of art entitled “Device to Root out Evil” stands — upside down:
Continue down towards the seawall, around the area where the seaplanes are docked. There is a U-shaped floating dock close by that you can walk on, just for the fun of it.
Heading West on our way to Stanley Park, we’ll pass by some tall, sleek condos and the Coal Harbour Marina, housing some impressive boats and some houseboats too (look at the green one ;) ):
Early morning is also the best time to catch people from the Vancouver Rowing Club rowing about.
9:00AM – STANLEY PARK – PART I: LOST LAGOON, ROSE GARDEN, VANCOUVER AQUARIUM
Vancouver’s world famous park is now just steps away. The best part of Stanley Park is arguably the seawall but, for ambiance’s sake, let’s resist the temptation for now. The afternoon is a much better time to enjoy it fully. In the meantime, Stanley Park’s “interior” still has some worthy sights to see. First on the list is Lost Lagoon.
12:00PM – LUNCH AT PROSPECT POINT (STANLEY PARK)
13:00PM – STANLEY PARK – PART II: SEAWALL
The jewel of Vancouver suffered a beating in December 2006 after a violent windstorm. Thousands of trees fell under the brute force of Mother Nature. But now, while still recovering, it’s in good enough shape to let people walk its seawall freely.
The seawall normally takes about 2 hours to complete but I expect you’ll take many pictures and, if you have kids, you might stop by at a playground along the way too. Hence the 3 hour timeline…
16:00PM – ROBSON STREET
While you can easily hop on a bus down Robson St. to “see” it, in order to “live it” you have to walk the famous street — especially between Bute St. and Granville St.
Coming from Stanley Park, after passing Bute St., on the right side you’ll notice one of the most popular clothing stores around, Vancouver’s own Lululemon. Vancouver is a very “green”, health conscious city, and I guess that explains this yoga inspired company’s success.
Not far from that, at the next intersection (Thurlow), we come upon an unusual sight: there are two Starbucks’ at the same intersection! Vancouverites are known to be coffee addicts, but this is ridiculous! :p The bigger of the two Starbucks is unofficially a people watching station. Look how most people on the patio don’t actually chat at a table over coffee but have their chairs lined up against the wall in order to have the best view on some of the fashionable people walking down the street… lol I still can’t get over that… You guys have no shame! lol
Let’s cross over to the left side of the street now. As we near the next intersection (Burrard), there’s a visually pleasing chocolate store called Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory that has its “factory” right in the window! It’s fun to see those huge wads — one could almost call them “logs” — of chocolate fudge and delicious caramel apples being prepared in front of us. As of this writing, it’s Easter time and the store has some Easter inspired rabbit-shaped caramel (? Those ones are whitish) apples turning heads. (EDIT 2008-03-26: I wrote this paragraph last week and since then, they tore the place down! :s No kidding… But it’s for renovation purposes… I guess we can expect it to come back soon.)
The block between Hornby St. and Howe St. is home to the Vancouver Art Gallery. I’m not much into museums, so I haven’t visited it myself, but one thing’s for sure, this place is the spot for manifestations (peaceful ones, don’t worry). Hardly any weekend goes by without some kind of manifestation taking place there. If it’s not on the “front porch”, it’s in the gallery’s “backyard.” The chess players sometimes having a friendly matchup under the trees at the corner of Hornby and Robson don’t seem to mind the commotion too much.
In that same block, just before Howe Street, is Robson Square. It’s home to a UBC Campus, but as far as I can tell from the one or two times I’ve wandered down its steps, it also seems to be a hangout for the creatively inclined: musicians could be seen jamming together and jugglers were practicing their stuff. Unfortunately, due to the renovations under way in preparation for the 2010 Olympics, access is more restricted than usual. One victim of those renovations will be, in 2008, the popular Sunday Afternoon Salsa days.
On the other side of Howe St. are some more shopping opportunities, if you feel so inclined. The Sears building can be your entry point into Vancouver’s underground shopping centre, The Pacific Centre.
16:45PM – CANADA PLACE
Late afternoon is good to be around Canada Place, on the weekend, as it’s around the time where cruise ships leave, during the Summer.
17:45PM – DRINKS AT CLOUD NINE (EMPIRE LANDMARK HOTEL)
The revolving restaurant/bar is a good place to relax over a nice drink while enjoying a 360 degree view of everything that surrounds downtown Vancouver: mountains, English Bay, Stanley Park, etc. A potentially spectacular sunset will unfold as you sip on your Bellini or whatever other drink interests you. Of course, you do know that my suggested time can’t be trusted throughout the year, right? If you really want to see the sunset from up above, make the necessary adjustments that the season you visit in requires. This might mean coming over here after dinner, in the Summer time.
19:00PM – DINNER