A WEEKEND IN VANCOUVER – DAY 2

***** 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! *****

I have created separate posts for each attraction as I feel they should be able to stand on their own also. This article will nevertheless remain, as some people may of course need ideas for a fun weekend in Vancouver.


9:16AM – SEABUS RIDE TO NORTH VANCOUVER

[Check the SeaBus schedule to make sure that the times have not changed since the writing of this article]

Wherever you are, head for the Waterfront SkyTrain station 10 minutes prior to the SeaBus’ scheduled departure. The SeaBus runs every 30 minutes around that time and you don’t want to miss it… You’ll need to purchase your fare first and you can do so from one of the automated teller machines located in every SkyTrain station. Buying an all-day pass is recommended as we’ll use the bus at some other point during the day and the fact that you don’t have to worry about transit fare for the rest of the day is nice too.

OK, back to business… Our first stop is an appetizer of sorts: the 12 minute SeaBus ride across Burrard Inlet is a fun and inexpensive way to get great views of Canada Place and Stanley Park on the way to “North Van” (as people call it here). And once you exit the SeaBus terminal, you can enjoy postcard-like views of the city and its skyline from a variety of vantage points:

Vancouver Cityscape
After exiting the SeaBus terminal, turn right and this is the view that you’re going to get

Q Sunset Silouhettes
Same location, different time, different viewpoint

Vancouver, from Burrard Pier
About a 5 minute walk from the terminal — still to the right (East) — is this interesting viewpoint: Burrard Pier.

I haven’t explored North Van that much myself, but there doesn’t seem to be many options in the immediate surroundings, from a tourist’s point of view, except enjoying the view. Once you see the SeaBus closing in on the North Van side again, this will be your cue to get ready to head back to the terminal for your return trip downtown.

10:15AM – GASTOWN

Gastown
Gastown is a tourist hot spot

Our short SeaBus round-trip over, exit the terminal by following the “Buses” signs. These will lead you to Waterfront Station’s main entrance — on Cordova St. — where we’ll officially start today’s tour. Our first stop will be the cradle of Vancouver — Gastown. For a brief history of Gastown, click here. As we head to our left immediately after exiting Waterfront Station, Gastown quickly comes into view.

Gastown is where Vancouver all started, back in 1867 (for more details on Gastown’s history, click here). Its core area is pretty much all contained within four blocks of Water St., between Richards St. and Carrall St. Trendy boutiques and galleries, restaurants, and souvenir shops line up the cobblestoned pavement of this historic landmark. Gastown is also the setting for a few noteworthy events such as the Jazz Festival (free shows) and the “Tour de Gastown” bike race.

Festival Banner in Gastown
Gastown is the setting for some free shows during Vancouver’s International Jazz Festival

Gastown’s pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the Steam Clock. This may very well be the most photographed item in all of Vancouver. Every 15 minutes it belches out steam from its musical pipes, delighting the hords of tourists that surround it.

Leaving the commotion behind, we head one block further East, to Carrall Street, to spend a moment watching Gassy Jack’s statue overlooking the oddly shaped Europe Hotel, which is now an affordable housing complex.

Gastown B & W

Our short visit of Gastown over, we stay on Carrall Street, going South three blocks, just past Pender St., to your left, for the next stop in our tour: Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden.

11:00AM – DR. SUN YAT-SEN’S CLASSICAL CHINESE GARDEN

Water Lilly

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden is a small, but beautiful and authentic garden that is incredibly rich in tradition and history.

Make sure you take the guided tour. Knowing all the intricate details that went behind the building of this garden will make you appreciate it so much more, and makes the admission fee (10$ for adults) worth it.

BUT… Be warned that not all guided tours are created equal. I’ve been to the classical garden twice, and as much as my first experience was fantastic, the following one was utterly atrocious (both times the guide was a volunteer). While my first experience was 90 minutes of sheer fun and interesting facts and stories about the making of the garden, my second time around was nothing but stumbling embarassment (maybe it was her first presentation ever?). So much so, that I convinced my parents — who were visiting me at that time — to bail out and wait for the next one. The following tour was definitely better, but although our guide (a trained staff member this time) was dynamic, it was obvious he kept only to the script and added nothing more to the tour. I was stunned to learn this second time around that the tours are apparently supposed to last 45 minutes only.

Intricate Carvings
Intricate carvings

See-Through Drawing
Double-sided see-through Silk drawings

I’m not sure if my amazing first guide still volunteers there, but I can tell you I stumbled upon her on a Sunday morning (11AM presentation) last Spring. The guide can definitely make or break ANY attraction…

P.S.: You can visit the free Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park right next door also. It’s actually bigger than the classical garden, but less refined — still a nice walk in the park:

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden

12:00PM – LUNCH AT “WILD GINGER” (TINSELTOWN)

Continue South for half a block and turn right on Keefer Pl. until you reach the Tinseltown building. There is a food court there and also a few more elaborate restaurants. Among those, I like Wild Ginger. It’s good, very affordable Chinese cuisine.

Once you’re done eating, walk South on Abbott St. until you reach Expo Blvd. and wait for the Westbound C21 Beach “community” bus — an odd mini school-bus type of bus — at bus stop #60777. About 3 minutes later, drop off at the corner of Pacific Blvd. and Cambie St. (bus stop #59914) and walk a few blocks toward the Yaletown Marina. Here is the map for your convenience.

On the map:

* A = Tinseltown
* B = C21 Beach stop # 60777
* C = C21 Beach stop # 59914
* D = Yaletown Marina

You can always walk too…  It’s 15-20 minutes walking distance from Tinseltown to the Yaletown Marina.

13:30PM – AQUABUS RIDE TO GRANVILLE ISLAND

Yaletown Marina
No, this is not the AquaBus, unfortunately… It’s just nestled beside the AquaBus’ waiting area at the Yaletown Marina.

The AquaBus runs a mini-cruise which, at 6$ per adult and 4$ per children/senior, is an inexpensive way to enjoy the wonderful sights surrounding False Creek. Note that the official web site mentions that this mini-cruise starts at Granville Island — our destination — every 15 minutes. I didn’t know about that when I did mine and I didn’t feel like I’d been “robbed” of a few bucks for the shorter cruise at all. The Yaletown marina is, in my opinion, the most interesting AquaBus “station” and I saw the same things that the longer cruise would have offered me anyway: Science World, BC Place and the Edgewater Casino, Yaletown (the condos and the marina), Granville Island, the mountains in the distance, etc.

Science World

Science World

Downtown/Yaletown Condos
Modern, expensive condos line up the seawall on the North side of False Creek

In case you’re a little confused about how this modified mini-cruise works, let me tell you how mine went: at Yaletown marina’s waiting area for the AquaBus, I simply asked the first AquaBus skipper I saw if it was possible to stay for more than one stop in order to enjoy the sights from False Creek a little longer. He said yes, but that I would have to wait maybe 10 minutes for the one doing the longer tour. No problem. Two AquaBuses later, the “touring” one arrived and my cruise consisted of three stops: first, Science World, then I came back to the Yaletown marina, and we finally headed for Granville Island. About 15 minutes of nice sightseeing.

15:00PM – GRANVILLE ISLAND

Taiko Drummers
Taiko drummers

[More to come on this topic, soon, I hope]

Shoot me! Shoot me!
The playground area offers lots of fun for kids

Mini-Venice
I call this area of Granville Island “Mini-Venice”… Cool — but surely expensive — place!

18:00PM – ENJOYING DINNER OVER SUNSET AT ENGLISH BAY

Solar Clock at Sunset

Sunsets at English Bay are spectacular!!! The best way to experience the sunset, in my opinion, is over a romantic dinner — or with the kids :p — in one of the few waterfront restaurants near the corner of Denman St. and Beach Av. If you’re on a budget, picnicking alongside the sandy beach works too. :) And if that doesn’t inspire you, Denman St. has tons of dining opportunities for you to choose from — take your pick. ;)

Silhouettes

Inukshuk at Sunset

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13 thoughts on “A WEEKEND IN VANCOUVER – DAY 2

  1. Vancouver is indeed a beautiful city to visit or live in. There is a lot to see and do with gorgeous scenery for a back drop.
    Your pictures are very crisp and clear……they’re beautiful!

  2. And where should a small family live in this wonderful city?
    Since you know Montreal, what would be similar to Ahuntsic or Pierrefonds, a family district with yard and schools?

  3. Hmmm… Do you go out often? More the stay at home type (with kids and all)? What kind of activities do you do on a weekly or “often enough” basis? I’m sure you’re aware that Vancouver is expensive too. Do you have a budget limit? How far from downtown Vancouver are you willing to live? Renting? Owning? Ahuntsic and Pierrefonds… Never been to Pierrefonds but I know a little about Ahuntsic. So you’re looking for something that is in-between living downtown and too quiet suburbia, right?

    While you give me some more details, I can think of a few areas that might interest you. Without having done any extensive surveys of those areas, I can definitely tell you: all areas MUST have schools, parks, and essential amenities — such as a supermarket — around; crime is more prevalent here than in Montreal — avoid East Vancouver (Main & Hastings intersection the most), Central Surrey (maybe more than just that area too; I’ve never been to Surrey, but I keep hearing about its not so good reputation) and don’t live *too* close to a SkyTrain station (a 10 minute walk away from the station is recommended, I’ve been told).

    – North Van: Pros: at the foot of the mountains; many hiking opportunities close by; if you like to ski, 3 moutains are within 20 minutes of your area; great view on Vancouver; Park Royal shopping mall is big! Cons: Need to cross the bridge or take the SeaBus to go downtown

    – Metrotown (Burnaby): Pros: biggest shopping mall in BC is there, everything in one place; Central Park is a nice big park close by; close to restaurants and SkyTrain. Cons: almost as expensive as downtown, even if you’re 25 minutes away from it.

    – Burquitlam (Burnaby/Coquitlam “border”): Pros: Lougheed Mall (shopping, etc.) is there; close to SkyTrain; more affordable because further from downtown. Cons: I for one find that there’s nothing special to do in that area. But if you’re more likely to stay home… 30 minutes from downtown, by SkyTrain.

    – Port Moody, Port Coquitlam: 30-45 minutes away from downtown (I think). Don’t know anything about those areas except that I have a few colleagues that have chosen to raise their kids there.

    That’s about all I can think of for now.

    Alain

  4. The company offers us a furnished condo at the Marinaside Cresent… but Is this a place for a child… and what about the daycare availabilities? I can’t wait to visit.

  5. Yaletown is the place to party and be glamourous… The company seems to have no limits as far as accomodating your family (Yaletown is one of the most expensive neighbourhoods around). They probably wouldn’t mind finding something for you in “Kits” then (Kitsilano). It’s just South of downtown Vancouver, very trendy, but feels a little bit more “cozy” than Yaletown. Kits Beach is the most popular one around, 4th Av. has great restaurants, good specialty stores (food, outdoors, biking, etc.) and you’re just 5-10 minutes from downtown.

    I don’t have kids, so I never looked at daycare. I just googled up “kitsilano daycare” and I seem to have found a very interesting link which will probably answer some of your questions:

    http://www.livinginkits.ca/kitsneighbourhood.htm

    Good luck. ;)

  6. Thanks! We are going to Vancouver – March 29 and 30 from Seattle and your info really helps. I was feeling overwhelmed because we don’t have much time but your “highlights” and tips made me less stressed out.

  7. seewho,

    Yeah, I guess this can be confusing to some… You can go for free through the entrance depicted in my photograph or go to the smaller “Classical Chinese Garden” right next door for 10$. But it’s well worth it; the hour long guided tour makes you appreciate the “Classical Chinese Garden” so much more. It’s incredible the amount of details they painstakingly went through to build it! And yes, near the end of the guided tour, the guide will mention something about that confusion if you go to the paying one. ;)

    I hadn’t gone to the paying one when I first posted this article but I think I’ll update this post in the near future and mention the “Classical” garden only for the above reasons.

  8. Thanks for your reply.
    It turns out that there are Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park (free) and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden (general admission $10), in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

  9. Hi there, we arrived last sunday and we have chosen North-Vancouver (we rented a nice furnished house with a great yard, not so far from Deep-Cove, 10 min or so, and we are 20 minutes from downtown!). I’m visiting all your recommended spots and it is great! Maybe we will meet some day? :)

    Thanks again

  10. Nice! Great to see you like it here so far.

    I’ll be in your neighbourhood today: I’m going to check out the Multicultural Street Parade (part of the Caribbean Days Festival this weekend), with some luck, maybe we’ll bump into each other. Check out my pic to spot me if you can; I’ll be with my Asian girlfriend and my mistress — my camera. ;)

    http://www.caribbeandays.ca/

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