GASTOWN

Gastown
Gastown is a tourist hot spot

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.

Aside from the overall picturesque street and buildings of Gastown, one last photo opportunity can be found at the corner of Carrall St., where Gassy Jack’s statue stands overlooking the oddly shaped Europe Hotel (now an affordable housing complex).

Gastown B & W

The visit only takes a few minutes, but it’s nevertheless a chance to step back in time and relive some of the atmosphere that was present in Vancouver, more than a century ago.

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Directions:

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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…

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Directions:

SIGHTSEEING WITH THE AQUABUS

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 fun.

 

Directions:


TAKING THE SEABUS TO NORTH VAN

Canada Place
Canada Place, as seen from the SeaBus

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.

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Directions:
(Then take Burrard SkyTrain to Waterfront Skytrain — 1 station, Westbound — and follow the “SeaBus” signs)

ENJOYING THE 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 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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Directions:

GRANVILLE ISLAND

Taiko Drummers
Taiko drummers

Granville Island is a great place to “chill”…  [More on this great attraction at a later time…].

 

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!

Directions:

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