***** 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:
After exiting the SeaBus terminal, turn right and this is the view that you’re going to get
Same location, different time, different viewpoint
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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
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.
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
[More to come on this topic, soon, I hope]
The playground area offers lots of fun for kids
I call this area of Granville Island “Mini-Venice”… Cool — but surely expensive — place!
18:00PM – ENJOYING DINNER OVER SUNSET AT ENGLISH BAY
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. ;)