When you live in Washington State, your friendly neighbor to the North is a convenient 2.5-hour drive away. Equally as outdoorsy and adventure-driven as Seattle, this maple syrup-loving country will win your heart over with its beautiful landscape, lush forest of trees, concrete jungle metropolis surrounded by water, and multitude of activities to explore. So bring your passport and come along with me to the adventure-filled city of Vancouver, British Colombia, and I’ll show you around a bit, eh? 😉
My Fiancé and I drove from our home in Seattle, Washington, up North for a quick weekend getaway in Vancouver, B.C. in May. We got lucky with sunny and warm weather, which is always a toss up for these parts of the upper left corners of the world. Crossing the border can often take up to several hours depending on the lines, time of day, and if you’re traveling during a holiday. We got really lucky and went right through, getting us to Vancouver in just under three hours. (The best time to cross the border seems to be either extremely early in the morning or later in the evening after 6:00 PM.) With only two full days to utilize, we wanted to make the best of our mini trip! Here are the top eight things to do, see, eat, and hike in Vancouver, B.C. in two days:
- Visit Granville Island and Eat Your Heart Out at Granville Island Public Market If you have ever been to London’s Borough Market, that is what Granville Market reminds me of, only it’s on the water! With a myriad of offerings, this is the perfect place to purchase any trinkets for friends and family members, authentic locally-made souvenirs, grocery ingredients (if you’re staying longer and want to cook), or simply taste all the delicious produce, sweets and syrups of Canada!
The market is open every day from 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM (hours may vary). Parents, watch your children, as the market can get quite crowded and you don’t want your little ones to get lost!
- Visit the Famous Gastown Steam ClockThere are few functioning steam clocks in existence, and Gastown in Vancouver is home to one of them! Located on the corner of Cambie and Water Streets, this steamy structure is quite the tourist spectacle!
- Rent bicycles at Yes Cycle Vancouver and ride around Stanley Park
Whether you’re an avid road biker or a Netflix-binging couch potato, anybody can rent a bike and take a leisurely ride around the beautiful Stanley Park.
If you’re lucky enough, you may even see some baby geese (watch for goose poop!)
Stanley Park was voted one of the top 25 best parks in the world on TripAdvisor in 2014! This 400-hectare West Coast Rainforest is a sight for sore eyes in the middle of an urban jungle. With beautiful beaches, historical and cultural landmarks, and wildlife viewings along the way, this trail is perfect for anyone looking to enjoy a relaxing ride. The trails are well-suited for families with small children, though ensure that you keep kids sandwiched between two parents if possible, to ensure they ride on the correct side of the dotted line to avoid minor collisions. We saw plenty of children enjoying themselves, and even two-person bikes with infants in-tow.
- Take a Walk Downtown to Check out all the Neat Sculptures
There are lots of sculptures in Vancouver. The most random (and fun!) one that we enjoyed were these surprising and delightful laughing Buddha-looking men. The below message reads, “May this sculpture inspire laughter, playfulness and joy in all who experience it.” This is precisely one of the many reasons I love Vancouver so much; their playful casualness and ability to make everyone feel included.
Photos are encouraged, and people try all kinds of funny poses! Half the fun is just sitting on the bench and people-watching.
Vancouver is an extremely multi-cultural city, filled with nearly every ethnic background you could think of! Because of this multitude of cultures congregated into one place, you can only imagine the vast array of ethnic cuisine abound! Here were two of our favorites:
Serving a fusion of seafood-focused dishes, Forage was the perfect place to take a break from riding bikes (bike parking is conveniently located outside, as the restaurant is located right on the trail through Stanley Park!)
6. Experience Vancouver’s Taco Craze at the Number-1-Rated Taqueria on Yelp – La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop
Are you part of the I Love Tacos club? No? Never heard of it? You will be after you visit this place. The tacos were so good that we still dream about them to this day and have compared every single taco-eating experience to the one we had here. With authentic ingredients and a friendly staff, this place is a must try!
7. Grouse Grind
Also known as the Peak of Vancouver, Grouse Grind is only 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles) one-way, but it goes straight up the heart of what is lovingly known to locals as “Mother Nature’s Stair Master”. I would say that I am athletic and in pretty good shape, however, this was certainly a challenging trail! Here are the stats:
Elevation Gain: 858 meters (2,800 feet)
Summit: 1,123 meters (3,700 feet)
Total Stairs: 2,830
Duration: Novice hikers should allow at least two hours. Experienced runners and trail hikers will take an average of 1.5 hours one-way
Kids are able to do this hike, though I suggest setting proper expectations in terms of difficulty and the length of time. Parents, you may want to bring snacks and lots of water to keep them encouraged to get to the top! They will really enjoy riding down on the cable car.
As you’re gaining elevation at a quick pace, about halfway through you may start to question why in the world you subjected yourself to this pain! However, there are two things waiting at the top for you (and sorry to burst your bubble, but they aren’t a burger and a beer) 😉 They are:
- The views!
- The reassuring fact that you get to descend on this cool cable car instead of hiking back down what you just endured coming up (whew!)
8. Cypress Mountain
A popular ski resort during wintertime, Cypress Mountain during other seasons is used for hiking. The drive alone is a beautiful one, with high-elevation views such as these:
Once you gain elevation in your hike, you may run into snow depending on the time of year! We got into snow so thick that we eventually had to turn around and go back, as we didn’t have the gear and were not properly prepared.
This trail is suitable for families and children, as the difficulty level is not high. During hiking in all seasons, be sure to bring warm layers, as you never know at which level you will encounter snow!
Where to Stay in Vancouver
We stayed in an Airbnb just outside of the city closer to hiking and nature. There are heaps of options within the city itself, however, during peak seasons, hotel prices will be quite high. For families, Airbnb is an excellent option, as you can select filters within the site for your preferences (i.e.: shared room, entire house, parking available, washer/dryer on site, kitchen, etc.) We have found Airbnb to be extremely reasonable in terms of pricing, and renting an entire home/apartment is a great options for parents with kids who want a little more space while also having the privacy of having their own room versus a fold-out bed in a hotel.)
Vancouver is beautiful in any season, though Spring, Summer and Fall are the best seasons to visit (especially Fall with the colors changing!)
Here is what we spent on our two-day trip:
Transportation (gas driving from Seattle to Vancouver): $200 (we had to fill up two times each way)
Eating Out: $300