I (Valerie) celebrated my 24th birthday this month. And, as usual, I asked my husband to take me on a trip instead of buying me a birthday gift. I have been quite interested lately in Vancouver, B.C. since it is frequently voted as one of the best places in the world to live. Also, it is conveniently less than 5 hours away by car from where we live in southwest Washington state. When a fellow blogger gave us 3 free nights at any Radisson Hotel it sealed the deal. With only 3 nights to explore this massive city-with over 2.3 million residents in the metro area-I feel like we hardly scratched the surface on things to see. But here are the highlights from our trip!
Stay: Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport
One of the highlights of this trip for me was relaxing in our hotel. I usually try to make travel all about adventure and trying new things, but honestly it was so nice to have a break from life and relax in a comfy bed while watch satellite TV! The only major downside was that construction was taking place 2 floor above us and oh, could we hear it. Even better-they started at 8 AM. Every. Morning. But since the room was free we didn’t make a fuss of it. Technically the hotel was located south of Vancouver in Richmond. Richmond is distinguished as being the city in North America with the highest percentage of people of Asian descent. Chinese immigrants make up nearly half of the residents and English was clearly not the primary language. That said, we didn’t have a problem communicating with the people that we needed to at the hotel, restaurants or stores.
Transportation: Car and SkyTrain
I am really glad we stayed in Richmond, it felt more like we were in a foreign city and it made for an interesting experience. Also, we had access to a variety of delicious ethnic cuisines, and even tried Pho for the first time! The hotel was located across the street from the Aberdeen SkyTrain station and approminately 20 minutes from the heart of downtown Vancouver by train. For $10 per person for unlimited travel on any train, bus or even the SeaBus, I felt that Vancouver was by far the easiest public transportation to figure out and quite affordable. After visiting San Francisco this summer and being unable to figure out the public transportation I was quite pleased with our urban savvyness this time around 😉
Since we drove to Vancouver we were able to use our car for longer trips, such as to Lynn Canyon. We enjoyed the freedom of having a car and would recommend it if you are wanting to explore some of the nearby nature in Vancouver.
Gastown is a national historic site because it is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Vancouver and was the original downtown. This was one of my favorite places to visit and just stroll around, hot chocolate in hand, and “window shop.”. The cobblestone streets are lined with cute boutiques, a variety of restaurants and cafes and specialty shops. We were also fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the beautiful Christmas lights lining the trees and buildings. Don’t forget to check out the Gastown Steam Clock!
Fly Over Canada at Canada Place
Canada Place is one of the iconic buildings and landmarks in Vancouver. There is a hotel, convention center, World Trade Center, ice rink, cruise ship dock, etc. located inside this massive building. It is a short walk from the Waterfront train station and thanks to my useless and extensive knowledge of pop culture, I can tell you right across the street is the hotel where actor Cory Monteith died. I told you, useless knowledge! We went to Canada Place for one purpose: to Fly Over Canada! We bought our tickets across the street at the Vancouver Tourism Centre for $22.50 a person ($2.50 off because we had student IDs). Here is a link to a video about the Fly Over Canada experience. It is short ride-about half an hour,-but I can tell you it was one of the most incredible things I have experienced! It is a 4D experience so you can see, hear, feel and smell during different parts of the show. You are strapped in like a roller coaster ride, the room becomes pitch dark and the floor falls out below you and screens show up above, below and to the sides of you. It feels like you are a bird flying above Canada, as you travel from east to west. If you are in Vancouver I would recommend you check this out. Cost: $25 (Adults)/$22.50 (Students)
Lynn Canyon Park
If you are driving or have rented a vehicle and are looking for some of that outdoor beauty British Columbia is famous for, head up to Lynn Canyon Park! We went to see the suspension bridge which enticed us because it was free to visit. Jake loved the bridge and I liked it-as long as it was staying perfectly still and I had my hands on both rails. Maybe its not very adventurous of me, but I felt terrible sea sick whenever it would start to shake and of course I was fearful of it breaking. There is so much more to this park though. We spent the next two hours hiking through the trails and snapping pictures of the beautiful creeks.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Visiting this 460 foot long bridge is the highlight for many people visiting British Columbia. To me, it was not. Jake really enjoyed it because the wind was blowing and it made the bridge especially shaky. Honestly, I was terrified the entire time crossing it and felt nauseous for the whole hour we spent at the park. We waited until after dark in hopes of getting good pictures of the Christmas lights. That didn’t happen though because of blowing rain.There was also a tree top course that you could do when you got across the bridge. That was kind of nice, but because it was dark I think we missed a lot of the excitement of being high up and seeing the beautiful views. It was a cool experience, but for $35 a person I don’t think it will be one we soon repeat. It was nice though that there was a free shuttle bus that can pick you up from multiple locations in downtown Vancouver. The bus ride was 30-45 minutes long each way.
With an abundance of natural beauty, cultural diversity, trendy restaurants and easy public transportation- Vancouver is a place that we look forward to visiting many more times to come! Next time we go we will be sure to check out Stanley Park, Vancouver Lookout Tower, Vancouver Aquarium and Yaletown.