Vancouver is a city with lots to do, and even more to eat! So we hope that when you are here, you will enjoy some of its pleasures! Here are a few of our favourite things to do and eat, in no particular order…
Things to Do
Vancouver Art Gallery (Downtown on Robson) – Mid-sized museum with mostly contemporary art, great collection of Emily Carr works, often has large international shows. Situated in the former courthouse. The Art Gallery Cafe is a quiet favourite when you can sit on the outdoor patio atop Robson Square.
Museum of Anthropology (UBC) – Small museum nestled on the UBC campus in lovely architecture by Canadian Arthur Erickson, stunning collection of totem poles, mainly First Nations artefacts, including some sculptures by famous Haida artist Bill Reid (his work is also graces the the Vancouver Airport and the Canadian $20 bill!)
Nitobe Garden (UBC) – A small oasis of Japanese peace on the UBC campus.
UBC Botanical Gardens (UBC) – This large garden has a canopy walk!
Van Dusen Gardens (Shaughnessy, Oak & W 37th Ave) – Beautiful gardens all year round! The Shaughnessy Restaurant is also delicious. If you are lucky you will find a small pond in the park, on the other side of which reside some interesting homes also designed by Canadian Arthur Erickson (we are not obsessed with him, we swear… but he did also design Simon Fraser University and the Waterfall Building near Granville Island, both of which are integral to the tv show Battlestar Galactica!)
Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Downtown/Chinatown) – A small portion of this garden is free entry. Close to the historic old Chinatown where you can find cheap eats. The best steamed bun bakery is only a few blocks away… check out New Town Bakery below.
Beaches – There are many!
Kits Beach (Kitsilano) – Kits pool (outdoor) is a heated saltwater pool located on the beach. It is the longest pool in Canada.
Jericho, Locarno & Spanish Banks (Kitsilano-Point Grey-UBC) – Christina's favourite set of beaches. Try to go when the tide is out… you can walk a grand distance into the middle of the Straight of Georgia.
Tower & Wreck Beaches (UBC) – Wreck Beach is clothing optional, and boasts the best sunsets and views… natural views that is!
English Bay (Downtown/West End, Stanley Park)
Second & Third Beaches (Downtown in Stanley Park)
The Seawall – This is a large bike and walking path that mostly runs along the water and through a variety of different neighbourhoods including Kitsilano, Granville Island, False Creek, the Olympic Village, Chinatown, Yaletown, Coal Harbour, Stanley Park (by far the most popular part), English Bay and back to Kitsilano! We cannot more highly recommend biking and eating your way along the Seawall! And there are only one or two inclines… less than a block long!
Stanley Park & The Vancouver Aquarium (Downtown) – Stanley Park is the world's largest green space situated in a city proper! A favourite thing to do is rent a bike or rollerblades and ride/skate around the Stanley Park portion of the Seawall. The Vancouver Aquarium has otters. Otters are so cute.
The Grouse Grind (West Vancouver) – Not for the faint of heart (literally & figuratively!), or anyone who doesn't like stairs or sweat! This 2.9km "trail" is a stack of 2800 stairs that lead to the top of Grouse Mountain. Your rewards (other than pride): the lumberjack show, a bear habitat and a $5 gondola ride back down to the bottom. The view from the top is fantastic, but if you do this, be prepared – bring lots of water and a protein bar in case you run out of energy on your way up!
Grouse Mountain (West Vancouver) – If the Grind isn't your thing, then you can arrive at the top of Grouse Mountain in a civilised manner for $39.95.
Granville Island (it really is it's own neighbourhood, but if you push, it's where Kitsilano meets False Creek) – This once industrial area is now home to the Emily Carr School of Art, small art studios & galleries, theatres, artisan workshops (including a glass blowing studio), stores, restaurants, fish mongers, bakers and the Public Market (where you will find deliciously fresh food of all sorts). Buy some Indian Candy from one of the fish mongers, sit beside the water and hope the gulls don't steal it from you. You can access Downtown via English Bay and Yaletown by using the water taxi / mini ferry system at Granville Island.
Capilano Suspension Bridge (North Vancouver) – Visit this place and cross a very, very long suspension bridge!
Lynn Canyon (North Vancouver) – A smaller and free suspension bridge and some nice hikes are available here.
South Granville (from 4th to 16th)- Restaurants, coffee shops and small art galleries are mixed in with local clothing & design shops and some popular chain stores like Restoration Hardware, Williams Sonoma, TNA, Roots, Anthropologie, Chapters etc.
Main Street (from Broadway to 30something)- Local restaurants, coffee shops, clothing stores, antique & curio shops. If you continue to the 40something streets you will reach the Punjabi Market and yummy all you can eat Indian food.
Robson Street & Pacific Centre (Downtown) – Chain stores for the rich and the poor… so everything you would expect from a major metropolitan city!
Point Grey Village (W 10th Ave from Blanca to Trimble) – A few cute local shops with restaurants and cafes mixed in.
West Fourth (Kitsilano, from Burrard to Balsalm) – The original hippie neighbourhood, wherein you will find the first Lululemon, local coffee shops, the best restaurant in the city (Bishop's), clothing shops, curio shops, snowboard & bike shops, and of course, hip baby stores. You are also just four blocks away from Kits Beach!
The Lululemon Factory Outlet (Burnaby) – This outlet is hit and miss, but if you are a workout addict, it's probably worth the drive (30 min from downtown, 20 from Richmond). There are some big box stores nearby too.
Things to Eat
Ajisai (Kerrisdale) – Japanese – Fresh sushi. Tiny restaurant actually owned and operated by Japanese people! Love the saba battera (grilled and non), special tekka don, chirashi bowl, and really any type of sashimi.
New Town Bakery (Downtown/Chinatown & Richmond) – Chinese – The BEST steamed buns. Our favourite is the bola-bola (filled with chicken, egg, pork…everything!) Cash only (like most Chinese restaurants).
Shanghai Wonderful (Richmond) – Chinese – The best soup dumplings (xiao long bao)! Dan sings the praises of the seafood hot & sour soup, and once made killer grilled cheese and crab sandwiches with leftover crab from this favourite restaurant of ours.
Top Shanghai (Richmond) – Chinese – The special vegetable rice steamed in a wooden pot is fantastic. The soup dumplings are top notch also. Some of the dishes are very traditional Shanghainese fare which remind Christina's mom and aunt of her grandma's cooking.
Cafe Salade de Fruits (South Granville, on 7th at Granville in the French Cultural Centre) – French – Plentiful moules & frites (mussels & fries). Generous portions. Christina's favourite french fries. Don't ask for ketchup though, you'll get a scolding! Cash only.
Bob Likes Thai Food (Main & 21st Ave) – Thai – Recommended by our Thai friends. The best pad thai. Very well priced lunch specials. Sometimes they offer an appetizer that is roughly translated to mean something like 'many flavours in one bite'... try it, you'll like it!
Thierry (Downtown, Alberni & Burrard) – French – This little chocolaterie/bakery/cafe has delicious macarons and caneles (little dark brown/black cakes with soft custardy-texture inners and slightly crispy caramelised outters. YUM! Caneles are Christina's newest food obsession.
Patisserie Lebeau (2nd & Burrard, beside the fancy car dealerships) – Beligian – Waffles of all sorts! Our favourites are the savoury Brussels waffles, and the rice cream filled waffles or tarts.
Vij's and Rangoli's – (South Granville, 11th & Granville) – Contemporary Indian – Vikram Vij's restaurant duo. Vij's lamb popsicles converted Christina into someone who eats lamb. The wait times are incredibly long and they do not take reservations, but while you wait, they load you up with free appetizers like savoury chaat, pakoras, and fries so you don't get hangry. Vij's is one of the best restaurants in the city and it is worth the wait. But if your stomach won't allow it and/or if you have a smaller budget, Rangoli's is fantastic too! The restaurants offer different food, but the same addictive chai (free at Vij's, and a few bucks for unlimited at Rangoli's).
Cafe Katzenjammer – (Point Grey, 10th & Sasamat) – Schnitzel covered in dark mushroom gravy. Nothing left to say.
Bishop's – (Kitsilano, W 4th Ave & Arbutus) – The best restaurant in the city, in Christina's humble opinion. Locally sourced food, impeccable service, intimate white dining room, famous chef: John Bishop.
Go Fish (Granville Island/Kitsilano) – A small shack on the pier which sells killer fish and chips, and, amongst other things, an ahi tuna sandwich with wasabi mayo that is delectable. The lines can be very long, but you might see famous people while you eat your fish on the squishy deck (no indoor dining).
Wow, there are a lot of things we like to do and eat! And this list is only just the beginning so hopefully we'll continue to update this as The Day draws nigh…