Courtney in Vancouver, BC (Part 1)
In early September, my family and I took a 4 night/5 day vacation to Vancouver, British Columbia. From St. Louis, we flew Southwest Airlines to Seattle and then drove the approximate 3 hour drive up to Vancouver. We chose to this method for a few reasons: 1) Southwest flight times (non-stop) and prices were much more reasonable than other airlines flying from STL > YVR, 2) we wanted to visit with family in Seattle at the end of our trip, and 3) a rental car was something we were going to get anyway because we were considering visiting attractions outside of Vancouver and didn’t feel like hauling and flying with the car seat. This worked out great for us!
We flew into Seattle in the afternoon and stopped for an early dinner at Cactus, Seattle’s South Lake Union location. Afterward, we got through rush hour relatively unscathed due to the dinner stop allowing us to avoid some traffic. Crossing the border was easy and arrived to our hotel in the West End of Vancouver in the late evening. We settled into our room and got a good night sleep for the adventure ahead!
Cactus awesomeness left to right: the kids menu was adorable, our daughter enjoyed the quesadilla; mommy and me refreshments, I had the house-made ginger soda and she had the strawberry-tamarind lemonade; and my entree of choice, the seasonal/feature salad which I recreated with my own version at home.
Our approach for conquering all the activities we wanted to was to try to get to them early in the trip especially since rain was looming in the forecast. So, for our first full day in Vancouver, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise and amazing city views from our hotel suite’s balcony. We headed out early around 7:45am to get a quick breakfast at a nearby coffee shop and walk to the free shuttle service (we chose the Blue Horizon Hotel pick-up location, all shuttles are first-come first-served. Plus, our shuttle bus driver was very informative.) to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
Capilano was crowded but not overly when we arrived shortly after it opened. We found the park to be amazing, it was pristine and easy to navigate. We loved crossing the suspension bridge, of course, and we all loved as our daughter did the Kids’ Rainforest Explorers Program- a self-guided scavenger hunt with a prize at the end! We also did the CliffWalk which was a little intimidating but never felt unsafe. Our daughter was almost 4.5 years old at the time and well-behaved so we never felt that she was unsafe on any of the attractions. Lots of impressive photo ops here! We would love to come back for Canyon Lights, Winter Festival, which runs November-January.
Breakfast: Melriches Coffee House for smoothies and egg sandwiches (Recommend: the mango smoothie and egg, cheese, veggie sandwich on sourdough)
Morning Activity: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (Recommend: the Kids’ Rainforest Explorers Program- it’s free, educational, and fun for everyone. Tips: 1) arrive early and plan to stay for 2-4 hours and take advantage of the free shuttle service, 2) wear comfy shoes and layers, 3) take your time (if you can) to see all the attractions as they are all included in the admission price. Also, kids under age 6 get free admission into the park.
After the morning fun, we headed back to the hotel to eat lunch in our suite’s little kitchen (we stopped at a Whole Foods for some groceries. Tip: my favorite easy salad lunch from Whole Foods is their curry chicken salad in the prepared foods area, that along with a box of greens, Brianna’s lemon tarragon vinaigrette, and topped with some crunchy chickpeas. While our daughter napped, my husband and I took turns getting our gym workouts in for the day. Next on the agenda, waterfront bike riding and dinner.
Afternoon Activity: Stanley Park (Recommend: English Bay Bike Rentals - we opted for hybrid bikes and our daughter got the weehoo tag along bike that attached to my husband’s bike. It worked out perfectly especially because we have a similar trail-a-bike attachment at home for our daughter. We biked around the almost 6-mile Seawall, which is part of the world’s largest uninterrupted waterfront path at just over 17 miles. Keep in mind the Stanley Park portion of the path is paved and one-way counterclockwise as some parts of the path get very narrow so I can see why it is one-way! Make sure your bikes have bells on them to signal to approaching bikers that you would like to pass. Helmets are mandatory. I love how the bike path is separate from the walking/running path, which allows for pretty smooth sailing. Breathe in the fresh air and the sights as they are truly breathtaking.
Dinner: Rocky Mountain Flatbread Kitsilano - our whole experience was top notch. It might’ve been the most perfect family friendly (aka food and atmosphere aren’t sacrificed) restaurant we’ve been to in awhile. I say that because from the moment we walked in, the hostess was delightful and engaging, especially with our daughter. They had crayons and paper for her to color. They had ample seating, indoor and outdoor, we chose the beautiful patio. There is even a mini kitchen area with ‘fired pizza oven’ for the kiddos to play. (Recommend: Fig & Brie Artisan Pizza, Basil & Blackberry Salad, and the Three Course Kid’s Menu)
To start our second full day, we opted to fuel up with breakfast in our suite. Again, we were happy to have easy, healthy options from the Whole Foods we stopped by the previous day. When traveling we turn to fruit, yogurt, and granola or granola bars for breakfast. After breakfast we walked to the nearby Aquabus dock at Hornby Street in Downtown to take the city’s ferry system over to Granville Island. The Aquabus ride was quick, fun, and something that our daughter really enjoyed. It runs from 7am-10:30pm in the Summer (and 8:30pm in the Winter)
Morning Activity: Granville Island exploration - opens at 9am until 7pm (Recommend: Kids Market for Adventure Zone, a multi-level interactive play gym; The Public Market, huge indoor market full of produce, eateries, and shops - we had a delicious crepe and muffin at the Muffin Granny stall; and just walking around the island exploring the various streets to find unique shops, musicians, and artists)
Lunch: Edible Canada - located right across from the Public Market. This was a great find! We enjoyed a lovely spot on the patio taking in the sights and sounds. The food was quite tasty and the shop tucked inside the restaurant selling Canadian-made artisan products was great. We were able to pick up a few unique gifts.
Next, we headed back to our hotel for dinner and did the same routine as the prior day - gym workouts for mom and dad, and preschooler nap time. We got cleaned up and headed out for dessert. I will admit I had stalked a certain gelato place prior to this trip and it did not disappoint. WHATSOEVER. Sorry for yelling, it was just that good.
Dessert: Bella Gelateria - in the Coal Harbour area of Downtown Vancouver with award-winning gelato. I enjoyed one scoop of each Organic Matcha Green Tea and Toasted Pecan.
Evening Activity: movie at Cineplex (we saw Incredibles 2 and loved it)
Pro tip: always YES when they ask if you want maple syrup with the toasted pecan flavor. You can’t tell from this photo, but they make a well and pour the syrup into it (!!)
Next up…Courtney in Vancouver: Part 2 where I share our adventures exploring some of the unique Vancouver neighborhoods such as Gastown, Yaletown, West End, and more, plus a visit to the amazing Vancouver Aquarium.
I hope you get to travel near, far, and often!