By Joanne Bousaleh.
What is it about Vancouver that travelers seem to love so much? Is it the mountains, the beaches, the active inhabitants of the city? On your trip to Vancouver, British Columbia you’ll want to see some of the places the locals frequent. There are so many gems in Vancouver, so if your visit is short and sweet then here are some of my personal favorites!
Everyone will tell you to visit Stanley Park, and yes it’s beautiful. I love going to the free outdoor movies that play during the months of July and August. If you’re on a budget, then grab a blanket and bring some treats, it’s such a great way to spend the evening and it’s totally free of charge. Rain or shine, you can’t leave Vancouver without driving, walking, or biking through this beautiful park. Smack dab between North Vancouver and Vancouver Proper, it’s beauty, vastness, and tall enchanting trees will not disappoint. In fact, I really recommend renting a bike and riding around the entire park, you’ll be able to stop and see the beautiful sights, and it’s quite inexpensive. There a few bike rental establishments right on Denman and Georgia Street, which are right near the park. Stanley Park is a popular place that travelers list as a Vancouver hotspot, but it’s not the only beautiful park to visit.
While you’re in Vancouver, definitely try to visit Queen Elizabeth Park. The gorgeous, well-manicured gardens are worth a visit, and it is one of the highest points in Vancouver so you will see some amazing views. If you just can’t get enough of the parks and you’re a nature enthusiast, then make sure you also make a trip to the VanDusen Botanical Gardens. It’s just a gorgeous as Queen Elizabeth Park, and has one of the most beautiful rose gardens I’ve seen. Visit the VanDusen Botanical Gardens from March to May and you might be lucky enough to see the magical cherry blossoms, but if you happen to be here for the winter/holiday season then be sure to buy tickets to see the festival of lights.
Kitsilano and West 4th
If you want to shop, almost everyone will lead you to Robson Street, but that’s only if you’re looking for big box stores such as Forever 21, Aritzia, Club Monaco, the Gap, and Aldo. I love the boutique shopping, so if you want to browse some great little boutiques then 4th ave, in the neighborhood of Kitsilano (Kits), is a must see. You’ll find locally owned shops to browse, and some great little cafes as well. While you’re in Kits, be sure to check out Vancouver’s own men’s and women’s store, Plenty. It’s a Vancouver local company, and the in house brands are designed by Plenty’s own designers. I love going there to buy stylish pieces that won’t break the bank, and I know they are 100% unique to Vancouver.
Since I really recommend doing some shopping in Kits, you should also take a walk over to Kitsilano beach. One of Vancouver’s most popular, it’s a beautiful place to have a picnic, go for a walk, or even go for a swim.
Not far from Kitsilano beach is Jericho Beach. Jericho is just a beautiful, has sandy beaches, picnic tables and grass for kicking around a soccer ball (or whatever you feel like doing). You can spend all day in the Kits because there are so many options, including great places to eat! For breakfast, you must go to Café Zen, because they have the best benny in the city. Chewies Steam and Oyster bar, has a New Orleans style menu. I recommend the delicious Caesar drinks, and the southern fried chicken, so good it’s worth a second visit even if you’re trip to Vancouver is a short one. On the same street as Chewies, is another personal favorite of mine, called Abigail’s Party. It’s a small dark space, lit with mostly candles and is quite nice and intimate. Try to reserve ahead of time, since space is limited. I recommend the deep fried pickles as a delicious appetite, and the rest of the menu is sure to please!
Kits isn’t the only neighbourhood that has great stores and restaurants. Go to Vancouver’s historic Gastown. It’s also great for boutique shopping (though some are very overpriced), but in my opinion Gastown is better for dining and nightlife. When you are in Gastown, be sure to avoid East Hastings where it intersects with Main Street. That intersection is not a desirable part of the area. With that said, the rest of Gastown is beautiful. The cobble stone streets, and the looming trees are just an added bonus. I love Finche’s Café, Meat and Bread, Salt Tasting Room, Chambar, and my personal favorite location is the Alibi Room, boasting the best beer and wine selection in the city. While in Gastown, I recommend Guilt and Co, it’s a trendy place to go if you’re between 20 and 30 years old. There is live music, and a selection of board games to play. It’s a great way to meet new people in the city. Gastown is definitely a trendy, “hipster” part of the city, and has a really great energy about it…just don’t forget your skinny jeans and fedora!
Do you love vintage shopping as much as I do? Well then Main Street is a great little destination. In the area of the up and coming Mount Pleasant, Main Street is home to one of my favorite stores in Vancouver, Front and Company. Front and Co has a selection of vintage, used, and new clothing and accessories. Last time I visited this store I nabbed a gorgeous Marc Jacobs handbag for $60 and a beautiful pair of Frye boots. The staff is quite friendly and helpful, and the window displays are very instagrammable! After getting your fix from Front and Co, walk down to Umeboshi, a great little shoe store for men and women. Locally owned, Umeboshi carries a great selection of brands, a little high priced but sometimes the sales are quite good!
I visit North Vancouver to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge, as well as Grouse Mountain. Both are tourist destinations, but for a very good reason. The Suspension bridge is so much more than a bridge. After you cross the bridge itself, you will see the most amazing suspended paths that run from tree to tree. The trees themselves are hundreds of years old, and just to be in their presence will give such a sense of appreciation, whether or not you’re a nature enthusiast. A little further up from the Capilano Suspension Bridge is Grouse Mountain. Known for it’s grueling hike, you can opt out of that and take the gondola up to see some beautiful views and enjoy a beverage.
With all the great sights, shopping, nightlife, and food, in my opinion Vancouver remains one of the best destinations in Canada. It is one of the best cities to see the ocean, mountains, and skyscrapers with one shot of your digital camera, and you get that Canadian politeness to top it off!