Vancouver, Canada's Heights and Highlights
Back in January, I took a birthday trip to ski Whistler with some friends. The mountain was a mind-blowing ski experience (I’ve added a few pictures from the ski portion of that trip to the gallery below too). In a separate post, I talk about actually skiing Whistler. But in the continued spirit of trying to maximize my time on nearly every trip I take, I drove back to Vancouver early on a Sunday after 3 full days of skiing to check out that city. We got into the city mid-morning, so we stopped at Wildebeest for brunch. The spot was trendy with great service and even better food. We ordered one of the Eggs Benedicts and the Beest Brunch - both were made with fresh ingredients and filling! I’d highly recommend checking this spot out. After eating, I had about 6 hours of sunlight left to drop my bags and explore the area. There are a few suspension bridges in the area, and being a lover of heights, I made the Capilano Suspension bridge my first stop. There’s a free shuttle bus that runs to and from Capilano and stops at 3 different locations in downtown Vancouver. It took about 20 minutes to get out to the bridge and then 10 minutes or so to buy a ticket and walk into the park area.
Tickets to enter the park were $54 and with that you get access to explore the entire park including the bridge, a few overlooks, and a path through the gigantic trees both on the ground and up in the trees with various treehouse style pathways 40-50 feet off the ground. You can purchase these tickets online or at the park once you get there - the price doesn’t vary. The park is a beautifully preserved piece of nature in Vancouver that mixes human engineering (pathways through the trees, the cliff walk and the bridge) with natural beauty. There are many informational signs around the park that explain the value of preserving the area as well as how they ensure the park is cared for and not harmed by any of the attractions or human traffic. Despite the park being popular, it is a very peaceful experience to walk among the trees and you can find plenty of spots throughout where there are no other human beings insight. If you prefer to have a more solitary experience, I would recommend going during the week, since like most places, the weekend attracts more people. During the winter holidays, the park also has a “Canyon Lights” display with lights strung throughout the trees that light up as soon as the sun fades - it’s a bit like a fairytale. As a quick side note, I have to mention, that it will be very likely you will see some people there who only want a pretty picture. It was quite entertaining watching some girls try to strut out on to the bridge for the perfect shot in heels, short skirts and tight clothes that were definitely too light for the 40 degree weather in January. This park has so much to offer, so even if you are interested in capturing the perfect shot, take a minute to enjoy the nature around you too!
But I digress, so back to the bridge! The bridge is 140 meters long and 70 meters above the water. When you walk out on it, you can feel the easy sway of the bridge with each step you take. As someone who loves heights, it was a thrilling experience to feel the expected movement with every step I took, combined with the unexpected movement from the other people on the bridge. It is very safe, so even if you don’t love the thrill of heights, you can feel comfortable walking across this bridge. Before I walked across though, I veered right towards the cliff walks. The cliff walk runs along the river and sticks out from the granite that extends up from the river bed, creating a canyon that the river runs through. According to the various informational plaques, there are 16 anchor points in the cliff that support the walk. There are a few picture opp moments along the walk where you’re out on the edge and if you take the picture just right, it looks like you’re hovering over the canyon. After the cliff walk, I made my way back to the suspension bridge and crossed over to the other side of the canyon. The far side has the treetop adventures and the living forest displays. Naturally, I raced over to the treetop adventures (fellow Star Wars fans, this totally makes you feel like you’re in the Ewok’s home - if you know, you know) and climbed up to the top to walk through the towering Douglas-fir trees and get a bird’s eye view. The coolest part of the experience is that all the structures they built around the trees do not actually harm the trees - there are 7 suspension bridges throughout the towering trees and not one tree has a nail or bolt that penetrates it’s trunk. Every structure is supported with a compression system that specifically allows the trees to continue to grow naturally without any damage. Some of these trees are 110 feet tall and you can barely make out the top. After walking all throughout the park (which took about 2 hours), I hopped on the free shuttle back downtown to see the coastal walk during sunset.
Stanley park is another beautiful park in Vancouver that faces the Burrard Inlet. If you start at English Bay beach, near the Cactus Club (which is actually a cool restaurant/bar on the water and I would definitely recommend stopping in for a drink) and start walking north, it would take about an hour to walk along the entire coast and make it to Lion’s Gate Bridge at the north side of the park. I didn’t have a ton of time before sunset, so I walked about 20-30 minutes north to the Second Beach Swimming Pool and then turned around to perch on one of the seawalls overlooking the water. It was a beautiful spot to watch the sunset and topping off the experience with a drink at the Cactus Club was ideal. By this time it was about 8pm and I opted to find a quick take out place for food and eat in my room because I had an early flight at 6am the next morning.
I can’t say I feel like I got to see as much of Vancouver as I wanted, however, with the 8 hours I had to spend in the city, I do feel like I was able to see a few of the key highlights that were worth fitting into the tight time frame.
Last thought to share is around hotels. I used booking.com and it was more expensive for just one person and one night than I would usually opt for in this situation (I paid $130 to stay at Sandman Suites Vancouver which would have been a good deal if I could split it between more people). Airbnbs in the area were also expensive, especially for one in the prime downtown location. I prioritized being in a central location downtown, so spent a little more on the hotel. If you’re traveling alone and want cheaper accommodations, I would recommend looking at the hostels in the area. If you’re able to travel with friends you could easily have fit 4 people into the room I stayed in.
Check out my Skiing Whistler post for details about the Whistler part of the trip!
For any questions about this trip or others, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on IG. We all find different favorites (or jewels) in each place we visit and I would love to hear from you about what you’ve experienced.