It’s been a dream of mine for years to venture west and explore the great pacific north west! Pictures of wild untouched coast lines, snowcapped mountains and deep rain forests captured my adventures heart. However, the prices of flights and lodging squashed that dream quickly and I put this trip on the back burner for years. When I got an email in September for a rt flight out of Charlotte to Vancouver for under $300, I didn’t even hesitate! I booked that flight for my birthday before I even asked my boss! (thanks Scotts Cheap Flights!)
First Stop: Vancouver, British Columbia
I flew into Vancouver on Friday around noon, after a delayed flight then a nearly missed connection, thanks American airlines. I always do my research on public transportation before I land in a new city, so if nothing else I can at least make my way from the airport to my hotel. Vancouver has a pretty nice public transportation system however it was sort of confusing to figure out the payment part. SOOO let me save you some confusion and $. A fare is $2.95 and grants you travel on busses for 90 mins, I was paying each time I switched busses before I saw someone reuse a ticket. I had gotten a Compass card to use but after my initial trip from the airport had yet to find anywhere to actually load it and their website doesn’t support US bank cards to reload online. I finally stumbled upon a load station on day two and got a day pass that allows you to travel all day for about $11.
I stayed at Coast Coal Harbor Hotel, nothing spectacular but great service, comfy bed and a nice deep tub which is always a plus after walking all day. After checking in and settling in for a little bit it was time to get started.
I had spent so much time planning for Seattle that I had barely given any thoughts as to what I would be doing in Vancouver. But thanks to Pinterest I quickly mapped out my weekend plans. A lot of what I really wanted to was outside of the city and just not feasible for a 2-day trip and in Jan due to weather conditions. It’s amazing how Vancouver has a temperate pretty warm winter with temps in the 40’s and just 30 mins outside of the city is a winter wonderland with several different ski resorts and 2hrs north is Whistler, a top ski resort and where the winter Olympics were held.
I started my first day super early with a trip on the bus into North Vancouver. Capilano suspension bridge and park is one of the top tourist attractions of the city and you will see it on every blog and tour website. Since it is so super popular its always busy and costs about $50 for an adult ticket. A much cheaper and way less congested version and more of a local hiking spot is Lynn Canyon. The paid option does offer some other attractions besides the bridge but I much prefer less crowded and more organic experience and Lynn Canyon delivered!!
This place is becoming more and more known so the trick is to get to the park as soon as it opens to enjoy the bridge and trails to yourself. I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina and didn’t think anything could top the beautiful mountains, waterfalls and forests of the Blue ridge mountains but this place takes a very close second to my top hiking adventures so far. Of course, the highlight of the park is the suspension bridge, I don’t mind heights or bridges but this was a little sketchy and it moves with every step!
I had gotten there early enough to be one of the first few people and was lucky enough to get some shots of an empty bridge which is not easy to do. I really wanted a picture of myself on an empty bridge but I couldn’t find a safe spot for my tripod for a self-portrait and when I did ask someone it was already getting kind busy.
After the bridge experience, I did a little hiking and all I could think about was Jurassic park and being in a jungle. It was so lush and green for being mid-January! Being form the south I’ve always loved the Spanish moss hanging from the oak trees but the moss hanging from the tress was so lovely and made my imagination run wild with stories of hobbits and adventures.
I made my way back into town and grabbed a bus to Granville Island, another highly rated Vancouver must see. Granville Island is a unique mix of restaurants, little shops, a children’s market as well as the main attraction, Granville Island Public Market. If you’ve followed me long enough you know my love of markets and their endless aisles and stalls full of local produce and trinkets. I actually stopped by here both days, mainly because it was so busy Saturday it was hard to enjoy and shop and I fell in love with Lees Donuts and needed a second helping ha-ha
I grabbed lunch from a Chinese spot the first time and found a nice spot on the water to enjoy until a seagull attacked me!! I didn’t even see him coming until he was on my head trying to grab my food! Not cool and I was not happy about my $15 of delicious food being wasted. On Sunday I grabbed and amazing bratwurst from the German food stall and it was so good and uncontaminated by a bird. Overall, I think the island itself is over hyped and too busy to really enjoy at least on a weekend.
I took a stroll down to China Town, it was super sketchy and passed quite a few homeless and being alone was a little uncomfortable at times. But I really enjoyed seeing the arch and enjoyed the Chinese Garden that was free and open to the public. I also spotted the world record holder for skinniest building in the world. It’s not marked or has any signs so you just have to look it up on apple maps, it just said “world’s smallest building” but I think the building sign says it’s a lawyer’s office.
My final stop in Vancouver almost didn’t happen because I was tired and the four-hr. time difference was kicking my butt! But I motivated myself and hopped on a bus towards Stanley park. Another highly recommended Vancouver sight but this one is truly a gem and a 100% must see spot. I regret not spending more time here and hopefully I will be back soon to explore the 1000+ acres.
There is sooo much to do within the park and I barely touched the surface of its beauty. I walked about 2.5 maybe 3 miles of its seawall and took about a million photos. Around every turn and switchback was something even more beautiful. I wish I had stared earlier in the day because while beautiful the fog started rolling in and you couldn’t see the bay or watch the entire sunset. I unfortunately didn’t have time or daylight to see the totem poles or all of the beaches but I’ll be back!