Summer Road Trip Series: 24 Hours In Vancouver

Canada is the world’s second largest country, covering 9,984,670 square miles. For the curious and adventurous traveler, Canada’s huge diversity of landscape means a huge diversity of cultural experiences, from exploring the cobbled, European-like streets of Montreal to gourmet kayaking in the wilds of British Columbia. Canada is a nature lover and sportsman’s dream destination, a vast, green wilderness where anglers pull salmon out of raging rivers and moose and maple leaves are national symbols. And there isn’t a city in Canada where the “green” of the country’s forests and mountains hasn’t seeped into the way of life more than Vancouver, British Columbia.

Vancouver is nicknamed North America’s most “livable” city. Once a far-flung, fur-trading outpost, and barely 130 years old, Vancouver is a new city. And like many newer cities it’s known for embracing progressive ideas. In the 1960’s, Vancouver scrapped a major urban renewal scheme and is now the only North American center without an inner-city freeway. Pedestrian and bike-friendly planning, an emphasis on public space, and a commitment to use 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation within 20 years are all part of the green tide that makes the capital of British Columbia so appealing. It also makes the city of 600,000 a great place to visit. If you’ve got 24 hours in Vancouver, we’ve got 24 hours’ worth of fun to share with you.

Daylife

Le Marche St. George
Le Marche St. George

A day in Canada’s eco-friendly left coast capital begins with breakfast… or brunch? –it all depends on what time you arrive. With green shingles, antique windows and cherry trees blossoming outside, Le Marche St. George offers intimate, rustic food that coolly matches its intimate, rustic decor. If you’re craving something savory and delicious, try their Smoked Turkey, Fig, and Brie with Basil crepe. The Templeton is another can’t-miss brunch spot; located in the heart of downtown, it specializes in hearty and locally sourced diner food: cage-free eggs, handmade specialty sausages, and naturally smoked bacon.

Other popular brunch picks:

Parks, Beaches, and Green Spaces

Queen Elizabeth Park
Queen Elizabeth Park

Vancouver is best experienced outdoors, so get the lay of the land by exploring the city’s downtown peninsula or one of it’s many parks and outdoor attractions. Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, and the VanDusen Botanical Garden are all beloved attractions. Vancouver has nine city beaches, and as soon as summer arrives, the seashore is the place to be. Popular Beaches include Third Beach, a local hangout that also has a bike rental shop, Kitsilano Beach, which, with its volleyball nets, basketball courts and roller-bladders, is Vancouver’s equivalent of California’s Venice Beach, and English Bay Beach, the city’s main downtown strand.

Museums

Vancouver Art Museum Photo Credit: Sergei Bachlakov
Vancouver Art Museum Photo Credit: Sergei Bachlakov

Despite its luxury condos and renovated west-side neighborhoods, Vancouver still has a small-town feel. There are no busy, LA-style cloverleaf interchanges, and the capital has an easygoing, breezy image. At the same time, it’s a global city, a place of proud multiculturalism and foreign investment. The balance between provincial city and global metropolis is best represented by the Vancouver Art Gallery. The museum is an old, retrofitted courthouse, but it hosts the sort of impressive national and international exhibits seen in major museums in New York or Paris. Other museums in Vancouver include the Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Vancouver.

Shopping and Exploring

Shopping District on Robson Street. Photo Credit: Deymos.HR
Shopping District on Robson Street. Photo Credit: Deymos.HR

One of the best and easiest ways to experience all of the attractions that Vancouver has to offer is to buy a 24 Hour Hop-On, Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour Pass. The convertible, clear-top buses circle through the city’s many cultural districts and points of interest. The pass also guarantees you a free ferry transfer to nearby Granville Island. The bus stops in Chinatown, historic Gastown, trendy and cosmopolitan Yaletown –think quaint bars with outdoor patios where bartenders aren’t bartenders… they’re mixologists – and Robson Street, the city’s most famous shopping district. If you only have 24-hours in a city, the last thing you want to do is spend two hours on a park bench trying to decipher the maps in a guidebook. The 24-Hour Hop-on, Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour lets you explore without out the fear of getting lost.

Nightlife

gastown-district
Gastown District

From locally-sourced restaurants to a burgeoning craft beer and gastropub scene, Vancouver has a world-class selection of places to eat. You’ll find white table cloth restaurants serving sustainable halibut and salmon paired with specialty Canadian craft beer flavored spruce tips next to Asian bistros selling bowls of fragrant, spicy broth, tofu, and hand-pulled noodles. From Indian restaurants to all-you-can-eat sushi joints, many of Vancouver’s best ethnic restaurants are located on Commercial Drive. Operating for over 20 years, Vij’s is widely considered the best Indian restaurant in the city (sadly, it doesn’t accept reservations), while Tojo’s is one of chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain’s favorite sushi joints. There’s no shortage of great places to eat in Vancouver. It all depends on what you’re in the mood for, and how much you’re willing to pay for it.

Other popular dinner picks:

  • Heirloom – Vegetarian restaurant with a local and world conscious initiative
  • La Mezcaleria – Mexican restaurant specializing in traditional fare and high-end tequilas
  • Craft Beer Market – Upscale pub grub offering Canada’s largest selection of craft beers
  • Dockside Restaurant –Casual fine dining seafood restaurant with an outdoor patio overlooking the water
  • Seasons in the Park -Often billed as the chicest outdoor dining experience in Vancouver

So where do you go when the sun sets in Vancouver? It all depends on what your idea of entertainment is. Bars, clubs, theaters, a symphony orchestra, the largest North American night market – Vancouver has it all.

Granville Street is Vancouver’s entertainment district. In the summer the street is closed to vehicles and becomes a pedestrian party zone, and like Duval St. in Key West or Bourbon St. in New Orleans, it’s a free-form, anything goes party scene. If live music venues are your thing, check out The Morrissey, The Bottleneck, or the Commodore Ballroom. The pubs and clubs, however, are only a small part of Vancouver’s entertainment scene. The Stanley Theater, a landmark on South Granville since 1930, offers an impressive selection of Broadway musicals and 20th century plays, while the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra has been entertaining music lovers with Mozart and Beethoven since the Orpheum Theater opened in 1927.

Night markets are a staple in Asian countries, but you’re hard-pressed to find them in North American cities. Vancouver, however, is the exception. Located in the heart of the city’s Chinatown district, Vancouver’s night market is open on the weekend from mid-May through September. From Asian handcrafts to food stalls and roadside vendors, a 24-hour trip to Vancouver isn’t complete without a stroll (and late evening snack) through the night market.

Vancouver is a vibrant city that offers something for everyone. Whether you choose to fill your day sightseeing and eating at local hotspots, or dancing on Granville Street, spend one day in Vancouver and you’ll quickly realize that 24 hours just isn’t enough.