When I was planning my road trip through British Columbia and Banff National Park, I could not decide where to start. I haven’t seen much of Washington state besides Seattle so I thought it might be a good place to start. But in the end, with only one week off from work, I decided to stick strictly to Canada and started my trip in Vancouver with my sister in tow.
And I’m so happy I did because there is SO much to do in and around Vancouver!
Where We Stayed: An Airbnb on Alberni Street in downtown
Our Airbnb was in a fabulous location in downtown Vancouver. It was about a 15 minute walk to anywhere we wanted to go. While our Airbnb was absolutely amazing in the end, it was a little sketchy at first.
Our host didn’t have any reviews which made me a little nervous. I also could not get information out of her. A week from our stay I asked her for the address and info about how to get keys and it was like pulling teeth to get her to tell us. Then when we arrived in Vancouver, the information in her texts had changed a little and we found out about an hour later after texting with our host that it was actually her husband texting us! Then when we arrived at the Airbnb, there was music BLASTING in the apartment. I was SURE we were going to get Taken and have to call Liam Neeson.
After lots of pep talks with my sister about bravery and putting a barricade of furniture against the door, we finally got to sleep. This was all at 2am Vancuver time by the way meaning coming from NY I had been up about 24 hours!!
But in the end our stay was amazing and the host bought us snacks and drinks which were a huge bonus so they’ll be getting a great review. You can read my sister’s version of our Airbnb here.
DAY 1: Sea Plane & Stanley Park
For this entire trip, I tried not to make too many plans. I had a rough idea of things I wanted to do but wanted to plan most of it when I arrived. So day 1 in Vancouver, we just started walking!
We walked along the beautiful waterfront of Coal Harbour which has tons of restaurants, shops and gorgeous mountain and city scenery. I noticed tons of sea planes taking off and landing right in the harbor so we decided to take a look at how much it would cost to take a ride, something we’ve ALWAYS wanted to do.
We ended up doing a 20 minute flight over the city and North Vancouver for $119 CAD, so roughly $100 each in USD. It was well worth it! There were about 9 people in our plane and I got to sit in the cockpit with the pilot. It was so cool not only hearing his commentary about what was below us but also hearing the chatter among all the pilots in the sky!
If you’re looking to splurge in Vancouver, I HIGHLY recommend taking a flight.
Next we walked through the harbour to Stanley Park. We walked all through the park along the trails to a look out point where we had great views of North Vancouver. We didn’t see many people walking the trails in the park but there were tons of tour buses at this look out point. There’s a gift shop, cafe and ice cream shop so it’s definitely a popular place for tours to stop. The views are great!
After the look out point, we walked along the water to get back to downtown Vancouver. Stanley Park is HUGE! It took up most of our day to walk around. We were never tired of the views from the park!
But because we’re New Yorkers, we just kept walking. I think we walked a total of 10 miles that day! We walked from the harbor to Gastown which locals told us was similar to New York’s SoHo district. There were tons of really cute stores, restaurants and bars along cobblestone streets. We checked Open Table and almost all of the restaurants were full so we found a place called Rogue that was able to seat us.
DAY 2: Capilano Suspension Bridge & Grouse Grind
Our goal for the trip was to stay on NYC time so we could be up early to beat the crowds and it made a huge difference! Our second morning in Vancouver we were up very early to head to the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
I know, I know this place is a tourist trap! It’s $40 a person to get in and it’s insanely crowded when Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is free. But some people had told us it was worth it so we gave it a shot.
Major Tip! Buy your tickets online. While they’re not cheaper online, we didn’t have to wait in the long ticket line when we arrived. We got there at 8 a.m. and with doors opening at 8:30, we were already the second in line! By the time the gates opened, there was a crew of about 40 people waiting to go in.
Caroline and I rushed to the suspension bridge to try and get on it without anyone else. We heard it can be sort of scary when little kids start jumping and shaking it. The bridge was cool but it wasn’t one of the highlights of our trip.
Inide the park there is also a tree top trek that has little suspension bridges among the trees and a cliffwalk which takes you out over the ravine.
We spent about an hour at the park and I don’t think we needed more time than that. It was definitely worth it to get up early and skip some of the crowds. I imagine with a lot of people there it would feel like Disney World! Oh and p.s., parking was $5.
After the bridge, we drove a couple miles up the road to Grouse Mountain. We heard it had a nice view of Vancouver from the top so we were going to take the gondola. At first I thought it was a ski mountain but I’m not actually sure it is. I think Grouse is actually just a gondola with a restaurant at the top!
While we were walking through the parking lot to the gondola, we started chatting with an Australian guy who said he was going to hike the Grind which is the trail to the top. He said it was hard but would only take about an hour. We saw tons of people entering the Grind trail so we thought, “If they can do it, we can do it!” So we bought waters at the Starbucks next to the gondola (becuae of course there is a Starbucks at the bottom of a gondola) and off we went.
When we entered the trail, this is what we saw…
And our legs did NOT know what they were in for.
The Grouse Grind is NOT easy. It is a stairmaster in the woods. Lots of stairs or climbing up rocks that basically are stairs. There are markers telling you how far you’ve gone and at the 1/4 mark, I thought Caroline was going to either turn around or kill me.
I had seen on Instagram that at the top of the hike there is a place you can enter your time so I was determined to get a good one. I kept thinking about how great the hike was for my butt and how badly I wanted a decent time so I was booking it. With Caroline being almost 5 inches shorter than me, her little legs could not keep up. The stairs are pretty far apart! Eventually we separated and went at our own paces. You can read her interpretation of our hike here!
We did the hike on a Sunday so the path was very crowded with tourists and locals. But Lululemon was also having a free barbeque at the top so lots of people were also doing the hike for the event. But the awesome part for us was we got a free beer and cheeseburger when we finally made it to the top. They also had really funny signs along the way to encourage hikers!
I made it to the top in about an hour and 10 minutes. I’m not in crazy good shape but I do frequent boot camp so it wasn’t awful but it was very hard. Thank god for the $10 gondola ride to the bottom! If you’re not a real big hiker, I think I would recommend the round trip on the gondola. The hike is straight through the woods so there aren’t any good views or anything to enjoy on the hike. It’s more of a workout than a sightseeing hike.
After the Grind, I had to take a nap! Then around 5:30pm we headed to English Bay to have dinner and watch the sunset. We were able to get a table at Milestones on their porch which had a nice view of the bay. And an adorable waitress named Sheila!
I am in love with Vancouver but I am especially in love with English Bay. After dinner there were tons of people on the beach waiting for the sunset. Some had picnic blankets and others were just sitting on giant logs. There were people kayaking and paddle boarding, biking and running. For someone who loves the sunset like me, it was a dream! I would go here every night if I lived in Vancouver.
Last Day: Breakfast at Forage
Because we were road tripping to Calgary we didn’t get a ton of time in Vancouver but we definitely made the most of it! Before hitting the road for Whistler, we had breakfast at Forage on Robson Street just a few blocks from our Airbnb. It was a farm to table spot with some of the fluffiest, most amazing pancakes I’ve ever had. Perfect fuel for our drive!
Things We Missed Out On: Vancouver Island
One place I really wanted to go while in Vancouver was Vancouver Island. I had seen beautiful photos online and figured I would just find out how to go there once I arrived in Vancouver. But it wasn’t as easy as I thought. I couldn’t figure out which was the best area to go to, if I should bring the rental car or not and if it could be done in a day. So it’s definitely something to research before you go to Vancouver! I am definitely planning to go back some day and check it out.
Overall, Vancouver may be my new favorite city in the world. It is such a livable city with picture perfect mountain views from everywhere and when Donald Trump is elected in November, I will definitely be moving there!