As soon as we moved to Seattle I began researching good weekend road trips and we decided that Vancouver, BC would be our first road trip. The trip took much longer than anticipated because of the wait to cross the border. There are a few entry points to consider when driving from Seattle. Blaine is the busiest into Vancouver, so we avoided that one and crossed elsewhere. We referred to the Border Wait Times page in order to determine where was our best bet to cross quickest. However, the further east you go the shorter the wait, but you are then putting yourself further and further from Vancouver. So its a toss up!
In order to explore Vancouver the easiest we decided to stay in an ideal location in Vancouver. We love to not touch the car again once it is parked also, so walk-ability is important! We chose the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver because of the location and also we used World of Hyatt points to book. The hotel was very large, as was our room. Upon arrival we asked if they had any upgrades, but they had no availability. Instead they provided a cot at no charge. This is really helpful for our family of four to get a good sleep ;).
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
When we first arrived in Vancouver, before we even checked into our hotel, we drove to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. This park is only a 15-20 minute drive from Vancouver, depending on the traffic. Even though we were visiting on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, we were still surprised about how busy the park was. There were a handful of (paid) parking spots left, and a few large tour buses with large groups of people. Once inside the park it didn’t feel as busy as we’d expected since I suppose everyone was more spread out.
Admission to the park was not cheap whatsoever, but I do think it was worth it in the end. Adults were $50 CAD each, but luckily ages 6-12 were only $15 CAD and kids under 6 were free.
The park had more of an amusement park feel upon entering (in a good way). Everything was well labeled and was easy to navigate with the map. Within the park there are a few different things to see and experience. The first we did was walk across the actual suspension bridge. I would say this bridge may scare some people with a fear of heights. The bridge does sway a bit when you walk on it – but we all found it thrilling!
Once you are on the other side deeper into the forrest you can start to explore all the trees from the trails on the ground AND the ones up in the tree tops. At the beginning of the Treetops Adventure kids are given a chance to complete a scavenger hunt, and return when finished for a prize. We spent a good hour and a half wandering around on this side of the bridge. There are bathrooms and a snack stand on this side of the bridge as well.
Back on the side we parked on, there was also a Cliff Walk. This was an exciting walk along the cliff with some pretty dramatic drop offs. Some sections included “gated” or glass floors to walk out on where you can look down the cliff into the water. There was also a gift shop and a restaurant on this side of the bridge.
Stanley Park is a big park right smack in the middle of Vancouver. When I first put this park on our list of things to do, I really had no idea how big it actually was. I read up on things to do in the park with kids and found this article by Marcie in Mommyland to be very informative: Things to do in Stanley Park with Kids . There is just so much to do that we couldn’t possibly do it all in one day.
So I decided to try something completely new, and a little bit scary for us. I decided that now that my seven year old could ride a bike it was time to break out of our comfort zone. I convinced my family that we would rent bikes and bike around the entire park! This is a very popular thing to do when people are visiting Stanley Park in Vancouver, therefore there are many options of places to rent bikes. We chose to rent bikes at Spokes Bicycle Rentals. They have great reviews and are in a perfect location to get to the park easily! When you rent the bike (with a wide variety to choose from) you also get a helmet and a lock.
Riding around Stanley Park in Vancouver is a perfect ride for beginners. The path is all paved and well marked. You will come across some very narrow sections, but nothing we couldn’t handle as VERY amateur bikers. The path we took takes you along the Stanley Park seawall. The views you will see are awesome, and there are many spots where we stopped to take them in! We really took our time on this ride, even getting off for a good hour to hang by the beach. It probably took us close to 4-5 hours to get around, but someone who doesn’t stop as much, or has less hungry kids would make it around MUCH faster haha!
Like I’ve mentioned before we have been to WAY too many aquariums (and zoos while I am at it). But it is a good way to spend some time with toddlers and young kids. Unlike zoos, I find aquariums to be perfect in that the fish don’t really hide. You can also just get up so close to those tanks you can even lick them if you so choose (not that my kids would… psych!).
This aquarium was a perfect way to spend the morning of our last day in Vancouver. We spent just under 2 hours here and saw it all! My kids loved seeing the seals and walrus’s the most (or maybe that was me).
Just over a bridge in Vancouver you will find Granville Island. We stopped here on our way out of Vancouver to see what the fuss was all about. First of all parking is next to terrible, so be patient and a spot will come with time. The island has a huge market which is full of crafts, tons of amazing quick service food places and farmers markets selling fruits, veggies, and other food! We spent a while wandering through the aisles of the public market grabbing goodies to snack on. The kids also discovered a giant building with all kids stores inside of it (Kids Market).
Best sushi I’ve ever had. Read more on my full blog review of Miku Vancouver!
All four of us love going out for dim sum. After hearing Vancouver has some of the best we couldn’t pass trying out a restaurant. We chose a restaurant with good reviews that would also be right in Vancouver and close to our hotel. Dinesty was also a good choice because they accept reservations. As usual, we ordered way too much food, and ate it all, but at least were happy we had plans to walk a lot when we left! The dim sum here was excellent!
Medina opens at 9am on a weekend, and when we arrived by 8:40 there was already a big line waiting outside. This is how we know a place is going to be good. We just made it in for the first seating! The place was packed and the service was great. We ordered a few things to share, including a few of these amazing waffles they had on their menu. Medina Cafe did not disappoint for a yummy brunch that fueled us up for our big bike ride!
We came here based on a recommendation from someone who suggested we visit the English Bay location. They were closed that night because they were hosting an event, so we walked to a location closer to our hotel. We waited about an hour for a table, the place was mobbed, so we were thinking it had to be good. But unfortunately we were very disappointed. Honestly the drinks were great, but the food was not great and was a half a step up from Cheesecake Factory… Won’t be returning!
When you visit Granville Island there is no reason whatsoever to eat food at sit down restaurant. We made this mistake so you don’t have to. The food here was decent, the view was cool, and we have nothing against the restaurant. But what we should have done was eat more in the public market!! Next time…
Another place with a long, long line outside. Wasn’t looking for gelato, but we found it! And we visited two nights in a row. =)
In an attempt to see if Vancouver had as amazing croissants as we had in Montreal we looked all over for a bakery. We came across Purebread! The croissants did not compare, but they had TONS of other amazing options. This was a great place for a quick breakfast (or dessert)!
In two days we sure saw a lot of Vancouver. Considering how close it is to our new home in Seattle we will definitely be back to explore more. The next trip we make to Vancouver will have to be around Christmas. We would love to see the lights at the suspension bridge park!