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Late November is not the time most travelers decide to say “Hey, I think I’ll head up to Vancouver!” It’s known to be one of the rainiest places on this continent, even beating out Seattle; Vancouver averages 161 days per year of rain! However, Vancouver can be beautiful at any time of year.
For those of you who don’t know me, I lived in the Pacific Northwest (in Seattle) for about 3 years. During that time, I developed a sort of morbid fascination with the rain. It’s soft and contemplative. It helps you clear away all of the thoughts racing through your mind. And it can actually be quite beautiful, as long as you have the right rain gear. Seattle and Vancouver are two of the lushest cities I’ve ever seen; they are completely filled with greenery.
So, if you happen to find yourself in Vancouver during some rainy days like I did, here is how I spent a great weekend there.
Saturday Morning: The Arrival
Ohhhh boy. As soon as we touched down, we got a taste of that dreary Pacific Northwest weather. We knew we were in for it.
Unfortunately, neither bae or I could find our umbrellas at home, and neither of us had rainboots. That’s a mistake! Make sure if you head to Vancouver that you have some seriously waterproof boots. I had forgotten what it was like to walk around with wet socks all day… it’s nasty. Here are some good waterproof boot options that will work out well:
Breakfast at Granville Island Public Market
Vancouver has a great public transit system, so you can head right from the airport to the center of town on the light rail. Our first stop was Granville Market, a giant public market that sits right at the waterfront. They have a large collection of shops and farmers market style eateries. We had breakfast and walked around, our luggage in tow.
WHATEVER YOU DO, if you’re into desserts at all, stop at The Lemon Square and try some of the most amaaaazing lemon bars you will ever have in your life. I’m not sure what they put in them, but one of the ingredients must be crack. I think I awkwardly walked past their booth about 5 times to get a sample before caving and buying a box of lemon bars to take home with me.
From Granville Public Market, it’s fun to take the water taxi / aquabus across the water to get to the real core of downtown. It saved us about a half hour walk in the pouring rain at that point.
Ooh. Right when you get of the water taxi and enter Yaletown, you start walking up a hill. There is this v. cozy and adorable handcrafted gin distillery there called Long Table Distillery. We stopped and grabbed a few drinks to get that faux alcohol warmth flowing before heading onwards.
Walking the Core Neighborhoods
A whole day could be spent wandering around the pretty neighborhoods of downtown Vancouver. From Yaletown, you can make a loop, walking along the shores at English Bay, then up a bit through the impressive Stanley Park. Then you can make it to Coal Harbour by lunch.
Coal Harbour was my favorite in the downtown sector. You walk along this peaceful seawall trail and see the marina. Or you can walk down Robson street past a variety of shops. Cardero’s is a good waterfront seafood lunch option for $$$ travelers, or Kintaro Ramen is a popular place for a chiller bowl of ramen.
In the downtown area around Granville St, you could do some shopping, see some art (there was an ice sculpture exhibit when we went, so that’s what we did), visit Canada Place to try the Flyover Canada ride, or take a walk through Chinatown.
Dinner and Drinks in Gastown
After taking our luggage back to the Airbnb, we wanted to end up in Gastown (I don’t know who made more immature jokes about that name, me or Mark) by happy hour, because we made fancy dinner plans at L’Abbatoir, which was recommended in Frommer’s guide to Vancouver. It was prettttty good. I ordered a steak with smoked potatoes, and here it is:
It was extremely flavorful.
Best part of the meal was actually dessert. They brought out this rich dark chocolate passionfruit ganache with banana ice cream, chocolate crisps, and… this fizzy cilantro powder, which sounds kinda weird, but it was awesome.
Oh and then we stopped at Revel Room, a cocktail/piano bar around the corner with live jazz music, for the perfect end to day 1.
Day 1 Lesson: Get a Car
I think we spent $45 this day on cabs (hauling our luggage to the airbnb, going back to Gastown for dinner, and then cabbing home again) and $30 on public transport (light rail, bus to Granville, water taxi). And we walked most of the day! I had thought it would be easy to get around, but everything is sooo spread out, and also, they don’t have Uber or Lyft in Vancouver. Check out the ratings of local cab companies: they all have about 1.5 stars! The cabbies have a bit of a monopoly, so I guess they don’t have to offer great customer service.
Anyhow, we realized the next day that we could get a car for about $30 a day (CAD), which was a no brainer, especially since we planned to head further away from the city centre (ooh i said centre!) the next day.
Sunday: Exploring Nature at Capilano Suspension Bridge
On day 2, the rain stopped. We got in our newly acquired rental vehicle and headed up to Capilano Suspension Bridge. What a must-see. When you arrive, you walk across this giant suspension bridge that hangs 70m over a rushing river gorge. The bridge sways back and forth with every step, and of course there are a few wisecrackers intentionally shaking the bridge. But man, is the view worth it.
Then, on the other side, you can partake in the Treetops Adventure, which involves a series of walkways built into the tree canopy:
The other major part of the attraction is a cliff walk, with amazing feats of nature AND engineering. First of all, you’re on a tiny steel bridge cantilevered off of a cliff face.
The walk is beautiful. There are trees whose giant roots are climbing up and down the cliff face in search of water. Plus beautiful rock formations chipped away over thousands of years
All in all, a great way to spend most of a day.
Other Nature Things: Stanley Park and Grouse Mountain
We hear Grouse Mountain is another must-see when you’re in the Capilano area, but it was closed during our visit! Thus, sadly, I’ve got nothing for you about that. Go and tell me how it is?
Instead, we thought Stanley Park deserved more attention, so we walked along the seawall before heading to dinner.
Dinner at Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba
Bae has an affinity for Japanese food, so when nothing else is planned for dinner, we often end up finding the best Japanese food in any given location. Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba was definitely worth the visit. If you’ve never had mazesoba, it’s a form of brothless ramen. This restaurant’s dish included chewy noodles, spicy minced pork and chashu, an egg yolk, scallions, seaweed, and minced garlic. You mix it all together and the egg yolk mixed with pork helps to create a thick and flavorful sauce. Dang, I wish I had taken a picture, because I’m betting it’s hard to get the full effect without seeing (or better yet, eating) this!
Why Visit Vancouver?
All in all, we had a jam-packed weekend in Vancouver. Visit Vancouver both for its cosmopolitan city center and its access to amazing nature. It’s hard to be disappointed with so many things to do. We tried to jam all of the important stuff into two days, but you could certainly take an extra day to really explore the sights on this itinerary.
I’m Renee Hyde and I’ve been a digital nomad freelance writer since 2012. So far I’ve visited 60+ countries and counting! On this blog I share tips about dreamy travel destinations, travel hacks, ways to work remotely and travel, and advice for living your best nomadic life!