One of my first visits to the Pacific Northwest included a road trip with Jared from Seattle to Canada. We made a stop in Vancouver to drink from every local coffee shop, soak up the late summer sun at Stanley Park, and indulge in food options. The city won me over in less than 24 hours with it's unique balance of mountains and sea, urban diversity and friendly personalities. (Seriously, have you ever met a Canadian you didn't like?)
I've returned a few times since that trip 5 years ago and each time, I lean on locals for recommendations and to find new gems. This most recent travel with my friend Laura was no exception. It was a quick 36 hours but we were still able to see and do a lot without feeling exhausted from trying to squeeze it all in.
Maybe the best tip for visiting Vancouver? Bring your walking shoes. We parked the car and let it sit for the entire trip. It's easy to explore the cities unique neighborhoods by foot and you'll make room for the next meal.
Where to Spend Time Outdoors:
Stanley Park: This urban public park is one of Vancouver's most popular destinations. It covers over 1,000 acres and features beaches, trails, cultural and historical landmarks, and ever-blooming gardens. This green sanctuary filled with wildlife and century old trees can keep you occupied for a full day. Make it a point to visit the nine totem poles that show the beautiful artistry of the First Nations. From there you can follow the Seawall, the paved 5.5-mile pathway that encircles the park for unmatched views of the city and mountains.
English Bay: Despite the chilling temperatures, I began each morning with a run along the water that wrapped west of downtown and over to English Bay. The laid-back atmosphere, beaches, and palm trees reminded me of California. Stop for play and photos at the public art installation 'A-maze-ing Laughter'. A-maze-ing Laughter consists of 14 enormous bronze statues – all in silly poses – of a shirtless guy laughing hysterically. Beijing-based artist Yue Minjun created them in 2009 for the Vancouver Biennale exhibition
Where to Eat:
Medina Cafe - http://www.medinacafe.com/
780 Richards St. - 604-879-3114
This Vancouver brunch spot is "is a purveyor of fine Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, connoisseur-savvy coffee, and sweet sustenance." Arriving anytime after 9am will ensure a wait time but it's worth it. The portions are large and I had already tasted their popular waffles so I opted for a few sides; an over easy egg, avocado toast and a side of hummus. I love trying new restaurants, but the appetizing menu makes this a repeat destination.
1025 Mainland St - 778-379-8226
The original Tacofino truck on Vancouver Island was so popular, the owners decided to bring the drool-worthy tacos to the big city. I couldn't deviate from my classic order of fish tacos; fresh ahi and fried cod. There are multiple burrito and taco bars around the city as well as food trucks to purchase from. I'm pretty sure if I lived here I would have at least one of their tacos a day.
MeeT in Gastown - http://www.meetonmain.com/
12 Water Street - 604-688-3399
MeeT is a vegan comfort food restaurant that is perfect for the health conscious, or food sensitive traveler. Our table started with a round of poutine; fries topped with savory cashew miso gravy, house feta,
and mozza and finished with scallions. For the main meal, I chose the noodley thai dish (rice noodles, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, marinated organic tofu and broccoli - tossed in almond Thai sauce) that I couldn't finish at the table but absolutely demolished once we got home.
Best Coffee Shops:
Revolver - http://revolvercoffee.ca/home/
325 Cambie St - 604 558 4444
This was one of my first visits to a third wave coffee shop. I remember being nervous about not comprehending their menu and not knowing what to order. Jared ordered first and I followed his lead. His passion for good coffee was so evident that I knew I would like whatever he got. Revolver has a sweet, hardworking and passionate staff that rarely get a break due to it's popularity and central location in Gastown. My friend and I popped in post lunch for an afternoon pick me up and to get some work done.
Note: If you're sensitive to noise, this isn't the best coffee shop for you. It seems to always be full of people meeting up and working. Also, there are no outlets, so charge before you arrive.
Matchstick Coffee- https://matchstickyvr.com/
639 E 15th Ave- 604-558-0639
There's something about a cappuccino and an almond croissant in the morning that gives you optimism for the rest of the day. Matchstick offers both in a clean, bright, elegant space. The baristas are extra friendly and t's a great hangout spot with friends or a place to put your headphones on and get work done. Before leaving, buy a bag of beans and a chocolate chip cookie to go.