I grew up going to Vancouver BC with my family for none other than good Chinese food and the Asian grocery stores. Over the years we’ve visited pretty much all the tourist spots in Vancouver BC, Victoria, and even the east side of Canada. (I love Montreal!) Still missing Banff though. Now that I live in the Seattle area, day trips are totally doable and allow us to visit without overnight accommodations or taking time off work. Since my birthday landed on a weekday this year Jared and I decided to spend a day in Vancouver BC over the weekend. Here’s a peek into what we did!
Travel to Vancouver BC: Earlier is always better. We started driving at 7:30 AM and the roads were clear, despite it being the prime weekend to see the tulip fields in Skagit Valley. (Photos from my trip there last year here.) We made it through the border crossing in less than 10 minutes! You can also take Bolt Bus from Seattle to Vancouver BC but I highly recommend driving for ease. Tip: If you don’t have international data, you can download a local map on Google Maps. It will still give you turn by turn navigation and recalculate if you make a wrong turn. (I have childhood memories of roadtrips where my mom would read the MapQuest directions on printed paper while my dad drove. Omg.)
Morning: Before heading into Vancouver BC, you pass through Richmond which has endless options for dim sum. There are some really popular chains but the wait times for Saturday mornings can be really crazy. A family friend suggested Empire Seafood Restaurant, a slightly less popular spot, so we tried our luck. Empire is across from Kirin (where I originally wanted to go) and there’s free garage parking. The wait was almost half an hour but it went by pretty fast! I highly recommend ordering the fried taro pastry with duck filling. Sooo good. (Sorry for the half eaten dim sum but we were hungry okay?)
Instead of morning coffee, we decided to get bubble tea because I had talked up the bubble tea in Canada a lot. We took advantage of our parking and just traveled on foot. Luckily we stumbled upon Happy Lemon one block away! We had taro milk tea which was so so good. (Taro fans, can’t you tell?) It actually tasted like real taro instead of that fake purple powder stuff we’re used to.
Exploring: We drove a short 30 minutes away to Granville Island which isn’t actually an island but rather a peninsula. If you love arts, food, and a good farmers market you definitely have to stop by. There are plenty of little shops with fun trinkets and your general assortment of things you don’t need (but want). For instance, the Granville Island Broom Co. always makes me want to buy an expensive broom just because they remind me of Harry Potter. The public market building reminds me of Pike Place and has a ton of amazing looking food.
Lunch: Honestly, we were so full from dim sum that we weren’t even hungry enough for lunch but we wanted to try out at least one AYCE sushi restaurant. We settled on Tomokazu Japanese Restaurant simply because of the cheap lunch price. Despite not being too hungry I’m glad we didn’t go for dinner because we wouldn’t have eaten much more. For two of us, it cost us less than $20 USD. So crazy! You order off a paper menu and it really is all you can eat, although they are strict about wasting and leftovers. Surprisingly the sashimi was great quality! I should’ve taken a picture.
Other (Japanese) food suggestions I received: Sushi Itoga, Ajisai, Guu, Marutama, and Ramen Danbo. Definitely planning on trying some of these in the future!
Afternoon: After lunch we drove through Robson Street to see how crowded it was. The street parking is plentiful but you have to get there early as it does fill up fast. We also saw a lot of chains that we can shop at in Seattle so rather than fight to find parking, we headed to Gastown. If we hadn’t just gotten back from London where much of the shopping areas are made up of similar chains, we probably would have stopped to shop. But time is tight when you’re there for a day!
Stores to check out: Meadow Gifts & Apparel, Roden Gray, Orling & Wu
Now for my most favorite part of Vancouver…Stanley Park! It’s a huge public park that has amazing views of the skyline, snow covered mountains, the harbour and English Bay, and Lions Gate Bridge. Regardless of what activities you do in the park or where you go to eat, I highly recommend doing a drive through the park. It doesn’t take too long and you get to see all the different views from all sides of the park. They have horse drawn tours that let you on and off if that’s your type of thing!
We opted to through the park and stop at certain viewpoints and just hop out for a little bit, then get back in and drive to the next stop. Parking isn’t free in the lots but I think you can park for free in some areas of the park. Don’t quote me on that…but anyway we decided to spend less time in each stop so we didn’t have to deal with parking. It’s much harder to walk the park on foot so this suited our short schedule.
Next time I really want to rent bikes and ride along the seawall! I’m hoping to go back in the summer so that the sun is (relatively) guaranteed to be out. There are so many beautiful stops along the way like the light house and underneath the bridge. This is definitely a must for anyone who loves scenic views.
Travel back to the US: The sunset on the way back was gorgeous. Also, it’s fun to visit the Duty Free store! The deals on makeup aren’t that great but liquor is definitely cheap here, especially with the current exchange rate. Since we skipped dinner, we decided to stop at Boomer’s in Bellingham (where Jared went to college). It was kind of nostalgic and fun to eat there since our lives are now so different than when we were long distance in college. By the way, Jared got the monthly special kimchi burger. It must’ve been really good because I didn’t get to try it :)
I’m already thinking about my next trip to Canada! Luckily we have plenty of sights left to see. Victoria is definitely on my list now because Jared’s never been and I’d love to explore it with him. Let me know if you have any Canada recommendations!