When visiting a big city, we often expect a lot of concrete and tar, pollution and crime. Vancouver, British Columbia has all of that too, but it offers so much more — all accessible via public transportation. Vancouver is a beautiful city of culture, architecture, and nature.
Visitors who arrive to Vancouver by sea are welcomed by a picturesque skyline, the lovely Lions Gate suspension bridge, and the iconic Inukshuk monument. The Lions Gate bridge, built in 1938, is beautiful. It’s also a challenge for cruise ships, as many of them are only barely able to pass under it. Our ship, with its 17 decks, is a Celebrity Solstice class ship, the largest of the cruise ships that can take on this bridge. There are many ships with 19 decks and more that cannot visit this beautiful city.
Upon arrival, we were hungry. We unpacked at Hotel EXchange, not far Canada Place and the Port of Vancouver, and went in search of sushi. We found many restaurants but settled on Momo Sushi. We ordered their smallest party tray, shared it, and were completely and pleasantly stuffed.
We saw the shape of the Inukshuk all over Vancouver — especially in gift shops and on t-shirts. We wondered about the significance of such a figure, so we did some research. Today, Inukshuk is an Inuit figure of friendship and welcome. Traditionally, however, these figures, made from rough stone stacked into the shape of a human, were used primarily as navigational aids to mark a turn in a journey or where a cache of food or supplies may have been stored.
Granville Island is a fun place to visit in Vancouver, and the most fun way to get there is the Fossil Creek Ferries. For less than twenty bucks, we bought passage on these cute little tugboat-looking taxies for a whole day. We hopped on and off, visiting the markets, shops, and restaurants of Granville island, as well as a maritime museum and science museum, Olympic Village, upscale Yaletown, and Chinatown.
Easy walking distance from the Port of Vancouver is Gas Town, home of the world famous steam clock. The neighborhood is named for Gassy Jack, original settler and saloon keeper in this area. I know what you’re thinking about poor Jack, but he was actually known for his talkative nature. This little district is packed with fun boutique shops and intriguing restaurants. On a previous trip, we had visited the Flying Pig and were not disappointed with this “nouveau Canadian bistro.” Menu items include wild seafood pappardelle, red wine braised short rib, blackened steelhead trout, Salt Spring Island mussels and frites, and pulled pork poutine. My mouth watered for one menu item, but neither my stomach nor my pocketbook would allow me to order it: A whopping 24 ounce bone-in ribeye steak!
While many cities have city parks but are a long way from any natural area, one doesn’t have to travel far from Vancouver at all to see wonders of nature at its best. Stanley Park, for example, is a natural peninsula helping to protect the entrance to Hudson Bay. A quick bus ride will get you from the cruise terminal to this beautiful forested oasis. Once there, you can hike, bike, skate, golf, swim, explore monuments and art, see a concert, visit the Vancouver Aquarium, bask on the shore of a lakes, or take a horse drawn carriage ride.
Travel a little farther on a free bus ride to arrive at the private park that surrounds Capilano Suspension Bridge. Your bus ride is covered by your admission fee to the park. The fee is well worth it if you have a few hours to spend traveling to and exploring the park. The bridge is suspended 140 feet over Capilano River, and the park surrounding it is a beautiful rain forest with a myriad of trails and photographic overlooks.
We are thankful that the headquarters of our company, Expedia Cruiseshipcenters, is based in this beautiful city. We’ll be visiting Vancouver many more times, but I have a feeling we won’t run out of things to see.