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Trip Report Trip report - Seattle,Vancouver,Victoria

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I posted the Seattle part on the United States forum.

My family just returned from 9 days in Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria. Our group was me, DH, DD (age 24), and DS (age 20).

Monday:
We took Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver. Unfortunately there is only one train per day and it leaves at 7:40 am. The only U.S. train stations we've been to before this were in New York and Washington D.C. so we were pretty disappointed with the Seattle station. There are a few vending machines there but no other food or drink for sale. We couldn't get our tickets at the automated kiosk since they were all out of order. Luckily the line was short to pick up tickets but the Amtrak employee working there was very unpleasant. While I got the tickets the kids left the station to walk a block or so away to bring back bagels and coffee. DS had to wait in another line to check his bag and then we had to wait in yet another line for seat assignment. This line was pretty long which was just as well since passports had to be presented at that point and the kids returned just as I reached the head of the line. The train left on time and it was a pleasant trip. The scenery along the way was beautiful. Be sure to sit on the left side of the train. We arrived on time but going through Canadian customs was slow.

We took the Skytrain to the Burrard Station which was right at our hotel. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver. The location was great and the room was pleasant. The only thing I didn't like was the shower head. It was set into the ceiling. By the time the water got down to me (I'm short), there wasn't much water pressure left. I was surprised to be told at check in that our rate included the buffet breakfast for all of us each day. This buffet was normally $27.50 each so we wouldn't have used it if it hadn't been included in our rate. It was an excellent buffet with a wide variety of items including an egg station.

After we checked in we decided to go to Stanley Park. We asked the concierge about the bus and were told that the bus cost $2.50 and a taxi would be about $10 so decided to take a taxi. Unfortunately there was some kind of huge traffic jam and we'd only gotten about a 1/4 mile and the taxi meter was already at $15. At that point we bailed out and walked the rest of the way. We never did find out what caused the traffic problem. At Stanley Park we did the hop on hop off bus, which was $10 each for all day.

To be continued...

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    Tuesday:
    We spent this day visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain. There was a free shuttle to Capilano from our hotel. This was run by the Vancouver Trolley Company and we were able to buy slightly discounted tickets for both attractions from them as we waited for the shuttle. The shuttle runs about every half hour all day and will also bring you back. A warning however: they will not allow anyone to stand on the shuttle and once the seats are full you have to wait half an hour for the next one. Luckily we were the first in line so we got on the first shuttle that came. Capilano was pleasant but not really worth the amount they charge to get in. We had lunch there before we moved on to Grouse. The lunch, although over-priced, was surprisingly good for a tourist attraction. After leaving Capilano we caught the 240 bus for the short trip up to Grouse Mountain.

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    Stanley Park was nice. If I went again I might rent bikes instead of using the hop on hop off bus. Although the narration on the bus was pretty good, it seemed like we spent a lot of time waiting for the next bus.

    Tuesday continued:
    A correction from above, it's the 236 bus that you take from Capilano to Grouse Mountain.
    At Grouse Mountain we took the Skyride up and then immediately took the chairlift to the very top. Although I don't like heights I didn't mind the Skyride since it is fully enclosed but the chairlift was another matter. I went on a chair with just my husband and had the kids take the one behind us since I knew I'd ruin their fun with my nervousness. I was clutching the bar with a death grip the whole time. Once we cam back down we saw the lumberjack show which was fun. Then we saw the bird show which we really liked. We also enjoyed seeing the bears. After coming back down the mountain we went over to the wolf enclosure, but the wolves were not in sight. We could have returned to town by taking the 236 bus back to Capilano and then catching the free shuttle but we were concerned that we might have to wait for multiple shuttles and since we had to pay the bus fare anyway we figured we might as well just transfer from the 236 bus to the 240 bus back into town. The bus driver on the 236 bus was great, he kept up a running commentary of jokes and he made sure that we got off at the right place and that we knew exactly where to catch the 240 bus into town.

    Wednesday:
    We started the day with the Chinatown/Gastown walking tour from Frommer's. We enjoyed visiting Canada Place and we liked the Gastown part of this tour. We were underwhelmed by the Chinatown part though. We've visited several Chinatowns so we didn't find this one very impressive and the neighborhood made me uneasy. In the afternoon we took the Aquabus to Granville Island. We thought the Aquabus was cute and we were amused by the short little hop across the water to the island. We spent a few hours strolling around the island. We really enjoyed the market but art galleries aren't our thing. We probably wouldn't have stayed as long but we had tickets to a 7:30 show on the island. About 5:30 we decided to eat dinner. We checked out a few restaurants but the prices were more than we wanted to pay so we ended up buying dinner at the market. After dinner we headed over to the Improv Center to see the Improv Musical. We weren't sure what to expect since we'd never seen improv before. They asked the audience to call out what profession their parents were in. Various things were called out including zoo keeper. So they improvised an entire hour long musical based on a zoo keeper. It was totally hilarious!

    Thursday:
    We booked through Pacific Coach to get to Victoria. They picked us up at the hotel around 8:40 (you have to call to arrange this and there's a slight extra charge) and took us to the bus/train station where we transferred to another bus for the ride to the BC Ferry Terminal at Tsawwassen. The bus then drives right onto the ferry. Once you're on the ferry you have to get off the bus. The ferry ride was pleasant. There was a cafeteria on board and also a dining room with a buffet. We were going to get lunch at the cafeteria but it was pretty mobbed so we decided to go to the dining room for the buffet instead. The food was pretty average other than the desserts which were excellent. By the time we finished, we heard the announcement to get back on the bus. After the bus drove off the ferry, it was another 40 minutes or so before we arrived in downtown Victoria. We stayed at the Victoria Marriott which was only a block or so from the bus terminal so that was convenient. Our room was ready when we arrived. I liked the decor of this hotel, it was kind of English and chintzy but not overdone. We dropped off our luggage and walked over to the Parliament Buildings to take a free tour. Victoria is such a pretty city! We really liked the inner harbor area and all of the flowers everywhere were beautiful. The tour was only about 20 minutes long but very interesting. After that we walked up to Craigdarroch Castle. I had mapped out the bus route to get there but everyone else wanted to walk. If you choose to walk there be aware that it's a little over a mile and some of it is up hill. The castle is beautiful inside and we enjoyed learning about the history of the family that built it.

    Friday:
    We took the Grey Line shuttle to Butchart gardens. This was not a tour but merely a shuttle back and forth. You were free to return on any shuttle you wanted. Tickets can be purchased inside the bus station and the cost including admission to the gardens is $43. Although it wasn't a tour, the drivers in both directions gave a very nice commentary along the way. I'm not at all into gardening, but I really enjoyed the gardens. If you are a gardener, you could probably spend many hours there. We stayed about 3 hours. Make sure to stop in the gift shop, they have lots of great gardening stuff. After we returned to town and ate lunch, we headed over to the Royal B.C. Museum. We saw the IMAX move about the Hubble telescope, which was very interesting. Then we toured the museum. One floor is Natural History and one floor is human history with an extensive first nations area. It's open late on Fridays, so we had lots of time and it was very uncrowded. One warning: the gift shops are not open late so you might want to check them out first. It's a very well done museum. After leaving the museum we strolled around the harbor and checked out some of the souvenir shops.

    Saturday:
    We hadn't booked a whale watch before leaving home because we weren't sure we wanted to do one given that we'd done one before off Cape Cod and we weren't sure we wanted to spend the money to do another one. But the kids really wanted to do one so on Friday we asked the hotel for recommendations and booked a trip with BC whale tours (www.bcwhaletours.com)

    We chose them because they had both indoor and outdoor seating. The kids were initially disappointed that we didn't do one of the boats that looks like an inflatable raft but after they discovered how cold it was on the water they were happy to have the option to sit indoors. I can get a little queasy on boats but I took Bonine and I was fine. We didn't see any orcas which was a bit disappointing but we did see humpback whales and lots of sea lions.

    We checked out of the hotel before leaving for the whale watch and they kept our luggage for the day. After the whale watch we had a few hours to kill before we had to leave town so we had a leisurely lunch and strolled around the harbor. We collected our luggage and walked over to the Victoria Clipper ferry dock to catch our ferry to Seattle. Our ferry was at 5:30 and suggested check in was 4:30. We got there a little after that and were surprised to find that most people were there before us. We weren't able to get 4 seats together by the window so get there early if you care where you sit. When we arrived in Seattle we had to wait to get off the ferry because we had checked luggage. Once we got off the ferry, claimed our luggage, and went through customs, we headed outside to get a taxi to our airport hotel. It was raining just slightly (the only rain we'd seen all week) but it was easy to get a taxi. The taxi ride to the airport hotel (Doubletree) cost about $32. We were checked in quickly. The hotel is huge and we had a little trouble finding our room. The room was a little worn looking but clean. We went to the Denny's across the street for a quick dinner before settling in for the night.

    Sunday:
    The hotel shuttle to the airport was efficient and we had time for a nice breakfast at Anthony's at the airport before boarding our flight home.

    Thanks for reading and I'll be happy to answer any questions!

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    "We've visited several Chinatowns so we didn't find this one very impressive and the neighborhood made me uneasy. In the afternoon we took the Aquabus to Granville Island."

    Time has really passed by downtown Chinatown in Vancouver and it's near a pretty seedy area. The Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is the only reason I would visit it.

    If you want to see modern Vancouver-Chinese culture, head out to the Golden Village in Richmond and visit one of the large Asian malls such as the Aberdeen Centre, the Yaohan Centre or Parker Place. There are hundreds of Asian restaurants, particularly on Alexandra road, and the Richmond Night Market is a great place to spend a weekend summer evening.

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    Pat, Great report with lots of good details. You did very well without a car. You had an action packed trip! I think you lucked out on the weather. It is quite variable this year - rarely sunny for a very long stretch.

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    I'm not sure, I understood something you wrote. Did you have to pay for the hop on bus at Stanley Park? Or was it a tourist bus that you paid $10 to ride? The bus in Stanley Park was free 2 years ago and very, very crowded the one day we used it.

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    Thanks for the reply. So the free ride through Stanley Park is no more. Too bad. On the other hand, the day we took it, it was uncomfortably crowded, perhaps the $10 fee keeps the crowds down, however, $10 seems a bit steep for riding around the park, even if you can hop on and off. :(

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