Vancouver long weekend

Jul 14th, 2012, 10:10 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 78
Vancouver long weekend

We're relatively new to the Pac NW and have done lots of long weekend trips around OR and WA. We are ready to explore Vancouver and were wondering if a Th-Sun trip was doable or just plain crazy. We would be driving from Portland (with 3 kids I am assuming this is the cheapest and easiest option). We would like to visit the aquarium, the museum of anthropology, Stanley Park, suspension bridge, etc. What are the best sights for a first-time visit? Kids are ages 3, 12, 16. Know we can't please everyone all the time, but a variety of activities would be great. Thanks!
khor is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 11:27 AM
Join Date: Jul 2012
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I'd definitely recommend a bike ride around the seawall (as part of your Stanley Park visit) - although it is quite popular with the locals as well, so get there early to avoid the rush. It takes about 1.5-2 hrs at a pretty leisurely pace. Heading to the top of Grouse Mountain (whether by gondola or if you're really adventurous, hiking up "The Grind"!) is the best view close to the city, and there's restaurants and other activities there as well.

Depending on when you're planning on coming, there could be music festivals (right now is the Folk Fest, super popular and great for a family), check the Georgia Straight ( to find out about arts and events.

Gastown is a great place to shop, I'd avoid Robson as it's your very typical shopping street like any other city. Gastown also has great food, Vancouver has a robust culinary scene, and many of the best restaraunts are in Gastown (again, avoid Robson St like the plague as there is nothing but chain restaraunts and overpriced tourist traps). Start with a place called Meat & Bread on Cambie & Hastings for lunch, you'll get the idea .

Other than that, I think you have a good start already with your list, and it will be manageable for four days. Have a good time, we just hit our summer heatwave (Finally!)
jenpan is offline  
Jul 16th, 2012, 08:15 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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"avoid Robson St like the plague as there is nothing but chain restaraunts and overpriced tourist traps...."

The statement as quoted has no basis in reality-in fact Robson is one of the Best Eating Streets in the City especially if you like Asian food-which is what Vancouver does best.

Note the same poster who criticises Robson St also suggest taking a 3yo on the Grouse Grind.

"wondering if a Th-Sun trip was doable or just plain crazy"

I vote for crazy-you know your kids best but IMO it's just too much sitting in the car especially if there are long border waits-which are endemic in summer.
Sam_Salmon is offline  
Jul 16th, 2012, 12:11 PM
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Gastown is not a great place to shop, unless you're seeking touristy souvenirs (Vancouver t-shirts, made-in-China knick-knacks). There are a handful of ultra hip modern home decor boutiques and some unique but expensive fashionista boutiques... but Gastown would be underwhelming for a family; it's better for its craft cocktail culture. I'd skip it in your situation.

Stanley Park (any time of the day) - its beaches, playground, Aquarium, mini train ride, waterparks, seawall, rainforest trails, grassy knolls, horse-drawn carriages - that's where I'd recommend spending at least one full day. Kids and adults both love it - have a picnic there, spend the afternoon at the waterpark, go exploring... it'll be your favourite moment in Vancouver.

Granville Island is also fun for a family (before 7pm which is when the majority of the shops close); it has the public market, a kid's market, street entertainment, playgrounds, waterpark, community centre, art studios/galleries, boatyards, docks, and an overall whimsical feel. It's not technically an island, by the way, but is a waterfront community which is beloved by visitors and locals alike. You could spend 2-3 hours there.

On your day at the Museum of Anthropology, I'd recommend going to Spanish Banks/Locarno Beach/Jericho Beach for a family picnic after... these three beaches are connected to one another located along NW Marine Drive... just down the hill (a 5 minute drive) from the museum. Lots of grassy parkland, playgrounds, concession stands and change rooms - ideal for swimming and playing in the water, or just playing in the sand.
BC_Robyn is offline  
Jul 16th, 2012, 12:16 PM
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... and agreed, do not do the Grouse Grind, especially with young kids. This is a steep endurance test of a climb up the side of a mountain. It's an hour and a half worth of stairs, sometimes you need to use your hands to clamber up... it's exhausting and not a "hike" but a grueling fitness test.

There are so many better, more leisurely ways to experience the outdoors in Vancouver. Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver and Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver would be my recommendations if you're seeking short nature walks in the rainforest.
BC_Robyn is offline  
Jul 16th, 2012, 09:22 PM
Join Date: Jul 2012
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I agree, there are some amazing ramen and sushi spots on Robson - if you walk far enough down near the water, especially close to Denman street. Other than that, it's slim pickings, if you're looking for something you can't have pretty much anywhere else. And if we're on the subject of what's appropriate for a 3year old, I'm not sure if the average three year old (who isn't already used to eating as such) would enjoy pickled eggs, kimchi, raw eel or pork belly. If you're heading to the ramen and sushi joints on Robson, they keep it pretty real

Notice, that you also spend your whole post criticizing mine, and then offer no suggestions at all except "you're crazy".

Moving on - knor if you are interested in some of the great Asian restaurants we have here, Kingyo is great, again not sure if the wee one will be into it.

Also, I did not suggest you take your three year old on the grind - it looks like my subtle joshing was taken literally. But I would again recommend Grouse Mountain, as the gondola is fun (as long as your kids aren't afraid of heights) and there is a wolf and bear preserve at the top, lumberjack sports, lovely hikes, zip lines....pretty worth it i think.

And I concur about Granville Island - a pretty good bet when you've got a variety of interests to consider.
jenpan is offline  
Jul 17th, 2012, 11:32 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
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Addressing mainly the "Thursday-to-Sunday" element of your trip:

From Portland no less:

It will be, at the very least, demanding.

The major trouble spot would be crossing back across the border early ON Sunday. The border waits can be well over an hour, so you really need to pay some attention to strategy. One such strategy, for your case, could be to make your Saturday night stay at a hotel in Bellingham, WA, so that you're already across the border for that long drive home.

Indeed you can get all the way up there with an early start on Thursday morning from Portland. Perhaps enough so to get a bit of Vancouver sightseeing in before bed time.

Then you allocate all day Friday, and all day Saturday to Vancouver sights... AND you leave for Bellingham really late (10pm or beyond, in this case, since you only have 50-ish miles to go)

Border traffic so late at night should be minimal, a hotel room in Bellingham is likely to be less expensive than one in central Vancouver (perhaps with no parking charge too), and there was nothing much you'd have been able to make OF your Sunday morning in Vancouver anyway, considering how soon you'd have needed to dash toward the border.

The Saturday night in Bellingham would allow for a more leisurely path home, and perhaps a stop for some sort of touristy thing in the Seattle area, as well as a timely lunch along the way.

Just a thought.

(another sensible strategy would be to drive considerably EAST from Vancouver before crossing the border at either Aldergrove/Lynden or even Abbotsford/Sumas, hoping for shorter border delays there, but you're really asking for it when coming back through during daytime on a Sunday)

(Personally, and when needing only to reach Seattle in 110 miles from the border, I delay my return until well after 8pm, and then leave at that point - but obviously that is senseless when enroute to Oregon)
NorthwestMale is offline  
Jul 17th, 2012, 02:54 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 1,350
We do weekend trips to Vancouver regularly, but from Seattle. We also travel to Portland from Seattle,albeit less regularly, with now a 5 year old. Both are pretty exhausting car trips, so i would concur with advice to split up the drive from and to portland a bit. Bellingham is a nice place to stop, Imho.

Stanley park, Robson, and Granville island are a must on your first trip to Vancouver. Stanley park has a ton of activities for kids: petting zoo, aquarium, beach, playgrounds.
Tentek is offline  
Jul 17th, 2012, 09:09 PM
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*** small note: Bellingham was suggested only because of its proximity and location on the south side of the border. Clearly if one were merely splitting up the drive, he/she would pick someplace more equidistant from Portland and Vancouver.

LOL - TIME-wise, on a busy Sunday going southbound, Bellingham might not be far from equidistant between the two.
NorthwestMale is offline  
Jul 19th, 2012, 10:34 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Vancouver
Posts: 3,587
Tentek - unfortunately, the Petting Zoo in Stanley Park is
gone...and an arsonist has torched the Miniature Train Stn.
although I believe the train is still running.

It would be fun for the kids to take the little ferry that
crosses from the Aquatic Centre to Granville Island - and
kids would probably enjoy the SkyTrain/Seabus trip to N.Van.
immimi is online now  
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