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Vancouver/Whistler/Victoria itinerary--help!

Vancouver/Whistler/Victoria itinerary--help!

Old May 29th, 2006, 07:51 AM
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Vancouver/Whistler/Victoria itinerary--help!

Hey everyone, we could use some expertise on a Vancouver itinerary. My wife and I have six days in the Vancouver area this summer, visiting family there. But the family will be working during the day, so we're on our own to entertain ourselves. Neither of us have ever been to Vancouver, so don't know where to go. We've certainly gotten advice from our family there, but wanted some additional input. What we're particularly curious about is whether Victoria is a must-see on any trip to Vancouver--would skipping Victoria be like going to New York for the first time and not seeing the Empire State Building or is it not THAT central to the experience? We honestly have no idea. Here is our prospective itinerary. Would love your help:

Day 1: Arrive in Seattle, drive to Vancouver and tour Vancouver a bit that evening.
Day 2: Tour Vancouver (but where in Vancouver?)
Day 3: ferry to Victoria and tour Victoria (where to stay overnight in Victoria--preferably cheaply?)
Day 4: continue to tour Victoria, see Butchart Gardens and ferry back to Vancouver
Day 5: day trip to Whistler
Day 6: tour Vancouver one final day
Day 7: early morning drive back to Seattle to catch our return flight

Does that sound like a good time allocation, or is the trip to Victoria going eliminate our chance of seeing essential things around Vancouver? We seriously know nothing about Vancouver or Victoria, so if we missed Victoria we wouldn't necessarily know what we're missing. But we don't want to miss it if it really is a must-see destination, because we don't have to. How would you spend your time?

Thanks in advance for the advice.
ftrain is offline  
Old May 29th, 2006, 09:02 AM
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>>>>>>What we're particularly curious about is whether Victoria is a must-see on any trip to Vancouver--would skipping Victoria be like going to New York for the first time and not seeing the Empire State Building or is it not THAT central to the experience?<<<<<<

No, I do not believe that Victoria is a must see. That said, it is a charming city. Also, the crossing of the Georgia Strait, through the Southern Gulf Islands, is pretty. Certainly your itinerary is long enough that you could include Victoria if you wanted to do so.

I donít know if youíve been to Seattle before. I notice you arenít planning on spending any time in Seattle. Youíre only using it as an entry and exit point for Vancouver. If you have never been to Seattle, you might consider spending a couple of days there.

If it was my trip and if I had been to Seattle before, I would include Victoria on this trip.

Your route is a bit inefficient, in the sense that youíll be driving from Seattle to Vancouver, crossing to Victoria and back to Vancouver again, then driving back to Seattle. I believe it would make more sense to travel in a circle : Seattle Ė Victoria Ė Vancouver Ė Seattle. In that case your itinerary might look like this:

Day 1 : Land in Seattle, ferry to Victoria, overnight in Victoria.

Day 2 : Victoria.

Day 3 : Cross from Vancouver Island to the mainland, and see some of Vancouver. Visit with your relatives in the evening.

Day 4 : More Vancouver sight seeing.

Day 5 : Day trip to Whistler.

Day 6 : More Vancouver sight seeing.

Day 7 : Early morning drive to Seattle to catch flight.

The Destinations section of the Fodorís website has excellent notes on Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver. I like the way they recommend you spend your time. In the case of Vancouver, they take the cityís geography into consideration.

The Coast section of my website has a Vancouver page that provides my thoughts on how to use time in Vancouver. That page also has links to great websites that Vancouverites have created. One of those websites, the Find Family Fun one, also enables you to sort attractions by location. It makes sense to group centrally located attractions together, North Shore attractions together, and so on.


As someone who hosts quite a few overseas family members and friends, I believe it is unrealistic to assume that you will be able to sightsee on the evening of your arrival at your relativesí home. If you and they are anything like us, it will take time for you to catch up with each other. Besides, if youíll be using their house as a base for a few nights, Iím sure they would appreciate it if you paid some attention to them upon arrival. Itís entirely possible that you would do that anyway. Iím just reacting to the fact that your proposed itinerary had you sight seeing on your first evening.

Anyway I hope those thoughts are helpful.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old May 29th, 2006, 09:21 AM
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I've just found www.goingtovancouver.com,
which looks like a great resource for that city. I like Judy's advice on how to include Victoria...Butchart Gardens should not be missed.
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Old May 29th, 2006, 09:49 AM
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Thank you both. Judy you've revealed just how little I know of Vancouver and Victoria, because I had no idea how far Victoria was from Vancouver, or that you could ferry there from Seattle. I need to do a bit of research into how to get around and what to do about cars throughout the week, but that is a real possibility. And no, we've never been to Seattle either. I regret that we won't have more time in Seattle, but if we did ferry from Seattle over to Victoria, I just checked schedules and the earliest boat wouldn't be until mid-afternoon, so we'd have several hours that day to enjoy Seatle. Plus, we're taking the red-eye back on our return flight, so should have the better part of that last day to spend time around Seattle. I know that's not enough, but it will be better than nothing.

This is great food for thought. I've got some more planning to do. This might work out well.
ftrain is offline  
Old May 29th, 2006, 10:42 AM
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I think that Victoria would be like missing the Empire State Building. I have been to Victoria about 10-15 times and I think that it is hands down the most gorgeous city in Canada, and maybe the world. It may not have some of the history of European cities, but its clean, the people are great and you can spend days wondering around the harbour, taking tours and shopping downtown. If I were you i wouldn't skip it.
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Old May 29th, 2006, 10:56 AM
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Of course Victoria is a must. I don't know why anyone would say otherwise. Of all the visitors who have come to Victoria their biggest regret was that they didn't have enough time there. Roblowther has it right!
Judy - I don't know what ferry you are recommending but the only car ferries are from Port Angeles and Annacortes. These do NOT make sense. The best itinerary is to go to Vancouver and take a side trip to Victoria for two days and a night. It is much more convenient. You can still take a day to go to Whistler. You will find that there is far more to enjoy in Victoria. Sorry Seattle but it is just another city.
wrldtrvlr05 is offline  
Old May 29th, 2006, 07:40 PM
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Victoria is a must see! Ferry ride was fun. For Vancouver, take a hop-on hop off tour . Sites include Stanley Park, Granville Island-great for lunch at farmers market, Robson Street, etc.Then go to Grouse Mountain, have dinner at top in Observatory (Dinner Includes Gondola ride)and Capilano Suspension Bridge (on another day). Enjoy!
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Old May 30th, 2006, 09:49 PM
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Hmmm.... the "Victoria is to Vancouver as the Empire State Building is to New York City" is a very bizarre comparison, and I'd say it's not really accurate at all.

For one thing, the Empire State Building is *in* New York City, and it's a famous landmark that holds a lot of the city's identity.

Victoria, by comparison, is not a landmark - it's a city and has really nothing to do with Vancouver's identity, other than being within the same region as Vancouver. Even then, Victoria is a very small city in comparison to Vancouver... and to those who are used to large cities, Victoria will actually feel like a small town. For example, the city of Victoria itself has a population of under 100,000, and the metro area has a population of over 300,000. The city of Vancouver has a population of over 500,000,and the metro area has a population of over 2 million. While both downtown Victoria and Vancouver are compact, Victoria is much more so. I always stress to first-time visitors that Victoria is very small - all the main attractions are within an 8 block radius of eachother. Victoria can feel like a very charming but somewhat old fashioned city, whereas Vancouver feels much more modern and youthful in spirit.

So... a better comparison would be: "Victoria is to Vancouver as Cambridge, Massachusetts is to New York City" - a charming small city located about 3 hours away... but offering a *competely* different experience.

Whether Victoria is a must see on your itenerary depends on your time frame, your interests, and your demographic.

My boyfriend actually read this post and had a little laugh at some of the responses, because he brought me to Victoria for my birthday last year and while he appreciated his weekend there, he's in no rush to go back anytime soon. To put it into context, he's a 32 year old art director from Montreal who had never been to Victoria before. He enjoyed strolling around Victoria and seeing how it celebrated its English colonial history, but found the nightlife scene non-existant. He also can't see what one person can do wandering around the Inner Harbour for days on end... he doesn't feel there's much to do in Victoria, at least nothing that interests him much. To him, Victoria lived up to its image of being the "home of the newly wed and nearly dead" - great if you're starting a family or if you're retired, but not offering a whole lot if you're looking for a vibrant cosmopolitan urban center. While it exists in small pockets, it's limited when compared to Seattle or Victoria. So while it's great for a day trip, your demographic and interests in a city might play a large role in how you appreciate Victoria.

Since you have 6 days in the Vancouver area, then certainly Victoria's worth an overnight stay to explore. Most of the attractions in Victoria are within a short walking distance of eachother. This includes the Inner Harbour, the Empress Hotel, the Legislature buildings, the Royal BC Museum, Beacon Hill Park, Bastion Square, Market Square, Chinatown, the antique shops on Fort Street (I think it's Fort Street!), and maybe even Craigdarroch Castle. Butchart Gardens are the main attraction in Victoria, but they're not really in the city... they're about a half hour drive north.

However, seeing Victoria is not seeing Vancouver, so don't cut yourself short on time in Vancouver. I think a lot of visitors underestimate their time in Vancouver, so this is why I'm stressing this.

I, and others, often recommend a minimum of 3 full days to really experience the highlights of Vancouver. This includes a full day exploring some of the downtown neighbourhoods and attractions (Stanley Park, Vancouver Aquarium, Granville Island, Chinatown, Gastown, Yaletown, Robson Street, Denman Street, English Bay), another day exploring the north shore area (Lynn Canyon or Capilano, Grouse Mountain or Cypress or Seymour, Horseshoe Bay, etc), and another day exploring the neighbourhoods and attractions outside of downtown (ie: Commercial Drive, UBC/Museum of Anthropology, Kitsilano, Van Dusen Gardens, Queen Elizabeth Park, etc). That doesn't even include the attractions further outside that might hold interest (ie: a half day trip to Squamish, Bowen Island, Steveston, the bird sanctuary in Ladner, the Richmond Night Market, the Asian malls in Richmond, Metrotown, the antique alley in New Westminster, the Greater Vancouver Zoo, the wineries in Langley, etc).

Personally, I'd keep Whistler as an option. While the drive up to Whistler is beautiful on a clear day, the actual village of Whistler is somewhat of an underwhelming destination. However, the hiking and views are spectacular if you get into the mountains.
Carmanah is offline  
Old May 31st, 2006, 01:32 PM
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For your day trip to Whistler, take the new train - 3 hours each way and getting rave reviews.

Victoria is a must...great ferry trip. Take a double decker tour that includes Buchart Gardens.
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