a vancouver to-do list
I was just asked by a reader to provide a visitor's guide to Vancouver on my blog and I think it's a perfectly lovely idea! Thanks Gregory. People are always asking me what things there are to do and what they should see when they visit Vancouver, so why not have somewhere to direct them to!
Vancouver is a pretty wonderful city and even though I've lived here for 12 years now, I still find new and wonderful things popping up all the time. I also tend to restrict myself to a more East Van bent, so I'm leaving off a whole ton of places that I've never been too. Vancouverites (or maybe it's just me) tend to either be from east van or west of main. I'm definitely east, so that's where my priorities lie. If anyone has any other Vancouver suggestions that I've neglected to mention, please add your list to the comments section!
Where to Stay
Penny's Place: When I was getting married, I housed my mom, brother and his girlfriend at this apartment hotel on Commercial Drive. It's nothing fancy but it's cheap and clean and it's like having a little home base in the city since you have a kitchen to cook up all that great cheap produce that you just bought at all the Italian markets nearby.
Where to Eat
Vancouver is blessed with lots of really great and inexpensive food. It's a food lovers paradise and there are always new restaurants popping up. Here are some of my favorites.
In Chinatown, I'd definitely recommend Phnom Penh for really great Cambodian/Vietnamese food. The fried rice with Chinese sausage and egg is amazing, as is their lemon garlic chicken wings and squid and green papaya salad. For great roast duck, head to Kam Gok Yuen and Hon's has really great potstickers but I'm not too crazy about the rest of their food...but it is cheap! If you are vegetarian, Chinatown is not the place to be. Hon's does have downtown location with a vegan kitchen, however!
If you like pizza, Incendio's in gastown is really yummy and you can usually find a 2 for 1 coupon in the Georgia Straight (the free entertainment paper). Lombardo's on the Drive is also really good for thin crust pizza. On Sunday nights, the Yaletown Brew Pub has a cheap pizza and beer special and I love Sunday nights there with friends and hefeweizen.
On Commercial Drive, there are plenty of great eating options! Uprising Breads Bakery is great for breakfast baked goods or snacks. Belgium Fries is great for fries (of course!) and they make a mean vegetarian poutine. Rinconcito has really great pupusas and if you want to split a meaty Memphis Feast platter with 5 of your closest friends, you eat cheaply at Memphis Blues BBQ. As for my favorite Chinese food, it's not found in Chinatown...it's on Commercial at the wonderful Szechuan Chongquing (plus they deliver!). There are tons more restaurants on The Drive and most of 'em are good!
Main Street has plenty of eating options, starting with my favorite vegetarian restaurant, The Foundation. The service isn't the best, but it's worth the wait. Slickety Jim's Chat n' Chew is the place for breakfast and Crave makes a worthy weekend brunch. I love Liberty Bakery for pitchers of fresh lemonade and sweet snacks. For really super cheap eats head to The Legendary Noodle (greasy & good) and the nearby Hawker's Delight.
More good eats around town include:
Nuba (great creative falafel plate!), Rangoli (Indian fusion...a more affordable Vij's) Rodney's Oyster Bar for drinks (caesars!) and oysters (but only go during their 3-6pm happy hour where oysters are a buck a shuck!), Sha Lin Noodle House (cheap & plentiful noodles!), The Clubhouse for sushi and okonomiyaki, Brioche for a gastown lunch/brunch, The Mouse & Bean for a great tostada lunch, Tacos Mexico Rico for wonderful jamaica & horchata beverages and tacos. And even though there is way better gelato around town, you just can't beat the 508 flavours of La Casa Gelato!
Main street is a great place to shop. From 8th Ave to about 28th makes for a great afternoon of poking about in indie shops, antique stores and with stop offs for lemonade and coffee and good restaurants every few blocks. Standout stores include The Regional Assembly of Text, Smoking Lily, Lucky Comics, Eugene Choo, The Front & Co., The Barefoot Contessa, My Orange Bag, Red Cat Records and lots more that I can't remember the names of!
Commercial Drive is fine for checking out all the great markets and picking up a picnic lunch. J, N & Z Deli is a great place for picking out a smoky, dry Ukranian sausage and La Grotta Del Fromaggio is great for cheese (of course), olives and deli sandwiches. Santa Barbara is a grocery shopping institution with long deli counter line ups and a great selection of fruit & veggies. There's also a few cute stores and many coffee shops to keep you occupied for an afternoon.
Kitsilano has Zulu Records, a really great record shop. I'm sure Kits has other things too, I just haven't been there in a while!
Yaletown is spendy and packed with boutiques in an old warehouse district. Lots of fancy restaurants and fancy stores. It's a place for nice eye candy.
Of course, there is Robson Street, which is shopping central for Vancouver with all the big name shops. But if you continue walking down Robson Street, you will come to Denman Street which has some great Japanese noodle houses and lots of restaurants. Plus, the beach is oh so close! Grab a gelato or a cupcake and plant yourself on a log and watch the tides.
Things to Do
Go to the beach! So many options in Vancouver. Head over to Kits Beach, Jericho, English Bay or get nude at Wreck Beach. Plenty of choices for a picnic too.
Check out Van Dusen Gardens. This is a great place to relax and smell the flowers. Pick up a lunch at one of the few Jewish delis nearby and take a picnic in with you. Check out all the lovely little sheltered areas and get lost in all the beauty.
Granville Island Market. Touristy yes, but still a great place to gawk, sample and buy all kinds of fresh fruit and veggies. The donut shop at the market has the best cinnamon donuts ever and there are tons of artisan shops all around the "island".
Another touristy option....the Vancouver Aquarium...but fun for everyone! What can I say, I love looking at big fish. And the hand-holding otters are the cutest.
Take a hike! So many mountains, so little time! Vancouver has so much natural beauty you may as well go out an enjoy it.