I had written a Seattle guide last week, but I guess I hadn’t written a Vancouver guide yet. Vancouver is about a 2.5 one-way drive from Seattle. Add in about 30 minutes for the border (especially for the coming back part, which can be 1 hr if you are coming back Sunday night.) Esther over at DEM Flyers gave me the tips on things to do since all I do is eat while I’m in Vancouver.
The thing you MUST do in Vancouver is EAT! It’s Hong Kong-lite. Outside of HK, Vancouver has the 2nd best dim sum in the world. So you MUST MUST eat dim sum or Cantonese food. It also has solid sushi, Indian, and other ethnic cuisines.
When going up there, there are 2 borders. There’s the border on I-5 which is the one most people take. Don’t take that one. Take the highway-543 border instead. Then, when you are on 543, stay in the right in the truck lane and go all the way to the duty free shop. When you are done buying stuff there or using the restroom, just cut in line from the duty free shop. That’ll shave off a lot of time.
You could do the same trick coming back on I-5, but so many people actually use the duty free shop that there’s a huge line to get out of the duty free anyway, so you won’t save much time. The times I’ve entered the USA, I’ve always sighed at the wait at I-5, but was only mildly agitated at the 543 border. Thus, I think 543 is the faster route in either direction.
Lastly, remember you’ll need your passport to get into Canada.
Where to stay
I’ve always stayed in Richmond and not downtown Vancouver just because I like to be close to the Asian food. Plus the 2 SPG hotels there in Richmond are dirt cheap on points. I can’t give you any reviews of other Vancouver hotels.
09:00AM – Drive up to Vancouver
12:00PM – Eat lunch in Richmond at the many dim sum restaurants. I usually go to Neptune Seafood, but that’s only because I’ve been going there for the past decade. You MUST make a reservation! And there are no push-carts; you order all the items off the menu (don’t worry – they have an English menu with pictures.) I don’t know if there are other better places, but every time I go, there is always a crowd, so it must still be good. Kirin and Sun Sui Wah are also very popular choices.
02:00PM – Shop along Robson Street. Due to the current exchange rate, it’s a good time to shop in Canada.
04:00PM – Snack! Eat some ramen perhaps at Kintaro Ramen (one of the best in town.) Get there early since the place only has like 7 tables! Hence the odd time to eat.
06:00PM – Eat again!
08:00PM – Walk around to work off the food
10:00PM – Go to the Night Market (if the season is right) and eat some more! You see the theme here?
Day 2 – Other things to do
To be honest, I’ve only done SOME of these things, but here’s what most people recommend:
- Stanley Park (bike around it)
- Grouse Mountain (the first and ONLY place I’ve ever skied – long story)
- Grouse Grind – if you enjoy hiking
- Deep Cove
- Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge (free unlike the other one) – I did this recently. It’s about a 30 minute walk/hike and pretty cool. It’s about 20 minutes NE of downtown though.
- Granville Island (more shopping)
- Aquarium – I’m not a fan of aquariums, but if that’s your thang…
- Queen Elizabeth Park
- Cap Bridge suspension bridge – eh, the paid one?
- Whale Watch – but only if it’s in season
- Tourism Vancouver – if you didn’t like my ideas thus far
- Richmond Night market – There are apparently 2 night markets. This is the only one I’ve been to. Come here to eat the food stalls because the rest of the night market SUCKS! There was a random Chinese lady singing. Lots of cheap socks from China and iPhone screens. The place was only 15% packed when we went (this was early June so should have been in full season).