How can we make the most of less than a day in Vancouver?
July 23, 2010 9:29 AM   Subscribe

We'll be in Vancouver for the first time in early September as part of this trip. Can you help us with recommendations for lodging and sights so we can make the best use of our time? We are arriving and departing from the Amtrak/VIA station and won't have a car while we're there. While we'd enjoy taking in some downtown sights, we especially like neighborhoods with nice architecture, art/craft galleries, and non-chain shops and restaurants.
posted by DrGail to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, BC (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There are some nifty art galleries on Granville Street, from the south end of the bridge to 16th, and on the side streets as well. Pick up a gallery map of the area in any of the galleries to guide you. Granville Island, under the south end of the bridge is interesting. Yaletown is worth a walk, as is 4th Avenue from Balsam to Burrard. Don't miss Terra Breads at 4th and Balsam.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:36 AM on July 23, 2010

How long are you staying in Vancouver?

The train station is very close to the subway (aka Skytrain) at Main Street. Staying downtown might be an option as it would be very centralized for walking around or hoping on transit.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 12:02 PM on July 23, 2010

oops, hit Post not Preview

I 2nd both South Granville and 4th Ave. Also Main Street south of 12th (or 16th) is also a nice area to walk around. Main will definitely have less chain stores than Granville and 4th.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 12:04 PM on July 23, 2010

maybe it isn't your thing but I would recommend renting bikes and going along the sea wall. You can go around most of downtown and all through stanley park and if it is a nice day that would be glorious.

This is a link of the whole thing, but I would only do points 7 - 151. After that there are hills and what you see is not as spectacular. So, yeah, just stay downtown, stanley park and maybe into kitsilano.
posted by ouchitburns at 12:05 PM on July 23, 2010

We've stayed several times at the Times Squares Suites. The rooms are big and quiet, the West End is full of non-chain restaurants, not too far from central downtown and all the shopping, and only 2-3 blocks from Stanley Park.
posted by Gorgik at 12:14 PM on July 23, 2010

[on preview, seconding Razzle Bathbone]

I think you could spend a pleasant couple of hours walking down Main Street between E. 16th and E. 28th or so. It's easily accessible from downtown by transit (Skytrain to Main Street/Science World Station; then No. 19 Metrotown bus). I agree with those saying that staying downtown will make travel by transit to outlying areas easier.

What I usually check out when I'm there:

Smoking Lily--British Columbia designed clothing (I have some of their stuff and I love it)

Liberty Bakery--good cafe and snack stop

Regional Assembly of Text--one of the best print, design, and stationery shops I've ever been to. They have a tiny reading room where you can sit in a nice chair and read chapbooks donated by local authors; they've got manual typewriters you can use in-shop to write letters.

Sun Sui Wah--one of Vancouver's best dim sum restaurants

The Foundation--good, cheap, plentiful vegetarian/vegan food

There are also many consignment/thrift/antique shops along this stretch of Main.

And not strictly on Main Street, but in the general neighbourhood, grunt gallery, an artist-run space with exhibits and performances.

Have fun! September in Vancouver is beautiful.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:00 PM on July 23, 2010

I'd do a little advance research on the Vancouver restaurant scene. Vancouver has some of the best Asian food anywhere, plus this incredible place -- affordable if you eat at the gorgeous bar and otherwise a fabulous splurge.

Granville Island is lots of fun for art and food shopping. Gastown is great too.

Don't miss Stanley Park. It is gorgeous, whether on foot, on a bike, or in one of their very slow moving horse drawn carriages (which are totally oriented toward kindness to the horses, don't worry.)
posted by bearwife at 1:12 PM on July 23, 2010

walking down Main Street between E. 16th and E. 28th or so

I agree that Main is a great place to explore for local businesses, but did you get the numbers wrong? Foundation is at Main and 7th, so I'd start well downhill from 16th.

Go to Foundation. Eat the tofu. Apologize to vegetarianism for anything mean you may ever have said about it.
posted by Beardman at 4:53 PM on July 23, 2010

I took a trip to Vancouver last year and gleaned a lot of recommendations for restaurants and things to do from browsing AskMefi (thanks everyone!), so if you haven't searched through AskMeFi, I would do that.

Here are places I went that I liked, some recommended by MeFites, some found by just walking around. I don't know if these are all technically downtown, but they're all close:

I also recommend Granville Island. Check out the market. A lot of good things to eat here. I recall really liking some rugelach and chocolates. If you like tea, there's a good tea place in one corner of the market. Look for one or two guys working in a small stall with tea canisters lining the wall.

Tojo's Restaurant: If you like sushi, I'd go here. The chef invented several rolls, including the California roll. Dinner was a little over $100 (Canadian) for two, and we were stuffed (and happy).

Mink Chocolate: Good chocolate. The mocha and candies/bars are highly recommended.

Bin 941 Tapas: Again a little over $100 for two people, we were stuffed, and happy. Recommended if you feel like spending that much.

If you're looking for less expensive food, look at other Vancouver AskMeFi posts; there are a lot of good recommendations. There seems to be a lot of Asian food, with no clear consensus on what the best restaurants are.

If you're wanting a cheap place to stay (Vancouver cheap, that is), try the YWCA. This is where I stayed, again on an AskMeFi recommendation and it was nice enough. Not fancy, but clean and pleasant.
posted by Someday Bum at 7:00 PM on July 23, 2010

The time I went to Vancouver we got in the previous night, woke up, got coffee, couldn't find anything to do so we went to Victoria. It took about a half day from wake up to parking on the ferry.
posted by rhizome at 7:31 PM on July 23, 2010

In terms of to and fro: catch the main street sky train near the main train station to get downtown. Have no idea where you might like to stay, but if you only have a day or two in Van, stick to around the downtown area to get the most of your stay.
Here's an idea for a fantastic day Vancouver: If you are looking for the best gastronomical, art and crafts adventure absolutely spend your day at Granville Island! It is just jam-packed with the coolest, funkiest shops, art work, craft stores and unique one of a kind ware. You can spend days there exploring all the interesting stores. Don't miss Emily Carr University for some cool art installations, take a Yoga class at Semperviva, see all the crazy street performers, go to the Toy Store, and see the glass blowing shop. Food wise, treat yourself to a spectacular meal at The Sandbar (tucked away at the most northerly tip of the market directly under the bridge - ask around or look for the signs). Make sure you get a seat out on their gorgeous patio, even if that means waiting or booking a reservation ahead. Unbelievable 'fresh sheets' menu - meaning all the fresh catches of fish coming straight from the market daily. Another good option is Bridges, which has a great patio, though I find it a bit more exposed especially to the heat of the sun. Im going to second the rugelach from the market, aaaaaamazing, they also make phenomenal bagels. Also catch Rogers chocolates, the tea shop, the burger place for a quick cheap bite (great salmon burger and thick cut fries), or the awesome soup place near the burger stand. Maybe for an evening adventure see some live theatre or improv at the Arts Club stage or Performancewerks. Stay downtown and catch the aqua bus across the water to get to and from Granville Island (or take the bus across the bridge and walk down) - but the aqua bus is way cooler.
Other ideas include the Vancouver Art Gallery, a walk up Davie street, or Robson St. for good shopping, wander around the west end of downtown to see neat old buildings, find your way to the beach at English Bay, then walk/bike up the sea wall. Possibly have a bite to eat out at third beach up the hill at The Teahouse at Stanley Park - same company at the Sandbar (Im not affiliated, just a big fan). Or eat at The Boathouse or Raincity Grill, both at Denman and Davie. After all that walking cool off with an ice cream at The Marble Slab, a frozen yogurt at Qoola or any number of gelato shops on Denman up from Davie.
rhizome wasted a lot of time taking the ferry all the way to Victoria - even though it is also a very nice place*
posted by Arlecchino at 11:26 PM on July 23, 2010

walking down Main Street between E. 16th and E. 28th or so

I agree that Main is a great place to explore for local businesses, but did you get the numbers wrong? Foundation is at Main and 7th, so I'd start well downhill from 16th.

Beardman is correct--Foundation is at Main and 7th, long before 16th. I added it as an afterthought and didn't amend my other sentence.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:54 PM on July 23, 2010

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