Vancouver, BC: Where to stay, getting around: maybe going to UBC edition
March 5, 2017 9:21 AM   Subscribe

My teen daughter and I are doing a quick trip to Vancouver, BC at the end of March as part of spring break. I need advice on where to stay and whether or not we can get around on just public transportation. Difficulty level: She'll get her acceptance or rejection letter to UBC a few days before our trip, so I need to stay somewhere that makes it easy to get to UBC - OR let's us completely avoid campus and just do fun stuff elsewhere.

The teen and I are semi-savvy travelers who like to do a lot of geeky stuff - arcades, bookstores, comic bookstores, thrift shops, museums. We've traveled around Europe and Tokyo on public transportation (but had my much more travel-savvy husband with on those trips). We like to see the real part of cities since we both think people that come to San Francisco and only see Fisherman's Wharf are missing out (even if we occasionally head down there for theme restaurants and arcades.)

We decided to head to Vancouver BC as part of her last high school spring break on the thought that, if she gets into UBC - Vancouver, she should actually check out the town and the school to see if she likes it. And if she didn't get in, we'd just do all the cool PNW sort of stuff that the town has to offer instead. (We booked a campus tour for one of the days, and we'll cancel if she's rejected. She's going into Anthropology, so we know a trip to the museum is a must)

But, the hotels and public transportation are confounding me in this situation, as it seems like there are plenty of nice hotels in the downtown area that are close to everything and public transportation - but it's not easy to get from there to UBC. And there are some hotels close to the campus - but they're far from everything except the campus stuff and there's paltry public transportation back. I'd pay extra in hotels or in transport to not have to drive, but am capable of it. (She, with her newly minted license, is not.)

- Where should we stay?
- Do I have to rent a car or can I get away with trains/buses/cabs/Uber/Lyft/whatever is there?
- Is there some magical connector between UBC and the rest of the town that I'm not finding on the visitor's websites?
- Any other general advice that will make this trip so much easier/better?
posted by Gucky to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, BC (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's pretty easy to get from downtown to UBC, it just takes time. You can either take the Canada Line Skytrain to Broadway and switch to the 99b, or on weekdays take the 44 direct bus from waterfront. Allow 45-60 minutes. You will walk a lot on UBC campus, it is large.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:28 AM on March 5, 2017

If you'd like to stay downtown, there are several buses direct to UBC (44, 4, 14) that run fairly frequently. I commute daily via transit from downtown and it takes 30-40 minutes depending on traffic. The UBC bus loop is one of the largest transit hubs in the region, so it's fairly accessible from anywhere unless you're going way out into the boonies. Google maps is fairly good at plotting out transit routes between destination, and there are also various apps that will give you real-time bus updates as well as on your browser.
posted by btfreek at 9:35 AM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, and for the Real Commuter Student Experience, try cramming into the 99 from the UBC loop all the way down to Commercial/Broadway during rush hour. Then, spend some time walking down Commercial Drive, one of my favourite neighbourhoods.
posted by btfreek at 9:42 AM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yup - getting to UBC via transit takes time because of distance, but the system is highly optimized for that route as a ton of people take it. At least it was 15 years ago -- I'm going to assume it hasn't gotten worse. As long as you stay in Vancouver proper, transit is fine, you can get everywhere you need to go. Sundays might be harder, but during the week it's very doable, but crowded. If it were me, I'd stay downtown and transit to UBC. Pay attention to the B-Lines - they're the express busses and only stop once every few major blocks, instead of every 20 feet like a regular bus.

Also, Vancouver is a deadzone with the ride sharing economy. No Uber, no Lyft. Cabs are hit and miss.

Make sure you have an umbrella.
posted by cgg at 9:44 AM on March 5, 2017

I'd recommend looking for a B&B in Kitsilano -- it's convenient by transit to both downtown and UBC.
posted by irrelephant at 10:45 AM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

The UBC museum has excellent First Nations displays which include totem poles.
posted by brujita at 12:07 PM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Downtown Vancouver is kind of a dead zone for fun stuff to do. Kits is cute, closer to UBC, and the view from the beach is great, but a little bit familiar if you're coming from San Francisco (old hippie neighbourhood that now specializes in expensive outerwear stores).

If it were me, I'd stay anywhere in the vicinity of Main and Broadway (i.e. an AirBnb or private rental in Mount Pleasant, like around here). That's where you'll find the comic book stores, the weird arty stores, some of the best pizza joints and restaurants and coffee shops, and so on. You can take the B-line on Broadway to UBC, or the other way to the Drive. Main is gentrified af but your kindred geeks are still there, and you guys will probably be happier there than downtown, Kits, or god forbid the sticks near UBC.

Oh yeah, and if you like bookstores, you should check out Macleod's books downtown.
posted by Beardman at 12:58 PM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

The part of town for you is definitely Mt Pleasant, up and down Main St.

As others have said, the bus along Broadway (the 99 B line) goes straight to UBC, it just takes time. And you can get around on public transit, just don't be in a hurry.

Along with the Mt Pleasant area and the Anthropology Museum, you are going to want to wander Gastown, maybe some of the new-ish restaurants in rapidly gentrifying Chinatown, Granville Island, and possibly West 4th. You might also be into a hike on the North Shore around one of the suspension bridges, or up the Grouse Mountain gondola. You will find many similarities to your home town.

Be prepared for rain.

Macleod's books yes, also Paper Hound and then nearby Finch's for lunch.
posted by miles1972 at 2:57 PM on March 5, 2017

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