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PittsburghNative

What would you recommend to do in Vancouver pre-cruise?

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I’ll be arriving into Vancouver late on May 7, 2019 and my cruise leaves May 9th. After the cruise, we will be doing a sightseeing tour to kill time before we head to the airport. The tour will visit Stanley Park, English Bay, Gastown, Chinatown, Granville Island, Vancouver Lookout, and Capilano Suspension Bridge.

 

What would you recommend to do the day prior to the sailing, on May 8th? Is the aquarium worth visiting? It will just be my mom (53) and I (30).

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Posted (edited)

If memory serves you're staying in the West End somewhere - so English Bay and Stanley Park are easily reached on foot assuming you're both mobile enough. If your post-cruise tour is a private one, I strongly suggest ditching both of these as you will be able to do the park especially MUCH more justice just by spending more 'boots on the ground' time than ANY vehicular tour can manage, especially one with so many stops listed. As an example, the local HOHO company stops at six different places in the park - and the Summer park shuttle had FIFTEEN stops! Most people who live here have not seen close to all of it - it's big!

 

English bay has a good chance of being your 'bread & butter' go-to for dining unless your accommodation is right up on the Coal Harbour side too, and while it's pretty cool to see urban sandy beaches next to temperate rain forest, the real photo appeal of the area is at the end of the day not the beginning or middle - there's a reason that while most of those beaches are just numbered one of them is called Sunset Beach;-)

 

The Aquarium is pretty substantial, but with few unique exhibits these days - if you have already visited a lot of good aquaria around the world I'd be inclined to skip it and instead do something that you can only do here or that we do the best. With a day and a half and many of the popular sights already locked in for your post-cruise tour, I'd suggest that you hit up Stanley park for half a day and spending the other half at one of the not-in-downtown-core options, like out at UBC or maybe a Queen Elizabeth park/Van Dusen combo.

 

QEP would be an excellent swap-in for your post-cruise tour if you are doing a custom one - it's en route to the airport so no wasted time getting there and back from the downtown core. Another good swap would be Lynn Canyon for Capilano - unless you actually want to do the Treewalk and Cliffwalk at Cap, fighting your way through the crowds and paying $40+ for the privilege seems excessive when Lynn is free, more unspoilt, much more informative (actual rangers on-site at the Ecology centre) and frankly more spectacular with rushing white water in a narrow canyon compared to an enormous field of gravel with some water running across it.

 

Really though without knowing the kind of things you and Mom are into it's hard to say which sites would be best prioritized for you. A bunch of beautiful gardens? View and/or buy First Nations art? Museums? A brewery tour? Attempting all the flavours of local Gelato or ice cream? Trying to visit all of our artisanal dog biscuit bakeries? Buying a new Quidditch broom? Going hat shopping? Riding up a mountain on the outside of gondola? Breakfast with Grizzly bears? Rent a floating BBQ and pootle around False Creek cooking? Stand-up Paddleboarding or Kayak rentals? Paddle a native canoe, or take a Medicine Walk?

 

Tl;DR - there are way too many options to confidently state go see X, Y, Z on a short trip;-)

Edited by martincath

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So, that's a lot to see post-cruise in one day.  I'm guessing it won't be much but a drive by.  Personally, I would hang out around Gastown depending where you are staying.  We did a float plane last time we were in Vancouver and it was awesome.  Being a retired police officer I enjoyed the Vancouver police museum (hidden secret), just a short walk from Gastown.    

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21 hours ago, martincath said:

If memory serves you're staying in the West End somewhere - so English Bay and Stanley Park are easily reached on foot assuming you're both mobile enough. If your post-cruise tour is a private one, I strongly suggest ditching both of these as you will be able to do the park especially MUCH more justice just by spending more 'boots on the ground' time than ANY vehicular tour can manage, especially one with so many stops listed. As an example, the local HOHO company stops at six different places in the park - and the Summer park shuttle had FIFTEEN stops! Most people who live here have not seen close to all of it - it's big!

 

English bay has a good chance of being your 'bread & butter' go-to for dining unless your accommodation is right up on the Coal Harbour side too, and while it's pretty cool to see urban sandy beaches next to temperate rain forest, the real photo appeal of the area is at the end of the day not the beginning or middle - there's a reason that while most of those beaches are just numbered one of them is called Sunset Beach;-)

 

The Aquarium is pretty substantial, but with few unique exhibits these days - if you have already visited a lot of good aquaria around the world I'd be inclined to skip it and instead do something that you can only do here or that we do the best. With a day and a half and many of the popular sights already locked in for your post-cruise tour, I'd suggest that you hit up Stanley park for half a day and spending the other half at one of the not-in-downtown-core options, like out at UBC or maybe a Queen Elizabeth park/Van Dusen combo.

 

QEP would be an excellent swap-in for your post-cruise tour if you are doing a custom one - it's en route to the airport so no wasted time getting there and back from the downtown core. Another good swap would be Lynn Canyon for Capilano - unless you actually want to do the Treewalk and Cliffwalk at Cap, fighting your way through the crowds and paying $40+ for the privilege seems excessive when Lynn is free, more unspoilt, much more informative (actual rangers on-site at the Ecology centre) and frankly more spectacular with rushing white water in a narrow canyon compared to an enormous field of gravel with some water running across it.

 

Really though without knowing the kind of things you and Mom are into it's hard to say which sites would be best prioritized for you. A bunch of beautiful gardens? View and/or buy First Nations art? Museums? A brewery tour? Attempting all the flavours of local Gelato or ice cream? Trying to visit all of our artisanal dog biscuit bakeries? Buying a new Quidditch broom? Going hat shopping? Riding up a mountain on the outside of gondola? Breakfast with Grizzly bears? Rent a floating BBQ and pootle around False Creek cooking? Stand-up Paddleboarding or Kayak rentals? Paddle a native canoe, or take a Medicine Walk?

 

Tl;DR - there are way too many options to confidently state go see X, Y, Z on a short trip;-)

 

Thanks so much for your detailed response! It’s always appreciated!

 

I’ll be staying near The Executive Hotel Vintage Park, so close to a lot of attractions. The post-cruise tour is with Landsea Tours, so we can’t swap out the itinerary. I still think we will have a great time with them 🙂

 

As for the aquarium, I’ve been to one of the best aquariums in the world (Georgia Aquarium), so that is a bummer it’s not a “must” see.

 

My mom and I are pretty easy going with attractions. I guess we want to see unique spots around the city that you can’t find anywhere else, especially scenic locations, like the Sea to Sky Gondala someone else mentioned. We would like to find some cool shops (especially a store that sells ornaments!) so we can buy some souvenirs that can only be found in Vancouver. 

Edited by PittsburghNative

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4 hours ago, ATSEAMYLIFE said:

So, that's a lot to see post-cruise in one day.  I'm guessing it won't be much but a drive by.  Personally, I would hang out around Gastown depending where you are staying.  We did a float plane last time we were in Vancouver and it was awesome.  Being a retired police officer I enjoyed the Vancouver police museum (hidden secret), just a short walk from Gastown.    

 

Thank you for your suggestions!

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1 hour ago, PittsburghNative said:

 

Thanks so much for your detailed response! It’s always appreciated!

 

I’ll be staying near The Executive Hotel Vintage Park, so close to a lot of attractions. The post-cruise tour is with Landsea Tours, so we can’t swap out the itinerary. I still think we will have a great time with them 🙂

 

As for the aquarium, I’ve been to one of the best aquariums in the world (Georgia Aquarium), so that is a bummer it’s not a “must” see.

 

My mom and I are pretty easy going with attractions. I guess we want to see unique spots around the city that you can’t find anywhere else, especially scenic locations, like the Sea to Sky Gondala someone else mentioned. We would like to find some cool shops (especially a store that sells ornaments!) so we can buy some souvenirs that can only be found in Vancouver. 

Ah, so you're actually closer to Yaletown than English Bay - it's a nice area with lots of restos, sort of an old warehouse district turned into a gentrified dining hotspot. If you've done Georgia Aquarium, Vancouver will seem very small in comparison! No giant tanks of whale sharks here, and the days of Orcas are long gone; even the last of the Beluga whales deceased over two years ago - one dolphin is the only remaining cetacean. It's not like the sea lions, otters, octopus, penguins and many, many fish aren't worth seeing, but I'd definitely bump it way down the priority list for you.

 

Personally I'd consider some compact sculptures by First Nations and Inuit artists - Inuit stuff especially tends to be stone with a very generalized 'modify the rock as little as possible to bring out the essence of the shape inside' style. I've got a soft spot for Inuit polar bear statues, especially ones in an interesting pose - while a museum quality piece by a well-known artist could send you back 5 figures plus, small simple pieces start under a hundred bucks. Inukshuks can be extremely cheap and are also very Canadian - they're basically just some flattish rocks that stack into a roughly humanoid shape, so in a box they're pretty much indestructible for traveling home too.

 

Granville Island is definitely your 'one-off artisanal shopping' location - but be aware that your post-cruise tour may now be a drive-through rather than a 'get off the bus for an hour so you can grab some lunch' stop. I'd be inclined to head over there from your accommodation - straight down to the Seawall, Aquabus dock at the foot of Hornby is a very short ride over to GI. Lots and lots of artisanal shops selling all kinds of things - and a couple of big souvenir shops with typical fridge magnets and ornaments of local sights. If it is more mass-produced gewgaws you want as souvenirs, be aware that the pricing is a bit keener in Gastown - Water Street has so many stores selling similar things that competition is tighter than on GI. My mum was buying a whole bunch of the same fridge magnet for various relatives who collect such things and we found the price varied from $2 to $6 for the exact same item! If you've got kids to buy stuff for, use them as an excuse to browse the Kids Market on GI - everything from typical dolls & lego to handmade wooden stuff (unfortunately there's a maximum age limit on the Adventure Zone 'jungle gym' up in the roof).

 

From GI, if you walk off the other side onto the Seawall and head east toward the Village there are a couple of pretty unique sights - the resident beavers in Hinge Park have a unique juxtaposition with densely populated buildings right next to them. Habitat Island is at the same point of the walk - it's man-made to replace the waterfront that was removed to build the square in the Village, and designed to entice local wildlife - it's been very successful in attracting both birds and local boozehounds who like to hang around drinking, hence us locals call it Beer Island. Great people- and bird-watching all in one place;-) A ride on Aquabus also takes you along the creek if you don't want to walk all the way.

 

Sights actually on GI itself include the world's most attractive concrete factory - the big storage tanks have been painted into huge human figures and even many of the cement trucks have been turned into various fruits & vegetables. Totem carving happens next-door - if you do get off the bus on GI it's always just next to the totems & concrete works that the coaches drop off and pick up at. Head east from here through the old Emily Carr campus (very industrial) and you'll find a small houseboat dock with some very quirky homes.

 

The Grouse Mountain gondola is accessible by free shuttle from downtown - it's the one you can ride on top of as well as inside! Up top you have a great view down across Vancouver, Grizzly Bears and wolves, a birds of prey show and a lumberjack show, various other movies and shows plus for an extra fee you can go further up the mountain and even climb inside a wind turbine, the Eye of the Wind. If you have a nice clear day the views are outstanding - and even without the view the value is significantly higher than Capilano who charge the same but have maybe at most half as much stuff to do. Multiple dining options up on Grouse too so it's a solid lunch or dinner time visit.

 

Or for even more expansive views, what about a floatplane ride? As well as scheduled services to Victoria, Whistler etc. you can also do just an 'up and circle around' tour of varying lengths through Harbour Air, though you need to wait until June before they'll fly you up to their 'secret' mountain lake for a picnic unfortunately.

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In addition to the great suggestions from Martin, you may also want to consider Dr Sun Yat Sen traditional Chinese Garden and Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. 

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Or spend part of a day at Queen Elizabeth Park, with its marvelous gardens and really marvelous Bloedel Conservatory (tropical plants and birds.)  

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