It’s been just over a year that’s we’ve lived here in Vancouver (we arrived 28th September, but we sort of like to use Canadian Thanksgiving as our one year marker because it feels right). I wanted to share my favourite local places so far, but I’m sure that there will be many more to come as we start to explore further and further out and try different things, but if you’re coming to this city, I think you’ll love these.
One of my favourite places here, and one I take anyone who comes to visit, is the aquarium. It’s just inside Stanley Park and is quite big and really great fun, one of those for-all-ages things. They have everything from sharks, dolphins and jellyfish to reptiles and frogs. But they also have other animals too, the otters being a personal favourite, but the walrus are a must see and the sloth seems to be a crowd pleaser too. What I love is that they’re heavily involved in conservation and research, as well as being really passionate and knowledgable. Love this place.
For more details, visit their website HERE.
This place was our regularly Saturday morning brunch place, until our local resturant closed, but they do have other branches of the franchise Downtown and across Canada. They specialise in chocolate, and if you’ve spent any time on my Instagram or even reading this blog, you’ll have seen their beautiful rich hot chocolate and waffles piles with fruit and bacon. If you like chocolate, it’s a must visit, and I actually love their hot chocolate mix, which I drink at home. Delcious.
Click HERE for their site.
Roede House Musuem
The West End where I live has some incredible architecture and history. If you like that kind of thing, and want to know how people used to live and what life was like back then, then this place is for you. Roede House was the home of a book binder and his family, and the house has been restored with artifacts of his trade and items from the life and times of the family that lives here. The house is beautiful and worth seeing for that reason alone, but I like that the people who work there are really kind a passionate about the museum, and if you go on Sunday, you get a cup of tea and a biscuit (cookie).
For more details, click HERE.
Vancouver Police Museum
This one is not for everyone, but if you are a true crime fan, which many of us are, then this place is a must see. It has the history of the police force in this area, and that alone is pretty interesting. But beyond that exhibit, they have some incredible exhibits on forensics, and items from the Babes in the Woods case, the Milkshake murder, and more, as well as an autopsy room. It’s beautifully curated and really tasteful, with a focus on detection and science, not on sensational details, like say London Dungeon. I really liked it and highly recommend it.
Click HERE for more details.
There are many bookstores in Vancouver, for both new and used books, and I think all of them are pretty great, but there is only one McLeod’s. They’re sort of an institution, a place that everyone knows about and which even some famous people who visit the city make a point to visit when they’re in town. It’s a bit like falling down a rabbit hole, with loads of shelves groaning under loads of tomes and books stacked on the floor, but the guy behind the desk knows his books, and there is a total method to the madness. This store has a bit of everything, but leans away from the kind of pop or best sellers and focuses on rare books a bit. It’s a bookstore for real book lovers, and the owners are kind of delightful in their do-not-suffer-fools-gladly ways. There’s no website for this store, but you’ll find it Downtown on West Pender Street.
White Spot Restaurants
I think a lot of local people would sigh at me including White Spot in this list when there are so many great places to eat and ones that are more fancy, perhaps. Bit we really love this place. They do great cocktails and their plates are huge, and if you’re a kid, your plate will be shaped like a pirate ship. I like them because they do the kind of food that I think of as kind of North American, burgers, fish and chips, salads but all with a home cooked and a bit comfort food vibe. Its family dining, I guess, and it’s sometimes exactly what you want. It’s also Canada’s longest running restaurant chain.
White Spot restaurants site is HERE.
Stanley Park/English Bay/Stanley’s Grill
If you’re in Vancouver, I think Stanley Park and English Bay are kind of obligatory to visit. They’re right next to each other, and many a walk to the ocean for us has ended by the Beaver Dam in Stanley Park. This is one of my favourite places. It’s where the forest meets the ocean, where raccoons and squirrels play, and is beautiful all year long. It’s where I like to go to just be chill. We actually had our first ever poutine at Stanley’s Bar and Grill, which is in the pavillion and just past the rose garden. Not cheap, but we’ve decided to make it one of our anniversary places, to celebrate moving to Canada.
Stanley’s Grill website HERE.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
This is just north of Vancouver, but it’s really close to Stanley Park and Downtown and a free shuttle will take you there. I really like this place. The suspension bridge itself is really cool, and kind of scary to cross, but totally beautiful. There’s plenty of historical bits and peices, a tree top walk and they also have a light festival here. When I was here in the Summer, they had people doing talks and things with live birds of prey. It really gets you back to nature and there’s something kind of magical about it, even though it is a commercial park.
For more details click HERE.
Special Mention Events: Pride, Fireworks, Bard On The Beach.
There’s always something going on in Vancouver, it’s that kind of place. But there are three things that I think you should try to catch if you are here at the right time.
- Firstly, Bard On The Beach is a yearly Shakespeare festival that’s not for profit, and is insanely good. It takes place in neat tents and gathers amazing performers from across Canada, many of whom you’ll recognise.
- The Celebration of Lights takes place down on English Bay and is an international fireworks festival where 3 different nations each try to outdo each other with fireworks displays. They’re actually the best fireworks I’ve ever seen, and I love it because it takes place across 3 nights.
- Finally, the biggest Pride parade in the country, I’m told, happens right here in Vancouver, and honestly, not only is it really fun and colourful but it felt like an amazing celebration of life to me. It was actually really moving. (It’s important to note, I think, that Pride is also a protest and has an interesting and important history)
By no means exhaustive, these are some of my favourite local places to go. Vancouver is an amazing and vital city, so there’s loads more that I don’t have space to mention and since I’ve only been here a year, plenty of things I haven’t done yet. If you live here or have visited, let me know in the comments and maybe let me know your favourites. I love hearing from you.