Vancouver, Canada – a cosmopolitan city filled with five star restaurants, designer shopping and awe-inspiring scenery. But on your next trip to Vancouver, don’t just stay in the downtown core. There are many other neighborhoods around Vancouver worthy of your time and money. While some are still located within the city, others may require a short bus or ferry trip. Wherever you end up though, I can guarantee you’ll find more of what makes Vancouver such a wonderful place - beautiful surroundings, a laid back pace and friendly people.
In the 1970’s, Fourth Avenue was known primarily for its hippie population, organic groceries and metaphysical bookstores. It still retains that bohemian feel to this day despite the presence of some very up-scale establishments. If you’re looking for something to read, Duthies at 2239 West Fourth is a must. In business since 1957, Duthies has always been known for its vast and eclectic selection of reading material.
Need something for Rover back home? Head to the Three Dog Bakery (2186 West Fourth) and pick up some Beagle Bagels or Drooly Dream Bars to go.
Is classical music one of your interests? Then pop into the Magic Flute at 2203 West Fourth. With listening stations located around the store you can decide before you buy if Dvorak’s Symphony #9 is really what you’re looking for.
If all this walking has made you hungry, check out Sophie’s Cosmic Café. Located at 2095 West Fourth, they’ve been serving fantastic food since 1988. Be sure and come hungry, because the portions are huge. Personal favorites include the “Arbutus Burger” (named for the cross street that Sophie’s is located at) and the “Belgian Chocolate Cheesecake.” A very popular place for Sunday breakfast, the restaurant takes reservations for parties of six or more.
And finally, one of the best places to take in a Vancouver sunset is Kitsilano beach. Head north along either Cypress or Yew Street for five blocks and you’re there. Bus service runs frequently along Cornwall Street (directly across from the beach) so you’ll be back downtown in no time once the sun's gone down.
Welcome to “Little Italy.” Located on the east side of the city, the Drive is overflowing with Italian coffee bars, bakeries and restaurants. Arriva Ristorante, at 1537 Commercial Drive, has over 30 different pasta sauces on its menu. I’d recommend the Pennette Con Pollo Affumicato (smoked chicken and peas in a cream sauce) as long as you’re not watching the calories. Be sure and ask if they have any St. Honore Cake that day. Although it’s not on the menu, occasionally they’ll have this delicious Italian rum cake available.
And it’s not just about food. Peek in the window of Kalena’s Shoes (1526 Commercial Dr.) and admire the exquisite Italian footwear. Want to liven up the walls at home? Artrageous Prints and Framing specializes in ready-to-hang artwork as well as a great selection of prints.
But the best thing to do here is to simply people watch. Commercial Drive is surrounded by a remarkably diverse neighborhood, and the sidewalks are always filled with people. You could easily spend a few hours outside a coffee bar with your biscotti and cappuccino and just watch the world go by.
One of the most popular destinations in Vancouver, Granville Island is located at the end of a peninsula between downtown Vancouver and the rest of the city. For this reason, do not even think about driving there, parking is virtually impossible. Hop the bus or take one of the jaunty little blue and white ferries that take passengers between downtown and the island.
The main attraction is the huge covered market with its produce stands, butcher shops, cheese emporiums and decadent desserts. You could easily spend an hour or two simply strolling the aisles, admiring all the wares for sale. In addition to food, hand crafted jewelry and clothing can also be found for sale. There are also plenty of vendors with take out food to purchase. Grab a sandwich and head out to the dock to watch the sailboats cruise by.
Traveling with little ones? They’re certain to enjoy the Kid’s Only Market. Two playgrounds, including a water slide in the summer, will keep them entertained while you relax. In addition, there are plenty of shops geared strictly to kids as well as face painters and video games.
Bridges Restaurant, painted in bright yellow, is a landmark on Granville Island. Featuring outside seating on the dock, it’s the perfect place to spend a warm, summer evening. How about a glass of Pinot Blanc and an order of chilled Dungeness crab with spicy mayonnaise? Life doesn’t get much better than this.
Richmond / Steveston
The island city of Richmond is linked to Vancouver via the Oak Street Bridge. Originally a small farming community, Richmond has grown at an amazing rate over the past 10 years. A large part of this growth can be attributed to the immigration of many individuals from Asia – in fact over 60% of Richmond’s population is now of Chinese or South Asian descent. Standing at the corner of No. 3 Road and Westminster Highway you would be hard pressed to say whether you were in Beijing or Canada. Restaurants and shopping malls that cater to the Asian population have sprung up all over the city. You’ll even find street signs written in both English and Chinese!
In the southwest corner of Richmond is the tiny fishing village of Steveston. This is a wonderful place to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Stroll the docks and admire the daily catch as fishermen sell salmon, tuna and crabs from the back of their boats. Take in a tour of the “Gulf of Georgia Cannery” to see how this massive plant looked and sounded years ago when it was in operation (thankfully it no longer smells as it did years ago!).
When it comes to dining, no trip to Steveston is complete without fish ‘n chips at Dave’s, which is located at 3460 Moncton. The fish is “just off the boat” fresh, the service friendly and the prices very reasonable.
After dinner take a walk along the Steveston dyke. Richmond is below sea level so in order to avoid flooding the entire island is surrounded by dykes. This is not only a great place to walk but also to bike or bird watch. Even when it’s raining out, you’ll see people jogging or walking their dog. And best of all, it’s free!
Only 35 miles south from Vancouver is the beach town of White Rock. Situated on beautiful Semiahmoo Bay, the city is named after a giant white rock, which sits on the beach. With a population of just over 18,000 White Rock has a quaint small town feel.
The recent completion of a 5-mile promenade, in addition to the 1500-foot pier provides plenty of opportunities for a stroll. If you’re in the mood for a little fishing, live crab can be caught from the pier. With the warmest waters on the west coast of Canada swimming is an option as well.
Marine Drive, which runs the length of the beach, is lined with tourist shops, galleries and restaurants. The Sandpiper Pub, in business for over 20 years, offers a wide selection of beer, as well as cider and wine. The menu is just as diverse with not only your typical pub fare but pastas, salads and stir frys. They’re located at 15595 Marine Drive.
Just The Beginning
This is only a very small sampling of all the things there are to see and do in Vancouver. If gardening and plants are your passion a trip to the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens is a must. Like history? Check out Gastown, where Vancouver was first born. How about a 2,000-acre park including a zoo, an aquarium and a miniature train? Then Stanley Park should be your destination. One thing is certain though. Once you’ve visited Vancouver, you’ll definitely want to go back.