When we booked a trip to British Columbia recently, I was super excited to explore Vancouver together. Josh loves any opportunity to get up to my native Canada and I love being his tour guide. Plus, I’ve been wanting him to see Canada’s west coast, so we were thrilled to do this together! Once we got there, the weather was amazing and it was clear that the best thing to do was to explore Vancouver is on a bike!
We discovered that our hotel, the positively stunning Fairmont Pacific Rim, rents out a variety of vehicle to explore the area. What did we find among the offerings? Some truly fantastic BMW e-Bikes! After traveling all morning to get there, we knew pedaling around the city would be a great way to shake off some travel anxiety and stress!
Before embarking on our bike tour of Vancouver, we needed to learn the basics. It didn’t take long for the bike butler (yes, they had a butler for the bikes!) to explain how to use the e-Bike. Within minutes we were wearing our helmets and on our way! We weren’t sure exactly what to expect, but the e-Bike is very user-friendly and intuitive. After a very small learning curve, we were ready for a day of exploring Vancouver!
You can pedal normally and move on your own power, if you’d like, but what’s the fun in that? We were excited to see what kind of power we could get! While it was practical for maneuvering through crowded areas or crosswalks, we were curious about the kind of boost the BMW e-Bikes would give us. Let’s just say that it did not disappoint! All we had to do was push the buttons for more or less power, and the bike responded. Josh loved the Turbo mode, and it was easy to get over 20 mph without breaking a sweat. Fantastic!
Explore Stanley Park
The first stop on our bike tour of Vancouver shouldn’t surprise anyone who has visited the area. We were like kids in a candy store biking around Stanley Park! I’ve only driven through it, so it was an entirely new experience to ride along the seawall with the wind in our hair (okay, neither of us really has any hair, plus we were wearing helmets, but you get the point!).
It was amazing to see seaplanes and cruise ships come and go through the harbour as we zipped along, but we had to make a few stops along the way. Since he was a baby, we’ve read a book called Goodnight Canada to Caleb, which includes scenes of people riding bikes in Stanley Park and visiting the Totem Poles. He was so shocked (and jealous) to see our own pictures in those very spots!
We also stopped for way too many pictures of the Lion’s Gate Bridge, but in our defense, it looks so different from every angle. Maybe we gave in to our inner tourists, but we really had a blast!
Gastown and Chinatown
On our last day in town (and our final chance at a bike tour of Vancouver), we grabbed the e-Bikes again and made our way through Gastown and Chinatown. We made a few stops at the shops, and of course snapped a shot of the famous steam clock! Josh was a little nervous about leaving the bikes unattended (even though we were given locks!), so we didn’t check out any of the restaurants. Okay, we did stop at a Tim Hortons, but who can resist that!?
We didn’t have to bike very far to find one, of course, because there was a Tim Hortons every few blocks. Sigh, I miss that about Canada so much! Using the locks provided by the hotel, we secured our bikes and had a quick lunch at Timmy’s after working up an appetite. It was our last visit to a Timmy’s in Vancouver (unless you count the airport!) so we took our time and really enjoyed it.
As hockey fans, we do a bike tour of Vancouver without seeing Rogers Arena! Neither of us loves the Vancouver Canucks (okay, we hate them!), but it was still cool to see the place. One odd thing? There’s a Costco right across the street from it. The traffic getting in and out of that parking lot must be terrible!
Vancouver 2010 Olympic Cauldron
As a Canadian, I was super proud to watch the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. We were living in Calgary at the time, and I even bought an official jacket. I am not ashamed! Anyway, it was super cool to look down from our hotel at the Fairmont Pacific Rim and see the Olympic Cauldron (torch) from our window. Naturally, we had to make our way down there!
Located at the Jack Poole Plaza in Burrard Landing, you’ll have to stop by if you’re planning a visit to Stanley Park. There are several restaurants nearby, but it’s also great for bringing a lunch and just sitting outside. It famously malfunctioned during the Opening Ceremonies (one of the arms wouldn’t come out of the ground!), but it was perfect when we were there. So cool!
Notable Sites Around Vancouver
We didn’t get to see and do everything we wanted to on this trip. Having lived next door in Alberta, this was not my first time in Vancouver (and I hope it’s not my last!). The area has some well-known tourist attractions and notable sites. Here’s a quick list of things you can do (including some we’ve already mentioned) to fully explore Vancouver:
- Stanley Park
- Vancouver Aquarium
- Granville Island
- Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Whale watching
- Queen Elizabeth Park
- Museum of Anthropology
- VanDusen Botanical Gardens
- English Bay
- Canada Place
If you’re a sports fan and you happen to go during the right time of year, you could also check out an NHL hockey game (even though we are not fans of the Vancouver Canucks!) or a CFL football game (the local team is the BC Lions).
Where to Eat in Vancouver
We weren’t in Vancouver for as long as we would have liked, but we still managed to eat in a wide range of places. Please, I beg you – if you plan to visit Vancouver, give yourself enough time to enjoy the food!
The first thing we did, however, was hit A&W and downtown’s CF Pacific Centre for a variety of poutines. We both love the dish which consists of fries, gravy and cheese curds, and couldn’t wait to get off the plane and dig in!
The poutine from A& W is pretty typical for fast food restaurants in Canada. It was Josh’s first time having one, though! Did he enjoy it? Thoroughly! Yes, there are fancier poutines, but it’s hard to beat the price and convenience of a burger joint. Plus, we knew that we were heading over to CF Pacific Centre for more!
Another first for Josh – a poutine from New York Fries! Despite the name, this is a fully homegrown, Canadian chain that you’ll often find at food courts in malls. My older kids really love it. They sell different variations (including a butter chicken poutine), but he stuck with the classic. I went with an old favorite, the beef & chicken teriyaki plate from Edo Japan. It was so good after all these years!
Of course, we also had to make several runs to Tim Hortons. No kidding — despite our full itinerary, we went to Timmies at least five times. In fact, every time to cross the border into Canada (or find locations in places like Columbus, Ohio during stops to Cedar Point), we have to stuff our faces. It really is one of the things I miss most about home. It’s just so affordable and good!
Josh is a huge 7-11 fan. We were completely shocked (and saddened!) to learn that there aren’t any locations in Idaho. So, we’ve been in Boise for more than three years now without any. Whenever we drive down to Lagoon outside Salt Lake City, we make several stops for Slurpees.
Funny enough, Hayley and I fell in love with convenience stores in Japan, including 7-11. Ugh, why don’t they have any in Boise!? Either way, it was good to enjoy it while we explored Vancouver!
Nightingale Restaurant in Vancouver
You’ll find Nightingale in Vancouver’s downtown financial district on Hasting’s Street. I’m generally nervous about going to new restaurants, especially in groups (we went with some local friends). Because of the number of people at our table, they served everything family style, but with my OCD and food allergies, they gave us our meals separately. It was so thoughtful!
The menu features classic Canadian fare with some killer cocktails, and we tried a little bit of everything. We can personally vouch for the tastiness of the following dishes at Nightingale’s in Vancouver:
- Pizza (San Marzano tomato, mozzarella, basil, olive oil)
- Oven fired focaccia (Pecorino Romano, garlic butter)
- Braised meatballs (San Marzano, Parmesan, pine nut, basil)
- Roasted half chicken (peperonata, Macedonian feta, olives)
- Grilled hanger steak (red onion agrodolce, Gorgonzola butter, horseradish)
While everything was great, the superstar of our meal was the buttermilk fried chicken with spiced maple syrup, sumac and pickles. Oh my goodness, we ended up having two plates of this! It was crispy, but juicy, the seasoning was out of this world, and the maple syrup was the perfect sweet touch. It really was one of the best things we’ve ever eaten!
For dessert, we tried a couple things including the salted caramel pot de crème (with whipped crème fraîche, butterscotch and vanilla breton) and the warm chocolate fudge cake (with espresso gelato, irish cream, cocoa nibs). Both were solid choices, but a little pricey. Overall Nightingale is an excellent choice to replenish your reserves while you explore Vancouver!
During our stay, we were hosted by the amazing team at Arc’teryx. The outdoor brand is based in Vancouver and gave us an up close and personal look at how they make their incredible gear. One of their favorite places to gather is Miku Vancouver, which located right on the harbour. Located near Canada Place, you could have some truly breathtaking views depending on where you sit.
The restaurant specializes in sushi & sustainable seafood, so if you’re into that, this is the place to go. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to fish and seafood, so Miku accommodated with a special menu for us. The modified sushi platter they brought would be perfect for vegetarians also. The Vegetable Nigiri come in asparagus, avocado, eggplant, shiitake, shiso, and red pepper.
We were surprised when they brought us the AAA Sterling Silver Prime Rib plate. The beef is prepared using a five-hour sous vide method, and comes with a brown butter wasabi sauce, market vegetables, and Iwanori butter baked Yukon potato puree.
The meat was very tender and flavorful, but it wasn’t as warm as we like it. The portion was a bit small, but that might have been because we were doing a tasting menu as a group. It’s definitely a solid option for people who don’t want sushi, though!
For dessert we had the Green Tea Opera. It was comprised of green tea génoise, matcha buttercream, dark chocolate ganache, azuki bean cream, hazelnut wafer, and matcha ice cream. It was delicious! If only we had a little more of it!
Overall, Miku Vancouver did not disappoint. Would we go there again? Probably not, basically because it’s out of our travel budget and I’m terrified of cross-contamination sending me into anaphylatic shock. If you love fish and seafood, you may want to make a reservation!
Explore Vancouver, Canada!
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again — if you get the chance, explore Vancouver! There are so many incredible things to see and do, and we barely scratched the surface in this blog post! We feel so lucky that we were able to go up to the nearby Tantalus Range where we literally climbed a mountain!
The thing we love best about Vancouver is that it’s a city that caters to people from all walks of life. It’s multicultural and modern while offering all of the things you’d want in a big city, but it’s also a hub for sustainable, organic living. We couldn’t love it more. We can wait for the next time that we get to explore Vancouver!