As a Pacific Northwesterner, I’m fortunate to live amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire country. There’s hardly a day that goes by where I don’t end up face-to-face with snow-capped mountains or stunning views of one of the many waterways that grace this area.
However, if I had one complaint about living in greater Seattle (aside from the ridiculous lack of sunshine) it would be the extent to which I’m isolated from other cities. I grew up a child of the Northeast where numerous cities and states were a relatively short drive from home. If I want to take in another city from my current location, I only have two choices: head south to Portland or north to Vancouver. Sure, I guess I could head east to Spokane, but let’s get serious. When was the last time someone expressed genuine excitement when they told you, “I’m going to Spokane”?
The good news is that Portland and Vancouver are fantastic cities. And last weekend I got to travel to Vancouver with two college friends who live in Portland. We had a great time and I even managed to work a nice run into my trip. But there’s more to Vancouver than scenic runs.
So if you ever find yourself visiting this fine Canadian city, here are five things I recommend you check out.
To be fair, poutine – the delightful combination of French fries, cheese curd, gravy and a variety of other toppings – is not specifically a Vancouver thing, but rather a more general Canadian thing. But if you’re a non-Canadian visiting the city, you have to eat it at least once. And if you’re a Canadian visiting the city… you should still eat it. Because, seriously, why would you not want to eat poutine?
Biking Stanley Park
Stanley Park is an absolute gem of a public space, located to the northwest of downtown. It’s quite large and the best way to take in as much of it as you can is to bike around it. There’s no shortage of places to rent bikes from and most of them seem to be located on Denman Street near West Georgia Street. Take the bike path counter clockwise around the outside of the park to see the totem poles, Brockton Point Lighthouse, Lions Gate Bridge, Siwash Rock and all the beaches. It’s around 8km long (that’s about half the distance between a 5K and a 10K, so you figure out the mileage) and there are also gravel paths that cut through the park’s wooded section. But be warned: the non-paved paths and hills mean more peddle power is needed.
Vancouver has the SkyTrain and plenty of buses and cabs, but the best way to travel is via boat. If you find yourself needing to cross False Creek this is the way to go. Not only is this option pretty affordable, it also gives you great views of the city. Plus, who doesn’t want to be on a boat?
33 Acres Brewing
As a snobby beer drinker from the Pacific Northwest, I find the Canadian microbrew scene to be a bit lacking. (Sorry, Canada.) That being said, I really enjoyed the 33 Acres Brewing Company tasting room in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. The space is decorated more like a trendy, farm-to-table restaurant than a dispensary for tasty beer. It’s also on the smaller side so on a busy afternoon, you may have to wait a few minutes to get in. (We did.) But waiting just makes the beer taste that much better.
When my buddy suggested we check out a BBQ joint for dinner on Sunday night, I must admit I was skeptical. Vancouver isn’t exactly known for its vibrant BBQ scene. But I’m always a fan visiting places that have “devil” in the name. My Devil’s Elbow experience began with a Brown Derby, a delightfully good cocktail that taught me that bourbon + maple = awesome! My meal was just as delightful. The Pulled Pork Waffle is a towering assortment of pulled pork and waffle wedges (obviously), accentuated with slaw and jalapeños. Would this place hold its own against some BBQ from Texas or North Carolina or Kansas City? I don’t know. But I do know that pulled pork + waffles = awesome!