By Stephanie Montague, Military spouse
If you’re stationed in the Puget Sound area, you have the advantage of being close to a beautiful, vibrant city with incredible mountain and water views and tons of outdoor activities, all within a few minutes of the downtown area. No, it’s not Seattle; it’s Vancouver, Canada!
Vancouver is the perfect destination if you like big cities and all the amenities they have to offer but still want to enjoy nature. As a bonus, Vancouver is very affordable right now, because the U.S. dollar is strong relative to the Canadian dollar.
Weekend Getaway to Vancouver
Grab your passport and start planning your weekend getaway to Vancouver with these ideas that incorporate some of the fantastic outdoor experiences the city has to offer along with a few urban highlights.
Do the Grouse Grind
Locally known as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,” the Grouse Grind is a popular challenge for residents and visitors alike. It consists of a 1.8 mile hike with an elevation gain of 2,800 feet up Grouse Mountain, which is about 15 minutes outside of downtown Vancouver. The trail is entirely steps: 2,830 of them, to be exact. It’s a beautiful, shaded course through the woods, and at the top, you are rewarded with amazing views. Climbing the Grouse Grind is free. If you want to spare your knees, you can pay $10 to take the gondola back down.
Ride Bikes in Stanley Park
Stanley Park voted the #1 park in the world by TripAdvisor in 2014, is Vancouver’s jewel in the middle of English Bay. It covers more than 1,000 acres and has beautiful beaches and gardens, an aquarium, tennis courts, miniature golf, many famous monuments, and incredible views. The path along the seawall is about 5.6 miles, and the best way to see it is by bike. Do a quick Google search, and you will come up with at least a dozen bike rental shops in Vancouver. You can also use Vancouver’s shared bike system, Mobi, which has several stations within Stanley Park.
Rent Kayaks on Granville Island
One of the best ways to get views of Vancouver is to see it from the water. Renting kayaks is the perfect way to explore at your own pace and have time to stop and take pictures whenever you want. You can stay in the enclosed area of False Creek for close-up views of downtown Vancouver or venture into the open waters of English Bay.
There are multiple places to rent kayaks on Granville Island, including Ecomarine and Vancouver Water Adventures. Both outfitters offer tours as well as regular rentals if you prefer to have a guide.
Granville Island is a fun destination in itself. The giant Granville Island Public Market is full of delicious foods, fresh produce, handicrafts, and many other local items. There are also tons of other boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, breweries, and small theaters on the island.
Get a Latté at Caffé Artigia
If you need a pick-me-up after your outdoor adventures, visit Caffé Artigiano. This local artisanal coffee shop has locations all over Vancouver. They are famous for their “latté art,” so be sure to order a drink with steamed milk so you can see their beautiful designs. The coffee tastes great, too!
Shop, Eat and Stroll on Robson Street
There’s something for everyone on Robson Street which extends for 1.6 miles between BC Place Stadium (home of two of Vancouver’s pro sports teams) and Stanley Park. It’s Vancouver’s #1 shopping area, and you would be hard-pressed to think of a store that isn’t on this street. Robson Street is also a great place to find a spot for dinner after a busy day of hiking, biking, or kayaking. Cuisines from all around the world are represented, so take your pick!
Enjoy Dinner and Cocktails at a Fun Restaurant with Caribbean Flair
Vancouver is a very international city, and the restaurants are representative of the diverse population. It can be hard to narrow down the choices, but a great bet for a fun evening is The Reef. This restaurant has fantastic Caribbean food, rum-inspired cocktails, and good vibes. Come for the food and stay for the drinks. There are two locations, but the one on Commercial Drive has live music on Saturday nights.
Do you have any favorite places in Vancouver? Tell us in the comments!
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PCSgrades Author: Stephanie Montague is the founder of Poppin’ Smoke, a website designed to encourage members of the military community to use their military benefits for (fun) travel. Stephanie and her husband have been traveling the world since he retired from the Army in 2015.