On the Road Again: Vancouver, BC

Recently, we had the opportunity to get away for the weekend. It doesn't happen often and we wanted to take full advantage of going somewhere we had never been.  So, like any other travel enthusiast, we began making a list... Let's see, what were our options; Western Washington Coast, Oregon, Camping in Eastern Washington, Vancouver, ... wait, Vancouver!  Neither of us had ever been to British Columbia.  I had traveled to Toronto as s kid, having grown up in Michigan, but that didn't really count.  At 13 I don't think it was a super memorable trip, so this was the perfect opportunity to see a different side of Canada!

Now that we decided where we were going, it was time to research what we wanted to experience.  We had roughly 30 hours to see, taste, feel, hear as much of Vancouver as we could handle. I began researching top places to see, bet parks, downtown sights, what was happening in the area, and everything else (thanks Pinterest).  We came up with a pretty extensive list where we began to narrow down our choices to make sure we planned accordingly for the sights we knew we couldn't miss. Travel Tip: Be sure to do your research on any scheduled local events in the area.  We did not research that enough and arrived in Vancouver during Pride weekend, two cruise ships docking, and the Celebration of Light fireworks festival...

We were ready! Time to load up the Land Rover, kiss the pup goodbye and head to the border with coffee and snacks in hand!  With less than a two hour drive, Vancouver was a great choice for us.  It could not have been an easier drive; we left just after 7:00am and were to the border before 9:00am - and that included stopping for coffee and gas.  We arrived at the border at the perfect time, only a 20 minute wait to cross.  We chose to cross at the Lynden/Aldergrove crossing.  Straight shot north of I-5.  For our first time, it could not have been any easier.  After clearing the checkpoint we were welcomed to British Columbia with the change to the metric system (yay).  Normally, no big deal because most vehicles have both the imperial and metric system displayed on the dashboard for kpm/mph. Nope, not in the LR4... poor Tim was given the task of calculating my speed while I was trying to figure out how to make the adjustment electronically. But, we managed and continued on our way to our first stop; Lynn Canyon Park. (Note: I was eventually able to convert my speedometer to km for the remainder of the trip. Tim was overjoyed.)

Since it was so early in the morning, we had plenty of time to kill before we could check into our hotel in New Westminster.  We chose to visit Lynn Canyon.  A beautiful park located north of Vancouver featuring walking trails, a small suspension bridge and rushing streams.  Travel Tip: We originally looked at visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge, but we learned there was a fee; a $47 CAN fee to be exact.  Lynn Canyon Park is FREE and features a smaller version of the Capilano Suspension Bridge (and less crowds).

Lynn Canyon Park Ecology Centre

Roughly an hour drive from the border, we continued along BC-1, passing through Surrey and Vancouver along the way. Upon arriving, we did find that the park was busy, but still plenty of parking left.  We found a spot and began our trek up to the Ecology Centre where the trails began.  After checking out a few of the maps, we had an idea of where we wanted to go.  Camera in tow, we set off to explore the park.  We entered the main trails by crossing the 157' suspension bridge, hanging just 164' feet above the canyon.  The views were beautiful, and the bridge was empty as we crossed; two great qualities.  All hiking trails are easily accessible for visitors. Travel Tip: Be sure to wear proper attire and footwear.  While the trails are clean, they are mostly dirt with exposed roots.  Also, LOTS of stairs taking you from the canyon floor to new trails above.  Be prepared with water, sunscreen, and appropriate attire. We spent several hours inside the park walking trails, filming, and exploring.  It was a great first adventure in Vancouver.  We chose the perfect time to go, too.  As we were leaving (around noon), there was a line of cars entering the park so we were able to see as much as we wanted with little interruption from fellow visitors.

By this time, we worked up an appetite and were ready to head to our next location on our list; Gastown.  Vancouver's oldest neighborhood did not disappoint.  With a mixture of old and new, this red brick-paved quarter was bustling with tourists and locals.  Make sure to stop and see the Steam Clock, located right in the heart of Gastown. We found parking in a public access area, just three blocks from Gastown, that was only $13 for the day. Travel Tip: Check the safety in the area...we chose a parking lot that we learned was rated highest theft; which did not keep us in the area very long. 

After walking a couple of blocks from the parking lot, we came to the main intersection of Gastown.  The vibe is awesome - tons of restaurants, pubs, shopping, and shopping.  Seeing the victorian architecture mixed with modern conveniences was amazing! (And great for Instgramming). We chose to have lunch at Local Public Eatery. If you're looking for modern food, old charm, and great beer - this is the place.  Whether you choose to eat inside or out, Local has a friendly, and trendy, atmosphere. Let me recommend the Fried Chicken Ramen - it will not disappoint!  Be sure to ask your waiter or waitress about their rotating beers on tap.  Their selection is awesome and has something for everyone.  Click here to learn more about Local Public Eatery. Be sure to check them out on Facebook and Instagram, too! (and seriously, get the ramen)

Local Public Eatery - Gastown

While eating our lunch, that's when we learned about the poor choice in parking.  So, we finished our meals and drinks and headed back to the Land Rover. Luckily, all was well, no issues. By this time it's early afternoon and we're ready to relax before heading back out for the evening's adventures.  We chose to stay outside of Vancouver, in New Westminster. The Queens Hotel is a boutique establishment located just 30 minutes outside of downtown Vancouver.  As a heads up, this hotel does sit back off the road and the front entrance is located inside a strip mall. Do not be alarmed, the hotel is very clean and cute! Parking is located around the back with designated spots for guests.  Our room was standard; king size bed, mini frig, TV; all we needed for one night. The room rate was acceptable, $224 CAD (~$170 US).

For our evening's festivities, we drove back into the city to Granville Island. This popular tourist attraction has something for everyone, ranging from shopping and art to food and drink to a public market. Located on the banks of False Creek, you can walk around the island admiring beautiful views of the city skyline and the Granville Bridge. Travel Tip: Plan accordingly! All shops and market close at 7pm, daily! (We of course arrived around 8pm).  Although the shops and market were closed, there was plenty to see! We walked around the alleyways and admired the art, the views, and enjoyed the experience.  I will say, that by arriving after the shops were closed, and before the fireworks started, the island was relatively quiet and we were able to walk around without dodging the crowds. We found a steakhouse for dinner, The Keg Steakhouse + Bar. Great atmosphere and even better food. With dim lighting, dark wood, small candles, and sports on the big screens, The Keg had something for everyone. The staff was awesome and provided recommendations for us as first-timers. For a Saturday evening, we were able to get right in, no wait. Fast forward 20 minutes and that place was PACKED! The fireworks were due to start around 10pm.  After walking around the island before dinner, we had the perfect amount of time (about an hour) to eat, drink, and relax before the festivities began. Want to learn more before visiting The Keg Steakhouse + Bar for your next adventure, click here.

With so many people in town specifically for the fireworks (like 500,000 people, no joke) we were trying to find a great spot to watch, without dealing with traffic and large crowds.  We lucked out; Granville Island was the perfect location! We were far enough east of where the fireworks were being set off to get ahead of the traffic when the show ended.  After finishing dinner, we walked to Granville Island's pier that overlooked False Creek. Gazing towards the Burrard Street Bridge, the fireworks lit up the night sky in an array of colors, shapes, and sizes. A perfect end to our day first day in Vancouver.

After a sleeping in the next morning, we had a few hours to spend in Vancouver before making our way back to our home in Everett, Washington. A main attraction in the city is Stanley Park; Vancouver's largest urban park.  The 400 acre park provides views of Vancouver's city skyline, mountains, beaches, walking trails, and the iconic Stanley Park Seawall.  Take a minute to watch the seaplanes take-off and land in the bay, and visit one of the many landmarks inside the park, such as the First Nations Totem Poles, Vancouver Aquarium and botanical gardens. Travel Tip: The park is EXTREMELY busy all hours of the day!  Watch for joggers, cyclists, and pedestrians as you navigate through. On a time crunch? Check out the horse-drawn carriage, shuttle or bus tours. To learn more about Stanley Park's attractions, click here.

After walking for a couple hours, we started looking at the border wait times...and I'm glad we checked!  At around noon on Sunday, border times were increasing to more than two hours to return to the US. It was time bid Vancouver farewell and head back home. Our entry point in Lynden had the longest wait, so we chose to re-route to Abbotsford/Sumas. The wait time here was around 45 minutes and dropped us back into Washington just East of I-5. Tour Tip: Be sure you are checking border wait times throughout your trip and have a back-up plan ready if your first choice is too long. We suggest using this site for keeping up to date with the border crossing wait times. After more than doubling the time returning from Canada as it took to get there... (thanks Seattle traffic) we returned home. After being lovingly attacked by the pup and unpacking, we took a minute to reflect on our weekend getaway. 

Yes, our passion is for Overlanding and camping and off-roading, but Overloading is in the eye of the beholder.  Overlanding is about the journey, the adventure and the experience, whether that's staying in a hotel or camping in the middle of nowhere. Overlanding isn't about judging or competition, it's about accepting a new challenge, trying something new and learning along the way. The best description I've seen about Overlanding was by Michael, owner of Overland Bound.  I truly encourage you to click here to hear his perspective! We were able to treat ourselves to a new experience that we were able to do together.

I hope this encourages you to get out and explore and know that adventure, of any kind, is worthwhile.  Look for more "On the Road Again" blogs, coming soon.

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