*The Media Experience Pass featured in this post was provided complimentary to media. All opinions are my own.
Vancouver is a city that had been piquing my interest for a while. Just north of the border, I realized I knew very little about the city other than the fact that it was supposed to be very cosmopolitan. As a child, we drove up from Seattle, had a quick lunch at the Hard Rock, and drove back down. That was the extent of my experience with the city.
So when I went a few months ago, I was looking forward to really exploring the city both from the standpoint of the usual attractions, but also from the local perspective.
I was able to partner with Tourism Vancouver to obtain a Media Experience Pass to explore all of the top-rated attractions that Vancouver had to offer. This is a amazing company that was my one-stop shop on this trip. It offers visitor’s guides, advice on activities, foodie recommendations, and even allows you to book excursions through their site. And I was able to jam quite a lot into two days, with the help and company of a local buddy who had insight on how best to tackle the city. So off we went. This is my account of day one.
We decided that our first stop of the day would be Granville Island for the public market. So we decided to walk to the depot to take the Aquabus over. After walking through Yaletown, we arrived at the pier.
The views of the city were fantastic. When the Aquabus arrived, I let out a chuckle. I was thinking it was this big ferry-type boat, but it was more like a passenger tugboat. It was super cute and rainbow painted and totally charming. It even had plastic covers in the event it was a rainy day, which was a definite positive as it started to drizzle.
The boat ride over to Granville Island was quick and easy, and we were able to get some great photos of the city across the water. The Aquabus has a few different stops and it was fun taking it back and forth to the mainland.
I spend most of my time in Southern California. I know a farmer’s market or two, so I was expecting similar of Granville Island.
I was wrong. This was like the mack daddy of public markets. Inside a huge wooden building, rows upon rows spanned of farmers, fishermen, and other vendors selling their wares. The gorgeous high ceilings with exposed wooden beams. It was a site to take in.
We strolled up and down each aisle, me with camera in hand. Gorgeous, fresh fruit was abundant. Freshly caught, whole fish on ice and seafood in the tanks were the signatures of other stalls. Breads, olives, cheeses… and of course maple goods.
Like maple candy. OMG, it was delicious. We went to ChocolaTas, a candy stall, and sampled some maple candy. It was like a party in my mouth! Tiny little maple pecan (and many other flavors) candies with a maple leaf stamped on it. It was so delicious, I got some to go and got an extra box as part of my ‘Where in the World is BarrisTourista?’ contest.
And then… we saw a macaroon stall. I will admit, before Vancouver, I didn’t love macaroons. In fact, I was rather unimpressed. But whoa buddy, these macaroons at Bon Macaron Patisserie. I had two (of course). One was maple and one was passion fruit and both were sooo decadent. We had to peel ourselves away to stop eating them.
But it wasn’t just food at the market. Vendors were selling all sorts of wares and handmade products, like fine art, photography, jewelry, ceramics, souvenirs, soaps and lotions, and stained glass. It was amazing just walking up and down the aisles, seeing so many people mill around the market late morning.
After leaving the market, we decided to mill around the island a bit more, then grab lunch. Then it was back to the mainland via Aquabus to catch our Hop-On, Hop-Off bus.
Westcoast Sightseeing Big Bus Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour
Let me tell you, the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus is a dream. Such an easy way to get around Vancouver. Because we had several spots we wanted to hit on our first day of exploring, we opted to do the bus instead of driving around the city all afternoon.
The bus hits all of the major sites. We were picked up right where the Aquabus and ferries take you to Granville Island. We rode through the Gaslamp District, and I had a minute or two to hop off and get a picture of the famous gas lamp steam clock. We saw the waterfront areas where the cruise ships dock, and rolled through Chinatown.
As we rode by, we were able to get great shots of the Olympic Torch from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, all from the bus. It even made several stops in Stanley Park and we were able to get some great pictures (we went back the next day, so more on Stanley Park in the day two installment). It was a fantastic way to experience and get your bearings on the city so that you knew could either explore as you went or know where you wanted to visit again. In fact, I realized later that I had actually taken an affiliated company’s bus tour in San Francisco a number of years ago. It’s a definite score and easy way to see what Vancouver has to offer.
Fly Over Canada
This was the biggest surprise of the day. Well, of the trip. In researching attractions I wanted to see, I ran across Fly Over Canada. Initially, just from the name, I thought it was a helicopter ride over Vancouver. When I looked closer, I realized it was a flight simulator experience. I’ll admit, I kind of dismissed it.
But the forecast was rainy, so we decided maybe it would be a fun indoor activity by the cruise port terminal that we could do, and hey, why not?
I underestimated Fly Over Canada. Seriously.
And that may be the understatement of the year! It was an amazing 5D simulator. Pictures were not allowed inside, so I can’t show you the awesomeness. But it was a literal flying journey starting in Toronto and making our way east to west across the country and ending in Vancouver. We flew over cliffs, with the wind hitting our faces. We soared over open fields. We raced along with raging rivers, with drops of water splashing our faces and the smell of the river and the outdoors. It was actually the most epic simulation experience I had ever done. We left raving about the experience, as neither of us expected it to be so awesome. And at only $20 per person, it is not to be missed. Super amazing.
So that’s it for day one. Stay tuned for the second installment of my Tourism Vancouver excursions.