Vancouver, Canada is a beautiful city I got to explore this summer during my birthday week with my family. (One of my older sisters recently relocated there with her husband to get her Ph.D. and we had to come to check it out, too!)
I love big cities and all there is to do, but I also love and wanted to find the unique local places that make downtown Vancouver tick. I can say confidently in my ten days of being there, I really had a phenomenal time doing just that.
Below is my locals guide to delicious eats, trendy shops, and experiences to do while in Vancouver, B.C.! Plus, all photos taken by yours truly! Enjoy!
My family rented an Airbnb in Chinatown so we were just a short walk away from one of the hubs for food and shops – Gastown.
In Gastown, there are a handful of little boutiques (which is awesome because then you are getting more individualized clothes!) lining the streets. I hit them hard and these were my favorite ones:
The Latest Scoop
This store is so cute and addicting. Omg. Seriously. I could buy almost everything there. They had the trendiest clothes (which is what originally brought me in) but then I realized they had some home goods and accessories too! I’m a sucker for cute AF home goods and decor – which they definitely had!
little Mountain Vancouver
This is a popup (so I’m not sure how much longer they will be on Water Street for) but it had a mix of cute clothes. I picked up a dope white t-shirt (photos to come) that I love – because honestly, it’s kinda weird and unique – plus uber comfy.
As you might guess, this store is filled with home goods.
My sister found a cute faux fur rug throw and I found this awesomeeeeeee glass skull!! I really like picking up cute/unique little skulls (most of them are ceramic) so this one was a step above and honestly so reasonably priced. It is originally intended for alcohol, hehe, to be displayed on your bar cart. Who knows what I will do with it (I doubt I’ll fill it up with anything) because it is so unique the way it is and I love it!
(Also, you guys, there is totally a mini-mini-mini-version of the Flatiron Building here and it was so presh)
Let me just say…best molasses and chocolate chip cookies. My mom, sister and I became locals. Not even kidding when I say we were outside waiting multiple mornings in a row at 7 am.
All of their goods are baked in-house each morning. They have great classic butter croissants (I love the chocolate filled ones even more, and the almond ones are very good too) and a wide array of other sweet and delicious treats. They even have vegan brownies and protein muffins! Get a load of this spread of yumminess!
P.S. Act fast on these treats in the early morning because even by early noon they can be totally sold out!
Buro The Espresso Bar
An aesthetically pleasing coffee shop filled with nice wooden tables and plants. It is located on the corner of some of the main shopping streets downtown.
Here you will find a delicious mocha. My sister ordered an iced mocha one day while we were out shopping and we went back several times for it.
Okay, this is the French bistro my family took me to for my birthday lunch. Every dish my family ordered was delicious, you basically can’t go wrong. I ordered the ribeye steak with mushroom sauce and fries (BC it’s my B-DAY so I want to live it up, right). I practically don’t ever order steak but it was phenomenal. The fries here are so salty and good, too!
This whale watching tour is an all-day activity but if you love seeing wildlife, especially aquatic, this would be an exciting experience for you. The tour we took takes you from downtown Vancouver to Victoria island and back – The Prince Of Whales. The boat lets passengers off for a few hours to explore Victoria and tour the Butchart Gardens. With your ticket, it is optional to stay for a few nights in Victoria if you please and return to Vancouver on the next evening boat home.
You are on the boat for about six hours in total (four + there, and about 2 + back). But don’t worry they have snacks, hot drinks, and restrooms (thank God)! And BLANKETS! Because it will get cold and windy! So be sure to bring along a few big warm jackets with you!
We were lucky enough to see Orca Whales on both segments of the boat ride – which sometimes can be hard to do! It was a family of four whales that we watched hunt and swim around. It was amazing to see them in their natural habitat up so close.
The crew members were all quite friendly and a majority were in the marine biology field. That being said, they provided the passengers with lots of interesting information about these whales and their lifecycles (which they have been observing for years!)
Although this is not in Vancouver (it is in Victoria) it is most likely that if you do a whale watching excursion you will end up here – as the tickets provide free entry to the gardens.
Butchart Gardens was once a rock quarry that was beautifully transformed into gorgeous gardens. This spot has been around for over 100 years!
The gardens are sprawled out into many different sections to visit, including the: Sunken Garden, Italian Garden, Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, and Mediterranean Garden! I definitely would not miss the Sunken Garden! It is absolutely stunning and the story behind it is fascinating.
There is also a CAROUSEL that lets ADULTS ride it!!!!!! Let me just say, I was in heaven! I totally dragged my mom and little sister on it with me and it was SO much fun. 10/10 would go back just to ride it again.
Yoga on the beach
My sister who just relocated here knew about this as a girlfriend of hers is one of the yoga instructors.
There are free yoga classes open to the public right on the edge of the water in Kitsilano. The class is about an hour long with one instructor. And don’t worry if you’re a beginner – the class is welcoming to all levels!
You can bring a mat if you have one (unlikely as you’re just visiting) but it is totally NP if you don’t! My family and I didn’t bring any and we were just as well off with the natural grass below us.
Hiking Joffre Lakes
Y’all if you like hiking then this is a must do hike!
To get to the beginning of this hike it is about a three-hour drive each way (to/from downtown Vancouver) but well worth the time spent driving in exchange for the views. *You can very cheaply and easily rent a car for the day to get there – that’s what we did and it was one, two, three!* Plus, people tend to stop in the nearby town of Whistler.
The hike takes anywhere from three to six hours, depending on how quickly you go up and down.
It takes you up (and up and up) through three beautiful lakes. These three vast lakes are full of incredibly beautiful clear and vibrant colorful waters. Oh, and GLACIERS are in the background. Seriously…beautiful views you don’t want to miss!
*If you are pressed for time or just don’t want to do the entire hike, I would recommend going to at least the second lake before you turn around (mind you, the third and final one is only about 30 minutes from the second one). This one will definitely show you a glimpse of the beautiful views that you’ve seen online*
Note that this hike is definitely a well-known one so there could be some fellow hikers when you go. We got lucky and even though other people were there, it felt pretty private and dispersed due to how massive it is.
…Seriously! Look at the vastness of this! And the gorgeous colors!
What I would recommend: Wearing a super comfortable pair of exercise shoes, bringing several full water bottles, applying a good amount of sunscreen and packing a yummy picnic lunch (it will seriously taste so good once you’ve made it to the top lake – and what a setting to have a bite to eat!).
I didn’t go on this adventure as I was headed back to work in NYC, but it is supposed to be beautiful.
My mom and little sister rented bikes multiple times and rode around the big loops of the park. This park is massive. It is actually bigger than Central Park – if you can imagine! – and right on the water. You will have scenic and uninterrupted views of the water nearly the whole ride!
You could do this on a more relaxed day and leisurely stroll through the park, too!
So there you have it, ladies and gents! My living like a locals guide to Downtown Vancouver, B.C. and all the things I loved doing there.
Please let me know if you are planning your trip to Vancouver or have already been- I’d love to hear about your fun and unique adventures, too!