This trip was July 19-23, 2017
We live 4.5 hours from the Canadian border. Being from the middle of the United States it was exciting to have the chance to be in another country that quickly. Drew had never been out of the country until this trip and it was time for me to renew my passport so Canada it was!
We knew British Columbia was a must-see and heard Vancouver and Victoria were a blast for sightseeing and nightlife. While we never made the long trek out, we would absolutely have gone to Banff.
Before You Go:
- First make sure your passport is up to date or allow up to six weeks for any changes. My renewed passport came in about 10 days sooner than Drew’s first passport.
- We did exchange for Canadian currency at our local Wells Fargo bank. Once we got there we realized we would have been just fine using our cards. Because of the exchange rate it’s actually more beneficial for you to use your card. We found it nice to have some cash to use or have ‘just in case’. You’re visiting their country. Be respectful and make it as easy as you can on them. Having said that…
- Let’s say worst came to worst. They might accept your American currency. They’ll round the difference and you’ll get Canadian change. We spoke to a bartender about how they handled this.
- Not important but just for fun 😉 …They bring a portable card scanner to your table to process the transaction which we found common in every city we visited.
- They had the same outlets. You won’t need to bring an adapter but double check with your lodging.
- The drinking age in Canada is 18-19 depending where you go. Each province and territory is free to set its own drinking age.
- 3 a.m. will be the latest bars and clubs are open. U.S. residents can bring back 1 liter of alcohol duty-free on their return from Canada. If you want to bring back cigarettes or any other products, check this out.
- Sleeve=Pint. Or as close as you can get give or take a few ounces. You’ll see what I mean.
Jul 19 – 21, 2017
We drove from Lacey to Vancouver with no traffic. Crossing the border was a short line and, as you drive into Vancouver, you’ll see a beautiful cityscape. Here are a few VERY professional GoPro videos of us passing through Seattle and on our way into Vancouver.
There are long winding roads that take you down a two-lane highway to town. We pulled up to our Airbnb which hosted it’s own parking garage and keys to access the elevator and our room. We stayed here which I cannot recommend highly enough! It was clean, modern, close to everything and the floor to ceiling windows give you an awesome view 24/7.
If you’re looking for some money off your Airbnb rentals, use this code!
Here is a tour of the awesome Airbnb!
Since you’re staying in the most superb location, walk over to THE place to eat and drink…Yaletown. It used to host industrial warehouses but has since turned residential the perfect mix of industrial turned residential. You’ll feel the modern, boutique, funky and stylish personalities at each location. Several have indoor/outdoor seating. We grabbed our first food and drinks at a delicious Mexican place called Tacofino.
Here’s a little breakdown of day/night one thanks to Snapchat.
It’s fun to walk down the sidewalks pass the multiple restaurants, bars and shops and we stopped for a few beers at Phat Sports Bar. We talked a ton to the owners here (a husband/wife couple) and here is where I learned what a sleeve was. Awwww.
Yaletown Brewing Company is a MUST go to! The inside is huge, rustic with awesome decor and Happy Hour atmosphere. We went here twice solely for their Raspberry Wheat Ale. It was seriously that delicious and I want to go back right now…
Now go take a nap! 😉
If you want to go out tonight for some late-night food and drinks head over to Doolin’s Irish Pub. Grab their nachos! This is the side of town where most of the clubs are so expect to be carded and run into more of the homeless population. We slipped into the Republic bar for a steep cover and pricey drinks. It was pretty dead and we saw a guy puke on the couches so….Not sure if I would recommend going there….
I hope that booty is ready for today! Walk down the street for your carb loading at La Petit Belge. They’re famous for their Belgian waffles and we can see why. We waited in a short line and, by the time we left the line was backed up to the door. The best way to tour the city is going to be on your bike to avoid busy streets.
We rented two city roadsters from Cycle City Tours. Right above this is some bumpy bike basket footage of us starting off the ride to Stanley Park.
They’ll have multiple bikes to choose from and you can add things like baskets. You will rent a helmet along with your bike…don’t feel like a nerd. EVERYONE had a helmet on because it’s a law and you’re riding next to cars on the street. We wore rainjackets today along with comfy clothes and were thankful for the layers. They also provide a lock for you to explore without worry of the rental being lost. You’ll save 10% by booking online and pay for only as long as you bike (half or full day).
The views are awesome and the path is busy. Head down the hill and you’ll find the path for a quick 15-minute ride to the totem poles at Legends of the Moon in Stanley Park.
A few minutes later down the road you’ll see the “Little Mermaid” statue on your right. This statue was built in 1972 and is actually a woman in a wetsuit. We also heard and spotted an eagle above us!
As you round the corner (You’re basically following the Seawall which you will hear lots about) you’ll start to exit the ‘city’ and find yourself next to stunning rock formations, the large Lion’s Gate Bridge, more water views and several lookout points. Each time I saw mountains or a new city view we would pull over and enjoy the view.
You’ll start trading the rocks for the sandier beaches. You can make it to the highest point of the park, Prospect Point Lookout, to grab a bite to eat but we decided to keep pushing since we were going to see the entire city.
You’ll bike through some beautiful gardens and parks where families are enjoying their weekend and wildlife are scurrying around. There are a few hills I enjoyed coasting down like a kid….maybe three times….
Finally we made it over to Olympic Village. By this point my tailbone was feeling it! It hurt to get off the bike and walk around or jump down curbs and potholes (haha). Olympic Village was built for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and is now one of the greenest communities in the world.
The housing used for the worldwide guests is now hosting residents. We grabbed a large lunch and beer at Craft. Craft is the large red barn in the center next to the oversized birds so I hope you don’t miss it. They provide over one hundred different beers on tap, most of them from local brewers. We tried their hot dog sushi, lobster roll and OF COURSE poutine.
We biked back across and over the bridge to Granville Island which was one of my personal favorites. Granville is a man-made island formed in sand dunes around False Creek and is home to breweries, arts and beautiful neighborhoods. If you had more time to explore this area I would. It was extremely busy when we made it in to town and, even as a biker, it was difficult to lock our bike up. Cars were almost at a standstill.
We grabbed some cold cocktails at Cats Socialhouse which is now permanently closed. Granville Island Brewing was packed full of people but we were still able to check out their gift and beer center. Their public market and stores were also fun to walk around and check out.
That last push back to Vancouver was a long one but we made it! On our walk back to the Airbnb it was late afternoon. We walked into the most Instagram-worthy restaurant/bar, Homer Street Cafe and Bar, a few steps from our door to grab a couple celebratory drinks. I believe I got the Secret Garden and Spring Flowers (pictured.)
We grabbed some of the best couture pizza and sliders we’ve had at The Parlour before drinking at a couple cool random bars nearby tonight. Our criteria is 1) Are they still open? and 2) Looks cool, wanna try it out? The Parlour turns into a club and while we were paying the bill they started transforming the space and a line began forming.
PS: We heard lots of good things about Medina Cafe but the line was always way too outrageously long for us to wait around.
We went to a few other bars tonight but nothing that I think you’d be missing out on.
Our last day in Vancouver started out in Gastown. Gastown is the original settlement of Vancouver and upholds the historical characteristics from bricked pavers to street lamps and wrought iron, cozy stores.
This area is extremely busy so park where you can. We chose a parking garage downtown and walked the sidewalk a shortways to the infamous steam clock. This clock blows steam constantly and chimes it’s bells loudly to tell visitors the time.
We walked through a few touristy stores and noticed several bars as we walked through town. You can easily find the “Gassy” statue before stopping in at the Lamplighter Public House for lunch.
We had great beer and delicious food plus there wasn’t any waiting time. You can sit outside but we had to change when it started to rain. They have the old pub feel, molded ceilings but arcade games in the corner.
Find the photo above with the pavers behind the black chain link looking at the Lamplighter. I am standing in the spot where they named it Vancouver.
We plugged in directions to the BC Ferries about an hour away. We rode from Tsawwassen (Vancouver side) to Swartz Bay (Victoria side). You can check schedules here. As you approach the ferry expect long lines and the biggest ferry you’ve probably ever taken.
Arrive an hour before your departure time. This is a pricier ferry ride because of their charges and I believe we paid $40-50/per adult. You can check current rates here.
HIGHLY RECOMMEND reserving a ferry time so you don’t wait around as long OR risk missing out on a ferry altogether. You also save money.
They will sort you into a row, you park and each time a ferry leaves you MIGHT be able to move forward. There are restrooms, restaurants and a concourse area for you to grab food and drinks. Kids were playing in a park and people walked their dogs around the grassy areas.
Once you’re on the ferry, it’s business as usual. Park, emergency brake and grab your coat to head up to the top. This ferry had several floors and rooms full of activities for people of all ages. We were REALLY hoping to see whales but had no luck. Seals and smaller wildlife were in the water and the views of islands and mountains were stunning. Crossing over took 1.5 hours and when we arrived we were able to drive into Swartz Bay.
Jul 21 – 23, 2017
From Swartz Bay it was a straight shot about 30-40 minutes to our Airbnb. We passed Butchart Gardens, the edge of downtown and the entrance into the city.
We stayed here. It was a shared room which I didn’t really understand but the host was very nice and the location was great. If we were to go back to Victoria I would prefer a place to ourselves but this provides great parking and a clean space at a very low price!
This first night we went out for dinner and drinks hopping around the downtown area. It was easy to find places to visit because of how popular this area is. If you haven’t discovered Earl’s chain in Canada take the walk down to Government Street. We are big, big fans of their garlic fries and wings. This area close to Market Square is where lots of college and young adults hang out for nightlife.
Here’s another snapchat video of our nightlife…
We walked down the street and stopped in at a few bars: The Churchill, a few bars here and there and found the COOLEST interior ever at Bard and Banker.
If you need to cure that hangover this morning grab breakfast at Browns Socialhouse. It’s a very short walk from your Airbnb and they have the most delicious FRESHLY SQUEEZED orange juice I have ever tasted. It’s a must try!
Drive thirty minutes out to The Butchart Gardens. No, we’re not big gardening enthusiasts but it really is breathtaking and the expansive grounds were impressive to walk through. Because it is such a famous landmark plan on spending some time walking around here. It was raining off and on the day we went but they have clear umbrellas you’re able to borrow.
Instead of including a million photos from Butchart, here is a link to all the photos I uploaded. Take a look!
You drive through neighborhoods to get to the entrance and then pay about $30/adult to get into the park. Don’t worry it’s worth the one time visit.
These grounds were once a personal residence and the couple grew it into the grounds you see today. They will hand you a map so you know what you’re looking at and how long it has been there. There are waterfalls, a rose garden, grass sculptures, a Japanese section, a boat dock to the water, ponds, a home and much more. You can easily spend a few hours here.
Head back to Victoria and walk around the Market Square and Bastion Square. We were able to wander through The Bay Centre and several really cool bookstores.
Speaking of bookstores you should visit the infamous Powell’s in Portland. I talked about it here.
OH AND I FOUND SOMETHING WITH MY NAME ON IT!!
While you’re on this side of town stop into the Irish Times Pub for a classic beer and great live music. I wish we could have stayed longer, the atmosphere was a great time!
You’ll walk around the edge of Brentwood Bay. You couldn’t have missed it but go by The Empress. This is MASSIVE and difficult to get in one photo! Some people like to visit for high tea or tours and others even stay here.
Caddy-corner to the Empress is their provincial capital, Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Ain’t nothin like the one in Topeka…. You can climb up some of the steps, walk the grounds and visit the gigantic trees, statues and totem poles on their grounds.
Your feet are probably hurting as much as mine were by this point but keep going to see more cool things while you circle back to your room. Past the Royal BC Museum (we will come back to this) is the Elliot Street Square, St Ann’s Schoolhouse and further down the road is Beacon Hill Park.
We definitely didn’t make it through all of the park but it was cool to walk through a historic and famous area. Round the street by the Old Spaghetti Factory to walk through the historic St. Ann’s Academy.
The Airbnb is right here on the corner so rest up, get ready and walk down to The Guild. We had an enjoyable dinner and drinks even though the portions were fairly small we were still full. There WAS some waiting and were extremely surprised when the bartender comped our meal for us!
We visited several bars in this area on our walk back home including Darcy’s Pub where there was more live music and a cover charge for the band. This was pretty crowded and definitely more of the college and bachelor party scene. Big Bad John’s was a dive bar with another cover and it reminded me of the Floribama bar near Gulf Shores. We grabbed a Coors but there wasn’t a place to sit down or move and we left after one drink. I wouldn’t say it’s worth the cover.
Since we’re big fans of Irish pubs we hit up one closer to home, the Sticky Wicket Pub. We would have loved to spend more time in this HUGE bar filled with games, tables, bartops and outdoor seating but it was closing time and we finished the walk home.
This last day is for the museums: The Museum of Anthropology / Royal BC Museum so grab a filling breakfast at Sam’s Deli and Bistro. This museum was both of our favorites we had ever been to. It was really well done and there was plenty to look at. Victoria had a large presence of showcasing and honoring their Native American heritage.
It will be a lengthy walk but head down to the Fisherman’s Wharf. There were more hotels lining up the water and the area itself is entirely on a floating dock. There are restaurants all over the place and one of the more famous ones is Barb’s Fish n Chips.
Next to the wharf is another dock area where whale watching and tours take off from. There are tiny houses are docked and you can walk the boardwalk to view the private residences.
The ferry out tonight is in the same area as the Empress. Plan for traffic and arrive an hour ahead of time. This is a narrow two lane road so if you’re earlier then you will be turned away and asked to come back. Once you park your car in the lot, walk up to the office for your ticket and to fill out a card that will be placed in your windshield.
We took Black Ball Ferry line and you can find more information here. Use the same approach as you did on the earlier ferry.
This ferry will be just over two hours long and it was FREEZING outside. We had a great view of Victoria as we sailed out. About halfway through we saw whales pop up out of the water! It was fun to watch their tails fluke in the sunset.
Our drive back through Port Angeles happened right after nightfall. If you want to spend some time in Port Angeles or the Olympic National Park read about it here.You’ll love that the sun doesn’t set until 9-10 p.m. in the summers here.
This Canada trip was one for the books and we want to go back constantly. We’ve got some spare loonies and toonies if you want to pick us up on your way there. Now that we are about to move to the East coast I would love to hear and read about your trips on that side! Please leave them down for me in the comments.
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