You are utterly unfair. How dare you have beautiful beaches, after already laying claim to one of the most bewitching mountain views I’ve ever seen while standing in the middle of a city?!
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’m going to use the rest of this post now to absolutely gush all over Vancouver.
Hiking trails. Coastal walks. Snowy peaks. Word on the street is that Vancouver is heaven on earth for outdoor enthusiasts, and I definitely wanted to visit it one day, maybe just even try to ski and this time, not hit a tree (true story). Well, the time has finally come now, but with one caveat — now I have a 7-month old baby also (hopefully) eager to travel the world with me. Will this new mama survive? Of course, gone are all the Bear Grylls-canyoneering plans, but we found that there were plenty of options to enjoy Vancouver’s gorgeous landscape, even with an infant in tow.
Stoked as I was to gape at all the mountain views I’ve heard about, alas, it was not yet meant to be. Rainy weather and low-lying clouds greeted us as we landed. However, I was far more excited to see someone else that was waiting for us in the airport: Mace, a friend from high school, who generously let us crash in her new apartment. I’m sure the arrival hall rang with squeals of excitement as I ran to hug Mace, and after a quick intro with Tobi, she had us acquainted with the Vancouver metro transit in no time.
We were staying a bit of a distance from downtown, but we found that going around via the well-connected public transit in Vancouver was a breeze, even if we were totting a baby stroller around. Canadians, as you would expect, were extra considerate to help us board and settle on the public buses. We were actually able to scour far and wide across Vancouver without having to drive around, and that’s plus points for us rookie parents.
Day 1 was not the day for zip-zapping furious exploring, though. We spent the day mostly settling down, stuffing our tummies and trooping for a quick visit to Granville Island in the still-drizzling afternoon. Granville Island is supposed to be a magnet for kids, given its enormous Kids’ Market, but since Tobi hasn’t discovered his appetite for toy shops yet, we dashed straight ahead to the Food Hall at the Granville Island Public Market.
Oh food, glorious food. Vancouver’s an excellent place to have seafood, and this deprived island girl didn’t hold back in ordering pier-side calamari plates. I did manage to not binge on the rows and rows of decadent fudge, since I already had my fill of fudge from Niagara. It was also a day after my husband’s birthday, and we found for him the perfect birthday pie from A La Mode, which would be approved by even the queen:
Whatever laziness we indulged in during Day 1, we paid for with hyper-tourist wandering on Day 2. First thing to note: the sun’s out! And lo and behold, we found ourselves surrounded by mountain ranges in the distance as we looked out Mace’s window. The hiker in me is doing cartwheels.
My husband’s a history nut, so I suggested going to Burnaby Village Museum first as a treat for him. It turned out to be a treat for all of us, adults and baby alike — it’s a living museum, where instead of looking at artifacts indoors, you actually get to roam around an actual 1920’s replica of Burnaby village itself, complete with the train station, post office and of course, “museum” guides in character, decked out in full period attire.
My favorite spots were the train station, where I got to ring out the streetcar bells, the schoolhouse, where a strict “teacher” was gently terrorizing school kids on a field trip so that they line up properly (as I’ve said, the guides were always in character), and the bank, where we got tons of trivia from our very chatty clerks. Of course, there’s also a town ice cream shop, which was a popular stop for a treat. If ice cream is not enough to bribe the little ones, maybe a ride in a vintage carousel at the museum reception would do the trick. Another stop that could easily be overlooked was the town theater, hidden in an alley. We sat inside there for a long while, grateful for the cool reprieve from the sun.
The village is vast, and it would take some time to roam around its entirety, but it would be a day well spent on meandering while learning. Even better, you may even stumble upon the perfect picnic spot among its tiny pockets of gardens. All in all, I would recommend it to families or groups of trivia nuts alike.
After our short field trip to history, we zapped back into the present and flocked downtown for lunch. Now was a good time to walk off the meal we virtually inhaled in minutes, and so we set off for, of course, Stanley Park.
Stanley Park is a mammoth, as far as urban parks go. I’m not sure exactly where it starts and where it ends, since the green blends in easily with the city as we walked. We started off in English Bay, where I sighted my first beach in Vancouver. Of course, I went nuts. A beach! When Vancouver was already blessed by breathtaking mountains! Totally unfair! Ugh.
I guess it was apt that our first stop were giant statues of a man laughing hysterically, probably taunting me and my love-hate rants. You could climb and pose along with these colossal statues in tiny Morton Park right across from the beach — and my nephew went ahead and did just that.
We cut through the middle of the park along several tennis courts, giant heron nests and the Lost Lagoon, then onto the Stanley Park Seawall, in order to reach the First Nations Totem Poles. It’s a looooong walk along the coast, and it would make the perfect route for biking, rollerblading or jogging. There’s also an offer for a horse-drawn carriage ride, if you’re feeling old-timey.
At last, we reached the Totem Poles, and it was worth the trek. It was fun trying to guess what each of the icons were, before reading the guides. We also tried to contribute our own small but adorable German totem pole:
We weren’t quite done wearing out our sandals yet. Our last agenda for the day was to check out the Olympic sculptures by the Waterfront downtown. If you take one of the ferries (SeaBus) from here crossing to North Vancouver, you can have a great view of the skyline. The ferry rides were included in our rail pass tickets, so again, hurray for the Vancouver public transit!
Of course, our trip wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t at least try one of the hiking trails that Vancouver has in abundance. The good thing is that there is a level for everyone, including slightly-out-of-shape parents lugging around a baby. We kicked off Day 3 with a ferry ride from the Waterfront to Lonsdale Quay, and raided the food stalls at the Lonsdale Quay Market. The Soup Meister seemed to be a hit with the locals, but with my insatiable craving for seafood, I opted for a poke bowl at the food court instead.
We were headed for the Quarry Rock Trail in Deep Cove, which was popular with beginners, as it gives you the marvelous panorama view at the top without the arduous whole-day trek. It took two easy bus rides from Lonsdale Quay, with a switch in Phibbs Exchange in the middle.
We started off our walk along the aptly-named Panorama Park, where you can feast your eyes on the peaceful water and the lush mountains across the cove. There were plenty of signs and other hikers, so it was easy to spot the jump-off point, where wooden stairs lead up to the trail proper.
I wouldn’t call it an easy-breezy trail, as the ascent at the start could get a bit steep for some. That being said, there were a lot of wooden planks and stairs to aid in your footing, and the trail was pretty wide. The lush forest canopy also made sure that you weren’t miserably roasting in the sun.
Tobi, our little newbie hiker, had the time of his life being totted around in the carrier. He also seemed to be stoked to see views from the mountain top for the first time:
As mentioned, the trail is pretty popular so you probably won’t have absolute peace and quiet once you reach the top. However, the quarry rock cliff is quite wide and leveled out, so there are plenty of viewing spots for everyone. There was enough room and privacy for me to breastfeed Tobi as well, while the others munched on snacks. In addition, we found a good flat rock, which would be one of the many eventual unusual diaper changing stations we’ve ever had to use. (And yes, we brought down the diapers with us — leave nothing but footprints!)
Deep Cove Village at the foot of the trail is itself worth exploring. By the pier, there were kayaks and stand-up paddles for those who prefer combing the waters than trekking. Another hiker’s stop that locals swear by is a cafe named Honey Doughnuts and Goodies. Oh definitely, after donning on the sweaty baby carrier and toting around Tobi up the trail, I think I deserve a doughnut or five.
And just like that, our short jaunt to the Western side of this continent was done, and we were to fly back to Toronto. I thoroughly relished wandering in a new city together with my small family, and topping it off with a hike to boot. More mountain trails beckon, and definitely, this will not be our last visit to Vancouver.
So, Vancouver, til we meet again? Love, Ish
- Vancouver TransLink Day Pass – CAD 10.25
- Granville Park entry – free
- Burnaby Village Museum entry – free
- Honey Doughnut at Deep Cove — ~CAD 3.50 (I forgot exactly how much, sorry!)