There are certain cities across Canada we never thought we’d get to visit. We’ve been pretty much coast to coast, but despite living briefly in Alberta and being only a few hours away, we never got the chance to travel to Vancouver. Once we moved back to Ontario we thought we’d never get there — have you seen the cost of travel lately?
We finally caught a lucky break when I was sent to the Vancouver area for a work trip. My trip was paid for, so all we had to worry about was Sean’s flight and a couple extra days in a hotel. We were Vancouver bound!
The only problem? The trip was only two days. Have you ever tried visiting a huge city–and one with tons of breweries–in only two days? It was a whirlwind! Here’s how we made the most of our time, and, as always, on a budget!
When I say “fly to Vancouver from Ontario” you probably think Toronto to Vancouver, right? Sure! If you want to spend more money and experience more stress, go ahead and do that. But we flew from Hamilton to Abbotsford, saving a couple hundred dollars, and one of Hamilton airport’s security personnel even complimented my bag and sensible shoes. That’s the way to fly.
Where we stayed
We stayed in a really nice and convenient European-style hotel in downtown Vancouver. Cool? Yes! Expensive? No! Somehow, Vancouver’s Victorian Hotel cost less than $200 for two nights, despite being within walking distance from almost every main attraction. It was a newly renovated 19th-century hotel that included the best locally-baked breads for breakfast and some of the most friendly service we’ve ever had at a hotel. Highly recommend! What we learned: Staying away from big name and chain hotels is the best way to find cheap and unique places to stay. (A side note: This is a boutique-style hotel, so bathrooms for regular rooms are shared. The bathrooms are really nice and it totally wasn’t a problem, but just be prepared!)
What we saw
We wanted to see as much of Vancouver as possible while we were there, so we did what any middle-aged couple would do: We took the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour! Using a discount I got with my AirMiles card (deal!), we bought two one-day passes that took us to all the main tourist destinations. Over the span of eight hours, we visited:
- Gastown Steam Clock (we went FIRST THING in the morning so avoided the crowds of photo-takers)
- Stanley Park, where we could have spent an entire day
- Granville Island
- Robson Street
- Canada Place
- Gorgeous beaches and walking trails
- and a ton of buildings and sites that we’ll have to go back to!
The Hop-On, Hop-Off tour was the best way for us to get a taste of everything. The only problem was it left us wanting more!
On day two we headed up to north Vancouver to visit Grouse Mountain, one of the areas biggest and most-visited ski and hiking areas around. This wasn’t a cheap trip (a return ride on the Skyride gondola was $44 each – yikes!) but the views of Vancouver and the great meal we got at the top were worth it. We also stopped at Lighthouse Park, a lovely hiking spot in West Vancouver that gave great views of the ocean and the Vancouver skyline. And this park was free! (It’s also where one of our favourite episodes of The X-Files was filmed, so it was a great place to nerd out a bit.)
Vancouver has a few craft breweries. Not too many. Just around 50. Uh, 50??
We had two days in Vancouver this time, so needless to say, we did not visit every brewery in town. But we did visit a few, and all were great. A cool thing we noticed about Vancouver breweries is the emphasis on sitting and enjoying the beer. Here in Ontario, most of our craft breweries offer just retail and small tastings; you can buy beer, but then you leave. In Vancouver, the breweries seem a lot more welcoming. Every brewery we went to sold beer by the pint, had places to sit and socialize, sold food and snacks to go with the beer, and actually made you feel welcome. And they were all packed! The craft brewery culture in British Columbia is alive and well, and it’s something other provinces could learn from.
During this brewtrip we went to four craft breweries, all within walking distance of each other:
Stay tuned for more detail about these breweries. Overall, they were a great introduction to Vancouver beer, and we can’t wait to try more!
Vancouver was a great time. Our quick jaunt to VanCity showed us how to make the most of our time in a big city. Without spending much money, we were able to see most of the city, tried some great craft beer, and fell in love with the west coast. We got a taste — now we’re just dying to go back!