The familiar sound of a whistle cuts through the crisp, coastal air as the sun’s rays cascade across Seattle, bringing the city to life for another day. With coffee in hand and adventure on the mind, Vancouver, BC beckons. A land where majestic mountains and ancient evergreen forests stretch into the sparkling Pacific and oceanside parks lead the way to sandy beaches. In the heart of it all lies a gem of a city, with a vibrant urban center begging to be explored.

Discover Vancouver Getaways

Day 1

Ride The Rails to Vancouver

Nestled in the bustling Pioneer Square neighborhood, the triangular brick clock tower (which is modeled after the Campanile de San Marco in Venice, Italy) of King Street Station, stands out from the surrounding concrete buildings, guiding you to the starting point of your journey. One step inside the spacious station, and you immediately sense that you’ve entered another era.

Marbled rooms, columns, brass chandeliers and tile floors pay tribute to travel’s romantic past. You almost expect to hear the conductor’s call of “all aboard!” as you hop on the train. Step up into the sleek, roomy passenger car of the Amtrak Cascades train and settle into one of the cozy seats. If you need a little something to tide you over on your journey, roam through the cars to the onboard bistro and pick up a drink or snack from the selection of local specialties.

As the train chugs to life departing Seattle, the beautiful Northwest landscape rolls by (a little insider hint – be sure to snag a seat on the left side of the train for views of the water) the large viewing window. Breathtaking scenery immediately fills your view. The waters of the Puget Sound glisten in the sunlight as the snow-capped Olympic Mountains rise in the distance. Towns, cities, forests and farms pop up around nearly every corner as the train glides along the 110-mile trek to the Canadian border.

Wind your way past forests and rivers on the way to Vancouver. Photo: Amtrak Cascades
Wind your way past forests and rivers on the way to Vancouver. Photo: Amtrak Cascades

One can feel the stress of daily life roll away as the smooth, rhythmic motion of the train creates a sense of calm and relaxation. Memories pop to mind of a bygone era when physical scenery dominated screen time. This experience affords the rare opportunity to kick back while someone else does the driving during the four-and-a-half-hour ride. Curl up with a good book, catch up on your TV shows or listen to some tunes…just don’t forget to keep staring out at the natural beauty that surrounds you.

Grab a Bite at a Vancouver Food Truck

Vancouver's food trucks give you a chance to sample what the locals love. Photo: Lisa
Vancouver’s food trucks give you a chance to sample what the locals love. Photo: Lisa

Upon arriving in Vancouver, grab lunch at one of the many colorful food trucks lining the streets of the city. Named the third top North American city for street food by Travel + Escape, Vancouver has some of the hottest, curbside kitchens that will satiate your savory or sweet cravings.

Indulge in the melty masterpieces at Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck (topped with sundried tomato spread, roasted red peppers and avocado, the Ze Garden is sure to please) or picking up a delightfully sweet blueberry and lemon-honey ricotta stuffed crepe at the French La Boheme Creperie.

Stroll Stanley Park

A walk along the Stanley Park Seawall offers stunning views of the city.
A walk along the Stanley Park Seawall offers stunning views of the city.

Brimming with grassy meadows and miles of walking, running and biking trails, Stanley Park is a green oasis in the heart of the city and is rightly one of Vancouver’s most renowned attractions. Stretch your legs as you follow the uninterrupted, six-mile pathway along the Seawall to get a look at some of the park’s iconic landmarks.

Near Brockton Point, nine, hand-carved totem poles welcome you to the parkContinue on your journey and breathe in the fragrant scent of the 3,500 rose bushes filling the rose garden, build a sandcastle or go for a swim on the secluded Third Beach or snap a shot of the “Hollow tree,” a 700- to 800-year-old Western Red Cedar tree stump.

Explore the Largest Aquarium in Canada

Hundreds of spotted jellyfish gracefully float around their tank. Credit: The Vancouver Aquarium
Hundreds of spotted jellyfish gracefully float around their tank. Credit: The Vancouver Aquarium

Wander past strands of ancient Douglas firs and make your way to one of the five largest aquariums in North America. Containing a menagerie of more than 90,000 creatures, the Vancouver Aquarium allows you to get up close and personal with an array of wildlife from around the globe. Check out more jellyfish and exotic fish than you can imagine in glowing glass tanks or venture downstairs to the rainforest-themed room that houses a colony of frogs, birds and butterflies.

Outdoors, playful Steller sea lions and otters splash and perform tricks during live shows. You can even meet these animals “in person” by joining the aquarium’s interpreters as they care for the creatures.

Discover Vancouver’s Shopping Mecca

Yaletown's unique boutiques provide an endless supply of trinkets and gifts. Photo: Tourism Vancouver / John Sinal
Yaletown’s unique boutiques provide an endless supply of trinkets and gifts. Photo: Tourism Vancouver / John Sinal

The great exchange rate and Vancouver’s unrivaled shopping districts offer the perfect opportunity for a little retail therapy. Skip the heavily trafficked Robson Street for the renovated brick warehouses of the hip Yaletown and the historic Gastown (don’t forget to swing by the world-famous Steam Clock). Stop in at Gastown’s Obakki for sophisticated women’s wear or browse exceptional First Nation’s carvings, masks and jewelry at Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery. You can also snag trendy threads at Fine Finds or whimsical home décor and jewelry at The Cross in Yaletown.

Last, but not least, is the enticing strip of indie stores concentrated on the south end of Main Street. This is where Vancouver’s trendiest crowd comes to pick up one-of–a-kind items. We love the charming and eclectic stationary store the Regional Assembly of Text (they have a sister store in Victoria) and the GivingGifts for fair trade, eco-friendly wares.

Spend a Night Out Downtown

Sip on delicious golden brews in this craft beer capital.
Sip on delicious golden brews in this craft beer capital.

Home to one of the largest concentrations of craft beer in Canada, Vancouver has no shortage of cozy pubs to relax in after a day of exploring. Wander into the intimate The Alibi Room to satiate your thirst with a selection of more than 50 taps of local and imported craft brews. If your taste runs to hand-mixed drinks, head to the classy Diamond for creatively curated cocktails.

With an abundance of local fish, a seafood dinner in Vancouver is a must-do. Stay close by for dinner at the vibrant, modern Miniami for some of the freshest and sustainably caught fish and shellfish around. Each of the restaurant’s colorful and meticulously presented sushi and sashmi dishes look like a piece of art, we won’t blame you if you find yourself pulling out your phone to snap a shot for Insta.

Another excellent option is Yaletown’s the Flying Pig restaurant, which serves up a mouth-watering lineup of seasonally inspired comfort food. The restaurant’s open-air design brings the kitchen to your table, allowing you to watch your chef toss fresh caught seafood with steaming pappardelle noodles or pull red wine braised beef short ribs from the oven. End the evening on a sweet note and duck into Bella Gelateria for creamy, handcrafted gelato in an array of unique, delicious flavors, including banana bread, chocolate Maldon Sea Salt, dulce de leche and Earl Grey tea.

Day 2

Rise as the rays of the morning sun slowly seep through your hotel window and catch an early bus or cab over to the buzzing and artistic Granville Island. Once an industrial area filled with sawmills and factories, this lively urban oasis is chock full of distinctive restaurants, cafes, independent shops and, of course, the Island’s crown jewel – the Public Market.

Dine at Vancouver’s Crown Jewel

The vibrant stalls of the Granville Public Market are a treat for the senses. Photo: Tourism Vancouver
The vibrant stalls of the Granville Public Market are a treat for the senses. Photo: Tourism Vancouver

Step inside the bustling hall filled with colorful stalls and aromas of just-baked bread, the sweet scent of ripening fruit and fresh flowers immediately tantalize your nose. Hop on the Granville Market tour for a late breakfast or early lunch and sample a variety of the treats, ranging from aged cheddar to spicy chai tea. Don’t miss out on the wonderful honey-dipped donuts at Lee’s Donuts. Warm and sugary sweet, they make our mouth melt every time.

Walk along on the cobbled streets of Railspur Alley outside of the market. Pass juggling buskers, and peek inside artist studios galleries as they transform molten glass into vividly hued bowls or spin clay into vases on a pottery wheel. If you are looking for souvenirs, this is the place to stock up on unique and unusual gifts.

Soak in Some Culture

The popular Vancouver Art Gallery brims with paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos by regional, national and international artists. Photo: Creative Commons Licensed by Thomas Steinberger
The popular Vancouver Art Gallery brims with paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos by regional, national and international artists. Photo: Creative Commons Licensed by Thomas Steinberger

Pop back over the Granville Street Bridge to experience the region’s leading art space, the Vancouver Art Gallery. If the massive columns marking the entrance don’t take your breath away, the rotating collection of famous historical and contemporary artwork or the vivid paintings of the West Coast wilderness created by BC artist Emily Carr certainly will.

For a last look at the city, take a 40 second glass elevator ride to the observation deck of the iconic Vancouver Outlook. Soak in breathtaking 360-degree views of the beautiful Vancouver, historic Gastown, bustling Coal Harbour and the majestic Northshore Mountains. This quick trip gets you back to the station with plenty of time to catch your train.

Vancouver's stunning downtown skyline glitters in the sunlight. Credit: Vancouver Outlook
Vancouver’s stunning downtown skyline glitters in the sunlight. Credit: Vancouver Outlook

Clambering back on the train for the return ride to Seattle after an incredible, 48 hours in Vancouver, you have barely scratched the surface of this fair city. As you pull out of the station, you’re already visualizing what you will check out on your next trip north.

 

Book Your Vancouver Trip Now

Feature Photo: Amtrak Cascades

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