5 Things: Vancouver

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In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers and photographers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Sarah Nickerson shares her favorite spots for a visit to Vancouver. 

5 Things: Vancouver, British Columbia
Sarah Nickerson

Hi! I’m Sarah—my husband, Graeme and I are wedding photographers and we live in the amazing city of Vancouver, BC, in Canada. We’ve lived in Vancouver for six years now and I love it more and more every day. Summer is, by far, my favorite season in the city, but if you visit in the spring (cherry blossom time is usually mid-March to mid-April) or fall, you’re still going to find a lot to explore and enjoy.

Eat: 

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Porto Cafe

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My husband and I and all of our friends are huge food lovers, and Vancouver has a great culinary scene. Whenever we travel, we tend to plan out our visits based on where we want to eat, so for those of you who are exactly like me, you’ll love this section.

Vancouver has a big brunch scene with Medina at the top of most people’s lists where there are some great Mediterranean inspired dishes that really branch out from typical brunch fare. My friends love the Lavender lattes and little waffles that they serve with a variety of gourmet syrups to choose from (think White Chocolate Pistachio Rosewater, Fig Orange Marmalade, and Milk Chocolate Lavender). I am more of a classic brunch-er and will return again and again to Yolk’s for their amazing lemon-truffle hash browns. I cannot get enough of those amazing little savory bites of heaven.

For lunch, we love Meat & Bread on the edge of Gastown. Their meatball sandwich is divine and they also have a vegetarian friendly grilled-cheese option. We also walk over to 33 Acres— a local craft brewery—often to meet up with friends. They have a small menu of food items that are sourced in partnership with other cool local small businesses and a rotation of food trucks is always parked outside their doors and they welcome you to bring that food inside as well.

Dinnertime! Hands down, Vij’s is my very top recommendation. This restaurant serves the most amazing Indian fusion food, and I can’t get over how incredible everything in there is. Totally unpretentious. Great cocktails. Excellent wine list. Fantastic service. When we go there we usually get a few dishes to share, family style, and we’ve never been disappointed. This spot is a splurge, but worth it in every way. The doors open at 5:30pm, and some people line up as early as 4:30pm to get into the first seating.

Other places? So many. Havana on Commercial drive for great mojitos (get a seat on the patio so you can people watch), Tacofino in Gastown (spicy-sweet churros for dessert), Salt for charcuterie and wine, The Acorn (incredible cocktails and vegetarian food) and Homer Street Cafe and Bar where I once enjoyed a blow-your-mind gingersnap creme brûlée (love the Old-World vibe inside).

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For dessert, bakeries, and coffee I love Purebread (the most diverse and enticing selection of baked goods I have ever seen in one bakery), Porto Cafe, Matchstick, Mosquito (dessert and champagne lounge), Small Victory, Beaucoup (croissants), Rain or Shine, Le Marche St George, and Aphrodite’s Pie.

Shop:

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Walk down Water Street in Gastown for local designers and boutiquey shops. Oak + Fort, John Fluevog, Old Faithful Shop, Nicole Bridger are some good stops and you’ll find lots of other places in-between (get your coffee fix at Revolver or Timbertrain while in the area).

I love Nineteen Ten on Main Street for home things. You could start near there and walk north towards the mountains—it’ll take you past tons of great shops and restaurants with several consignment/vintage shops. I always love popping in to Barefoot Contessa and 8th + Main. Stop by 49th Parallel for a coffee and donut fix.

Stay:

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I love using Airbnb to stay where locals live when I visit cities. The Cambie Village/Fairview area is where I live and is super easy to get to via Skytrain from the airport. An added plus of this area is that it is super walkable, close to the seawall, on bike routes, and only a couple Skytrain stops from the heart of downtown. This gorgeous two bedroom place has a rooftop deck and this loft looks great as well.

If you like the hotel experience, check out The Hotel Georgia for a classy heritage feel, The Loden for views, and The Burrard for free bike rentals and a great retro vibe.

Play:

view of english bay from stanley park

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quarry rock hike

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If you want to stay mostly in the city, enjoy a bicycle ride around Stanley Park—there are lots of bike rental places near English Bay which is one of the sides of the loop and a great place to sit and watch a sunset. In the summer, check the dates for Bard on the Beach, Food Cart Fest (Mom’s Grilled Cheese, don’t miss it), the Vancouver Folk Fest, and the Celebration of Light as those are always lots of fun to go to. I love riding my bicycle down to Kits Beach (another great sunset spot) where you can swim in Vancouver’s only saltwater swimming pool right beside the ocean or Jericho Beach where you can watch boats from the sailing school dart around the water and have a great view of the city and mountains.

Granville Island is a major tourist destination with a food market, lots of artisan studios and shops, buskers—but, don’t drive there as the traffic can be insane on a busy summer day. I prefer to walk or cycle over and stop at A Bread Affair for a brown butter chocolate chip cookie. Catch a ride on an Aqua Bus or one of the False Creek Ferries to travel easily to one of Vancouver’s Beaches or Granville Island—they are a great way to see the city from the perspective of the water and they’re just super cute.

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Outside of the city, get your outdoors on at Lighthouse Park or Lynn Canyon. Both of these are free places to walk and hike in the woods. Lighthouse Park is right on the ocean and is stunning any time of the day. Lynn Canyon has a suspension bridge that is quickly becoming famous on Instagram. If you want the parks more to yourself, go on a weekday or early in the morning. I also love the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (this one has an admission fee for the tree-top and cliff walks).

Deep Cove is a very sweet little community tucked into the mountains on an inlet. The Quarry Rock hike there is great and you can also rent canoes and kayaks by the marina if you want to get out on the water (reserve ahead of time on busy weekends).

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Their main street has some cute shops and an amazing doughnut place that is not to be missed: Honey’s. We always go there for post-hike doughnuts and get one of every flavor.

Pack:
Vancouver is known for being quite rainy and we can have random rainy summer days once in awhile. So, unless your hotel or Airbnb provides complimentary umbrellas, bring one of your own and/or a light rain jacket. If you come in the winter, bring your rain boots!

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There are lots of opportunities for lounging and sunset watching, so a great picnic blanket is a must. Toss it into your backpack along with some cheese, bread and wine and head to the beach to watch an incredible sunset with someone you love.

Sarah Nickerson and her husband Graeme are storytelling wedding photographers. Vancouver, Canada is home, but they’ve traveled all over the world to photograph weddings, and love a good adventure. Find them on the web or Facebook, or follow Sarah on Instagram. Also, if anyone is visiting Vancouver and would like natural vacation photos—whether with friends, family, a significant other, or by yourself—be sure to get in touch! 

Thank you so much, Sarah! I can’t wait to visit!  Locals: any favorites to add? 

P.S. My recollection of the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

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