Even by North American standards, Vancouver is a young city. But what it lacks in history it compensates for in scenery. Surrounded by mountains and beaches, Vancouver is both an urban and a natural playground: Its chic atmosphere, high-fashion boutiques and fondness for health-conscious eating have earned it the nickname “Hollywood North.” Sitting nearly 1,300 miles north of its nickname namesake, Vancouver and its breathtaking backdrop has been the setting for several popular television shows and major motion pictures, such as “Supernatural” and “The Twilight Saga” so don’t be surprised if you recognize landmarks from your favorite scenes.
But this mitten-shaped city on Canada’s western edge draws in more than pop culture junkies. Hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, whitewater rafting and skiing will beckon to your adventurous side. Looking for a little R&R? Try lounging along the 11 miles of beaches or in one of the numerous parks. During the cold weather, you can duck inside one of the top-notch museums or swing your young kids by one of the family-friendly attractions, like Granville Island or theCapilano Suspension Bridge. When you add excellent shopping, dining and nightlife scenes to the mix, you’ll see why many praise Vancouver as a go-to getaway for the multi-faceted traveler.
How To Save Money in Vancouver
- Travel during the shoulder seasonsSummer and winter are both popular times to visit. If you’re hoping to find some deals on hotels, consider planning a trip for the spring or fall.
- Fly into SeattleInternational flights tend to be more expensive. You can save on airfare by flying into Seattle’s SeaTac Airport and taking the Quick Shuttle into downtown Vancouver.
- Leave the car behindGas is priced by the liter in Canada (not by the gallon) and tends to be more expensive than what you’ll find in the United States. Forget the pump and rely on public transport instead.
Vancouver Culture & Customs
Vancouver boasts a diverse multicultural identity thanks to the many different groups that call the city home. Though English and French are the two official languages, you’ll also likely hear Chinese, Punjabi, German, Italian, French, Tagalog (Filipino) and Spanish.
Perhaps the biggest difference American travelers will encounter is the use of the Canadian dollar and the International metric system. The Canadian dollar is roughly equivalent to the American dollar in terms of the exchange rate, according to Xe.com. But avoid confusion by familiarizing yourself with Canadian currency. Coins are in denominations of $2, $1, $0.50, $0.25, $0.10, $0.05 and $0.01. Canadian dollar coins are called “loonies;” two dollar coins are called “toonies.” Paper bills are in denominations of $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5. You can dodge high exchange fees by withdrawing Canadian money directly from an ATM in Vancouver. Along with differences in currency, you’ll also encounter some disparities in how temperatures, distance and weights are measured (in metric units); distance is measured in kilometers — pay close attention to this if you’ve decided to rent a car.
Aside from these fundamental differences, Americans should feel right at home in Vancouver, especially hockey fans. True to its Canadian stereotype, Vancouver is a hockey-obsessed city, and autumn marks the beginning of the season. The Vancouver Canucks are the city’s hometown team; games are held downtown in Rogers Arena.
Thanks to its seat along the Pacific Coast, Vancouver boasts its fair share of delectable seafood. You’ll find casual fish and chips at any one of the city’s markets like Granville Island (the first stop for any foodie), but if you’re craving something a little more formal, head to Yaletown. This area of Vancouver is home to Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar and Rodney’s Oyster House, just two of the city’s favorite seafood restaurants. YEW Seafood at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver also receives praise for its menu, which features regional specialties, like Qualicum Bay scallops and Sidney Island venison. If you venture beyond Vancouver to Richmond, British Columbia (about 8 miles south of the city center), you’ll also find plenty of fresh catches in Steveston Village, where wild-caught salmon, halibut, crab, salmon, tuna and mussels are served fresh from the docks.
When you’re ready to sample cuisine from other parts of the globe, you’ll see that Vancouver has you covered there, too. About 2 miles north of the city center is where you’ll find Vancouver’s Chinatown — North America’s third largest by population after San Francisco and New York. Cravings for Indian fare can be sated in Punjabi Market — an Indo-Canadian neighborhood in South Vancouver.
Aside from providing the city fresh regional ingredients, Vancouver’s coastal location also provides a picturesque backdrop for many of the top restaurants. For dinner with a view, try the Teahouse Restaurant(in Stanley Park), Lift Bar Grill View or Bridges Restaurant (on Granville Island), to name only a few.