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One day plus a morning in Vancouver

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Hello!  We are going on a Alaskan cruise, leaving Vancouver on Friday, June 14.  "We" is our family of 4 - me, DH, and two boys, ages 13 and 15.  We are all fairly active.  We land in Vancouver at 7pm (which will be 10pm our time) on Wednesday, June 12 and are staying at the Auberge Hotel.  I'm trying to plan our too-short one day plus a morning in Vancouver (we are planning to arrive at the cruise terminal by 10:30/11am on Friday - we want to be on the ship as early as possible).  I'd love some help!  


Here's what's currently on my "really want to do" list (in no particular order):


  • Flyover Canada
  • Vancouver Lookout Harbor Centre
  • Stanley Park (I went to Vancouver 20 years ago, and my very favorite memory is riding bikes around Stanley Park.  The pitch and putt may also be appealing for my golf-loving DH and DSs)
  • Granville Island (I'm thinking we will wander around a bit, do lunch - or maybe dinner? - here, and a trip the brewery for DH and me)
  • Omnimax at Science World (this is a maybe - depends on what is playing when we are there)
  • Trip to BC Liquor for wine to take on the cruise ship 🙂
  • Good but not-too-fancy dinner for Thursday night.  My kids would be thrilled if they could wear athletic shorts and t-shirts, but I could probably coax them into khaki shorts and a golf shirt.  As a family, we aren't huge fans of ethnic food, so no Indian, Vietnamese, etc.  Steak, pasta and seafood choices are always safe.  Good atmosphere a huge plus.  Outdoor dining with a good view is a plus too, but not required.  No specific budget in mind - I assume our preferred dress code will automatically eliminate any $$$$ restaurant choices.
  • Breakfast Thursday and Friday morning - we love a "hole in the wall" traditional sort of breakfast place over a fancy champagne brunch any day 


On my "I think I'd like to do, but I'm not positive, and I doubt we'd have time anyway" is a trip to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.  


On my "I think I'd like to do, but I probably need to research more first" is some sort of a helicopter ride.  I did some very basic research, but wasn't even sure what we should focus on flying over.  


Would love any thoughts y'all might have on the most efficient order to do these things.  I'm thinking we could do Flyover Canada and Vancouver Lookout Harbor Centre on Friday morning before we head to the cruise ship terminal?  I'm planning to just leave our bags at the hotel, so we'll have to stop back by there to grab our bags before heading to the pier.  We also would love suggestions on transportation between the various spots.  Because time is tight, cost is not a huge factor (so we'll pay for a taxi if it's more efficient than waiting on/taking a bus, for example).  We're also fine walking where that makes sense.


Thank you so much for any suggestions - this board has been amazingly helpful!


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First, I'd agree that FlyOver and the Lookout could be easily done, even if you head to the pier for 10:30am (Auberge is not far, you can probably walk between all of them faster than cabbing on a cruise morning as gridlock is the norm outside Canada Place from ~8am-2pm on cruise days!)


Second, I'd give serious consideration to arriving late instead of early - you would lose time on the ship and a 'free' lunch, but you would trade that off against a) a quicker boarding process, and b) more time in one of the best cities on Earth! You have A 3 ship day - while the 2 others are modest in size (Symphony/Quest) it will still be busy at least 11-1, so arriving to board at 2 to 2:30pm should see you with almost no waiting to do in the varied queues. This would give you potentially three hours more sightseeing - enough to do ANY one additional site justice, including Capilano.


Stanley Park is one of those 'you can physically get all the way around the outskirts and hit a couple of keys interior parts in 3 hours, but you could also spend 3 days inside and not see every nook and cranny' kind of places. How long YOU will need depends on what you want to see - but a bike rental is definitely the best way to expedite the logistics as you can go anywhere that pedestrians do with less work at 3 times the speed (NB: there is a speed limit, 15kph/~10mph, and it's actually enforced at times by the Mounted unit of the local police - watching a cop on a horse chase a speeding cyclist is one of my favourite Vancouver things ever!). Granville Island is another spot that's intensely variable - in just one hour you can easily walk around it, but if you actually hit the stores and public market, sample brews, try on hats, take a tour, attend a show, you can easily spend a whole day! It is a good lunch spot - but be aware that's the busiest time of day by far, so since you are overnighting consider either dinner or else an early morning visit then getting out of Dodge before the tour buses pile in.


Science World - as science centres go it's on the smaller side, and it really struggles on busy days. Mid-June local schools are still open, so you do risk clashing with a few buses of kids BUT they will be in escorted groups and it will still be quieter than on weekends! If it's literally just the cinema you want, I'd bump that to the lowest priority - virtually no mainstream movies, just regular short IMAX films, and there are tons of those around the world these days (the HR MacMillan Space Centre over at Vanier Park has another IMAX screen that's quieter for example). That's actually somewhere else I'd suggest sending you with kids - the Maritime Museum and Space Centre are both very popular with the young'uns, if you have bikes it's not far from Granville Island along the Seawall (especially if you use the ferries to shortcircuit riding the whole of False Creek, and instead go Park/ferry to Granville Island/ride out to Vanier).


Dining - you'll find literally zero dress codes beyond 'shoes & shirt' in Vancouver, unless you go to fancy members-only clubs. So if you want to drop serious coin on a great meal with the kids, go wild! But for outdoor eating I'd suggest the convention centre - Tap & Barrel have a huge patio right next to the Olympic Torch, restos on the lower Seawall level have outdoor tables under cover if it's raining, and Cactus Club has huge windows and outside seats. If you come after dark you'll see the 'Lego Orca' has twinkling lights all over it (it's solar powered). Cheap brekkie - try Scoozis near your hotel, or De Dutch pancakes for more filling fare, but the most Canadian brekkie would be to hit Timmies!


This is also where you want to come for an aerial tour - floatplanes rather than choppers are the bread & butter locally, so there are many options of routes on those, but there are some choppers too e.g. Sky. But at over $300 for 15mins in the air, floatplanes are MUCH better value with more time in the air for less than half the price.

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Thank you so much, @martincath!  I've seen many of your posts as I've been researching, and you are always so helpful (and patient in answering the same questions I'm sure millions of times!)  This information is SO helpful.  


I'm thinking maybe we will plan to just do Granville Island and Stanley Park on Thursday, so we have plenty of time at both.  I'm thinking maybe Granville Island in the morning until lunch, and then head over to Stanley Park for the afternoon.  Then dinner near the convention center like you suggested.  What would be the best way to get from Granville Island to Stanley Park?  Thank you!!!

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No worries. Edit - all the text assumes that you do rent bikes, as that is the best way to get between the park and GI if you ask me (faster than walking, but can still take ferries!). If you have changed your mind about biking, then you can walk the same places I mention but you'll be racking up a lot of mileage! Buses are VERY indirect to/from GI, and even a cab would do an awful lot of driving around due to bridge locations.


Remember that you will wake up early - it does take a couple of days to adjust from east coast time, so expect to be awake by ~5am local time and probably hungry (tums take longer to adjust than sleep schedules I find - so Timmies for breakfast may be a necessity as most breakfast restos don't even open until 9am!) Despite our long summer days, anything with an entry ticket required tends to have a 9am start - some of the bike rental spots do open earlier though, 8am in summer (I'm pretty sure Auberge is not one of the hotels with 'free' bikes, so the closest rental choice would be Ezeeriders Seawall location, at the convention centre lower level - NB: that current hours are still showing 10am-4pm, those will extend in both directions pretty soon) so even if you are all up and fed by 7am, you shouldn't have to wait too long to get going.


Because that bike rental is on the Coal Harbour side of the Seawall, it would be most efficient to do the park first - it's one-way riding only, anti-clockwise, on the Seawall around the park. If you definitely want to see all of Lost Lagoon then you'd end up connecting the entire loop across the 'throat' of the park anyway, so heading straight to Granville Island first wouldn't make much of a difference, but hitting the park first also means you will avoid riding through the peak temps of afternoon (it does get a bit sticky among the trees later in the day) and also avoiding commuter cyclists in the downtown core (who are not all complete a**holes, but it certainly seems that way at times - very limited patience with casual riders so expect to be whooshed past frequently and find it very hard to keep all four of you riding close together during 7-9am/4-6pm).


Assuming you do the park first, then just continuing to following the Seawall down the other side of the downtown peninsula naturally brings you to Granville Island (hopping a ferry or riding the long way around past ScienceWorld, you still get there as GI isn't actually an island, it's attached to the other side of the False Creek shoreline). Sticking to the Seawall also means a) no cars where you are riding, and b) it's virtually impossible to get lost as all you can do is go back the way you came by mistake!


When you are done with GI, either reverse course around past ScienceWorld or hop the ferry again - and you'll find the easiest and least-unpleasant bike route up across the peninsula is to follow Hornby the whole way (it has a physically-separated bi-directional bike lane so you don't have to fight with cars). If you did want to go straight to GI, this is also the way you'd want to go from the bike rental place. Two useful resources - a map of all the city bike lanes (which specifies separated lanes or just painted road markings) is here, and because Google has our bike lanes mapped you could also make use of active 'GPS' guidance for free using your cellphone or tablet, just connect to the free city network #VanWiFi.


Lastly, advice on the cycling front: local etiquette is to announce your presence when about to overtake someone else by ringing your bell briefly and also clearly announcing "on your left/on your right" so they know where to expect you - if you aren't biking fast you can expect to hear a LOT of that! Pedestrians WILL walk across onto the bike path all around the Seawall constantly despite all the many, many signs (damn tourists!!!) - it's slightly improved now that we have pretty much finished with bike lane upgrades so that it's virtually always pedestrians nearest the water, bikes on the inland side of the barriers/little trees/painted lines    (pedestrians would constantly walk across the bike lanes to take photos of the water/mountains when it was bikes nearest the water) but you still have to watch out for idiots. There are also designated pedestrian crossings - so they can get across the bike lane from regular sidewalks onto the Seawall - and you should always give way to them. If you are riding and want to stop for a photo, check carefully before stopping (a fast-approaching local or oblivious tourist on a bike might crash into you if you just stop suddenly) and don't ride on the pedestrian side - dismount your bike and walk it.


Probably the most important bike advice of all - helmets and locks are provided with all rentals: use them both! Fines are levied for not wearing a helmet, and if you don't lock you bike it will disappear in minutes. If you're all stopping together for a quick photo, don't waste time finding things to lock the bikes to just always ensure one person is standing with the bikes - but if you go inside a resto or shop, do find somewhere secure and lock them up. We like to put our two bikes together each side of a rack with one lock through both rear wheels and the other through both front wheels, to ensure there are no missing wheels when we get back just in case - casual, opportunistic property theft is extremely common here. Fancy-bike-owners remove the saddle and even the handlebars when using public racks, but regular rental bikes aren't swank enough that folks would steal those.


There are eateries in Stanley Park, and also along the Seawall, so it's pretty easy to find somewhere to dine whenever you all want to (I'd guess this will likely be a bit early for lunch locally due to tums still being on EST).

Edited by martincath

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@martincath, one other question - would we need a reservation at either Tap and Barrel or Cactus Club?  Or would we be ok to just walk up?  I'm guessing we will be eating on the early side, Vancouver time, but I'm also assuming that area may be busy with 3 cruise ships heading out the next morning.  Thank you again!  

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@iujen94While you can certainly just roll in and hope for a table, both CCC and T&B do get very busy - especially the patio of the latter on sunny days - so I would suggest playing it safe with a booking. Thursdays, with local school still in session, it's mostly going to be tourists you're competing with for tables, but there certainly can be a lot of those! You can book T&B through OpenTable, CCC has their own system.


NB: I'm pretty sure that you can't guarantee getting a patio table by booking - that's first-come, first-served. But at least if you have a reso you can show up and ask about being moved to the patio if the weather is cooperating.

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