The best part of living near a country border is that we can spontaneously say, “do you want to drive to lunch and I’ll drive to Canada?” When my husband and I lived in Seattle, we would drive up to Vancouver every year. Now that we live in Hawaii, our equivalent of a weekend getaway is flying to another island. 🙂 In this post I’ll cover how to spend a weekend in Vancouver.
Things to do on a Friday Night in Vancouver
We left Seattle at noon and arrived to Vancouver around 3:00 PM. After settling into our Airbnb, we needed to stretch our legs after sitting for several hours, so we walked 45 minutes to Gastown where the cool kids hang out.
Gastown is known for its whistling steam clock (yes, it really sings!), trendy eateries, talented (and good-looking!) bartenders, and happening nightlife. Perfect for a romantic walkabout with your partner or girl’s night out, Gastown is sure to please any palate!
Where to Eat in Gastown
Hands down, our favorite place was Mezcaleria, a hip-and-happening authentic Oaxacan restaurant. Their specialty?…oozing queso fundido topped with your choice of red or green salsa. Think French onion soup, Mexican style.
For $22 Canadian dollars, this may make you skip right over it, but not to worry, just come for happy hour on Friday and Saturday from 3 – 6 PM when it’s only $8 for a mini version!! (pictured above) Also, it’s way less crowded and you can sit at the bar and actually have a nice conversation with your bartender. Our favorite drink was the Panacea, a craft cocktail with mezcal (the derivative of the restaurant’s name) and smoky undertones. By the way, our U.S. dollar went a lot further in Canada with the current exchange rate in our favor. There are three locations of this restaurant: Gastown, Commercial Drive (also in Vancouver), and Oaxaca, Mexico.
Vancouver’s Coffee Scene
Vancouver does a pretty decent job rivaling Seattle’s coffee scene, from the Japanese-influenced matcha latte to the beautifully and artistically-decorated standard lattes and hot chocolates.
Richmond Asian Night Market
The only night market I have ever been to, was in Ecuador during our recent travels abroad. After reading reviews and blogs on Vancouver and seeing this market consistently show up towards the top, I was so excited to check it out! I checked Google for hours, and it said open, so we drove 20 minutes out of town only to find that there was no night market! I didn’t see this information anywhere online, but apparently the market does not run during the wintertime, so we must have just missed it. Bummer!
When the market does run, the hours of operation are 7:00 PM – 12:00 AM and admission is CA $3 per person. It’s a good idea to arrive early, as I read that the lines to get in can be quite long.
Nightlife and Where to Go Dancing in Gastown
We didn’t stay out late enough to go dancing (talk about an old couple! Don’t judge us for wanting to go home and cuddle with our Airbnb cat) 😉 but we spoke to our local servers and bartenders, and here are the local joints that they recommended for late-night dancing and craft cocktails:
Guilt & Co
Enjoy Brekkie at Birds & The Beets
This casual order-at-the-bar breakfast/brunch joint has a limited menu, but plenty of space to dine in (you can also take away). Order the avocado toast, a generous portion of avocado smeared all over their home made brioche bun, topped with a soft-boiled egg and pickled onions. They also serve local kombucha! Delish!
Once your bellies are full and well-caffeinated, drive half an hour to Deep Cove to hike the made-famous-by-Instagram Quarry Rock.
This easy one-hour round trip hike is Vancouver’s equivalent of Rattlesnake Lake in Snoqualmie, Washington, rated easy. This is one of the reasons I love Vancouver; within only a 30-minute drive, you can be skiing in the mountains or hiking at lower elevations without snow. In Seattle, the closest hike in forested nature is a 50-minute drive to the area of North Bend.
Usually overly crowded with locals and tourists alike, we lucked out and had the views entirely to ourselves because of visiting in November and the weather not being great. Luckily, we arrived to the top and snapped a few photos right before the clouds socked in the view and we were caught in mystical mist.
You’ve probably worked up an appetite after taking your Instagram-worthy shots and doing yoga poses atop the rock. Well, your timing is perfect! Head on down to Bluhouse Market & Cafe located in the quaint small town of Deep Cove, just a five-minute walk from the Quarry Rock trailhead. This adorable vegetarian, local, organic cafe will welcome you warmly.
I was so excited by their delicious menu of smoothies and protein bowls along with their plethora of raw and baked homemade goods, including my favorite dessert EVER…the NANAIMO BAR!!!
What is a Nanaimo Bar, you ask? Well, besides the most delicious dessert you will find in Canada (wildly biased and subjective opinion), it is a dessert that requires no baking. It consists of a chocolate and crumb crust base, layered with custard-flavored butter icing and topped with melted chocolate. Are you drooling yet?
We had a seriously difficult time deciding what to order (first world problems). We went with the Raw Power Protein Smoothie, the Buddha Bowl, and of course, a Nanaimo Bar!
After your vegetarian foodie delight, if you’re still up for more hiking, head on over just a 20-minute drive to Lynn Canyon and test your balance walking across the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge.
Or do the splits over the rail edges…
Or pretend like you’re a ballerina…
Capilano Suspension Bridge gets all the hype, and while it’s great (I did this on a previous trip to Vancouver), in my opinion it wasn’t worth the $50 admission fee per person! So skip the tourist crowds, keep that $50 in your pocket for dinner later, and hike around Lynn Canyon Park instead. The suspension bridge is quite small, but still stunning as it overlooks waterfalls and dense forest. So much green!
Once you cross over to the other side, there are plenty of hiking options for short or long day hikes. The greenery and mist reminded me of Hoh Rain Forest in the Olympic Peninsula on the Western coast of Washington.
Take a water taxi to Granville Island Public Market, or drive there with your car. Parking is $3.50 for one hour, $7.00 for two hours, and $10.50 for three hours in an open car park.
This is a touristy spot, but has some great options for gifts and souvenirs, such as tea!
There are almost always live musicians performing outside in the open area during all seasons. We were lucky enough to catch a guy playing guitar and singing romantic songs in French. It was the perfect opportunity to dance under the moonlight with Sasha. 🙂 Be sure to show your appreciation by giving them a tip, as they are not paid by Granville Island Public Market.
Before you head back, be sure to stop at Nectar Juicery for some energy before your drive home. Albeit a bit pricey, Nectar Juicery whips up delicious superfood smoothies and juices from raw power foods and natural ingredients.
Driving Back to Seattle
If you have Global Entry, be sure to go online before visiting Canada and check the box that includes country border crossings. Coming from Canada back into Seattle with your global entry card, you can hop into the far right lane that says Nexus, which is the expedited lane. Unfortunately you cannot use this card to get into Canada, as it only works to get back into the U.S. And don’t forget your passport! 🙂
Seattle –> Canada: 143 miles / 230 kilometers
Drive time: Approximately 2.5 – 3 hours depending on traffic and country border crossing wait times
How Much Money we Spent in Two Nights and Three Days
How much does it cost for a weekend trip to Vancouver B.C.?
We only had to fill up one time
Street parking is very cheap downtown and you can set up a quick account to pay by phone. The app will send a reminder to your phone when your parking is five minutes away from expiring so you can easily reload additional time straight from your phone instead of having to go back out in the cold to load more coins into the meter…who uses coins these days anyway?
Dining Out: $188
Breakfast: 2 times
Lunch: 2 times
Dinner: 3 times
Snacks and beverages: 3 times
Airbnb for two nights