Kelowna Road Trip Day 1: Vancouver – Abbotsford – Chilliwack – Kelowna

Kelowna Road Trip Day 1: Vancouver – Abbotsford – Chilliwack – Kelowna

Featured image: Elvis Platter @ Memphis Blues. Photo credit: Aaron.

I know. I’ve been slacking on the travelling front. So, recently while we were in Vancouver, we decided to go on a road trip/getaway to Kelowna, BC!

Any awesome road trip should start with a good breakfast. We decided to stop by Scandilicious before we left Vancouver to fill our stomachs before hitting the road. This is the place to go if you’re craving some good waffles, whether you want plain waffles or waffles blanketed with savoury/sweet toppings. Aaron decided to indulge in the 2 Brussels waffles, two eggs, two sausages and potato nuggets breakfast and I just had the classic Brussels waffle given I’ve been overdoing it on the eating in Vancouver for the previous week. I needed to pace myself. If I had more of an appetite, I would usually choose the Scandilicious option with boiled eggs, shrimp, cucumbers, lemon dill sauce and dill. As expected, the waffles were a balance of sweet and not too sweet, just how we remembered them to be. Although Aaron, the maple syrup lover, had to purchase maple syrup in the middle of the meal because the table syrup just did not meet his standards.

Scandalicious Waffle Breakfast
Waffle Breakfast @ Scandilicious. Photo credit: Aaron.

After breakfast, we were on our way to beautiful Kelowna. Our amazing trip organizer “Bear Woman”, has planned a few stops for us. First stop was at the Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival. We visited on a Friday so it wasn’t too busy and tickets were only $10 ($25 on the weekends!). Here you will find rows and rows of tulips. If you also given a pamphlet with the names of all the tulips so you can place an order to plant some at home if you so wish. They have some photo spots e.g. the “Lock Lips for Tulips” photo booth, perfect for couples or non-couples… who just would like to lock lips!

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Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival. Photo credit: Aaron.

Next stop, we only had a drive a little further to reach Bridal Veil Falls in Chilliwack. It was definitely great bang for the buck, given a short 15 minute walk was all it took for us to reach the scenic falls. This is quite efficient given sometimes you’ll need to hike a few hours just to see the main scenic point of a trail.

Bridal Veil Falls in Chilliwack
Bridal Veil Falls in Chilliwack, BC

Before long, we were off on our path to Kelowna again. We were able to locate our Airbnb quite easily and quickly settled down. The Airbnb was actually quite modern and spacious. It was then I noticed that we had 3 women and 3 men, living in a nice house. I laughed at the fact that this reminded me of Terrace House – a Japanese reality show that I’ve been recently (obsessively) watching, where it shows 3 women and 3 men, living in a house with no script. Since the other ladies of the trip are also big fans of this show, we decided to catch up on an episode as soon as we arrived. We had some time before dinner, so we just chilled, had some local beer and played some Settlers of Catan while our trip organizer/driver got some rest.

We had originally planned to have pizza for dinner at Antico Pizza Napoletana but Memphis Blues caught our eyes after we parked, so we changed our plans to go there instead. 1 huge plate of meat for 6 hungry people. Why not? We decided on the Elvis Platter. Easy Peasy. No need to make too many decisions. My favourites on the plate had to be the beef brisket, rib ends and double smoked farmer sausage. The BBQ chicken was also not bad – very juicy and full of BBQ flavours. My only disappointment was in the ribs. I felt it was a little too dry and tough. For sides, we indulged in some coleslaw, potato salad, fries, beans and cornbread. The cornbread definitely did not disappoint. Supposedly meant to feed 5-6 people, this platter was quickly devoured. Our server was obviously impressed with our eating capacity. The food coma from our heavy dinner quickly set in before we called it a night.

Memphis Blues Elvis Platter
Elvis Platter @ Memphis Blues
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Top 7 must eats in Vancouver, Canada – 2017 edition

Top 7 must eats in Vancouver, Canada – 2017 edition

Featured image: Sho Ka Do Bento @ Raisu.

Those who know me would know that I have certain food cravings every time I return to Vancouver. The food scene in Ottawa is not bad if you know where to go, but the selection is definitely not as impressive as that in Vancouver, especially when it comes to Asian cuisine. Here are a few of the items I try to cross off my list whenever I’m back in Vancouver.

1. Sushi

Without a doubt, the number one food craving I always have is sushi! The number of sushi/Japanese restaurants is really astonishing. From the economical and humongous portions found at Samurai Sushi and Sushi California to the mid-range Sushi Aria to the upscale/tapas versions at Raisu/Kingyo/Miku/Suika/Guu, you can get good sushi at any budget. For those who really want a unique dining experience try Sushi Bar Maumi. It is an omakase style meal meaning you are sitting right at the bar with 9 other sushi lovers and the sushi is served piece by piece directly by the chef. The menu is pre-set. There are only 2 seatings per night, so you must make reservations. At the end of the meal, you can also order some more pieces a-la-carte. Be ready to spend $75+ per person, but it’s well worth it!

Mania roll @ Sushi Mania
Mania roll @ Sushi Mania
Deluxe seafood bowl @ Raisu
Deluxe seafood bowl @ Raisu. Photo credit: Aaron.

2. Xiao Long Bao (XLB)

If you hear people talking about XLB and have no idea what they’re taking about, let me explain. XLB (=xiao long bao 小籠包) is a soup dumpling, originating from Shanghai. The soup is first gelatinized and mixed in with the pork filling, and wrapped in a flour skin. The dumpling is then steamed in a (traditionally, bamboo) basket; hence the name, “little basket bun”. To eat, make sure to puncture a hole in the dumpling first and catch the hot, now-melted soup with a spoon. Make sure the soup has cooled down somewhat prior to drinking the soup, or else you will lose all sensations in your tongue for the rest of the week. You have been warned. I have had bad XLB in the past which were shrivelled up with minimal soup. That’s a bad sign. The texture of the skin is also another way to judge the quality of the dumpling. I prefer the ones with thinner skin which is not overly doughy and dry. The most popular chain is Dinesty. They have multiple locations located throughout Greater Vancouver. If in Richmond, you can try Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant or Shanghai River.

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XLB @ Dinesty. Photo credit: Aaron.
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Close up of XLB @ Dinesty (Look at that soup!)

3. Ramen

Another popular choice of food in Vancouver is ramen. Most have a simple menu with a limited number of broth options and a few side dishes/appies to choose from. This only means that they stay true to what they do best. If you are shopping along Robson close and Bidwell, you will find a cluster of these small ramen shops. Popular choices are Santouka (I like their tsukemen option, where you dip the noodles in a concentrated broth), Kintaro (known for their tonkatsu broth), Motomachi (known for their bamboo charcoal ramen) and Marutama (known for their chicken broth). Be prepared to wait in line during peak hours though! These get busy!

Tsukemen and gyoza @ Santouka
Tsukemen and gyoza @ Santouka

4. Beef noodle

Speaking of noodles, those who like tender pieces of beef swimming with egg/flour noodles in a flavourful umami-filled broth, should try the beef noodle houses here. My picks would be No 1 Beef Noodle on Willingdon Ave. and Wang’s Taiwan Beef Noodle on Granville St. I advise you bypass trying to find parking in the tiny lot of No 1 Beef Noodle and just park on the street. Otherwise, you may run the risk of someone double-parking behind your car.

Beef noodle @ No 1 Beef Noodle
Beef noodle @ No 1 Beef Noodle

5. Phnom Penh chicken wings

Alright, I have a confession to make. I was kinda late to jump on this bandwagon. I don’t know how I was not familiar with this place before I moved away from Vancouver. Thanks, “Bear Woman” for introducing me to this! The chicken wings here are apparently famous. These are so addictive that I know someone who needed to bring these with her even when she moved to another province to freeze so she can always have a taste of Vancouver wherever she was. Aaron describes it to have the Southeast Asian flavour, which is definitely appropriate as it reminds me of the chicken wings I’ve had in Malaysia. The batter is light and flavourful and the wings itself is juicy and tasty. The restaurant is super busy and they don’t take reservations except for huge groups (8+) so be patient if you want amazing chicken wings.

Chicken wings @ Phnom Penh
Chicken wings @ Phnom Penh. Photo credit: Aaron.

6. Korean food

I was trying really hard to think of a specific dish instead of using a whole category of “Korean food” but I couldn’t choose between all the deliciousness. The Korean food scene is pretty impressive here. The Korea Town of Vancouver is unofficially along North Road, close to Lougheed Mall, AKA Burquitlam. I’ve been to a few places here with Bear Woman (my personal food guide of Vancouver) and have never been once disappointed. For amazing kimbap (Korean sushi) you cannot just have one of, try Kimbap Cheong Uk. For some makgeolli (Korean rice wine) with nice authentic dishes, try Bukchigo Jangguchigo. If you are downtown, I would recommend Sura for a nicer dining experience or Dae-Ji for a quick no frills experience. If in Richmond, you must try Samsoonie Noodle & Rice for their bossam (sliced flavoured pork belly, that you can wrap in lettuce, cabbage or turnip, along with various side dishes such as kimchi, spicy radish, and raw garlic etc). Remember to pre-order a large and share it with some friends/family. You won’t regret. I promise. If you want just a nice boiling pot of budae jjigae, they have it at Chosun in Burnaby or Midam Cafe in Richmond.

Budae Jjigae @ Chosun Korean Restaurant
Budae jjigae @ Cho Sun

7. Asian desserts/Bubble tea

This is another one where I cannot choose between the various dessert options. Usually even if we’re stuffed after eating a delicious meal of one of the above, we still want to maximize our food adventure fun. We will usually choose amongst one of the following. The classic hang-out place after dinner would have to be a bubble tea shop. These have been around since the 2000’s and they’re still staying strong. These sweet and milky drinks originated in Taiwan but has been a worldwide sensation since then. I always preferred the original milk black or green tea with or without bubbles/pearls/tapoica balls depending on my mood. For those who don’t want a sugar shock to their system, I recommend you get it half-sweet. Those who are more adventurous can try the various flavours available. On this trip, I tried the Okinawa Pearl Tea with roasted brown sugar at ShareTea and I really enjoyed the roasted flavour. ChaTime is another popular chain that is pretty consistent. For a special treat, try the Earl Grey Milk Tea at Mr. Moustache in Marpole. (Note: They are currently closed for renovations). I have never had anything else like it! Another favourite of mine is the Korean bingsoo (shaved ice) at Snowy Village. I even dedicated a full post to this. While you’re there, try the fluffy croissant pastries with various hot fillings – the croissant taiyaki. 

Mango bingsoo @ My Frosty
Mango bingsoo @ My Frosty. Photo credit: Aaron.

And that brings us to the end of my list. If you’re interested in even more food recommendations in Vancouver, let me know! If you have other items you think should be on the list, comment below!

 

Vancouver: Richmond Night Market Food Adventures!

The Low-Down

If you are in Vancouver between May and October, and love street food, you cannot miss the Richmond Night Market located at the River Rock Casino. There are multiple night markets in Greater Vancouver but this is definitely our favourite. Sure, they sell new fads, like fidget spinners and old favourites, like cell phone cases, but we all know that most of us only come here for the food. Over the years, this night market has gotten a lot more sophisticated with free parking onsite with attendants guiding you to minimize chaos. There is now also a nominal admission fee of $3.75 per person. If you are coming in a big group or planning to make multiple visits, I would suggest getting the Zoom Pass. With this pass, you can have 7 admissions for $25. The best part is you can bypass the large line up by going through an express gate. Don’t head towards the long line. There will be staff standing around the entrance and the parking lot selling these. At the entrance, there are ATMs available since most vendors on site are cash only.

Intro to the Food

For my foodies out there, once you enter the gate, you can take a few seconds to gawk at some of the ridiculous “trendy” items being sold, then just head all the way to the back of the market for a culinary adventure. There are usually a few rows of stalls for you to explore. Just like the merchandise sold here, there are more traditional stalls (such as the takoyaki, dimsum, rotato and bubble tea stalls), as well as the new stalls that open up (such as the glowing lightbulb cocktail, Thai fried ice cream and rose popsicle stalls this year).

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The food stalls @ Richmond Night Market.

Deep Fried Squid

We started off our night with some reliable spicy garlic deep fried squid. It comes with curry leaves, so you can tell that it’s legit. Don’t you worry about the squid being chewy because this some of the most tender squid I’ve ever had in my life. The flavours are perfectly tasty without being too salty.

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Deep fried squid. Photo credit: Aaron.

Dimsum + Hotdog

Next, we had some dimsum with some super spicy curry fishballs, shrimp dumplings, and rice rolls. Because we spent more than $12 here, we even got an order of chow mien for free. The fishballs definitely had heat, so I would not recommend for those who cannot take spice. I prefer my fishballs less spicy, so next time, I would probably get the regular curry fishballs, also available here. The shrimp dumplings were shrimp dumplings. Good, reliable flavour. No surprises. Same with the rice rolls. The chow mien was not the best. The guys decided to dip it in the spicy curry sauce, which apparently significantly improved the flavour of the noodles. Aaron also was craving some hotdog, so he got one with nori and mayo, which basically made it a Japadog. It was not bad. You can’t go wrong with nori and mayo. The only complaint is that he had ordered the cheese-stuffed sausage, but we did not see or taste any cheese. Disappointing, I know.

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Shrimp dumplings, chow mien, super spicy curry fishballs, rice rolls, and hotdog. Photo credit: Aaron.

Korean Fried Chicken

We decided it was time for some Korean fried chicken and chose the one with melted cheese topping or “cheese fall” as they called it. I thought it would be too heavy but it was amazing. The cheese was not too overpowering but at the same time added just the right amount of creamy flavour to the boneless deep-fried chicken in sweet and salty sauce.

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Korean fried chicken in sweet and spicy sauce with “cheese falls”. Photo credit: Aaron.

Thai Fried Ice Cream

After ingesting all this salty food, it was time to change things up by getting some Thai “fried” ice cream. Basically, they pour the cream over this cold plate, put in some syrup depending on the flavour you choose, then roll these frozen sheets of ice cream up. These rolls are then placed into a cup for your consumption. We choose the strawberry and oreo flavour, which in hind-sight was not a good choice. The strawberry syrup was terribly sweet. On top of that, they drizzled chocolate sauce and added fruit loops. It was definitely sugar overload.

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Thai fried ice cream – strawberries and oreos.

Fried Fish Stick

It is time to switch back to something savoury. We chose the fried “fish stick”, which is basically deep fried fish fillet on a stick. The amazing thing was it was 90% batter so it was so fluffy and light. We had the terimayo one with shredded nori, which made it that much more delicious.

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Fried fish stick. Photo credit: Aaron.

Strawberry Lemonade

At this point, we were super thirsty with all the deep fried food we’ve consumed. However, when I look around, I find that most drink options are full of sugar. We decided to get some strawberry lemonade with soda, which was actually quite refreshing. If not, there was also a matcha stall, that sold iced matcha without sweetener. I would recommend bringing your own water bottle if you do not want to have this yo-yo between deep-fried salty then super sweet attacks on the taste buds.

Japanese Fried Chicken + German Pork Hock

With only limited stomach space left, we decided to get the classic Japanese fried chicken as well as some German pork hock. I’ve had the fried chicken before at this stall and knew it was good but it was the pork hock from the adjacent stall that really amazed me. It was so tasty and tender, it reminded me of good Chinese roasted pork. The portion size was definitely not small but luckily they cut it up into small bite size pieces for easy sharing with a group. It came with a size of sauerkraut and you can drizzle your choice of sauce on it.

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Japanese fried chicken and German pork hock. Photo credit: Aaron.

Outro

I am actually quite impressed by how much the Richmond Night Market has evolved over the years. There are benches and standing areas for you to eat but usually we just grab and eat while standing in front of the stall or walking around. They have even gotten pretty high-tech, where you can scan the QR codes at the stalls to vote for your favourite food items. The winners are posted on signs around the market for you to reference when you are making those difficult food decisions, since we all know that stomach space is valuable. There is a stage onsite for live performances, but we did not catch any during our stay there on a Friday night. For those who have little ones and/or can stomach a ride after eating all the good food, there are amusement park rides on site as well. Before we left, we had to end the night with Aaron’s favourite fried squid. I was not disgustingly full but at this point, I couldn’t actually take anymore deep-fried food, so I had to pass. Shocking – I know.

Vancouver: Korean Desserts Obsession

After returning home from Korea, we have been longing for some good Korean desserts. Our opportunity has finally arrived once we set foot in Vancouver.

My favourite place for Korean desserts would have to be Snowy Village. There are multiple locations in Greater Vancouver: Vancouver, Richmond and Coquitlam. They must be doing well because they are planning to open stores in Langley as well as Surrey. For those who have never tried Korean shaved ice AKA bingsoo, let me introduce you to this lovely, super light and fluffy dessert. North American snow cones, Taiwanese shaved ice, Chinese red bean ice, Vietnamese che ba mau and Malaysian ABC cannot compare to this amazingly tasty dessert. In the aforementioned shaved ice, it is literally shaved ice pieces. The ice itself has no taste. It relies entirely on the syrups and toppings to give it flavour. Once you eat all the toppings, the ice is not that appetizing. The chunks of ice can sometimes been so big and hard, that the experience can be quite unpleasant at times. Here, the bingsoo is not only made with frozen milk. It is so finely shaved, that it feels like you’re eating creamy snow. The closest thing I’ve ever had to it was the shaved ice we had at Lot 10 Hu Tong in Kuala Lumpar . As for toppings, you can choose anything from mango to green tea, oreos to the traditional red bean. The serving size even for a regular is quite impressive, so I would recommend sharing one between 2 people. I’ve tried both the green tea and mango and I would have to say my preference is towards the mango one. The downtown location can get quite busy, so you can always get the bingsoo to-go, as they package the dessert in an insulated bag which keeps the dessert frozen for 45 minutes! Haven’t tested this out for myself though since I usually couldn’t wait to consume it right away.

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Mango bingsoo @ Snowy Village.

Not only is Snowy Village well-known for its bingsoo, it is also known for its croissant taiyaki or bungeo-ppang (in Korean), which is apparently not available at all locations. It is definitely available at the downtown location. Those who have followed me on my Asia adventures, would recognize this dessert. Taiyaki is a Japanese fish-shaped dessert most commonly filled with red bean paste. The pastry itself has the texture of waffles. Now imagine that the pastry is transformed into a flaky croissant crust. And voila – the croissant taiyaki! Unlike some of the street vendors in Korea and Japan, these are made to order so they are fresh and hot which makes them even more delicious. The pricing is quite reasonable and you can even get 3 for the price of $10.

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Croissant taiyaki @ Snowy Village.

For those to live in the Hastings-Sunrise area, My. Frosty1 recently opened with pretty comparable bingsoo right close to home! We actually had this the day after we had Snowy Village (for science…), which allowed us to compare the two more easily. I prefer Snowy Village for its taste but for the days/nights that you do not feel like venturing downtown or to the burbs, this is a great alternative in Vancouver East.

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Redbean injeolmi bingsoo @ My Frosty. (We also had the mango bingsoo that day, for direct comparison with Snowy Village.)

Hope you enjoy these sweet delights!

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1. N.B. Many people, including myself, have mistakenly called this shop Mr. Frosty, which I have decided is actually a better name, so I will continue to call it as such. However, for the sake of accuracy, so you can actually find it, I will reluctantly call it My. Frosty here.

Vancouver, BC, Canada: Hiking the Chief

Vancouver, BC, Canada: Hiking the Chief

Photo of the day: The view from the Stawamus Chief.

Coming back to hike the Stawamus Chief made me very nostalgic, as it reminded me of my high school days when we would start off our camping trips with this hike. It is classified as an “intermediate” hike, but it can definitely feel challenging for beginners. The only route that I’ve ever taken is up to the first or the south peak, which is only 500m in elevation but the trail is quite steep so it will definitely get your heart rate up to get you huffing and puffing. The hike takes around 3 hours to complete round-trip at a good pace. On our drive to Squamish, it was pouring, which made me really worried since we will be hiking up a large granite dome, which can get quite slippery when wet. Luckily, the ground was dry when we arrived.

You can find free parking right at the trailhead. Just follow the signs to “Stawamus Chief”. Here you there are simple toilet facilities to use as well as a campsite. The first part of the hike is probably the most difficult. It consists of many steep wooden steps to really give you a good cardio exercise. The rest of the path is less manicured, mostly consisting of dirt paths and large rocks.

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The terrain of most of the trail.

There was only one true lookout point along the way, looking at Shannon Falls, so it can get a little monotonous. As soon as you see the ladders and chains to help you up the smooth granite surfaces, you are near the summit!

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Climbing up the chains near the top.

The unbelievable view at the top is definitely worth the climb. There are no facilities at the top. It’s just you, the view and some friendly chipmunks. There are also no lifts or gondolas here, so once you go up, you are committed to hiking down. Because the hike is quite steep, you need to be very careful.

 

Overall, I found this to be a nice challenging hike. Those who would like even more of a challenge can try to hike up the second or third peak as well.

Vancouver, BC, Canada: Top 5 Tourist Attractions

I recently came back to my hometown, Vancouver, BC, for a visit and coincidently, my relatives from out-of-town were visiting at the same time. While showing them around, I was able to be a tourist in my hometown for a few days, which allowed me to compile a list of top tourist attractions in Vancouver, BC.

1. Queen Elizabeth Park

If you like beautiful gardens and views of the city and want to make good use of your newly-purchased camera, this is the place to go. It is so picturesque that many people decide to hold their wedding ceremonies and snap their wedding photos here. If you enjoy tropical plants and birds, you should pay the Bloedel Conversatory a visit. Feeling hungry after all the walking around the park? Want to indulge in a nice meal while further embracing the view? Check out Seasons in the Park.

2. Stanley Park

This park is truly versatile and meant to be enjoyed by people of all ages. For those with children, there are waterparks, outdoor pools, and the Stanley Park Train. Those who love the outdoors and staying active can jog/skate/bike around the seawall while enjoying the beautiful coastline of Vancouver. Those who prefer to relax can lounge on the several beaches in the park. The park is situated right beside downtown so finding good food nearby is never a problem.

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The totem poles in Stanley Park.
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The view from Prospect Point in Stanley Park.

3. Downtown and surroundings

First time Vancouver visitors can probably spend a few days here. The waterfront is one of my favourite parts of Vancouver. Here, you can enjoy views of the water with the mountains as a backdrop. You can also see the huge cruise ships docking and the seaplanes taking off. It is also where our Olympic Cauldron is from hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics.  For my shopaholics, there is plenty of shopping either at Pacific Centre or along Robson Street. For those who like gorgeous architecture, you should head over to the Central Library, again a hot spot for wedding photos. For my hipster friends out there, you must check out Gastown with its various local coffee joints and eateries. For those looking for a more snazzy dining experience, head over to Yaletown. Mister is a hip liquid nitrogen ice-cream place to check out here. We were lucky enough to be here on their first year anniversary where all of their ice-cream are ONLY $5. You can deduce what their regular prices are.

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Central Public Library in downtown Vancouver.

4. Granville Island

Another popular tourist spot for first time Vancouver visitors, Granville Island is a great place for everyone to visit – especial lovers of local arts, crafts and food. There is a kids market for those with little ones. There is a local brewery on the island as well as a boutique Japanese Sake winery for some 19+ fun. Take a stroll along the public market to try some fresh produce and goods. Don’t forget to stop by Lee’s Donuts for some deliciously fresh donuts. I personally really enjoyed the honey-dipped one. If you get tired, there are plenty of benches on the island for you to sit and enjoy the street performances. Just watch your heads in case the seagulls decide to give you a little present.

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Enjoying a honey-dipped Lee’s Donut in Granville Island.

6. North Vancouver/Squamish

If you venture to this part of Greater Vancouver, you can visit the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge. If you want to opt for a similar experience without paying the exuberant prices, you can go to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge instead. By heading further north, you can also visit Squamish. Depending on your preference, you can either hike up the Stawamus Chief or pay $40 to take the new Sea to Sky Gondola up and then do some light trails at the top while soaking in gorgeous views from the viewing platforms. The views from both are surreal but I would highly recommend the hike for a more rewarding experience. Check out my next post for more details about the hike itself.

These places are nice to visit at least once as important landmarks to check out but there are definitely other neighbourhoods that I frequent for food. Stay tuned for the food posts to come!