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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Two Days in Vancouver with a Toddler

So you read about the first half of our Seattle/Vancouver trip here, right? After brunch at the 5Spot, we drove 2.5 hours from Seattle up to Vancouver, BC, Canada. It was an easy drive filled with beautiful green grass, lush trees and snow capped mountains - which obviously does not compare to the vast cornfields of the Midwest. Read on in case you're wondering what to do in Vancouver with a toddler.

The line of cars to cross the border wasn't bad either, probably waited about 10 minutes. Here's what we did and where we ate during our 2 day trip in Vancouver, although I wish we had another 2 days to do more!

What we did:
1. Two hours atop Grouse Mountain (Expensive at $40/per person!) Makes more sense to go if you are a skier or snowboarder - which we are not! But, the tram ride up gave way to outstretched views of the city, waterways and Stanley Park. We visited the two resident bears that live there and that's about it.  I’m disappointed we didn’t do a FREE outdoor activity instead at Lynn Canyon Park to walk the suspension bridge and take in some nature. But, it wasn’t MY birthday after all. Maybe next time! This was the only time we needed a car while in Vancouver.

It was a very warm and sunny day on the mountain and the snow was slushy. Doug was exhausted, hot and sweaty while trekking/carrying Mia through the snow to get to the Bear house.

2. Two hours at Granville Island Public Market (free) - We walked across town (literally) and over the Granville Bridge to get to the Public Market. We DO NOT recommend walking this bridge and we should’ve taken the bus! The Public Market full of fresh produce, artisan cheese, charcuterie, meats, fish and flowers makes me want to throw a dinner party! There are a lot of food vendors, so we enjoyed a banana Nutella crepe out on the dock. There was also a Kids Market full of useless retail aimed at children, but kept Mia busy hopping on and off the coin rides (which she doesn't know you put a coin in to make the ride go!) 

3. Two hour bike ride around Stanley Park ($30 for all three of us) -  Now that we knew not to walk back into the city from Granville Island, we took a bus back downtown to rent bikes from Stanley Park Cycle (cheaper than the more obvious store on the corner). For less than $30 for the three of us, we rented bikes to take a 2 hour leisurely cruise around Stanley Park’s Seawall. We stopped very frequently to take in the view of the modern city surrounded by water and mountains. I definitely enjoyed this activity more than the expensive mountain! Make sure you're going counterclockwise around the Seawall because at one point it becomes one way.

After our leisurely bike ride (unlike the one in Chicago), we walked along the water by Coal Harbor to get back to the hotel. The docked boats (and house boats!!) were surrounded by towering glass condos. But what I could not get enough of were the seaplanes that would frequently land and take off! Who’s in these little seaplanes and where are they going!?

What I wish we had 2 more days for:  Whale watching and exploring Lynn Canyon Park.

Where we ate:
Dinner - Salmon House Since we still had the car, we drove up to West Vancouver. The ceiling to floor windows allowed us to sit back and relax while enjoying the sights of the water, city and trees. Given that our reservations were at 6pm when it wasn’t busy, our food came out very quickly. But once we were finished, it was very difficult to flag our waitress down and we waited a good 30 minutes for dessert to come out (you can even tell how long it was from the melted sorbet below!!). What started as a pleasant dinner turned into a 2 hour affair - which is long when you have a toddler in a different time zone! Mia ordered pasta off the kids menu. We started with the chili, lime, prawn and salmon spring rolls, Doug had the grilled seafood trio while I worked my way through half a Dungeness crab, lobster tail and scallops. All the food was good, but not amazing. However, the concorde chocolate cake with raspberry sorbet was delish.

Breakfasts -  Thank you Pinnacle Marriott for the complimentary pastries, fruit and Starbucks coffee every morning!! Spending $0 on two light breakfasts let us indulge more at lunch and dinner.

Lunch - Edible Canada Bistro While at Granville Island, we had lunch at the conveniently located Edible Canada, a modern bistro featuring New Canadian cuisine. Mia ordered grilled cheese and fries from the kids menu and kept busy with their crayons and coloring sheet.  Doug had the wild westcoast ling cod fish and chips - the best fish and chips he's ever had! It was so so light and not heavy like your typical fish and chips that we've had in the States. To continue our seafood tasting trip, I thoroughly enjoyed my mussels with housemade chorizo and duck fat fries. SUCH a good lunch!

Dinner - Guu on Robson Street Since we didn’t want to walk across town for dinner at Minami in Yaletown (didn't have a car anymore), we changed our reservations to an Izakaya (Japanese style tapas/small plates). Guu is very small, with sushi bar type seating, communal tables, cafe tables outside or traditional shoes off/tatami mats/low table intimate seating upstairs. The energy level in this restaurant is sky high with the servers yelling out orders throughout the restaurant and bumping music (but not annoying). Mia loved it. She felt like she was on stage and danced through 80% of dinner. She ate rice while we ate our way through yaki udon, kimchee udon, fried chicken wings, fried prawns, beef tataki and a pitcher of Sapporo. The beef tataki with plum dressing and wasabi mayo was melt in your mouth ah-mazing!

Where we stayed: Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown, less than $150/night thanks to
After our mountain adventure complete with wet shoes, socks and pants, the familiar smell of the Marriott as I approached the lobby put me in a better mood. If you ask Mia, her favorite part of the trip was the hotel. With a corner room, entire wall of windows looking over the water, sea plane dock and mountains (see below), king bed and complimentary desserts for Doug’s birthday, I don't blame her. We love Marriott hotels! AND there was complimentary Starbucks coffee, pastries and fresh fruit every morning!

Saturday morning we walked to the Sky Train with all our luggage through the morning drizzle and headed back to the airport. Apparently they are on the honor system because no one checked for our transit tickets. Ohh Canada! At the YVR Airport, security and customs was a breeze, with no line for either and super friendly TSA agents. Then to our delight, there was a playground and TV area for kids to burn off energy before being confined on a plane. Yet another reason why we love Canada!

While waiting for our plane to arrive, Mia wanted to take pictures. Just like mommy! She did a good job didn't she?! (The pictures she captured are on the right, and the airplane.)

And that's our four day trip recap of what to do in Seattle and Vancouver with a toddler. Have you been to Vancouver? What did I miss? What was your favorite? Where should we go next year for our family vacation??