When I started planning out my birthday trip in December with one of my best friends, I knew I wanted to go somewhere special. British Columbia was high on that list. And so we hopped on the train and spent the week in one of the most amazing cities I’ve been to. From the best fish tacos of my life to tons of adventure (tons), I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate another year of life!
We took the train ($100 round-trip), which from Portland is about a 8-hour ride. We chose this as not only cost-conscious choice, but watching the scenery along the gorgeous West Coast was such a bonus, and 8 hours of watching movies and eating snacks really puts you in the vacation mode. The train was extremely comfy and despite some extremely loud 6am Irish tourists, it was a very enjoyable experience. We took the train up on Friday (arriving about midnight) and caught the early train back the following Thursday.
Favourites are marked with *.
Where We Stayed
After lots of research, we rented an Airbnb apartment in the Downtown Eastside neighborhood. From reviews I was worried about the area being sketchy, but our host assured me it was a family neighborhood and we felt very safe. The location was near everything and a bus stop, making it fantastic for adventures. I loved the master bathroom and enjoyed eating breakfast at the gorgeous wood bench table.
Brunch @ Belgard Kitchen: After getting in late to our Airbnb, we headed out for a filling and relaxing brunch before exploring. Belgard Kitchen was right around the corner. It gives me such Portland vibes, with wood and barrels and cast iron everywhere so I instantly felt at home. I ordered the French toast and gobbled it down. Downtown Vancouver is a little pricey, but the food is worth every penny.
Shopping on Water Street: Souvenirs is a big part of any trip and we wanted to get it out of the way before all our big activities came up. We walked up and down Water Street, where at least 10 different souvenir shops are available to poke around in. We dropped in to John Fluevog to check out the funky shoes and definitely checked the menu of every shop we passed for dinner plans.
Coffee @ Buro Espresso Bar: A quick pick-me-up at Buro to gain our energy after walking 10,000 steps on one street alone.
Grocery trip @ Nester’s Market: Picked up some small essentials (like breakfast foods and snacks) before heading home to nap because shopping is exhausting.
Pizza @ Megabite Pizza: Got a large cheese pizza and garlic sauce and brought it back to our Airbnb’s rooftop garden to eat and look out at the city. The weather was sunny but chilly and an absolutely perfect end for our first day.
A POSSIBILITY: The Portside Pub: We ended up not going into nightlife in Vancouver (next trip for sure) because we had early morning adventures almost every day, but one spot that was hopping was The Portside Pub. Our first night the line was out the door, so worth checking out!
University of British Columbia: To be honest, we got super lost on the UBC campus. What was supposed to be a quick stop turned into hours of trekking side to side. Despite this, it is an absolutely GORGEOUS campus and so worth exploring.
Museum of Anthropology: By far one of the most anticipated stops of our trip (my friend is an Anthropology major), we had a guided tour of the museum and learned so much about the culture and history of Vancouver. It is humbling to see how much we’ve evolved in such a short amount of time, and how much of our past we bring into our culture, like Haida designs.
Dinner @ Alibi Room: Grab a burger and beer here and soak in the relaxed atmosphere. The veggie burger was fantastic, and much needed after walking nearly 20,000 steps at UBC.
Museum of Vancouver: Just in time for all the school tours, we spent our morning exploring the museum. The Haidi Now exhibit was extremely moving, with 3D printed artifacts and lots of personal anecdotes explaining the injustice and pain caused to the native people. The neon exhibit is also worth a look, I loved it!
Granville Island: All the cute little shops and great water views lead up to one of the most impressive public markets I have ever seen. It’s a little overwhelming, but the desserts had me salivating enough that I could not wait for lunch.
Grab a Scone @ The Corner Store Cafe: If you get lost finding the bus station (like me) and your phone isn’t working, The Corner Store Cafe is the perfect little stop for a scone/muffin and relaxing. The shop is so cute and the staff is super friendly!
Late lunch/dinner @ meeT: Once you find your bus and make it back to Gastown, stop into meeT for some delicious vegan cuisine and happy atmosphere. We stopped in here twice during our trip and I loved both the butter chikin and The Team Poutine (for vegan poutine it’s fantastic). And walk it all off by exploring Gastown.
*Dessert @ Soft Peaks: The dessert I will be dreaming about for the rest of my life – unsweetened soft serve. In the cutest little shop on the edge of Gastown, get a little cup of unsweetened soft serve with a multitude of different, unexpected toppings. I did the Salty Himalayan with liquid honey and the Green Forest (condensed milk, matcha, sweet red beans).
*Spend the day at Stanley Park: Rent bikes at Spokes and spend your day biking around the beautiful and serene Stanley Park. Overall the highlight of my trip, looking out at the Seawall and feeling the wind in my hair for the first time in forever was truly a birthday gift.
Grab waffles @ Nero: Walk up Robson Street (lots of shopping!) and grab lunch at Nero. Two different kinds of Belgian waffles with lots of different topping choices. I was in heaven.
Donuts at Tim Horton’s: Oh, you thought I was going to Canada and wasn’t going to try Tim Horton’s?
Vancouver Art Gallery: On Tuesdays after 5 the Vancouver Art Gallery is by donation. We waited in line for maybe 20 minutes before getting in and enjoying the two different exhibits. The French Modernists exhibit was absolutely breathtaking.
*Dinner at Local: The best fish tacos in the world are here. Pair with a Hey Y’all (a BC only sweet tea vodka drink) and prepare to never want to leave Canada ever because you have found the perfect meal. The relaxed atmosphere, gorgeous front patio, and super friendly staff don’t hurt either.
*Capilano Suspension Bridge: Get up early and prepare for adventure! Take the free shuttle bus up to the park and arrive just as the park opens. It was a slightly rainy Wednesday and the park was fairly empty, so we were able to experience this beautiful park by ourselves. To experience nature from so high up (close enough to touch) is such a special feeling, despite the fact I am extremely terrified of heights. It is definitely a bucket list item!
Patio Dinner @ Local: We copied our previous night with tacos and Hey Y’all out on the patio, people watching and soaking in our last moments in Vancouver before heading out early the next morning. I’m not one for copying restaurants, but when you find something you really love, you justify it.
If you’re thinking about hopping over to Canada, I highly recommend Vancouver! One of the best trips I’ve been on in my life, and I will 100% be going back!