There’s so much to see in Vancouver BC! Too much, in fact. So, here’s a guide through my most recent whirlwind tour of Vancouver. This should help when planning to head up from Seattle for a weekend in Canada. You will learn what to expect at the border crossings, what to eat and where, what Granville Island is all about, and even how awesome Vancouver’s public bathrooms are (no lie).
So, what will the traffic be like? If you’re heading up from Washington on a Friday night, be aware that crossing the border will be a lot more brutal than on any other weekday night. (I checked Waze.)
My Vancouver road trip buddy and I waited 45 minutes at the Peace Arch crossing. According to the traffic advisory signs, the truck crossing was even worse, if you can believe it.
The best part of the weekend to head north would be Saturday morning, in my opinion. I’ve driven from Kent to Bellingham in no time flat, having left by 9:30 AM.
Now you may be wondering what to declare at the border. Any food or alcohol, basically. Check the website to see how much of certain items you can take. For example, up to 1 liter of alcohol per 21+ adult is allowed.
This is going to make me seem like a total noob, but I’d never heard of Granville Island before. Thankfully, my friend knew that the destination was a must and dragged me along with her.
Now I know what the fuss is all about. Enjoying the best poutine ever and experiencing the exhilaration of the busy Granville Island Public Market didn’t hurt none. In fact, I can’t wait to return!
Afternoon happy hour
Skip happy hour if you’re planning on ending the day at the Richmond Night Market. Go to the night market HUNGRY. STARVING. RAVING MAD FOR FOOD. Trust me on this! But that’s another article.
Of course, we didn’t know any better and decided to go to happy hour. I’m not even going to dare mention the restaurant by name, since we were pretty disappointed by our super-watered-down mango margaritas pitcher. It may not have been worth it, if our waiter hadn’t turned out to be highly entertaining.
It all started when he asked to see our IDs. He paused for a second to do the math with my friend’s ID. Upon realizing she’s only 19 (the minimum drinking age in Canada) he put two and two together. “Oh, you’re here to drink! Holla~~!”
He was so excited, he ran away with our drink order, forgetting to ask if we had anything else to order. (Which we did.) I think he was even more excited than we were.
Late happy hour
Since you’ll be bursting at the seams by the time you’re through with the night market, you’ll be free to try more drinks. Cambie and Main Street are prime barhopping streets. Sadly, we only went to the Cactus Club Cafe, an awesome place on Cambie with an awesome bathroom to match.
I ordered berry sangria (right), while my friend ordered a peach Bellini cocktail (left). We liked each other’s drinks more than our own, so we switched. (Later on, this confused our server.)
The sangria is delicious, but definitely suits a wine fan. The drink, while not too cold, is served in a frosted glass. On the other hand, the peach Bellini features a tangy flavor that tingles your tongue with a fizzy feeling. It is blended with ice and served in a room temperature glass.
We drank outside and got a little cold, but the ambiance of the cafe is too awesome. The trendy outdoor seating area was what caught our attention in the first place.
When I came back to the table from using the Cactus Club restroom, I was wide-eyed and super excited. “That is the COOLEST bathroom I have ever seen!” I said.
I could live in that bathroom. The amount of mirrors is unreal. Not only is there a large mirror behind the sinks, which goes without saying, but the bathroom is furnished with a bunch of chairs along a vanity-type counter. There’s a comfy couch in one corner. There’s no peeping into the stalls, since each door comes all the way down to the floor. Each stall feels very spacey on the inside and is fitted with a button on the floor—you just step on it to flush the toilet, in keeping with the modern style of the bathroom. The bathroom alone feels like a trendy night club (but with plenty of lighting on the inside). When my favorite Daft Punk song came on, I couldn’t help but break out dancing. Then someone came in. Kind of awkward.
Little did we know that cool bathrooms seem to be a thing in Vancouver. But we’ll get to that later.
We opted for a late brunch at The Acorn. Why? For the 2016 anniversary special of $4 mimosas, of course.
Our server had a beautiful Montreal accent that I had to inquire about. Not only was she pleasant to talk to, but she was also very helpful in suggesting which of the small plates to try.
My friend ordered the greens and the potatoes at our server’s suggestion. I’m lucky she let me taste those dishes. Sure enough, the sweetness of the greens, paired with the contrasting potatoes, was outstanding. I do believe anyone who hates vegetables would still enjoy this meal.
Since I can’t have dairy or wheat, I myself was ecstatic over the vegan, gluten-free waffles, and they turned out to be lovely. The bourbon maple syrup was just a bonus.
The entire restaurant will help you relax and is a pleasure to look at, no matter where you look. That’s right even in the bathrooms. Both bathrooms are single person, have unique rustic décor on the walls, have very dim lighting, and a recording of bird calls playing constantly. I may not want to live here as much as I would love to live in the Cactus Club bathroom, but I enjoyed the unique ambiance.
Learn your beers
If you hit up the Colony Bar on Main Street, get ready for two things: a bathroom selfie and an education in beer. (And I suppose more poutine, if you want it.)
I learned a lot about beer, thanks to our helpful bartender! He made sure we had plenty of samples coming our way. (These were shared samples, so we could try more things.) We were introduced to sours and a delicious rattler, which is basically a lager with grapefruit juice (see photo). He even explained what we were drinking as if it were the most normal thing in the world. I love not feeling stupid when I ask a question about beer. Yay for understanding bartenders!
The Colony Bar’s bathroom has an awesome hashtag on the mirror that reads: #KeepGoodCompany.
I’d say we lived up to that hashtag on our Vancouver weekend road trip!
World traveler tip: If you’re wanting to fly into Vancouver BC, it may be worth comparing prices with SeaTac flights. Or vice-versa. For example, flights to and from Asia or Hawaii are often cheaper for Americans flying through Vancouver, while Canadians may get a better deal via Seattle. Who said life was fair?