I recently spent a week in Vancouver with my mom and sister to celebrate Mother's Day and we had the most wonderful time. To be honest, Vancouver has never been on my radar for must-see places, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover what an amazing city it is. In fact, I would consider it one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited! Nestled between the majestic North Shore Mountains and the stunning Pacific Ocean, this vibrant Canadian gem offers a perfect blend of urban charm and natural beauty. With incredible restaurants, scenic nature hikes, and plenty of art and culture, Vancouver has something for everyone.
My mom, sister, and I had been planning to do a baby-free vacation together for some time, and had dreamed of going someplace far flung and international. But since I had just entered my third trimester of pregnancy, we decided not to go too far off the beaten path. Vancouver was the perfect compromise. It's a quick three hour flight from San Diego, but still has the exciting international vibes we were craving. We really lucked out with the weather this time. During the rainy season, which typically lasts from November to April, it can be pretty bleak. But we went in mid-May and were blessed with the most gorgeous weather - 7 days of warmth and sunshine. The sun didn't set until 8:45 each night, so it was perfect for lots of strolling and late dinners. The whole city was buzzing with joy and everyone seemed so happy to be out and about.
In this travel guide, I'll share everything we did on our week-long adventure - where we stayed, what we ate, and all my favorite sites to see. Come along and discover all the best that Vancouver has to offer! See below for our day by day itinerary, or scroll to the end for a summary of all the things we did and places we ate.
Where we stayed:
The Sylvia Hotel - This charming, ivy-covered hotel was built in 1913 and is situated in an absolutely perfect location in the West End neighborhood of Vancouver. It's just steps away from the beach at English Bay, and walkable to Stanley Park and lots of delicious restaurants. I was struck by how green and peaceful the neighborhood felt. It has a low-key residential feel, but there are plenty of things to see and do in the area.
Lunch at Kingyo Izakaya
We started our trip with a delicious lunch at Japanese restaurant Kingyo. The atmosphere is really cozy with lots of antique woodwork and a big communal table in the front. I ordered the Tan-Tan noodles and they were super delicious.
After lunch we spent the afternoon strolling through the West End neighborhood. We walked along the beach and watched all the people gather after work to relax and soak up the beautiful weather. Denman Street is the main street in the area and lined with tons of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. We strolled over to The Red Accordion for dinner to enjoy a tasty farm-to-table dinner situated in a charming converted house. We enjoyed a lovely walk home and went to bed early to prepare for the rest of our time in Vancouver.
We enjoyed breakfast at our hotel restaurant, and it was quite good. The waiter claimed they serve the best pancakes in Vancouver, and as a pancake connoisseur I can say that they were very tasty.
Next we headed to the Rosewood Hotel Georgia for a super relaxing spa day. We each booked massages, which were delightful and the perfect way to kick off our vacation. They also have a heated, indoor pool and fitness room which you can enjoy before or after your treatment.
After taking some time to relax and sip tea in the spa lounge, we took a walk through downtown Vancouver. We stopped at this food truck for tasty, wood-fired sandwiches. Then we headed to Canada Place, which is right along the waterfront where all the cruise ships dock. The views here are so pretty and you can see breathtaking mountains to the north of the city. This is also a great place to take a harbor cruise, although we didn't do one on our visit.
We took a car to Vancouver's famous Stanley Park, and made our way back to the hotel from there. We strolled past the Shakespeare Garden and the Rose Garden, and walked along the Lost Lagoon before heading back to our place for an afternoon siesta.
We ended our day with a delicious dinner at one of Vancouver's hottest restaurants, Published on Main. This award-winning restaurant specializes in sustainably-sourced, local foods, and everything is designed to share. All of the dishes were really interesting and beautifully-presented like wild foraged fiddleheads and savory Danish donuts. My personal favorite was the dessert featuring chocolate panna cotta, peanut butter semifreddo, and banana sorbet. Yum!
We started the day with yummy pastries from Bisou Bake House, and then took a car to Vancouver's historical Chinatown. While the neighborhood is a little bit quiet these days, and much of the Chinese population has moved to nearby Richmond, it's still worth a visit. As a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, I really enjoyed walking through all the traditional herb shops and practicing my herb identification skills. Although we didn't check it out, I've heard good things about the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. From Chinatown we walked to Vancouver's Central Library, and took a little break to play cards on their expansive roof deck.
One thing you should know about me is that I am crazy for a fancy, high-tea. It's truly one of my favorite things in the whole world. I love to visit nice hotels and tea shops around the world, and spend the afternoon sipping fine tea and nibbling on finger sandwiches, scones and sweets. For me, one of the highlights of our trip was enjoying afternoon tea at Notch 8 in the historic Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. The tea menu changes seasonally, and their Cherry Blossom tea service did not disappoint. The 3-tiered tea tray was filled with tasty pastries like a white-chocolate, cherry scone and savory curry puff, and topped with a giant pouf of pink cotton candy.
We were pretty stuffed after our afternoon tea, so we walked it off with another stroll along the English Bay and into Stanley Park. We ended our day with a very low-key dinner of burgers and fries while watching the sunset from the Stanley Park Brewpub.
In the morning we headed to the Vancouver Aquarium located inside Stanley Park. They have a lot of great indoor and outdoor exhibits featuring playful sea lions, colorful clownfish, and mesmerizing jellyfish. We went on a Saturday morning so it was a little overrun with kids, but still very fun to visit.
After the aquarium, we walked to the West End's Denman street for lunch at Jinglebao. They specialize in buns, noodles, and dumplings. We ordered the Signature Magnificent Seven, which was an assortment of rainbow colored dumplings in a variety of fun flavors.
Finally, we ended the evening at another West End spot, Kinara Indian Cuisine, for dinner. The restaurant was charming and authentic, and the food was super tasty. Our mom absolutely loved it! She prefers low-key, simple food over a fancy, high-end restaurant any day. She raved that it was even better than the Michelin-starred restaurant we ate at a few nights earlier.
It was a gorgeous sunny day and we started our morning with a refreshing ferry ride to Granville Island. Then we took a tour of the famous Granville Island Market with Vancouver Foodie Tours. We enjoyed tons of delicious samples from the market including tasty chai lattes, lobster rolls, a selection of meats and cheeses, and fresh baked bread. It was definitely a full meal's worth of food, and we left feeling stuffed. I particularly enjoyed the macarons from Bon Macaron Patisserie. We tried some interesting and unique flavors like bacon (no thank you) and watermelon (heck yes!).
In the afternoon we headed to the gorgeous VanDusen Botanical Garden. This sprawling 55-acre park features over 7,500 plant species, an Elizabethan Hedge Maze, a Stone Garden, and much more. Fun fact - they offer free golf-cart tours for mobility impaired and elderly guests. Since I was heavily pregnant and my mom is pushing 80, we got to cruise around the whole garden in a golf cart with our own personal tour guide. It was the perfect way to see the gardens on a hot day without wearing ourselves out.
That night we had dinner at a cute little Spanish tapas place called Espana. This was another great restaurant near our hotel on the popular Denman street. The food was excellent, and great for a late-night, light bite.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is definitely a must-see for visitors to Vancouver. Located just north of the city, this stunning natural park feels like a secluded forest miles away from civilization. Besides the main suspension bridge, they also have a Cliffwalk pathway and Treetop Adventures, which is a series of smaller suspension bridges that leads through the rainforest canopy. I can be a bit of a scaredy cat sometimes when it comes to heights, but I felt very safe and secure on all the bridges. The scenery was gorgeous and the views were breathtaking. The park also features some really cool totem poles carved by indigenous artists.
After spending a few hours at the suspension bridge park, we enjoyed two more delicious meals to round out our last full day in Vancouver. For lunch we went to The Cactus Club Cafe near the English Bay. This premium casual Canadian chain restaurant serves global fusion cuisine which was surprisingly good. We ordered the Szechuan Lettuce Wraps, Prawn Crunch Roll, Truffle Fries, and Key Lime Pie, and everything was fresh and delicious.
For dinner we walked to an Italian restaurant called Autostrada for classic salad, pastas, and dessert.
We had a few hours in the morning before our flight left Vancouver, so we headed to a suburb just outside the city called Richmond. Richmond is basically like the new Chinatown community of Vancouver with a significant Asian population. For our final hurrah we enjoyed one last Dim Sum at Continental Seafood, and it was great.
Thank you so much Vancouver! We had a blast and can't wait to come back again.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Take a stroll through the beautiful, 1000-acre Stanley Park.
Visit the Vancouver Aquarium.
Check out the cruise ships and mountain views at Canada Place.
Take a break on the rooftop of the Vancouver Central Library.
Enjoy afternoon tea at the historic Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.
Relax at the Sense Spa in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.
Explore Chinatown and visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
View the city from the water on a ferry ride.
Sample all the tasty treats at Granville Island Market.
Wander the gardens at VanDusen Botanical Garden.
Go on an outdoor adventure at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
Kingyo Izakaya - Cozy Japanese food on Denman Street.
The Cactus Club Cafe - Tasty global eats on the English Bay.
Espana - Charming Spanish tapas.
Kinara Indian Cuisine - Authentic, low-key Indian food.
The Red Accordion - Creative farm-to-table dishes in a converted home.
Bisou Bake House - Premium pastries and baked goods.
Jinglebao - Buns, noodles, and soup dumplings.
Notch 8 - Upscale Bistro in the historic Fairmont Hotel in Downtown Vancouver.
Autostrada - Classic Italian in Yaletown.
Published on Main - Michelin-starred restaurant in South Main.
Continental Seafood - Dim Sum and more in Richmond.