Vancouver in a day.
This one also makes the top ten for me. The first time I went to Vancouver I actually started researching how to move and live in Canada while keeping a U.S. job and citizenship (turns out it’s not so easy without a Canadian husband). A short flight from Seattle just over the border to British Columbia, Canada, you’ll find North America’s greenest city - and we don’t just mean the color, as they are determined to become one of the world’s leading cities for green energy. So breath deep and enjoy the crisp, clean air in this beautiful coastal city while you can before it takes that breath away.
Head down to the waterfront for the most beautiful views of the city. You’ll find a statue of a torch displayed to honor hosting the Winter Olympics in 2010 when it became the largest metropolitan city to host the games (it will be surpassed by Beijing in 2022). Look ahead a little closer to the water’s edge and you’ll see the large statue of the pixelated “Digital Orca” whale symbolizing the marine life found in the harbor sitting next to the Convention Center. Stroll along the walkway or duck into the nearby massive shopping malls if the weather isn’t cooperating (Bring your credit cards; I’m not sure I’ve seen another city with two Tiffany & Co. stores within the same square mile).
Vancouver Convention Center.
I know, it’s doesn’t really sound like something that would be “fun” to see or do on a trip. But if you do happen to be here for a conference, you’ll get to enjoy the breathtaking views of the harbor from most spots in the building. Thanks to its floor to ceiling glass pane windows and doors, there’s no shortage of natural light here (well, weather permitting). Bring a jacket though in the cooler months; this is the continent’s most energy conserving building, so they don’t go much further than heat lamps unless absolutely necessary.
You’ll hear one of these birds taking off or landing pretty frequently at the harbor. Not only do they serve as the mode of transportation for island-hopping tourists and locals alike, but they offer half hour tours that are more than worth the $85 or so (not including the discount for flight crew). Thirty minutes felt more like sixty as we flew over a scenery that look more like a painting than real life. Fellow aviators are even welcome to sit at the yolk with the Captain in the small 8-seater prop planes. This was definitely a highlight of the layover.
Top of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant.
If flying in a tiny plane and landing on water freaks you out, you can still get a bird’s eye view of the city at the this Revolving Restaurant (no, you won’t feel like you’re spinning, which is pretty amazing). Perched 500 feet into the air, you’ll get a full 360-degree panoramic view of the metropolis (though it’s a different view from the seaplane rides). Though it’s usually an evening destination, the city is still almost as beautiful lit up in the dark as it is in the sunlight. Dress to impress: this place is on the upscale side, and as most revolving restaurants, you will pay a premium for the view (we still thought it was way worth it, though there are great restaurants all over the city).
Stanley Bridge & Hike.
This is actually located in Queens County on Prince Edward Island, easily accessible by car (or seaplane). The bridge is actually part of the unincorporated island’s official title of “Resort Municipality of Stanley Bridge, Hope River, Bayview, Cavendish, and North Rustico” (yawn). If you’re an avid hiker, you’ll love these trails that will seem nice and easy one minute then challenge you the next. You can also take a bike along the trails for a quicker view. Though I haven’t had the chance to challenge myself yet, it’s certainly on my list and I hear it’s a great way to spend an afternoon getting your sweat on in the midst of some beautiful nature.
Noteable mentions for hotels and restaurants:
Urban Fare for breakfast preferably for me, though there is a market attached for anytime of day. Seriously delicious and tons of variety on their menu.
The Pinnacle Hotel Harborfront. Try to get a room with a view! Bicycles also available to borrow (though a limited amount).
Cactus Club Cafe for anytime. Great cocktails and even better menu created by a team of world renowned chefs. They’re open most of the day and have a few locations in the city, though we went to the one closest to the harbor (a few times). As a professional who is required to wear high heels with my uniform for part of my day, hats off to the waitresses here who work their entire shift in wedge heels.
Asian Food. Since it’s my favorite type of food, it adds to my favoritism for this city. Though probably heavier on the Japanese side, you’ll find almost any type of Asian fare all throughout the city. I’ve yet to find a place I didn’t like.