As a Seattleite, quick road trips across the border to Vancouver are always a staple in my summer schedule.
For the past five years, I’ve been visiting Vancouver for day trips and weekend getaways as it’s only about a three-hour drive from Seattle. During the pandemic, my annual trips were put on hold, but I still regularly added new restaurants, parks, and small businesses to my list of Vancouver spots and waited patiently until I could explore them in person.
In August, I finally got to make the trip again with my fiancée, and visiting both new places and old favorites made it the perfect weekend trip.
Here’s everything I did on my latest 24-hour trip to Vancouver.
First, we stopped for a laid-back brunch at Jam Café.
I always like to go out for a nice brunch when I travel. In the morning, we headed to Jam Café, a rustic eatery in northwest Vancouver that serves eggs benedict, waffles, pancakes, and cornbread all day long. I got the huevos rancheros and my fiancée got the eggs benedict with pork belly, but everything on the menu looked great.
The café also serves an extensive selection of drinks from coffee and juice to jam-iced lemonades, mimosas, and spiked alcohol. They don’t take reservations, so I waited in line while my fiancée parked the car — we just had to make sure that our whole party was there when our table was ready. Even for someone like me visiting from out of town, Jam Café always makes me feel at home eating here with their delicious food and welcoming vibe.
I like to immerse myself in nature, so we went to North Vancouver to walk across a suspension bridge surrounded by trees.
One of my favorite spots to visit while in town is the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver, which is privately owned and located on unceded land of the Skwxwú7mesh Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation, meaning that the land wasn’t sold or given up by the First Nations. The bridge’s name is derived from the name of chief Kia’palano (“Beautiful River”). Today, it’s a ticketed attraction with guided talks that showcase the flora and fauna of the park.
On other trips, when I’ve wanted to opt for a free hike and avoid crowds, I’ve gone to the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, which has a number of hiking trails including the Baden-Powell Trail.
For a leisurely walk, we explored the grounds of the VanDusen Botanical Garden, which I think is a great place to find a quiet moment in the city.
For a break from the city streets, we headed to the heart of the city to visit VanDusen Botanical Garden, which has 55 acres of gardens with over 7,500 plant species. In the front entrance, I saw the signs detailing which plants and flowers are in season at the moment, which can range from rhododendrons and magnolias in the spring to berries and witch hazel in the winter.
It was nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the city while walking around the gardens for an hour, and we didn’t even scratch the surface of every area in the park. Plus, we caught a glimpse of a wedding in progress and saw some beautiful water lilies in a few of the garden’s lakes and ponds.
To catch up on the local creative scene, we browsed art at the Vancouver Mural Festival.
Every time I visit a new city, I try to find a new mural because they’re often created by local artists and invite me to discover new parts of the city and local businesses — plus, murals are public art that anyone can enjoy.
There are tons of murals I’ve found just walking and driving throughout Vancouver over the years, but on this trip we decided to visit Vancouver’s City Centre Motel, which is an old motel that’s been converted into artist studios.
Every inch of the space from the floors to the walls are covered in brightly-colored murals commissioned by the Vancouver Mural Festival. There’s no entry fee or time limit, so I was free to roam the space and even saw some artists at work in their spaces.
I like to spend time by Vancouver’s extensive waterfront, so we strolled along the seawall in Stanley Park.
To continue enjoying the outdoors, we walked along part of the 20-mile seawall near the water in Stanley Park. I think the park offers great views of the mountains on a clear day, and there’s also a number of sculptures and monuments to admire around the park.
In the past, on longer trips, I’ve gone to see the penguins and sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium, and other times have continued my outdoor walk at Queen Elizabeth Park, where I like to visit the arboretum during spring and the rose garden from late May to June.
Later, we cooled off with a scoop of ice cream at Elephant Garden Creamery.
I’m a big fan of ice cream, which is why I visit a local ice cream shop on every trip. Over the years, I’ve discovered a number of ice cream shops in Vancouver that I’ll frequent when I’m there.
On this trip, we opted for ice cream with Asian-inspired flavors from Elephant Garden Creamery, which offers flavors like Vietnamese coffee, Hong Kong milk tea, lychee osmanthus, and mango coconut sticky rice in its rotation.
Another one of my favorite specialty ice cream shops in Vancouver is Earnest Ice Cream, which has several locations around the city — my favorite flavor here is their original Whiskey Hazelnut. And if I’m in the mood for something I’ve never tried before, I like to visit Vancouver staple La Casa Gelato, which has more than 230 flavors to choose from, so many that they won a Guinness World Record for the most commercially available flavors.
After a long day of walking, we filled up with late night bites at the Richmond Night Market.
Whenever my visit to Vancouver falls during the spring, summer, or early fall, I make sure to pay a visit to the Richmond Night Market, and this trip was no exception. The market typically runs from April to October each year, and has more than 70 food stands with everything from takoyaki and lamb, prawn, and chicken skewers, to mochi french toast and boba.
There are also live performances throughout the night, featuring dancers, musicians, and martial arts artists. Admission to the market is $7 per person, but I usually buy the market’s Zoom pass which costs $35 and covers six visits, and is convenient as I visit Vancouver often and sometimes come with a large group. Almost all of the food vendors are cash only so I brought $60 to cover my bases, but there are also ATMs on site. On my most recent visit, I grabbed basil popcorn chicken, nutella takoyaki, boba, and a potato tornado with cheddar cheese.
Between its nature, waterfront, and abundance of yummy eats, Vancouver is one of my favorite places for a getaway day or weekend trip.
Even after the five trips I’ve taken to Vancouver over the years, I’ve always discovered something new to do during each one, whether it’s a hike I missed the last time or a newly opened restaurant or art gallery. I know I’ll be back soon to discover more places in town.