Vancouver - A Winter Wonderland

23 April 2011

Flight Centre’s Cameron Taylor spent time in Vancouver, Canada. There Cameron discovered Vancouver beyond it's breathtaking scenery and writes about the helpful friendly faces, the upbeat nature and diverse culture of the city. From eating and entertainment, to the city's sprawling parks and passion for ice-hockey.  Cameron discovered a special and most memorable holiday...

CanadaPeople say that Vancouver is similar to New Zealand which is the case with its scenery, but it’s the people of Vancouver that make this place so special.

Vancouver is one of the best cities I have visited and there have been a few. I arrived in Vancouver at the start of their Winter, in fact Whistler opened while I was there so a great time of year. It was around 3 degrees - beanie, scarf and gloves a must.

From the moment I checked into the Fairmont Hotel I discovered how helpful and friendly the people of Vancouver are. Although I was in a 5-star hotel. I wondered if this could continue in the real world, and it did.

Salt Tasting Room

Salt Tasting Room

As I ventured out to the city centre the snow began to fall which set the scene for a fantastic time and I was not disappointed.  Its upbeat nature and the diverse culture made for an exciting mix, and after some window shopping we decided to visit Blood Alley. Renowned for being an undesirable place but it hid a little gem, a place called Salt Tasting Room. Here we ordered two fine pinot’s and a cheese platter. Tapas’ are also a specialty here. A fantastic place and I highly recommend it.

Vancouver is made up of small pockets of entertainment similar to Auckland’s villages. Gastown was one of these and is a great place for shopping and food.  Most buildings here are built in red brick which gives it real character.  Here I found Steamworks, a great place for a drink or six. In Yaletown, a very hip part of town, pop into the Yale Town Brewing Company where you will find great locally brewed beer, generous meals and of course great service always with a smile. Prices for food and drink in Vancouver seem on par with any New Zealand city, but don’t forget to tip!

The great thing about Vancouver is that it is only one and half to two hours from Whistler. Although a smaller option would have sufficed, we hired a Ford Explorer for CAD$140 for the day, all inclusive with GPS.  The drive is beautiful and once there, Whistler offers a skiing playground in winter and mountain bike heaven in summer.

Back in Vancouver, Stanley Park is a great place to explore, all 1000 acres of it. This park attracts more than 8 million visitors each year and here you will see Canadian geese, squirrels and the Vancouver Aquarium. The park is easily accessible from the centre of town and can be circumnavigated in 3 hours.  Be sure to dress warm however, as an icy wind in the winter can blow off the ocean. Refreshing in summer I’m sure.

After visiting the Aquarium I would recommend taking in the markets on Granville Island. A small boat trip for around CAD$3 each way, the markets host a plethora of food, art and local crafts. If you're hungry, the Sandbar will provide you with a fantastic restaurant with views back over the city. This is a real treat and a must do, the spare ribs are amazing.

Hockey MatchYou can't go to Canada without seeing an Ice Hockey match. Rogers Arena, home of the Vancouver Cannucks is one of the best places to witness this. The stadium holds around 18000 people and the atmosphere is like nothing I have ever experienced - the Canadian national anthem will make the hairs on your neck stand. With 41 home games a season I’m sure you will catch one. It's not cheap however so budget around CAD$200 for a good ticket.

There is plenty of sightseeing to be done in Vancouver. The Capilano suspension bridge is worth a look, it stretches 450ft across and 230ft above the Capilano River, quite a sight.

Climb the Vancouver lookout, a 430ft high structure offering amazing views of the city.  Grouse Mountain is also on your doorstep with skiing and hiking.

Capilano suspension bridge

Capilano suspension bridge

If heights are not your thing then there are plenty of harbour cruises and city tours to explore the surrounds.

So whether its sport, food, scenery or just to meet friendly people don’t go past Vancouver. It’s a fun place to be.

Looking for more information on Vancouver Holiday Packages or cheap flights to Vancouver? Contact a Flight Centre travel expert – 135 stores nationwide.  Ph 0800 38 44 38 or email us.