Canada – The Barefoot Nomad https://www.thebarefootnomad.com Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Fri, 15 Jun 2018 22:40:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Locals Guide to the Great Okanagan Beer Festival GOBF in Kelowna BC Canada https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/a-locals-guide-to-the-great-okanagan-beer-festival-gobf-in-kelowna-bc-canada/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/a-locals-guide-to-the-great-okanagan-beer-festival-gobf-in-kelowna-bc-canada/#comments Mon, 28 May 2018 17:30:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=16510 Have you ever walked into a room and felt instantly at ease?

The Great Okanagan Beer Festival is that kind of party.

As I walked onto the grounds, the early summer sunshine warmed my shoulders, and a cooling breeze swept across the lake.

The kegs were tapped, the band was playing, and the smokies were sizzling on the grill. Charles and I had left the kids at home, and it was time to enjoy ourselves.

Cheers for beers GOBF

As I looked around at the hundreds of smiling faces around me, I was instantly at home. This was going to be a great day. It was our first year at the GOBF, and I was excited to take in all the fun (plus all that tasty food, beer and cider!).

Great Okanagan Beer Festival (GOBF)

Every year, the Great Okanagan Beer Festival puts on a heck of a great party in our beautiful home city of Kelowna, BC, Canada.

The GOBF takes place in early May. It’s hosted by the fun folks at Gibbons Whistler, founders of the insanely popular Whistler Village Beer Festival.

The GOBF features 70 breweries with over 120 varieties of craft beer and cider. No matter which way you calculate it, that’s a lot of delicious suds.

You’ll find some of our favorite local breweries and restaurants at the Okanagan Beer Festival, like the Train Station Pub, Grimm’s Fine Foods, BNA Brewing, Tree Brewing, Freddy’s Brewpub, Okanagan Spring, Boundary Brewing Company, BC Tree Fruits Cider Co. and Wards Hard Cider, plus plenty of other great craft beer and cider brewers from all across Canada.

pouring sample somersby cider at the GOBF

Plus, there’s great food with food trucks and vendors galore.

If you’re looking for something fun to do, there’s plenty of entertainment on site, including live bands up on the main stage. This year, there were four live bands for the main event, plus a DJ to keep the crowd going between sets.

Depending on the year you go, the lineup will be different, but we enjoyed Red Chair, Lucky Monkey, The Hip Replacements (a Tragically Hip tribute band), and Hot Knox.

Entertainment at the GOBF Kelowna stage

In among the beer and cider tents, we found that a lot of local businesses had also shown up. All of them had something fun to do and many offered everything from free meals at local restaurants to hats, shirts and Frisbees. The games ranged from blackjack, to beanbag toss games, to axe throwing.

Yep, you read that right… axe throwing. We had a blast trying a free round of axe throwing with Axe Monkeys, though I think we’re both going to need some coaching before we become axe throwing masters!

for the love of beer mug at the lake kelowna

All that axe throwing gave us an appetite, so we wandered over to the food trucks.

Given that this is a Canadian Festival, you’d better bet there’s a poutine truck (Smoke’s Poutinerie), and a lot more too, including The Keg Steakhouse, The Grub Truck, Surfside California (with tacos!) and Thai on the Fly.

Smoke's Poutine Food Truck Kelowna

Grimm’s Fine Foods BBQ made an especially tasty appearance, with mouthwatering smokies on a bun and ice cold drinks.

GOBF fun around town

There’s a lot going on in the days and weeks leading up to the GOBF, with everything from yoga to bowling to Kelowna Craft Brewery tours.

Lonetree Cider Great Okanagan Beer Festival Kelowna

Pregame Brunch at the Train Station Pub with Grimm’s Fine Foods

We were lucky enough to get a spot at one of our very favorite local pubs, the Train Station Pub for a Pregame Brunch presented by Grimm’s Fine Foods.

The Train Station Pub is in a restored 1926 railway station, and is just a hop, skip, and jump from Waterfront Park where the GOBF main event is held. As well as great food, the Train Station Pub features their own craft beer as well as rotating favorite brews from around the area.

Train station pub and Grimms Fine foods pregame lunch for the Great Okanagan Beer Festival Kelowna

Where’s the GOBF held?

Every year, the Great Okanagan Beer Festival takes place at Waterfront Park on the shores of Okanagan Lake. There’s plenty of lush green grass, meandering paved pathways, a beautiful wooden boardwalk along the lake, and big trees scattered about for shade.

Relaxing in the park at the Great Okanagan Beer Fest

Should you get General Admission or VIP Tickets to the Great Okanagan Beer Fest?

What’s included in the GOBF General Admission ticket:

  • Official 4 ounce GOBF sampling mug
  • 3 beer or cider tokens
  • Live music
  • Access to 70 breweries and 140 craft beers/cider
  • Access to food vendors and exhibitors
  • A fun time with thousands of festival-goers on the beautiful Okanagan Lake

chips for beer at the Great Okanagan Beer Festival Kelowna mug by okanagan Lake for the love of beer

What’s included in the GOBF VIP ticket:

  • Official 4 ounce GOBF sampling mug
  • 10 beer or cider tokens
  • VIP fast access express entry. We had VIP tickets and loved this feature, as it let us speed by the regular security entry line (shown below).
  • Live music
  • Access to 70 breweries and 140 craft beers/cider
  • Access to food vendors and exhibitors
  • A fun time with thousands of festival-goers on the beautiful Okanagan Lake
  • GOBF swag bag
  • Lunch from Grimm’s Fine Foods
  • Vouchers for savings around town

lineup at the Great Okanagan Beer Festival Kelowna

Love beer, cider, great food and awesome music? If you don’t have tickets, you can grab them here! 

Click here to see ticket prices and details.

Looking for a Great Okanagan Beer Festival promo code? Check out the Gibbons Whistler Facebook page – you may get lucky!

About Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley

Kelowna is a small city perched on the shores of Okanagan Lake, with a population of just under 200,000 very lucky people.

It is the largest city in the Okanagan Valley, which is a 200 kilometer (125 mile) valley surrounded by mountain ranges, forests, and with the deep, clear Okanagan Lake as its center.

Kelowna (and the Okanagan Valley) is becoming rapidly known for it’s 300+ world class wineries with hundreds of fun things to do around town. The past few years there’s been a boom of local craft breweries (thus the GOBF) and locally made spirits as well.

In the summer, the valley is home to apple, pear, peach and other fruit orchards, and sees an influx of tourists from Canada and all over the world.

To get here, you can fly directly into the Kelowna International Airport, but many visitors prefer the scenic four hour drive from Vancouver.

Great Okanagan Beer Festival Kelowna mug by okanagan Lake

mmm… cider by the lake at the Great Okanagan Beer Festival

the Great Okanagan Beer Fest one of the most fun things to do in the Okanagan (2) A locals guide to the Great Okanagan Beer Festival ]]>
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10 Reasons Why You Should Visit The Jasper Dark Sky Festival https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/10-reasons-why-you-should-visit-the-jasper-dark-sky-festival/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/10-reasons-why-you-should-visit-the-jasper-dark-sky-festival/#comments Tue, 30 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15308 Looking for something just a little bit different for your next trip?

Does gazing up at endless starry skies and watching the dance of the northern lights sound enticing? How about viewing stunning mountain scenery and seeing wildlife, like elk and moose, every day?

Now what would you say if I said you can do all that while eating at fantastic local restaurants and staying in world class accommodations?

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival delivers all of that and much, much more.

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival – What is it?

Every year, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival takes place in Jasper, Alberta, Canada.

Jasper is nestled in the rugged heart of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. It’s a small town that’s managed to keep it’s unique character, despite being a major tourist attraction. Bighorn sheep and elk are regularly spotted in town, and the town site and surrounding area are home to some of the most stunning views of alpine lakes and mountains you’ll ever see.

The Dark Sky Festival takes place over two weekends in October that are packed with events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation.

There’s even a little bit of geeky celebrity magic that happens here: past speakers have included George Takei (best known as Sulu from the original Star Trek TV series), Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (check out his informative and entertaining Facebook account here), plus Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tory Belleci (former co-hosts of Discovery Channel’s hit show Mythbusters).

So when Tourism Jasper reached out to invite me to experience the Jasper Dark Sky Festival firsthand, I jumped at the chance.

Jasper Alberta Canada lake

Jasper Dark Sky Preserve

The Dark Sky festival is held in Jasper National Park, home to one of the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserves.

A Dark-Sky Preserve is an area in which no artificial lighting is visible and active measures are in place to educate and promote the reduction of light pollution to the public and nearby municipalities. Sky glow from beyond the borders of the Preserve will be of comparable intensity, or less, to that of natural sky glow. – Royal Astronomical
Society of Canada

In Jasper, the city and park have taken extra steps, like replacing older street lights with lights that point to the ground, rather than up, and cast less light. The result is stunning, clear views of the night sky – perfect for catching a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis or Milky Way.

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit The Jasper Dark Sky Festival

There’s so much to enjoy at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, from world class talks, to taking in the night sky, to enjoying delicious meals that it’s hard to narrow it down to 10 reasons! That said, here are my top 10 reasons you should check out the Jasper Dark Sky Festival for yourself.

Stargazing and taking in the northern lights

There are plenty of opportunities to take in the stars at the festival, but don’t miss the Beyond the Stars event at Lake Annette.

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

Northern lights over the Jasper sky Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

There’s plenty to do at this night time event, with expert guidance from the Telus World of Science – Edmonton, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Edmonton Centre, Dark Sky photographers, Parks Canada interpreters and other special guests.

For those of us who aren’t fond of cold weather, or those who just love their java, there’s a Tim Horton’s truck parked conveniently nearby, offering up free hot chocolate and lattes! There’s also a free shuttle from the Visitor Information Centre.

It’s an other worldly experience to stand in the middle of the starlit sky, gazing up as the northern lights glow, and change shape, over Lake Annette.

There’s a lot to see here, but one of my favorite activities was to stop by the telescopes set up and manned by knowledgeable volunteers. Each telescope was trained on a celestial object, from far away galaxies to planets. It’s an amazing experience to see these with your own eyes!

Tip! A good stargazing app can make your experience so much more enjoyable! Try out Sky Map for Android (free) or StarWalk 2 for iPhone or iPad.

The Scenery

Ever seen a photo of an impossibly perfect, clear emerald green lake in the Canadian Rockies? It was probably taken in Jasper.

You can catch Jasper’s scenery pretty much, well, everywhere around town. Tourism Jasper has an excellent list of highlights here.

Maligne Lake in Jasper Alberta in winter

For a gorgeous, birds-eye view, be sure to take the Jasper SkyTram‘s fully enclosed tram for some stunning views. Dogs are welcome!

If you’ve ever been on Instagram, you’re sure to have seen an image of the beautiful Maligne Lake and Spirit Island. In warmer weather, the lake is a stunning green.

Spirit Island Jasper Alberta Canada

Spirit Island

Science

You don’t need to be a nerd to love the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, but it doesn’t hurt.

There’s plenty here for science nerds like me, from chances to chat with world class astronomers to hands on chances to view the stars. Be sure to check out events like Stargazing and Observe the Sun with RASC Royal Astonomical Society of Canada, which get stellar Jasper Dark Sky Festival reviews. Events vary each year, but there’s always plenty to do and see.

The Wildlife

Jasper’s relatively untouched location in the Canadian Rockies means that it’s a great place to see wildlife.

The park is home to elk, moose, caribou, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bears and wolves, plus smaller animals like the adorable pika and marmots, plus many bird species.

Tip! Keep your distance, as these are wild animals, and their behavior is unpredictable, no matter how accustomed they are to humans. It’s illegal and dangerous to touch or feed wildlife – both for you and the animals!

A moose casually hanging out by the side of the road in Jasper

The Keynote Speakers

Keynote speakers for the Jasper Dark Sky vary by year, but they’re sure to be informative and entertaining. They’re sure to delve into interesting questions like these. What is dark matter anyway? Why does space exploration matter? Will we ever colonize Mars?

Human Universe by Brian Cox

During my visit, the keynote speakers were UK Professor Brian Cox and Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomer fame.

The talks were interesting and lively, and I was incredibly impressed with how gracious and engaged both men were with audience members, young and old alike, during the question and answer period.

Bad Astronomy book by Phil Plait

The Kids

There’s plenty for kids to do at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, from having fun at the planetarium (more on that later!) to hands on fun at the Big Bang Expo.

family fun at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival The Dark Sky Festival takes place over two weekends in October that are packed with events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation. Jasper Dark Sky Preserve | Things to do in Jasper Alberta | Jasper Alberta | Jasper National Park | Northern Lights | Canada | Alberta | Canadian Rockies | Scenery |Where to Stay in Jasper National Park | Dark Skies | Jasper National Park Things To Do | Jasper National Park Winter | #travel #traveltips

Big Bang Expo, presented by TELUS World of Science at the Jasper Elementary School, is chock full of real life experiments and experiences for kids and adults alike.

There’s a lot of fun building and flying model rockets, and plenty of science-related activities indoors.

Model rocket launch Big Bang Expo at the Jasper Alberta Canada Dark Sky Festival

Model rocket launch!

The Food

For a small town in the mountains, Jasper has a surprisingly excellent selection of top notch restaurants. You’ll find everything from gourmet to casual. Here are the restaurants I had a chance to try during my visit.

Orso Trattoria

One word – Yum! The elegant but relaxed Orso Trattoria is located inside the gorgeous Jasper Park Lodge. It also has an enviable ground level spot with stunning mountain and lake views.

The menu’s full of farm to table goodness, with interesting dishes like breakfast poutine (with hash browns), croque madame, and, of course, avocado toast (delicious!). Breakfast is served all week, but dinner is only served Saturday and Sunday.

Orso Trattoria breakfast in Jasper Alberta

Evil Dave’s Grill

Locally owned, Evil Dave’s Grill is a casual, fun place with great food.

Dishes like Malevolent Meatloaf, Fiendish Falafel and Karma Curry all have a diabolical twist. I tried the Karma Curry, and it was spicy, flavorful, fresh and darn tasty. Be sure to try the Beautiful Brie, a wheel of almond and panko crusted deep fried brie, on chilled pear puree, with toasted baguette. Delicious!

Coco’s Cafe

Of all the restaurants I tried in Jasper, funky and fun Coco’s Cafe was my favorite.

Everything I tried here was perfect, from coffee to a bagged lunch with a spicy, flavor packed vegetarian burrito.

It’s a locally owned joint that specializes in vegetarian, vegan and celiac friendly fare.

Jasper Cocos Cafe sign

Jasper Brewing Company

The Jasper Brewing Company is a bustling place packed with locals and tourists alike. The menu has a great range, from confit duck tacos, to delicious warm buttered soft pretzels, to veggie burgers and pan roasted Ora King salmon. The beer’s pretty darn good, too!

Emerald Lounge

I got a chance to try the Emerald Lounge, located just off the lobby to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. After a long delay with my shuttle, the Emerald Lounge’s roaring fireplaces and comfy chairs were a welcome sight. It’s open all day until late, with gorgeous views and a welcoming vibe.

The Planetarium

Don’t miss a stop at the Jasper Planetarium. The inflatable dome planetarium is a 360 degree astronomical immersive experience that’s fun in any kind of weather, even if the skies are cloudy. It’s well worth a visit, with interesting and informative narration.

See the Jasper Planetarium website for more info and ticket prices.

Planetarium at Jasper Alberta Canada Dark Sky Festival

SPACEtalks panel

In addition to the fantastic keynote speakers, each year the Jasper Dark Sky Festival hosts a Spacetalks Panel.

It’s hosted by knowledgeable and entertaining science journalist Natalie Panek, and features different scientists each year.

This year, the panel was moderated by CBC Radio’s Bob MacDonald, with presenters including astrophysicist Rob Thacker, Scientific American Contributing Editor John Rennie, and Rocket Scientist and Explorer Natalie Panek.

There’s a lot to love at the Dark Sky Festival, but SPACEtalks was one of my favorite parts, as it was fun, casual, and just so interesting!

Watching the Stars at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper.

Watching the Stars at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper.

Niki Wilson

The SPACEtalks panel and other events are hosted by Dark Sky Festival favorite Niki Wilson. She’s a knowledgeable and interesting science journalist, published in the likes of like BBCEarth, Motherboard, Canadian Wildlife Magazine, Natural History Magazine and Canadian Geographic.

SPACEtalks panel Jasper Alberta Canada Dark Sky Festival

SPACEtalks panel at Jasper Dark Sky Festival in Alberta, Canada

The hotels – Where to Stay in Jasper National Park

Jasper’s home to plenty of great accommodation, but I was lucky enough to stay at the iconic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

This is a stunning 700 acre year-round luxury mountain resort that’s located on the shores of Beauvert Lake. There’s a heated outdoor pool (enjoyable even in winter) located in a gorgeous setting, and plenty of luxury touches around the entire hotel.

This is an unusual hotel in that it’s rooms are a village of heritage log cabins all interconnected by picturesque paths. There are also luxurious Signature Cabins.

Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge outdoor pool

Heated pool at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Bonus reason! The Community

Despite being known worldwide, Jasper, Canada is still a small town, and it feels like it. There are only about 4,500 residents in the town, so you’re almost guaranteed to be bumping into people you recognize from earlier in your trip. It makes for a welcoming experience.

Candy Bear's Lair in Jasper

What you need to know

You can get all of the Festival details as well as learn where to get Jasper Dark Sky Festival tickets on the Jasper Dark Sky Festival Website.

You can learn more about Jasper activities, accommodation and places to eat from Tourism Jasper’s excellent website right here.

Jasper is located 362 kilometres (225 mi) west of Edmonton, Alberta, and 290 kilometres (180 mi) north of popular Banff, Alberta via the Icefields Parkway.

The Icefields Parkway is a beautiful stretch of highway with cascading waterfalls, ancient glaciers that you can walk upon and clear emerald lakes set in gorgeous valleys of thick pine forests.

You can also get there from Kamloops, BC in about 4 1/2 hours or from Calgary, Alberta in about the same amount of time.

Temperature: During October, Jasper’s surprisingly warm for a town high in the Canadian Rockies, with daily highs averaging 50 Fahrenheit (10 Celsius), and lows averaging 30 Fahrenheit (-1 Celsius). When I was there, there was little to no snow in the town site, but higher elevations like Maligne Lake already had some heavy snow.

What to bring: Because this is Canada, and it’s October in the mountains, be sure to bring a warm coat, warm shoes or boots, mittens and a touque (warm hat, for the non-Canadians out there). Since you’ll be outside at night watching the stars and northern lights, make sure you dress for the forecasted lows.

Jasper Alberta Canada Maligne Lake in the winter

A winter trail on Maligne Lake

How to get there

The closest airports to Jasper are Edmonton International airport (390 km) or Calgary International Airport (430 km). There is an airport in Jasper itself, however there’s no direct commercial flights offered, as it’s used mostly for diversions and delivieries use.

From Edmonton or Calgary, you can self drive, or take a shuttle. SunDog Tours operates shuttles from both Calgary and Edmonton.

If you’re not used to driving in snow and ice, I’d advise taking a shuttle during the winter for safety.

I was hosted at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival by the kind folks at Tourism Jasper.

Things to do in Jasper Alberta. Visit the Jasper Dark Sky Festival! Looking for something just a little bit different for your next trip? Why not visit the Dark Sky Festival in Jasper? Bighorn sheep and elk are regularly spotted in town, and the town site and surrounding area are home to some of the most stunning views of alpine lakes and mountains you’ll ever see. The Dark Sky Festival takes place over two weekends in October that are packed with events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation. Jasper Dark Sky Preserve | Things to do in Jasper Alberta | Jasper Alberta | Jasper National Park | Northern Lights | Canada | Alberta | Canadian Rockies | Scenery |Where to Stay in Jasper National Park | Dark Skies | Jasper National Park Things To Do | Jasper National Park Winter | #travel #traveltips Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Ever dream of being far away from the bright lights, and spending an evening staring up at the starry night sky, and maybe even seeing the Northern Lights. Then this is your Festival. The Dark Sky Festival runs over two weekends in October, and is packed with ways to see the night sky, plus informative, entertaining events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation. Jasper Dark Sky Preserve | Things to do in Jasper Alberta | Jasper Alberta | Jasper National Park | Northern Lights | Canada | Alberta | Canadian Rockies | Scenery |Where to Stay in Jasper National Park | Dark Skies | Jasper National Park Things To Do | Jasper National Park Winter | #travel #traveltips ]]>
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Things To Do in Vancouver With Kids https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/things-to-do-in-vancouver-with-kids/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/things-to-do-in-vancouver-with-kids/#comments Thu, 04 Jan 2018 01:30:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15159 Vancouver, one of Canada’s premiere destinations and wildly regarded as one of the world’s great cities, is also only a few hours away from our our place. As such, we’re in Vancouver several times a year with the family.

It’s a fantastic city, and there are plenty of things to do in Vancouver with the family, from indoor fun like the Vancouver Aquarium, to outdoor adventure by the ocean, to thrill seeking fun on either the Lynn Canyon or Capilano suspension bridges.

Things to do in Vancouver with kids

There are hundreds of fun things to do with kids in Vancouver, but we’ve picked the very best for this list.

The Vancouver Aquarium

The non-profit Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is committed to rehabilitation and re-release (wherever possible) of injured, ill or abandoned marine creatures. It also operates Ocean Wise, a conservation program that works directly with local restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers to ensure that they have the most current scientific information and to help them make ocean-friendly buying decisions.

The Vancouver Aquarium is Canada’s largest aquarium and home to over 58,000 animals. It’s a great place to take kids, with the new Discover Rays touch pool, and plenty of kid-friendly exhibits and play areas.

Vancouver Aquarium kids fun

Stanley Park

I’m not sure I can count how many times we’ve visited Stanley Park over the years. Quite handily, it’s right next to downtown and it also houses the Vancouver Aquarium. There are over 1000 acres here, with stunning views of Vancouver’s skyline, and plenty of room for kids to run free. It’s a special place that lets you glimpse the natural wonder of British Columbia’s coast in an urban setting. Be sure to take your time and wander through the giant Sequoia trees. If you love trees, Stanley Park won’t disappoint.

Ducks on Misty Beaver Lake Stanley Park Vancouver

First Nations heritage

The First Nations people of Vancouver have played a large role in preserving Stanley Park in its natural state. If you’re interested in First Nations culture, and especially the relationship between First Nations people with Northwest coast trees and plants, I’d highly recommend taking the Talking Trees tour with Talaysay Tours. It’s a two hour tour, and I was fascinated by our soft-spoken guide’s intimate and detailed knowledge. Just a note, this tour may be better suited to slightly older children.

Horse-drawn tours and railway tours

Everyone on these old-fashioned horse drawn carriages looks like they’re having a blast. The tour leaves from Coal Harbour, and a guide describes Stanley Park’s attractions, which include the Vancouver Harbour, Lions Gate Bridge, the cedar forest, totem poles, and Deadman’s Island and more.

The kids will also love the Stanley Park Miniature Railway and the Prospect Point totem poles.

Stanley Park beaches and more

Everyone in your group will love the miles of stunning boardwalks that line the rugged coast with walkers, joggers, bikers and rollerbladers all cruising by. There are also numerous beaches and beach volleyball courts set up along the shoreline.

Science World at TELUS World of Science

Kids adore Vancouver’s Science World, with it’s fun, hands-on interactive displays like Eureka!, as well as huge special events, OMNIMAX films and real life art exhibits. Even if you don’t go inside, there are plenty of free fun things to check out outside like the giant marble maze and the moving water stand.

With continually changing exhibits and galleries designed just for kids, there’s something new at Science World every time we go.

Vancouver Science Centre

Vancouver Seawall

The Vancouver Seawall is a 28 km (17 mile) long paved pathway that runs along the ocean front through most of metro Vancouver. Views are fantastic here, and it’s always busy with families and health enthusiasts. There are beaches, kids play structures and beach volleyball courts running along the seawall at various places so make sure you grab your swimsuit if you’re there in the summer months.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Kids will love this suspension bridge, which stretches 140 meters (over 450 feet) long and 70 meters (230 feet) high above the Capilano River. The only negatives I can say about it are that it can be busy, and that admission is steep at over $40 for an adult. Kids under six are free, though. As well as the bridge, there’s the Treetops Adventure, a decent collection of First Nations totem poles, rain forest ecotours, gardens, nature trails and the new cliff walk which lets you climb on the outside of a cliff along a slim cable suspension bridge.

The FREE Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

As an alternative to the pricey Capilano Suspension bridge, we like to visit the free Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. The lesser known (and free!) Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon Park is a solid alternative to the Capilano bridge and has some pretty pathways that cross the bridge and lead down to natural pools and waterfalls.

Granville Island

Granville Island, in Vancouver’s downtown district, is the city’s most popular tourist attraction. Both kids and adults usually love a visit.

The main attraction here is the bustling Granville Island public market, full of fresh fruit and veggies, pastries and breads, specialty coffee, ethnic specialty cuisine, and artisan handicrafts. There are also almost 300 stores on Granville Island itself.

As well as the shops, there’s almost always some sort of show being performed on Granville Island. Whether that’s buskers blowing enormous water bubbles for the kids, musicians playing everything from bongos to reed instruments to banjos to dance troupes performing acrobatic stunts, there’s always something there to entertain the kids.

Vancouver Foodie Tours The Best of what to see do and eat in Vancouver British Columbia

Granville Island is surrounded by lovely views of the waters of False Creek and the Burrard Street Bridge. There are marinas and boats all along the shore front here. Also, be sure to take some time to walk by the floating water homes just east of the public market.

Getting to Granville Island

You can either cross the Granville Island bridge on car or on foot (it’s a very long walk by foot) however parking is very limited on Granville Island. As such, most people take an Aquabus Ferry to get there.

The kids will also love cruising around False Creek on the Granville Island Ferries, which runs a fleet of adorable, mini ferries that buzz back and forth between small docks around False Creek and Granville Island. It’s also the easiest way to get to Granville Island if you’re walking in from downtown.

Aquabus at Granville Island Vancouver

The Kids’ Market

Be sure to check out the kid’s market on Granville Island! It’s housed in a large, yellow building, and packed with toy shops and a busy play area. Your kids will love it, but your wallet probably won’t so take that as you will.

The Granville Island Water Park

Despite Granville Island’s small size, they’ve managed to build the largest free water park in North America. It’s open all summer and is a great place to chow down on all the goodies you picked up at the public market.

Kitsilano Beach

Located right downtown, Kitsilano beach is a long swath of soft, gold sand that peeks out over beautiful English Bay.

There’s plenty of fun to be had here resting on huge logs along the beaches, beachcombing for shells and playing in the golden sand. There’s also a playground right there with park benches for the parents and beach volleyball nets set up, ten tennis courts, as well as basketball courts.

Vanier Park

Kitsilano Beach, or Kits Beach as the locals call it, is next to expansive, leafy Vanier Park, which is home to the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the City of Vancouver Archives, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. There’s plenty of grass and space here, making it perfect for a relaxing day under the trees. If you visit during summer, check to see if the International Children’s Festival is happening in the park which is a popular festival for kids every summer.

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

Kitsilano Pool

You’ve likely seen photos of this outdoor, heated salt water pool with city and mountains in the background. It’s only open in the summer, and there’s a place for little kids in the shallows.

Cuddle cats at the Catfe

Catfe is Vancouver’s first cat cafe, featuring adoptable cats from the BC SPCA! Animal loving kids will adore a visit here, but since it’s hugely popular, make sure to make an online reservation as soon as you can since it’s usually booked up days in advance.

Catfe Vancouver

Saving money on your trip to Vancouver

Vancouver’s beautiful and fun, sure, but it can also be a bit pricey. Here’s little list of ways to save some cash in Vancouver.

Attractions near UBC

During our last visit to Vancouver, we stayed on the UBC (University of British Columbia) Campus, at the lovely West Coast Suites at UBC. If you’re looking for a quieter pace, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Museum of Anthropology (MOA) and the Greenheart TreeWalk at the UBC Botanical Garden may be just the ticket.

Tip! If you’re planning to visit several UBC attractions, look into the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass. You can buy adult, concession (senior, youth or student) or family passes. The pass gives you admission to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Nitobe Memorial Garden and the UBC Botanical Garden. It also gives discounts on food, books, clothing and the fun Canopy Treewalk.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

An enormous blue whale skeleton is the first thing you’ll notice at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Inside, we were fascinated by a dated, but interesting, documentary on how the blue whale skeleton was found, unearthed, and installed. The vault-like downstairs houses more than two million specimens of plants, marine invertebrates, insects, fish, vertebrates, fungi, and fossils. Kids with a naturalist or scientific bent will love this place.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Greenheart TreeWalk and the UBC Botanical Garden

Our kids had a blast tearing along this 310 metre (1,000 foot) long canopy walkway. It’s not as tall or scary as the Capilano or Lynn Canyon Suspension bridges, but the multiple walkways make it a lot of fun for kids. At its tallest, it’s almost 20 metres (65 feet) above the forest floor.

Tip! The Greenheart TreeWalk is not included in the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass, but the pass offers a 10% discount on the treewalk.

The Greenheart TreeWalk is in the larger UBC Botanical Garden, which covers about 110 acres (44 hectares) and has over 8,000 different plants. We loved the long, winding trails through big, shady trees, as it gave the kids (and us!) a chance to burn off some energy.

Greenheart TreeWalk at UBC Botanical Gardens

Museum of Anthropology (MOA)

If your kids are a little older, they may appreciate the beautiful Museum of Anthropology (MOA). Inside, there are stunning displays of First Nations totem poles plus 38,000 ethnographic objects, as well as 535,000 archaeological objects. The MOA building, designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson, is a gem in itself.

Museum of Anthropology Vancouver

The best family accommodation in Vancouver

Deciding where to stay in Vancouver with a family can be a bit tricky. All of the accommodation downtown can be a bit pricier, but it’s a good choice if you want to be near the city’s main attractions. We’ve picked our favorite downtown hotels, an excellent choice just out of the center, as well as a great airport hotel, and our best value option out of the downtown.

The Perfect Location – Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

A couple of years ago, our little family stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver for two very happy days.

It’s a gorgeous hotel in a perfect location downtown across from Canada Place, and it caters perfectly to families. Our kids loved sitting in the room looking out over the harbor to watch float planes land and take off, and cruise ships like the Disney Wonder dock. Rooms are modern and beautiful, with plenty of room for little ones to run about, and it has every amenity you would want, from a heated outdoor pool to a spacious gym to quality dining downstairs. There’s even a rooftop herb garden and beehives that you can visit!

See prices and availability.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

The relaxed family hotel – West Coast Suites UBC

Don’t get me wrong, we love Vancouver’s downtown. It’s interesting and vibrant, with plenty to do and see. However, downtown’s not always a kid friendly place. When the kids were a bit younger, we were in town for a wedding, and got a hotel a close to Granville Street. On the way back to the hotel from the reception, with our then nine and six year olds in tow, we had to dodge a lot of drunk and rowdy folks so choose your place accordingly.

Needless to say, we were up for a hotel that was a bit more relaxed the next time we visited the city.

West Coast Suites at UBC was a perfect choice, with its location out of the downtown core, and surrounded by quiet grounds. Driving to the hotel, you’ll see the spacious UBC campus to one side, and get peeks of British Columbia’s stunning Pacific Coast on the other.

All of the rooms at West Coast Suites at UBC are one bedroom units with a full kitchen and a pull-out Queen bed for the kids. You can read more about our West Coast Suites stay here.

See prices and availability.

West Coast Suites UBC living area

West Coast Suites UBC living area

The airport choice – Fairmont Vancouver Airport In-Terminal Hotel

The Fairmont Vancouver Airport In-Terminal Hotel is Vancouver’s only in-terminal airport hotel. It gets great ratings, and might be worth the splurge if you’re looking for a little luxury at the airport. There’s a surcharge for WiFi.

See prices and availability here.

The budget downtown option

If you’re looking for a budget hotel in the heart of downtown, Robson Suites and Sunset Inn and Suites both get good reviews.

We haven’t stayed in either because they’re always infuriatingly fully booked far in advance, but they’re both smaller boutique hotels that should run you close to, or under, $120 a night for a double room. Both hotels include free WiFi, but Robson Suites is closer to Stanley Park (but doesn’t include breakfast, though rooms have a kitchen or kitchenette), while Sunset Inn is right next to Stanley Park (and includes breakfast in the rate).

See Robson Suites availability.

Check Sunset Inn and Suites availability.

A bit of a drive, but great value – Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Riverport Richmond

If you’re up for taking the SkyTrain or driving into downtown Vancouver, and want to save a few $$, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Riverport Richmond is an affordable, clean option. We stayed here for a few days a few years ago, and would stay again. It’s a pretty standard chain hotel, but clean and new, with free breakfast, free airport shuttle, fast, free WiFi, and a pool and hot tub.

See prices and availability here.

The Hidden Gem – The hotel on Granville Island

Granville Island Hotel is one of Vancouver’s less known gems. It’s a boutique hotel located right on Granville Island, overlooking the water, and gets great reviews.

Check prices and reviews here.

Airbnb

As a family, we love staying in Airbnb properties. We always rent a condo or house, which gives us a kitchen, more bedrooms, and often an extra bathroom. The price you’ll pay varies on location and size, but a small private studio starts at around $60/night downtown, while a private two bedroom starts at around $100.

Create a new account using this link, and get $35 USD in Airbnb credits the first time you use them. (We get a credit, too).

Vancouver fun with kids

How to get around Vancouver as a family

Whether you drive, grab the efficient Skytrain, or take a scenic SeaBus, there are plenty of transportation options for families in Vancouver.

SeaBus to North Vancouver

This is relaxing, affordable ride across Burrard Inlet, and gives you a lovely view of Stanley Park, the Lions Gate bridge, and mountains on the distance. Kids will love watching float planes land and watching the other boats on the water.

Ferries

Vancouver public transit includes the SeaBus (above). To get to Vancouver Island or the other off coast islands, you can take a ferry with BC Ferries.

Granville Island has its own ferry company, Granville Island Ferries, with a fleet of adorable, mini ferries that buzz back and forth between small docks around False Creek and Granville Island.

Hop-on, Hop-off Sightseeing

We haven’t had a chance to take the hop-on, hop-off trolley downtown, but our kids’ eyes light up every time they see it drive by. I’m sure it’ll be a huge hit!

Wee ones are thrilled to see Vancouver from an old-fashioned trolley or an open-air bus. With fully narrated tours, Vancouver’s hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tours give a great overview of the city, along with giving families the flexibility to make stops whenever suits them. Hop off to explore all the downtown attractions, then hop back on again to continue to the next exciting destination.

Vancouver Downtown Vancouver Trolley Hop on Hop off Tour

Drive

Driving around downtown Vancouver is certainly possible, and we’ve done it many times. As long as you’re not visiting during a major event, there are usually enough parkades to handle the traffic. Just be warned: traffic can get highly congested during rush hour or if there’s an accident. Parking is also one of the most expensive in Canada and runs $10 to $30 a day in downtown Vancouver, depending on your location.

Skytrain

Most visitors to Vancouver take advantage of the Skytrain service around the city. The system is quick, efficient (trains leave the downtown stations every two to five minutes) and covers most of the city. You can take the Skytrain out to the suburbs, and scenic Westminster Quay on the way to (not so scenic) Surrey.

Public transit

Aside from the ubiquitious Skytrain, Vancouver has a large fleet of buses that cover most of the city and are a great option if you’re staying at UBC.

Uber and Lyft

As of January 2018, ride sharing apps like Uber or Lyft aren’t available in British Columbia, but there are suggestions that may change soon.

Have you visited Vancouver with kids? What were your favorite Vancouver attractions for the family?

Things to do in Vancouver with Kids We travel to Vancouver several times a year with the family. There's always so much to do, including walking or biking the seawall, having fun at the aquarium or hiking through Stanley Park | Vancouver Travel | Vancouver BC Canada | Vancouver with kids | Vancouver with Family #Vancouver #BC #travel Things to do in Vancouver with Kids There are hundreds of things to do in Vancouver with the kids, from indoor fun like the Vancouver Aquarium, to outdoor adventure by the ocean, to thrill seeking fun on the Lynn Canyon or Capilano suspension bridge. | Vancouver Travel | Vancouver BC Canada | Vancouver with kids | Vancouver with Family #Vancouver #BC #travel ]]>
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West Coast Suites UBC and our Vancouver Family Vacation https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/west-coast-suites-ubc-and-our-vancouver-family-vacation/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/west-coast-suites-ubc-and-our-vancouver-family-vacation/#comments Tue, 03 Oct 2017 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15135 Being so close to Vancouver, it can be hard for us to figure out the best places to stay in Vancouver for a family vacation.

So while we’ve stayed downtown for a quick Vancouver family vacation more than a few times, and though there are some fantastic hotels in the area, there are two big disadvantages to a downtown Vancouver family stay.

The first is cost. Hotels in downtown Vancouver can be quite expensive, especially if you look at getting a suite with a bedroom or kitchenette, or if you’re booking in peak season. Parking can also be crazy expensive if you’re by the water and some of the nicer hotels require you to pay extra for WiFi, sometimes even per device.

Second, downtown Vancouver accommodations can be quite busy, and it’s not always the most kid-friendly place, especially around the bars on Granville Street. Though Vancouver is a great walking city, staying downtown still requires you to be careful, especially with little ones in tow.

So when UBC’s West Coast Suites, located on the quiet and stunning University of British Columbia (UBC) lands, reached out to us about a stay, we were excited to give it a try.

The view at UBC

We planned to use the fully furnished suites, perched on the quiet and expansive green campus, as our base for exploring Vancouver with kids. Not only are the world class Museum of Anthropology, the impressive Beaty Biodiversity Museum, the fantastic Botanical Gardens and more within easy walking distance at UBC, there’s an abundance of great food right on campus.

The best part is that downtown Vancouver and many of the city’s other major attractions are just a short car trip or bus ride away.

See prices and availability here. Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.

West Coast Suites UBC

As we drove through busy Vancouver, and on through the quiet, lush, green oasis of the enormous UBC property, we were sure we’d made the right choice. On one side we could see the spacious UBC campus on the left of us and we kept getting peeks of British Columbia’s stunning Pacific Coast on the other.

Bedroom at West Coast Suites UBC

After the easy drive to West Coast Suites, we checked in at the next door Walter Gage Residences. The helpful front desk staff promptly got our key card, and pointed out some of the fun things to do with kids on the UBC campus. More on the details of our Vancouver family vacation later!

Within a few minutes, we’d whisked our stuff up the elevator, and I was relaxing on our couch, overlooking the trees in the courtyard, and enjoying a fresh Starbucks coffee from the single serve coffee maker in our cozy kitchen.

Our Suite

All of the suites at West Coast Suites are large, quiet one bedrooms with balconies and full kitchens.

West Coast Suites UBC kitchen

There’s no oven in the suites, but there is a stove top, a microwave, and most importantly, a dishwasher, plus a full kitchen table and mini-fridge. The kitchen was fully kitted out, including everything from pots and pans, glassware, cutlery, and even a corkscrew and bottle opener.

All the suites at UBC’s West Coast Suites are one bedroom, with a king bed in the bedroom plus a sofa bed.

There’s a LED TV, an in room safe, plenty of quality toiletries, and high quality linens.

West Coast Suites UBC living area

 

Amenities

At the top of my list for hotel amenities is always WiFi. WiFi here is fast, free and reliable, with speeds at well over 35 mbps. That’s far better than the WiFi you’ll find in most homes.

There’s even free long distance in North America, making it easy to connect with friends and family.

View of bedroom at West Coast Suites UBC

Room Amenities at West Coast :

  • Free Canada/USA calling
  • Large LED TVs with cable channels
  • Parking is $10/day plus applicable taxes
  • 24 hour front desk
  • Guest launderette
  • Complimentary newspapers at reception
  • On-site vending facilities
  • Open year round

See prices and availability here.

Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.

What’s nearby?

We were pretty busy around the University of British Columbia itself, before we even headed into Vancouver proper for our downtown Vancouver family day trip. There’s a full list of what we did on campus below, but our highlights included the Museum of Anthropology, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Greenheart TreeWalk at the UBC Botanical Garden. Click here to skip to our list of fun family activities and attractions near UBC.

There’s also a lot to eat on campus at the UBC, with dozens of cafes, restaurants and food trucks. Click here to see all the great eats on the UBC campus.

Family walk at the Museum of Anthropology

West Coast Suites at UBC is a short drive from downtown Vancouver, but located on some of the most beautiful land in Vancouver. The University of British Columbia pretty much owns the entire western tip of the Point Grey Peninsula. Within walking distance, there are rose gardens, Japanese rock gardens, botanic gardens, canopy walks, regional parkland, hiking trails, plus all the amenities below. The Museum of Anthropology is a ten minute walk from West Coast Suites, and Pacific Spirit Regional Park is two and a half kilometers (one and a half miles) away.

Shopping

One thing we were a little uncertain of was if there was shopping nearby for groceries and other necessities. Luckily for us, it’s a short drive (or even walking distance, if you’re so inclined) to Wesbrook Village shopping center, which has a Save on Foods grocery store, plus plenty of shops.

Vancouver with kids – at UBC Campus

We had a blast being in Vancouver with kids at the UBC Campus. There’s a lot to do on the University grounds, and we’ve listed some of our favorites below. You can check out the other UBC attractions here.

Tip! If you’re planning to visit several UBC attractions, look into the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass. You can buy adult, concession (senior, youth or student) or family passes. The pass gives you admission to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, the Nitobe Memorial Garden and the UBC botanical garden. It also gives discounts on food, books, clothing and the canopy tree walk.

On campus events and the Eclipse!

We were lucky enough to visit UBC during the 2017 solar eclipse. The astronomy society was handing out free eclipse viewing glasses just a short walk from our hotel at West Coast Suites, with displays and plenty of folks on hand to help.

While the eclipse was the big event when we visited (the people in the picture below were all gone an hour later), be sure to check what’s going on at UBC during your visit. There’s almost always something fun and interesting happening on campus.

Viewing the eclipse at UBC pinhole projector

Watching the eclipse through a pinhole viewer

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

The first thing you’ll notice at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum is the blue whale skeleton that looms over the entire facility. There’s an interesting documentary to watch inside about how the fossil was found, unearthed, cleaned and installed. Inside the vault-like downstairs, there are more than two million specimens of plants, marine invertebrates, insects, birds, fish, vertebrates, fungi, and fossils.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Museum of Anthropology (MOA)

We were especially taken by the stunning displays of First Nations totem poles inside the main floors of the MOA. It’s an impressive collection, as the MOA houses 38,000 ethnographic objects, as well as 535,000 archaeological objects inside. It houses collections from multiple cultures, but is best known for the large and impressive collection of art from First Nation band governments of the Pacific Northwest. The MOA building was designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson.

Tip: Don’t miss the outdoor longhouse recreation behind the museum building.

Museum of Anthropology Vancouver

UBC Botanical Garden

Lovers of botany will adore the UBC Botanical Garden, as it covers nearly 110 acres (44 hectares) and has over 8,000 different plants.

We loved the long, serene winding trails under great big, shady trees, as it gave the kids (and us!) a chance to burn off some energy.

UBC Botanical Garden bee on yellow flower

Greenheart TreeWalk

While you’re there, don’t miss the Greenheart TreeWalk! The kids had a blast tearing along this 310 metre (1,000 foot) long canopy walkway. The walkway is suspended from looming cedars, Douglas firs and grand firs (many of them over 100 years old), and reaches a height of almost 20 metres (65 feet). This isn’t for the faint of heart, or lead of foot, but our eight year old managed it beautifully, even taking the lead and egging us on.

Tip! The Greenheart TreeWalk is not included in the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass; the pass offers a 10% discount on the treewalk.

Greenheart TreeWalk at UBC Botanical Gardens

Nitobe Memorial Garden

The Nitobe Memorial Garden is a traditional Japanese Tea and Stroll garden. It’s officially part of the UBC Botanical Garden, but it’s located separately, close to Wreck Beach.

UBC Aquatic Centre

New in 2017, the UBC Aquatic Centre has a kids area, diving pool, swimming pool, whirl pool, hot tub and a sauna. It’s also only a two minute walk from West Coast Suites.

Farmer’s Market

UBC farmer’s markets serve up farm fresh produce at a weekly on-campus market from late spring to fall. We stopped by the pop-up market at the UBC bookstore, but there are also farm gate sales. Dates and details change, so check here first before you go.

Tip! There are also seasonal u-picks for blueberries, pumpkins, hops and more. If you’re around on the weekend, the UBC Farm offers free public tours at 11:00 am each Saturday. Check the UBC Farm page for details

UBC farmers market

More UBC attractions

There are plenty of other attractions on campus, including the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts and the UBC School of Music. Check out the UBC attractions page for more.

Wreck beach

Well, what to say about Wreck beach? There are a few things you need to know before you go.

First, it’s absolutely stunning, and well worth a look. Second, it’s clothing optional, so do with that what you will. Third, the most popular access is by Trail 6 by a steep and difficult set of 473 stairs.

Fourth, it has quite the reputation around Vancouver for it’s alternative culture, which includes the clothing optional scene, but also extends to a hippie culture of body painters, beach casinos, and a relaxed attitude toward pretty much anything. Read into that what you will but everyone we talked to said it was a cool place to hang out on a hot day and the unobstructed Pacific Ocean views from the beach are breathtaking.

Vancouver Family Vacation

There are hundreds of other things to do on a family vacation in Vancouver. I’d say the top, don’t miss family attractions, are the Vancouver seawall, the Vancouver Aquarium, Science World at TELUS World of Science, Stanley Park, the Capilano Suspension Bridge (or the free Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge) and Granville Island. Our comprehensive post on family things to do in Vancouver is coming soon!

While at West Coast Suites, we took the car downtown (it’s a short 15 minute drive if traffic is good) a few of times to visit friends, and check out a few downtown attractions. Most people just jump on a bus and grab the Skytrain around town.

Vanier Park 

Vanier Park is in the Kitsilano neighborhood in Vancouver, and home to the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the City of Vancouver Archives, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. There’s a lot of green space here, making it perfect for a relaxing day under the trees.

If you go during summer, check to see if the International Children’s Festival is happening in the park.

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

Kitsilano Beach Park

Kitsilano Beach Park is just to the West of Vanier Park (you can easily walk from one to another). It’s a long, lovely stretch of sand that faces picturesque English Bay.

Yaletown

We even got a chance to check out a little nightlife in Yaletown, when we popped out for supper with a friend. Yaletown is one of the busiest parts of Vancouver, and packed with trendy restaurants and bars in old warehouse buildings.

Food at UBC

Food on the UBC Campus is divided into two main groups: outlets owned by the Student’s Union, and outlets under the ubrella of the University’s Food Services.

UBC Food Services

UBC Food Services has over 40 outlets on campus with everything from chains like Starbucks and Tim Hortons, to mini marts, to full service restaurants, to food trucks. Many get their ingredients from the on campus UBC Farm, and fresh seafood is 100% Ocean Wise certified. We couldn’t try all 40 places to eat (unfortunately!), but we did get a chance to check out a few.

The Hungry Nomad

Where else would us Barefoot Nomads go to eat than the Hungry Nomad?

This food truck serves up delicious vegan poutine, with large portions for around $6. We bought two poutine as a snack, but there was far too much for the four of us (two adults and two preteen kids) to eat. Great value.

Hungry Nomad Food Truck UBC

Harvest

We came in quite late one night after a long walk around the UBC Botanical Gardens, and wanted nothing more than to put our feet up and relax in our room. Luckily, Harvest was on the way home, and we grabbed a rotisserie chicken, roast vegetables, a tasty chickpea sandwich, and two bean burritos for the kids. Perfection!

Mercante

This is the place to go on campus if you’ve got a craving for authentic made-to-order traditional Italian pizzas cooked in a hot stone hearth oven. Each pizza is a great value at about $12, and we only needed two to stuff two adults and two preteen kids to the gills.

Mercante pizza UBC

AMS Student Union

UBC’s student’s union (AMS) has several foood and drink eateries located in the Nest (the main student’s union building), including the Grand Noodle Emporium, Uppercase, Honour Roll, The Pit, Palate, and Ph Tea.

Being the coffee and baked goods lovers that we are, we made a quick beeline for Uppercase, which had an impressive display case of baked goods and bagels. Was it good? Let’s just say that I was contemplating a move to the UBC campus so that I could make this a daily staple.

Uppercase coffee and pastries at the UBC Nest

UBC Vancouver Accommodations

We found West Coast Suites one bedroom suites to be perfect for our family, but UBC has other accommodation choices as well.

Pacific Spirit Hostel at Place Vanier Residence

With rooms starting at $39 a night, this is a fantastic value in sometimes expensive Vancouver.

The Pacific Spirit Hostel has private single rooms or private twin rooms. There’s a shared lounge with LCD TV and on site laundry. Linens, towels and bath amenities are provided. Parking is $10 a day plus taxes, or you can buy a weekly permit.

Ponderosa Residence and Walter Gage Residence

Studio suite at Ponderosa Residence with kitchenette and a view

Private suites at Ponderosa Residence and Walter Gage Residence are only available from May 15 to August 25 each year. There’s a wide range of places to stay here, including studios, one bedroom and two bedroom units.

Units have a full kitchen with complimentary high speed WiFi, LCD TVs and free Canada/USA calling.

Accessible suites are also available. Parking is $16/day plus applicable taxes at Ponderosa. Parking is $10/day plus applicable taxes at Gage.

What you need to know

West Coast Suites is on the UBC Campus, at 5961 Student Union Blvd, Vancouver.

West Coast Suites is easily accessible by car, but can also be accessed by transit, with a major bus exchange located on campus.

Have you stayed at West Coast Suites UBC? What did you think? 

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21 Incredible Things To Do at the Calgary Stampede Before You Die https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/21-incredible-things-to-do-at-the-calgary-stampede-before-you-die/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/21-incredible-things-to-do-at-the-calgary-stampede-before-you-die/#comments Thu, 17 Aug 2017 01:45:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=14601 When it comes to the Calgary Stampede, you can say we go back a long way. I not only grew up on the wide open prairies east of Calgary in the province of Alberta, Canada, I also spent nearly a decade in Calgary itself getting my MSc and then working corporate jobs. It’s also where Charles and I first met.

During those years I was lucky enough to enjoy the greatest outdoor show on earth, the Calgary Stampede.

Most years I would hit the midway, some years I’d visit the free Stampede breakfasts about town, and some years I would hit up the shows and exhibitions.

I’ve been traveling in, living in or storing my things in British Columbia for years now, and honestly, sometimes I still miss the Stampede spirit. So, when I got an email from GMC inviting me to join their team and some other media folks to Stampede like a pro, I replied yes faster than a Tasmanian devil in a windstorm.

21 Incredible Things To Do at the Calgary Stampede Bucket List

21 Incredible Things To Do at the Calgary Stampede Before You Die

While this obviously wasn’t my first rodeo, the folks at GMC Canada have been a partner of the Stampede for over three decades and they were able to show even me a few new Calgary Stampede tips. We took in chuckwagon races, the rodeo, enjoyed front row seats to concerts, went horseback riding at the Calgary Stampede Ranch, and they even got us kitted up in authentic Stampede gear.

So without further ado, here are my top 21 bucket list things to do at the Calgary Stampede.

Take in the Rangeland Derby

My uncle raced pony chuckwagons for years, so I grew up watching horses roar around the dusty tracks of southern Alberta. At the Calgary Stampede, Rangeland Derby chuckwagon races are almost a sacred experience.

Rangeland Derby Calgary Stampede

Photo courtesy Lucas Scarfone

Each team consists of one rider in a semi-enclosed wagon, and four horses tearing around a well maintained dirt track. Make no mistake, these horses are athletes, and serious money and time are spent on their upkeep and welfare. If you want to see the Stampede crowd roar to life, this is the event that will make it happen.

Enjoy the GMC VR chuckwagon experience

GMC Rangeland Derby Virtual Reality chuckwagon experience

The closest a mere mortal like me can get to racing the quick and deadly chuckwagons is via the GMC Rangeland Derby Virtual Reality chuckwagon experience. Make sure you stop by the GMC display on Stampede grounds, strap on a headset, a prepare to get immersed in a pretty accurate virtual reality simulation. You’ll find yourself racing around the (virtual) chuckwagon track at the Stampede like a pro, too!

Watch the rodeo

If you haven’t seen a live rodeo before, or even if you have, you’ll be wowed by the athleticism of the cowboys and cowgirls at the Stampede.

The 2017 Stampede saw the introduction of the Indian Relay Race as a demonstration sport, featuring teams of Indigenous racers. Riders go bareback around the chuckwagon track, and switch horses at a breakneck speed. I spent years watching rodeos as a kid, and grew up on a farm in South-Central Alberta, and I can say that I’ve honestly never seen horse riders that could equal the agility of these racers.

Take a road trip to cattle country

As a born and bred Albertan, I know first hand that the bigger the truck, the better the drive around Calgary. The Stampede is the perfect occasion for GMC to show off its brand new fleet of trucks, and we were told to pick a truck and venture out of the city and into cattle country to tear up the roads like a pro.

GMC convoy in cattle country

GMC convoy in cattle country

These GMC trucks are truly gorgeous vehicles, and equipped with plenty of features, including OnStar and a fast, reliable built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.

GMC Acadia SUV at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

My sweet ride – the GMC Acadia

I was quick to hop into the Acadia, which is GMC’s mid-size SUV. As a mom with two kids and lot of cargo, I really appreciated the seven passenger capability and silky-smooth, quiet ride. As someone who likes to have fun, I loved that it had plenty of power under the hood, and rugged 4×4 capability.

Want to find out more about these great GMC trucks? Visit the GMC Canada website here.

Visit the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

The 8,000 acre Stampede-owned OH Ranch is a sprawling 130-year-old working ranch in the heart of Alberta’s foothills in Longview, Alberta.

Cow and calf at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

I was lucky enough to get a chance to drive around the ranch’s back trails in a brand new GMC truck, taking in gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains.

GMC truck at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

Ride a horse!

Arguably, no fully immersive Stampede experience is complete until you’ve had a chance to pull on your cowboy boots and climb atop a horse.

cowboy on a horse at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

Now, I grew up riding bareback on my favorite long past retirement thoroughbred horse, but that was a long time ago. A very long time ago. I expected to be a bit rusty, but between the 20 years that have passed since I last rode, and my somewhat feisty steed, I felt pretty darn awkward in the saddle. I also forgot how high those animals are from the ground. That, said, I would do my two hour trail ride again in a heartbeat.

Wear a cowboy hat

If you haven’t been in Calgary during the Stampede, you’ll probably be surprised that almost everyone downtown dresses up like a cowboy for the event. For men, that means a Stampede uniform of cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans, and a western-style button-up shirt. Women have a little more latitude, with cowboy boots preferred (but not essential), jeans or a denim or Western-style skirt, and shirt that matches the outfit. For both sexes, one thing is essential: a cowboy hat.

Hand crafting a cowboy hat at Smithbilt Hats

If you want to be dressed like an authentic Calgarian, that means you should mosey on over to the local Smithbilt hats. Smithbilt is home of the Official White Cowboy Hat of Calgary, and they make all of their hats by hand, in their Calgary factory.

Smithbilt Hats womens hats

There are thousands of hats to choose from, including some innovative women’s styles, but most people settle on a traditional felt or straw cowboy hat. They personally hand-fit every hat, and I loved the country look of the black felt hat.

Smithbilt hat black cowboy hat Calgary Stampede midway

Get a feel for the history of the Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede has its roots in Calgary and District Agricultural Society events started way back in 1886.

Calgary Stampede entrance 2017

The Stampede, as it is now, began in 1912, with just a few founding families taking part, and it’s lasted as an integral part of Calgary’s history through two World Wars to the present day. Many of today’s chuckwagon racers and rodeo participants are descendants of those original founding Stampede families.

Take in the Evening Grandstand show

I was expecting a good show, but honestly, the level of energy and professionalism at this year’s evening show really wowed.

Calgary Stampede evening grandstand show

Photo by Lucas Scarfone

The evening show is held at the Stampede Grandstand, which holds up to 25,000 folks (including standing room). The Grandstand also hosts the rodeo and chuckwagon races.

Tuck into a great steak

Alberta beef is famous for a good reason, and it’s a perfect accompaniment to the Stampede’s cowboy culture. Located smack-dab downtown on 8 Avenue SW at the former home of the iconic downtown Hudson’s Bay store, the The Guild is a carnivore’s dream come true.

 The Guild Restaurant Steak

Photo by Lucas Scarfone

If you’re looking for a great cut of meat, you can’t go wrong with the Charcut Roast House. The rustic-chic Charcut also has Canada’s first beer steward.

Pancake breakfasts

The tradition of the free pancake breakfast started way back in 1923, with cowboy Guy Weadick (a rough-and-tumble character of the pet badger fame). These days, there are hundreds of free pancake breakfasts around Calgary, which are organized by local restaurants, charities and local businesses. There’s even an app to help your find your new favorite pancake breakfast. You can download the Flapjack Finder app here.

Get behind the scenes with Agriculture Showcases

A little love and care behind the scenes for Troy Flad's horses at the Calgary Stampede

The Agriculture Showcases are hands on experiences with the animals and the people that tend them and allows everyone to get up close to the animals. With everything from barn tours to blacksmith showcases there’s something for everyone. There’s even a milk and cookies shack for the little ones.

I was fortunate to get a peek behind the barns at all the love and care shown for chuckwagon rider Troy Flad’s horses. For these racers, the horses are family and when you see them together there’s a lot of love in the way they treat them.

Prairie oysters

You’ll find something called prairie oysters popping up on menus all over Calgary during Stampede. These are about as far from real oysters as you can get. The tradition has its roots in real-life ranching traditions, where cowboys would chow down on prairie oysters after a long day of castrating cattle.

Castrating cattle? Yep, you guessed it, each prairie oyster is a bull testicle. I’ve heard they have a spongy, but not unpleasant taste, but I have to say I’ve never had the urge to try one myself.

Party it up!

Since Stampede is pretty much a 10 day excuse to party, Calgarians and visitors alike take full advantage, and dance the night away each and every night.

Nashville North, which is right on the Stampede grounds, amps up the fun with up to three acts a night. The vibe is fun, inclusive, and all-out loud and brash. While the crowd is largely in their 20’s, we saw plenty of folks in their 30s and 40s (ahem) or even older having a blast.

Once you’ve checked out Nashville North directly on the stampede grounds, be sure to head to the iconic Cowboys and Ranchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall for a dose of local Calgary cowboy culture.

If music is your thing, the Coca-Cola Stage is onsite at the Stampede. Access is free with admission to Stampede Park, and the stage hosts some big name acts each year.

Watch the Showriders

Calgary Stampede Showriders

The Stampede Showriders were originally formed to accompany the Stampede Showband. They’re a team of equestrian riders that perform musical rides several times a day at the Stampede.

Meet a real life cowboy

Calgary Stampede cowboy

You may be surprised to learn that there are plenty of real life cowboys at the Calgary Stampede. Sure, plenty of city slickers and tourists visit, but the Stampede also draws a huge crowd of honest-to-goodness ranchers from far and wide including Canada, the USA and even from down under in Australia.

Listen to the Stampede Showband

There are 150 members of this iconic Stampede marching band, all aged between 16 and 22. They’re pretty darn good, too, and have been named the world champion of marching show bands five times. They usually play a few times throughout Stampede.

Visit the midway!

The midway is probably the part of the Stampede that I’ve visited the most over the years. There are fantastic and fun things to do and see all over the midway, from riding rollercoasters and tilt-a-whirls to playing carnival games. You can even take a look at GMC’s rugged and snow-worthy all mountain truck.

GMC All Mountain truck at the Calgary Stampede Midway

GMC All Mountain truck

Eat all the crazy midway foods

If I have one regret for this Stampede visit, it’s that I didn’t get a chance to scarf down more outrageous midway goodies. There are food and drink trailers found throughout the midway however they are mainly found in the concession area.

Calgary Stampede midway BBQ

Photo by Lucas Scarfone

The list of eats at the Calgary Stampede is long and quirky, and includes deep fried Oreos, ghost pepper pizza, crispy chicken feet (I may skip that one), deep fried Jell-O, Flinstones’-sized BBQ ribs and legs, Canadian bacon pickle balls, and of course, all things poutine. If you’re a regular carnival goer, relax. They have corndogs and mini doughnuts too for all you purists.

Browse the Indian Village

Indian Village has been part of the Stampede since 1912. The 26 tipis on site represent the five nations of Treaty 7: Kainai, Tsuut’ina, Stoney Nakoda, Siksika and Piikani. There’s plenty to do and see here, from trying traditional bannock, to watching First Nations youth dancers and learning about Native Canadian culture and history at the interpretative program.

Enjoy the Stampede Parade

The provinces largest parade kicks off the 10-day Stampede celebration, and winds its way all through downtown. It’s such an institution in Calgary that most downtown companies give their employees a day off to attend.

The city puts up stands all over downtown to accommodate all the parade goers however, if you want to ensure a seat, make sure you get there early.

Bonus Tip! Check out the Canine Stars at the Dog Bowl

Love your little four legged friends? So do I and there’s an amazing Canine show every year at the Calgary Stampede. From high jumping to Frisbee catching to dock-diving this show will please the youngest to the oldest and everyone in between. We used to take the kids to see the canine show every year when we lived in Calgary as it was one of our favorite activities at the Calgary Stampede so don’t miss it!

So, have you ever been to the Calgary Stampede? Do you have any iconic, can’t miss experiences to share? We’d love to hear about them!

The wild rose, Alberta's flower

Calgary Stampede Tips | Calgary Stampede things to do | Calgary Stampede Bucket List

Calgary Stampede Tips | Calgary Stampede things to do | Calgary Stampede Bucket List

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Help Yourself to Faster Airport Security this Summer https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-tips/help-yourself-to-faster-airport-security-this-summer/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-tips/help-yourself-to-faster-airport-security-this-summer/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=14258 No matter how often we travel, airport security is always a challenge. We’ve brought in the experts to give us some helpful tips for making airport security faster. Here’s what the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has to say.

It’s summer, you’ve been planning your big vacation for a while, and all you can think about is getting to the lake, beach or mountains (or, select your dream location here).

But with your mind’s eye fixed on your destination, it’s easy to forget about the journey, particularly security screening at the airport. The good news is that being prepared can help you breeze through the screening checkpoint, leaving you more time to shop, eat or just relax before your flight.

The first step is doing your homework so you know what goes in your carry-on and what goes in your checked baggage.

Use a checklist

CATSA Do Not Forget Anything

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has some handy tools on its website, including a searchable “What can I bring” list that lets you know where to pack your items and what can and can’t fly. It also has a travel-checklist generator (insert reminder to water plants here), and tips for all sorts of  challenges –  from what to do with large sports equipment and medical supplies to travelling with pets.

Traveling with liquids

According to CATSA, one of the biggest hold-ups at security is having too many liquids, aerosols and gels. Containers over 100 ml and 1 litre bags that are overstuffed with smaller containers (no seal; no deal) will need to be checked. As for that cup of java or water bottle in your hand – if it’s over 100 ml, be prepared to chug.

There are some exceptions, like liquids for kids under two years old and medication. You can check out more here. In all cases, the containers should be taken out of your carry-on bag and ready to present to the screening officer for inspection.

Stay organized

CATSA Packing Smart

Once you hit the front of the line, it helps to have your boarding pass ready to show to the screening officer. You can also speed things up if you put any loose change, keys and small electronics (smart phones, cameras, tablets) in your carry-on bag so you can just drop it in the bin. If you’re travelling with a laptop or other large electronics (gaming console, DVD player) you’ll need to put them in a separate bin. For more information on what you can put in the bins at the checkpoint, you can find it here.

eBags Allura 22 hardside carry-on with brushed steel look and our kids at the airport

If you’re still wondering what to do with an item or want more information about security screening, you can always send questions to CATSA on Twitter or Facebook.

Lastly, travel is all about being mobile, so you should definitely download CATSA’s free mobile app. It’s available on Android, iOS and Blackberry, and can help you with all this and more, including wait times for security at most major airports.

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Why You Need To Visit Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery in Vernon BC https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/why-you-need-to-visit-okanagan-spirits-craft-distillery-in-vernon-bc/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/why-you-need-to-visit-okanagan-spirits-craft-distillery-in-vernon-bc/#comments Tue, 23 May 2017 22:30:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=13826 Do you enjoy bourbon, rye or single malt Canadian Whisky? How about vodka, gin, brandy or delicious fruit liqueurs?

Now, what are your thoughts on locally made craft spirits sourced straight out of people’s backyards? Interested?

Okanagan Spirits, out of Vernon, BC is western Canada’s oldest craft distillery and the quality comes through both in the taste and in the story of how this small family owned distillery has become a driving force behind the provinces’ burgeoning small craft distillery market.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon CEO Tyler Dyck pouring BRBN

BRBN bourbon style whisky at the family owned Okanagan sprits

We were lucky enough to find ourselves at the impressive new 16,000 square foot Okanagan Spirits Vernon location and had the opportunity to try out some of their newer lines, as well as some of the classics, while talking with the family who helped bring this product to life.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon tasting bar

Okanagan Spirits Vernon tasting

We visited our local Kelowna’s Okanagan Spirits branch a few years back and loved trying out all their specialty craft liqueurs. Well, two years on, we’re still big fans and the fact that all of Okanagan Spirits’ ingredients are 100% locally cultivated here in our home province of British Columbia makes it all the better. We especially love that the majority of their spirits retain a little of their fruit heritage.

The Okanagan Valley is a 200 km (125 mile) long mountain valley boasting a string of crystal clear mountain lakes, pine forests and stunning mountains in the southern interior of British Columbia, Canada. It’s best known for some of Canada’s warmest weather and it’s hundreds of world class wineries centered around the valley’s largest city of Kelowna. It’s also the home to the majority of Canada’s fruit orchards, all bursting with apples, cherries, peaches and apricots.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon CEO Tyler Dyck checking on fermentation

Okanagan Spirits CEO Tyler Dyck checking on fermentation

At Okanagan Spirits family owned distillery, all alcohols are made from local 100% British Columbia grains and fruit. The produce comes from local farmers, growers, orchardists and often even from some local’s backyards.

When they couldn’t source enough rhubarb from local growers, the company put a out call out to local gardeners. Soon, they were inundated with locally Okanagan grown rhubarb for their award wining rhubarb liqueur. Likewise, they’ve traditionally made their apricot brandy from a local 100 year old apricot tree.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon distillation apparatus

Okanagan Spirits Vernon distillation apparatus

Today, Okanagan Spirits is North America’s only World Class designated distillery and masterclass designated distiller from the World Spirits Awards in Austria.

We met with Tyler Dyck, whose family has been at the center of Okanagan Spirits from the beginning. Tyler says that the demand is especially strong for gin, vodka, and whiskey spirits. In fact, their Canadian whiskys are so popular they can’t keep up with demand, especially for their award winning Laird of Fintry single malt.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon BRBN bourbon whisky barrels

Luckily for us, they hold back a percentage of every release so you can still try Canada’s first bourbon style corn whisky (BRBN), Western Canada’s first single malt whisky (Laird of Fintry) and their fabulous Canadian Rye whisky (Okanagan Spirits Rye) at either their Vernon or Kelowna branch.

What’s in a name? You’ll notice that Okanagan Spirits spell whisky without the ey at the end. Guess what, both whiskey and whisky are allowed spellings. Traditionally, the Scots spelled it whisky while the Irish spelled it whiskey. American whiskey’s traditionally end with the extra “e” as well, and most Canadian and European countries spell it whisky.

Laird of Fintry single malt whisky

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Laird of Fintry

The quality of Okanagan Spirits whiskey-based liquors hasn’t gone unnoticed in some pretty notable quarters. During a Royal visit to the Okanagan Valley in 2017, Prince William and Kate had a chance to sample the spirits, with William saying he “liked the Laird of Fintry, and Kate thought the blackcurrant liqueur was lovely” says Tyler.

Lovely blackcurrant Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge Kate’s lovely blackcurrant liqueur

There’s no denying that the Okanagan Spirits Canadian whiskeys are hugely successful, not only with customers who love their unusually smooth quality, but with judges at the World Spirits Awards in Austria.

The Laird of Fintry Single Malt Whisky was the first Canadian Whisky to receive a gold medal at the World Spirit Awards. It’s one of eight awards taken home from the World Spirit awards in 2017, including five gold, one silver and two bronze.

Tip! Want to get your hands on the award winning Lord of Fintry whisky? Click here to join their newsletter and you’ll find out when the next batch is ready.

BRBN

Okanagan Spirits Vernon BRBN with Tyler Dyck

Since bourbon can’t officially be called so in Canada unless it’s US made, similar to how sparkling wine can’t be called Champagne unless it’s made in France, a fortified wine can’t be called Port unless it originates in Portugal or Scotch has to be made in Scotland, Okanagan Spirits has had a little fun with the name and BRBN is the result.

BRBN bourbon whisky on the shelf at Okanagan Spirits Vernon

Regardless of how it’s spelled, Okanagan Spirits BRBN is made in the traditional bourbon way using corn and barley all sourced just miles from their shop. Milled onsite, once fully fermented it’s left to mature in carefully selected white American toasted oak casks. If you fancy yourself a bourbon lover, you’ll love it’s sweet honey and molasses flavour with just a touch of burnt caramel.

Scroll down for our Suburban BRBN Iced Tea Lemonade Recipe for a tasty summer drink!

Okanagan Spirits BC Rye Whisky

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Rye Whisky

Canadian rye whisky is known the world over. While you’ll find a Canadian whiskey behind nearly every bar around the world, Okanagan Spirits rye isn’t setting out to imitate what has come before. With their own blend of locally harvested rye and malted BC barley, there’s a lot of love that goes into every bottle.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon rye whiskey being poured

This love is apparent when you get a chance to sample the Okanagan Rye for yourself. Like all of Okanagan Spirits alcohol, extra time is taken to remove all the impurities resulting in some of the highest quality spirits you’ll find this side of the border.

Visit for yourself to get a world class tour and tasting, and ask any of the helpful and knowledgeable staff about the fermentation and distillation process and how the team at Okanagan Spirits goes that extra mile to ensure that only the best of the best ever sees the inside of a bottle.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon sea buckthorn

While you’re there, be sure to try the amazing sea buckthorn liqueur. You’ll most often see sea buckthorn touted as a new super-antioxidant used in top tier skin care products. In a liqueur, it’s honey-smooth taste is finished by a note of almost citrus. It’s light, not cloying, and will make you want more!

The story and the team behind Okanagan Spirits

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Tony Dyck with barrels

Tony Dyck

Okanagan Spirits is a true local success story. It was started with a group of like minded investors led by the Dyck patriarch, Tony Dyck, back in 2004. A few years later, Tony and the family bought out the rest of the group and now Okanagan Spirits is wholly a family owned (and run) business.

The Dyck family has been part of the Okanagan Valley for close to a century, with roots among family and friends in the early days of back yard stills and moonshine so in some ways you can say they’re carrying on a long family tradition.

Okanagan Spirits liqueur samplers

In 2004, the new distillery started with Eau de Vie fruit brandy, aiming to blend high quality spirits with local origins. Over time, customer demand saw them expand to spirits like gin, vodka, whiskey, absinthe and their many delicious fruit liqueurs. The fact that the majority of their liqueurs are fruit based rather than grain based means a little of that lovely fruit flavour remains present in every product.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Tyler Dyck

Okanagan Spirits CEO Tyler Dyck

Today, son Tyler Dyck (CEO) has a hand in what seems to be every aspect of the business and even heads the Craft Distiller’s Guild of BC to help bring about change in how BC deals with local craft distillers.

Extended family, like Tony’s sister Mary are often on hand to help out and when large events occur, every one in the family gets called in. Last year, the distillery was part of about 80 fundraiser and charity events.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Master distiller Peter von Hahn

Master distiller Peter von Hahn

Master distiller Peter von Hahn has been the creative mastermind behind a lot of the products and is a major part of Okanagan Spirits focus on quality. He is Canada’s most awarded Craft Distiller and the only distiller in North America with both the Master Class and World Class Distillery designations from the European Based World Spirits Awards.

In person, von Hahn is both engaging and personable, with plenty of travel stories, and it’s easy to see where the creativity at Okanagan Spirits alcohols originates.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Junior Distiller Christopher Burke

Junior Distiller Christopher Burke

Junior Distiller Christopher Burke is in charge of Okanagan Spirits’ expansion into one of Micki’s favorite Okanagan Spirits whiskeys, the Bourbon-style BRBN. With a degree in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, he brings a European sensibility to the team.

Despite talented distillers and family teamwork, getting a new craft distillery up and running hasn’t always been an easy ride. The Dyck family has pushed for years for changes in liquor laws to allow craft distilleries to succeed in British Columbia. They’re still struggling with provincial requirements that cap the amount of whiskey that craft distillers are allowed to produce and sell and have even formed the Craft Distiller’s Guild of BC to help fight for those changes with the government.

A peek inside Okanagan Spirits Vernon distillery location

The new location in Vernon opened in 2015. It’s an impressive facility, at over 16,000 feet with a gorgeous 1930’s prohibition era theme.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon distillation system

distillation system

Without a doubt, the stunning showpiece of the distillery is North America’s tallest copper pot still, a 24 foot, 50 plate distillation system. We’ve never seen anything like it. In fact, the distillation system is so tall they had to cut a skylight in the roof to accommodate it.

The distillation system was purchased from Germany and assembled on site in Vernon, as what Tyler says was like “the world’s largest and most challenging LEGO set”.

Each type of alcohol is carefully distilled in the behemoth distillation system and due to it’s height and design, Okanagan Spirits can achieve a higher purity than many of it’s competitors.  This means a lot of their alcohols, and their whisky for sure, have a smoother finish with less of the burning sensation you get from less pure blends.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon antique car and whiskey vat

The distillery itself taps into the rich history of homegrown stills and bootleg moonshine in the Okanagan. The showrooms speakeasy style features a vintage car plucked from the dusty garage of an old family friend and a long bar set on aged barrels.

Want to see more? Peek inside the Vernon location.

Suburban BRBN Iced Tea Lemonade Recipe

We experimented with about five bourbon-based drinks at home for this post so we could bring you our own tasty BRBN-based summer cocktail (yes, lol, sometimes our job is tough), and this was by far our favorite. It’s a light, refreshing summer cocktail that’s easy to drink yet still allows a little of that bourbon flavour through.

BRBN Iced Tea Lemonade Okanagan Spirits Distillery

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 1 oz BRBN
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup (you can also use 1 tbsp granulated sugar as a substitute)
  • Ice
  • Orange slices, for garnish
  • maraschino cherry, for garnish

How to make

Pour boiling water over tea, steep for five minutes. Take out tea bags and refrigerate for at least an hour.

In a highball glass, add 1/2 cup iced tea, bourbon, juices and syrup or sugar. Serve over ice and garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry.

Tip! We used fresh squeezed orange and lemon juice, and it gave a nice flavor, but boxed juice works perfectly well.

Irish Buck

While this is traditionally a Saint Patrick’s Day recipe, we love the combination of BRBN, lime and ginger ale for summer.

BRBN Ginger and Lime Okanagan Spirits Distillery

 

What you’ll need

  • Ice
  • 1 oz BRBN
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 5 oz ginger ale
  • lime wedge, for garnish

How to make

Fill a glass with ice, and pour over BRBN, fresh lime juice and ginger ale. Garnish with a lime wedge.

When to Visit

 

Inside the Okanagan Spirits Vernon

Inside the Okanagan Spirits Vernon

Visiting the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada this summer? Besides for hundreds of wineries, great beaches and some amazing hikes, make sure you check out Okanagan Spirits Vernon or Kelowna locations. They’re open year round and besides for the taste rooms, they also have a lounge and patio in the summer.

You can check out our previous Okanagan Spirits Kelowna tour here and if you’re trying to figure out what else there is to do in Kelowna check out this post we wrote last summer.

Want to find out more?

You can order Okanagan Spirits online, or pick some up at your local BC liquor store.

Okanagan Spirits Gin Sea buckthorn liquerur and BRBN bourbon style whiskey

 

You can also visit Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery  in store in the new Vernon distillery location, or at their Kelowna storefront.

Visit them on their website, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Why You Need To Visit Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery in Vernon BC

Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery in Vernon BC

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Who Will Win The First Challenge In Woods Canada’s Greatest Explorer? https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/contests/who-will-win-the-first-challenge-in-woods-canadas-greatest-explorer/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/contests/who-will-win-the-first-challenge-in-woods-canadas-greatest-explorer/#respond Mon, 13 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=11834 Woods Canada Greatest Explorer Challenge 1 The Woods Wilderness Relay

Taking the canoes down the Yukon River

Canada is a country built on exploration and adventure.

Canada’s geography has everything from prairies, forests, deserts, the Arctic tundra and the Canadian Shield, to the rugged peaks of the Canadian Rockies, all surrounded by the world’s longest coastline. It’s no secret that this is terrain that’s challenged explorers for hundreds of years.

As Canadians ourselves, we’re lucky enough to have had many chances to explore Canada’s great wilderness.

We’ve had our share of outdoor adventures, from canoeing down the mighty Yukon River, to boating in Ontario’s Lake of the Woods, to camping and hiking in the Rockies, to kayaking along the coast of British Columbia. No matter where you are in Canada, there’s adventure waiting around each corner. Like many Canadians, we know firsthand that Canada is a beautiful, wild, and sometimes challenging, place.

In a country full of people like us who kayak, hike, mountain bike and climb mountains, what would it take to earn the title of Canada’s greatest explorer? Quite a lot, I think.

Woods Canada’s Greatest Explorer

The Woods Canada’s Greatest Explorer challenge aims to find Canada’s best explorer. The challenge pits 12 highly skilled Canadian outdoor adventurers, chosen by Canadians, against each other in a series of epic outdoor challenges built to test their outdoors skills and knowledge. The challenges can be physical, skillful or artistic outdoor challenges, all held in undisclosed locations across Canada.

Micki canoeing in Lake Louise

Micki canoeing on Lake Louise

Each challenge is revealed to the participants on the day it’s performed, and losing contestants are eliminated after each challenge. Challenges start airing on June 10, 2016.

The winner gets the title of Woods Canada’s Greatest Explorer (WCGE) and a $25,000 grand prize.

Who’s racing?

You can check out the contestants and pick your favorite here.

Beyond having exceptional outdoors skills and knowledge, the winner must also embody the values, personality and emotional benefits of the Woods brand.

We’re thrilled to be partnering with Woods Canada to introduce you to the very first challenge: Challenge 1 -The Woods Wilderness Relay.

Challenge 1: The Woods Wilderness Relay

The wilderness relay took place at MacDonald Lake, Ontario, in the Haliburton Forest Reserve, and had three parts: a 17 km mountain bike ride, a 10 km run, and a 9 km canoe race with portage.

To put the wilderness relay in perspective, a standard Olympic triathlon is a 10 km run, a 1.5 kilometers swim, and a 40 km bike ride.

Having had the dubious pleasure of portaging a 50 lb. (24 kg) canoe once or twice, I can tell you that it can be a struggle simply to portage a canoe across a parking lot to the lake. I can’t imagine having to portage and paddle, in addition doing a triathlon-like run and bike ride.

Canoeing the Yukon River

Canoeing the Yukon River

I am, however, a bit envious of the gear that the racers have (and we Barefoot Nomads love our outdoor gear). They need excellent outdoor equipment to stay hydrated and dry, like this 2L Woods Hydration Pack with a double diamond rip-stop construction and padded air mesh back.

Woods Hydration Pack 2L

The 12 contestants were randomly divided into six teams of two contestants, and raced as a team. The run and the bike were treated as a relay, with each member performing one of the two events. The canoe race was completed as a pair. Both competitors canoed to the end of the course together, and the team that crossed the finish line first, won!

Local Expert: Sean Ruppel

Expert judges will be used for all the Woods Canada’s Greatest Explorer challenges. Sean Ruppel was the expert for Challenge 1: The Woods Wilderness Relay.

Superfly Racing was founded in 2000 and Sean Ruppel and his team manage a large series of trail and mountain bike challenges including the Ontario Cup Series, 24 Hours of Summer, Solstice Challenge, Albion Fat Bike Festival. Superfly are also professional trail builders who routinely build trails for adventure racing events in Ontario. Sean has also run numerous events at the Haliburton Nature Reserve and knows the race location intimately.

How do I watch the challenge?

Just head on over to the Woods Canada’s Greatest Explorer competition at WoodsExplorer.ca to find out more.

Let us know which of the 12 contestants you’ll be cheering on!

Kayaking with the kids with Hoodoo Adventures Penticton

Kayaking with the kids with Hoodoo Adventures in Penticton, BC

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22 Fun Reasons to Stay with the Family at Harrison Hot Springs Resort https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/22-fun-reasons-to-stay-with-the-family-at-harrison-hot-springs-resort/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/22-fun-reasons-to-stay-with-the-family-at-harrison-hot-springs-resort/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 20:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=11831 Finding a hotel that’s family friendly is important to us.

We love to have family activities in our hotel as well as feel that the kids are welcomed (rather than just tolerated).

We found that family friendly vibe and more at Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa, only an hour and a half from Vancouver.

Check resort prices now.

We found several reasons why Harrison is a great for families. In fact, we found 22 fun reasons:

The family pool

When we visit with our kids, the the outdoor family pool is where we spend almost all of our time. It’s large – almost 4,000 square feet – and has a gradual, sloped entrance that’s perfect for toddlers. It’s also wheelchair accessible! The temperature’s perfect for the family, at 28 °C (83 °F).

Fun in the family pool at Harrison Hot Springs

The view

The resort is right on the shore of stunning Harrison Lake, with views of the lake and mountains in the distance.

Happy kids!

The kids had a blast playing in the pools, exploring the resort, and just being themselves!

Two thumbs up at Harrison

The comfy beds

After a day in the pools, it was absolute heaven to sink into the hotel’s plush, comfy beds. So relaxing!

West Tower Room Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa

Photo courtesy Harrison Hot Springs Resort

Plenty of dining choices

The resort has four on-site restaurants: Miss Margaret’s casual cafe, the Lakeside Cafe with gorgeous views of the lake, the Islands Bar, and the Copper Room, where they have dinner and dancing. There’s even a kids’ dance floor at the Copper Room! If you’re not up for going out, just slip into your complimentary bathrobe, and order room service.

Eating at Miss Margarets and Lakeside Cafe at Harrison Hot Springs Resort

Warm, personal service

From the time we arrived to the time we left, we found nothing but warm smiles and staff that were willing to help with whatever we needed.

Fruit and cheese plate at Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa

Kid-friendly

Wherever we went, the kids were treated like welcome guests. We even found these adorable little Sasquatches in our room when we arrived!

Stuffed Sasquatch toys at Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa

Free WiFi

In Canada, most higher end hotels charge a rather steep fee for Internet.

Finding free WiFi in our room was a huge bonus!

Free Wifi - RavPower charging iPod 5

Complimentary bathrobes

Who doesn’t love a plush, comfy bathrobe? We loved having complimentary bathrobes to use on our way to and from the hot pools.

Lounging by the fireplace

The resort has a huge common area where you can relax by the fire, read, or enjoy each other’s conversation and company.

The fireplace at Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa

Bonding time

It’s just a pleasure to be able to put everyday life on the back burner for a while, and just enjoy playing with the kids!

Fun catching a piggy back with Dad at Harrison Hot Springs Resort

The waterfall

We had a blast playing in the waterfall in the family pool!

Enjoying the waterfall at Harrison Hot Springs Resort

Grown up time!

If you’re looking for some adult-only time, the warmer adult only pool is a perfect escape. It’s also open later so after the kids go to bed you can head down and enjoy some kid free time.

The adult only pool at Harrison Hot Springs Resort

The gift shop and store

You’ll be able to pick up any necessities and snacks at the well stocked on-site gift shop.

gift shop and store Harrison Hot Springs Resort

Relaxing on the balcony

How fun is this? We loved relaxing on the balcony taking in the beautiful sights of Harrison Lake and Echo Island right in front of the hotel. With wine for us, and cookies and juice for the kids we made it into an impromptu picnic.

Relaxing on the balcony with wine and cookies at Harrison Hot Springs Resort

Five pools to splash in!

Harrison’s hot mineral pools have drawn visitors since the Salish Coast Indians discovered their medicinal properties and rejuvenating effects. More recently, they’ve drawn famous guests such as Clark Gable, John Wayne, Michael Bublé, Robin Williams, and Liam Neeson.

Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa has five different mineral pools fed by the nearby hot springs. Each pool is kept at a different temperature from 28C /83F all the way up to 40C /104F year round. Outdoors you’ll find the large family pool, a lap pool, and the adults-only pool. If you want out of the sun, there are also two indoor pools; the crescent shaped deep pool and the hot pool.

The lap pool one of five pools at Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa

The Spa

A resort wouldn’t be a true place to relax without a spa. You can choose from stone or deep tissue massage, a facial, or other treatments. There are even little princess manicures and pedicures for those under 13!

The Spa at Harrison Hot Springs Resort

The gym

The state of the art, fully equipped gym is perfect if you’re looking for a place to work out.

The gym at Harrison Hot Springs Resort

It’s an affordable choice for Canadian travelers

With the high US dollar, many of us Canadians are looking for destinations where our Canadian currency will go farther. Staying within Canada has become a hot trend for Canadian travellers looking to save money while the Canadian dollar is weak.

Harrison Lake

We were completely happy playing in the pools and exploring the resort, but if you’re looking for more activities, there’s a lot to do and see near the resort, especially in summer.

The resort has a marina where you can take a fishing tour, rent jet skis, stand up paddle boards or kayaks, play with bumper boats, or even jump on a boat that will take you on a tour of beautiful Harrison Lake and get a closer glimpse of Echo Island.

There’s also the huge Harrison Hot Springs Water Park right in front of the hotel that will make any kids day a complete hit.

Posh, luxurious bathrooms

Clean, spacious, and luxurious!

Posh comfy bathrooms at Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa

Harrison Hot Springs

The Harrison Hot Springs Resort is right on the main boulevard of the lovely mountain resort village of Harrison Hot Springs, where you can spend a day at the lakeside beach or at the warmer kid friendly Harrison Lagoon. With tons of pathways, ice cream stands and restaurants along the main thoroughfare, there’s plenty to hold your interest year round.

It’s close to Vancouver

Harrison Hot Springs is only an hour and a half (120 km/75 miles) east of Vancouver, only three hours north of Seattle and 2 1/2 hours from Kelowna or Kamloops.

Looking for a deal for the family?

Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa has seasonal family packages and discounts available. Check resort prices now.

Wondering what to read next?

We stayed as guests of the Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa. All opinions are our own.

22 Reasons to Stay with the Family at Harrison Hot Springs Resort

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The Best Things to Do, See and Eat in Vancouver + Where to Stay https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/the-best-things-to-do-see-and-eat-in-vancouver-where-to-stay/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/the-best-things-to-do-see-and-eat-in-vancouver-where-to-stay/#comments Tue, 15 Mar 2016 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=10933 What to Do See and Eat in Vancouver plus Where to Stay

Vancouver, British Columbia is all about relaxed West Coast vibe and stunning scenery. With a thriving downtown and a reputation for great food, it’s a city where you can grab a tasty breakfast, browse the local markets, shop for high end fashion then hike a local mountain before it’s noon.

We’ve been lucky enough to spend a good chunk of time in Vancouver, and it remains one of our favorite Canadian cities.

If you’re planning to check it out, here are our tips for the best things to do, see and eat in Vancouver, plus some recommendations on where to stay. So whether you’re splurging on luxury or staying on a budget you have a ton of choices.

The Best Things to Do and See in Vancouver

It’s often been said that Vancouver’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it’s really no exaggeration. It’s a truly world class city, where nature is never more that a 15 minute walk away from wherever you happen to be. Here are our top picks.

Visit Granville Island

Granville Island is Vancouver’s most popular tourist attraction, and beloved by locals as well. Once you check it out, it’s easy to see why.

It’s located in the heart of downtown and surrounded by the waters of False Creek, and features a thriving public market chock full of homemade treats, fresh fruit and veggies, and artisan handicrafts. We loved the Vancouver Foodie Tour (more on that in What to Eat in Vancouver later), which gave us a sampling of many of the artisan foods on site.

There’s a separate kid’s market, Granville Island Brewing, and the Emily Carr University of Art + Design nearby. Be sure to take some time to walk by the floating water homes and check out the view of Burrard Street Bridge.

What to do, see and eat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Looking at the Burrard Street Bridge from Granville Island Vancouver

Burrard Street bridge from Granville Island

Visit Stanley Park

Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park is over a thousand acres with great views of the Vancouver skyline. It’s a must-see place, with giant Sequoia trees towering over a park that’s largely natural and untouched. You won’t find sculptured lawns and pretty flower beds here; this is a natural park.

The First Nations people of Vancouver have played a large role in preserving the park in its natural state. If you’re interested in First Nations culture, and especially the relationship between First Nations people with Northwest coast trees and plants, I’d highly recommend taking the Talking Trees tour with Talaysay Tours. It’s a two hour tour, and I was fascinated by our soft-spoken guide’s intimate and detailed knowledge.

While you’re in the park, be sure to check out the Stanley Park Miniature Railway for kids and Prospect Point totem poles. It’s one of the best things to do in Vancouver with kids.

Walk or bike the seawall

The Seawall is a 28 km (17 mile) long pathway that runs along most of metro Vancouver. It’s the perfect place to take in some stunning views. It’s a long hike to do the entire distance, so we suggest just walking along a section or taking the advice of Gemma from Two Scots Abroad and cycling the seawall.

Go to the beach

Vancouver BC is home to several lovely beaches. You can go swimming in the summer, but they’re perfect for walking along while checking out the tidal pools and scenery any time of year. In summer, the Vacation Gals recommend swimming in English Bay, or First Beach, both on the perimeter of Stanley Park.

Be sure to visit Jericho and Kitsilano beaches in trendy Kitsilano, which Adelina from Pack Me To calls one of Vancouver’s most desirable neighborhoods, due to its proximity to both downtown and nature. Kits is also home to the H.R. MacMillian Space Centre and the Vancouver Museum.

The view from Kitsilano beach. What to do see and eat in Vancouver Plus Where to Stay

The view from Kitsilano beach. Photo by Ruth Hartnup.

Visit a swinging suspension bridge

Most Vancouver guides suggest checking out the popular Capilano Suspension Bridge. While Capilano’s definitely beautiful and accessible, it’s expensive at approximately $38 per adult.

The lesser known (and free!) Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon Park is a solid alternative to the Capilano bridge and has some nice pathways leading up to the some great natural pools and waterfalls.

If you’re heading out to the Sea to Sky Gondola to check out the views (and you should), there’s also the pretty Sky Pilot suspension bridge at the top of the gondola ride.

Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge Sea to Sky Gondola Squamish

Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge Sea to Sky Gondola

See the Telus World of Science

This hands-on science museum is hard to miss, with its eye-catching geodesic dome at the tip of False Creek. There are plenty of hands-on exhibits to delight kids and adults alike, plus an OMNIMAX theatre.

Explore downtown on foot

Vancouver’s downtown neighborhood is diverse enough to be worth spending some time exploring on foot. You’ll find plenty of action in downtown Vancouver, which comprises of the West End, Yaletown and Gastown.

Gritty Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, teems with great restaurants, pubs and shops. The Vancouver Art Gallery is well worth a visit, with rotating exhibits and an attractive exterior. If you’re not keen on walking, grab a seat on the Vancouver Trolley.

The Vancouver Art Gallery. Tips for what to see, do and eat in Vancouver, British Columbia, plus our recommendations on the best places to stay.

Vancouver Art Gallery

Get outdoors

Even in the heart of downtown Vancouver, you’re never more than half an hour from the ocean, or from hiking a local mountain. There are plenty of outdoor adventures in the city, and Vancouver’s close proximity to the mountains and ocean makes it easy to get deep into nature without a lot of effort.

Adelina of Pack Me To suggests kayaking in Deep Cove in North Vancouver. Deep Cove is only about half an hour from downtown Vancouver, and kayaking here gives you a chance to get out on the water in a smaller, quiet community.

If you’re the athletic type, take the steep Grouse Grind (1.8 mile/2.9 km) hike to the top of Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver for beautiful views of the city from the top.

Because of its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, you can go whale watching off the coast near Vancouver. Erin and Josh with Travel with Bender give you the details about whale watching here. You can take the same tour they talk about with Viator.

Check out Vancouver’s craft brewery scene

It’s well worth checking out Vancouver’s booming craft beer scene. Taylor and Daniel from Once We’re Young Travel recommend taking in the craft beer at Storm Brewing, Parallel 49, Powell Street Brewing, 33 Acres, and Dockside Brewing.

Viator offers a few fun brewery tours, including a new Electric Bicycle VIP Craft Beer Experience tour. We ran into some folks on the electric bicycle tour on our last family trip to Vancouver, and it looked like they were having a blast.

Explore Quirky and Offbeat Vancouver

Vancouver’s a young, vibrant city, with a quirky side to match. Here are just a few of the offbeat things to do in Vancouver.

Cuddle a few cats

Catfe is Vancouver’s first cat cafe, featuring adoptable cats from the BC SPCA! It’s hugely popular, so make sure to make an online reservation as soon as you can.

A photo posted by Catfe (@catfe_vancouver) on

Stroll the Richmond Night Market

The Richmond Night Market is probably the closest you’re going to come to a crowded Asian street market in Canada. A giant rubber ducky greets you at the entrance, and inside you’ll find tables selling everything from knickknacks to CDs, a midway, and a food court tucked in the back. We haven’t eaten there, but Savored Journeys suggest visiting Rotato, which offers a deep-fried potato cut in a long spiral with 8 different possible flavors. Most food items are under $5.

The Richmond Street Market is held through the summer months during weekends. You can get to the night market by SkyTrain from downtown Vancouver. While you’re in Richmond, stop by Steveston Village, a picturesque former fishing village, for some fresh seafood and charming views.

Visit the Jimi Hendrix Shrine

Every summer, the Jimi Hendrix Shrine opens at 432 Homer Street. Jimi spent summers in Vancouver with his grandmother Nora, who hosted a number of visiting performers like Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong.

See the street art

Vancouver’s street art scene is thriving, with some talented artists involved. The City of Vancouver has some helpful information on self-guided street art tours of Vancouver at Vancouvermurals.ca. For a preview, check out Travel Addicts’ post on the street art around Cordova Street.

One of the largest is the Giants, a huge graffiti mural on silos at a cement factory on Granville Island, painted by two Brazilian artists OSGEMEOS.

The Giants Mural at Granville Island Vancouver. The Very Best of What to Do, See and Eat in Vancouver.

Stop by Chinatown

Surprisingly, you don’t often see Chinatown mentioned in most Vancouver activities recommendations, but Chris and Heather from A Brit and a Southerner make the point that Vancouver’s Chinatown is well worth a visit. While you’re there, stop by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It’s small but a distinctive place to relax, with colorful plants and symbolic yin and yang representations.

Go Shopping

Granville Island is our top pick for grabbing some souvenirs and goods with a real local vibe. There are almost 300 stores on Granville Island. Be sure to check out Edible Canada’s retail store for Canadian goodies like maple syrup, smoked salmon, and goods from artisans across Canada.

If you’re a fashionista, the place to shop is Robson Street, with shops including Zara, Le Chateau and Plenty. Check out Alberni Street nearby for luxury stores like Hermes and Gucci. You’ll find independent fashion like Roden Gray in Gastown and along Main Street (20th to 22nd Avenue).

If you’re looking to buy or rent quality outdoor gear, Mountain Equipment Co-op (or MEC, as it’s known by locals), is our top pick. MEC has been around since 1971, and is still run as a co-op by members. To shop there, you’ll need to buy a $5 membership share, which gives you co-op voting rights. We’ve been members since 1989.

Smack in the heart of downtown Vancouver, Pacific Place Mall has hundreds of retail stores and places to eat. Pacific Place Mall is clean, spacious, and largely underground, making it a great choice if you’re looking for indoor shopping.

Visit the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

Tanu And Katmai Sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium Rafting Credit Vancouver Aquarium

Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium

In a time brewing with controversy about the treatment of marine animals (think Blackfish), the non-profit Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre gets it right. It’s an organization committed to rehabilitation and re-release (wherever possible) of injured, ill or abandoned marine creatures. It also operates Ocean Wise, conservation program that works directly with local restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers to ensure that they have the most current scientific information and to help them make ocean-friendly buying decisions.

The Vancouver Aquarium is Canada’s largest aquarium and home to over 58,000 animals, including beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, anacondas, three-toed sloths, eels and more. It’s a great place to take kids, with the new Discover Rays touch pool, and plenty of kid-friendly exhibits and play areas.

For more than 47 years, the Vancouver Aquarium has operated the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. The program rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals found injured, ill or abandoned until they’re healthy enough to be returned to their natural habitats.

Tanu, one of the otters in the photo above, was rescued as baby too young to how to eat by herself or groom herself. Dedicated staff had to bottle-feed and groom her until she learned how to do it herself. Now, Tanu is over five years old, and thriving in the Aquarium habitat.

The Rescue Centre admits over 150 distressed marine mammals annually. Over the years, rescued animals have included harbour seals, Steller sea lions, northern fur seals, elephant seals, sea otters, orcas, dolphins and porpoises. Some have been threatened or are endangered species.

The Sea to Sky Gondola

If you’re making a trip to Whistler, make time to visit the stunning Sea to Sky Gondola near Squamish. The views are breathtaking, and you can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant, walk along hiking trails, go tubing in the winter, or walk across the suspension bridge.

What to do, see and eat in Vancouver, British Columbia. View from the Sea to Sky Gondola

If you’re looking for some more ideas for what to do in Vancouver, Viator Tours offers some fun and affordable activities, including sightseeing, whale watching, a private tour to Whistler, a trip in a seaplane over Vancouver, or a distillery tour.

If you’re looking to use Vancouver as a stopping off point for a larger adventure to discover the Canadian Rockies or even to do Alaska by ferry and rail, then it may be worth checking out the tours offered by G Adventures.

Viator Tours Vancouver - What to do, see and Eat in Vancouver

Where to Eat in Vancouver

Vancouver has no shortage of fantastic restaurants, running the gamut from trendy, award-winning restaurants, to expensive Michelin-star affairs, to inexpensive, hole in the wall local favorites.

Given Vancouver’s location on the West Coast of Canada, there’s no shortage of fresh seafood, and the local melting pot of cultures means that you can enjoy almost any type of food you’d like.

AnnaLena

A photo posted by AnnaLena (@annalenayvr) on


As a vegetarian, I spend a lot of time eating meals that seem to be a bit of an afterthought compared to a restaurant’s carefully prepared meat dishes, even at more expensive restaurants.

Two thumbs up to the kitchen at AnnaLena who bucked that trend in a big way. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a better entree than their vegetarian pasta with potato agnolotti, wild mushrooms, confit shallots and asiago foam.

Turns out I’m not alone in my praise. AnnaLena was named one of Canada’s best new restaurants by enRoute Magazine. Located in trendy Kitsilano, AnnaLena, also serves a wickedly good desert selection and finely crafted cocktails.

Price: $22 to $35 mains

YEW Seafood + bar

Where to Eat in Vancouver YEW Seafood and Bar in the Vancouver Four Seasons Hotel

YEW Seafood + bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver is the baby of Chef Ned Bell, who’s well known for his farm-to-table philosophy. Bell is founder of Chefs for Oceans, an organization that promotes sustainable seafood. In keeping, the YEW Seafood + bar menu is 100 per cent Ocean Wise.

The menu is bursting with fresh, sustainable seafood options, with everything from fresh oysters to Arctic char and non-fish options like chicken and Wagyu shortribs.

Vegetarians like me aren’t left out, with an ample vegan menu that includes fresh, flavorful vegan tacos and a rich, creamy vegan chocolate tort.

Price: $20 to $45 mains

Go Fish Ocean Emporium

Beloved by locals, this little blue shack on False Creek near Granville Island serves up fresh, tasty fish and chips, a daily grilled seafood selection, tacones, sandwiches and sides. It’s a take-away spot, but the views of downtown Vancouver and False Creek make it worth the inconvenience.

Price: $5-11 mains

Vancouver Foodie Tours Granville Island

While not a restaurant per se, a foodie tour of Granville Iisland is a wonderful way to get introduced to the best treats at the Granville Island Market. I took the Granville Island Market Tour with Vancouver Foodie Tours, and left absolutely stuffed with homemade bread, artisan cheeses, gourmet coffee, fresh Okanagan apples, Chai tea, homemade donuts and many more delights.

Edible Canada is the must-visit place for foodies on Granville Island. It’s dedicated to showcasing the best of BC and Canadian cuisine in a comfy bistro.

Insider tip: Edible Canada’s eggs bennie sauce is one of the best I’ve ever tasted.

Vancouver Foodie Tours The Best of what to see do and eat in Vancouver British Columbia

Budget eats in Vancouver

Tacofino is beloved in Vancouver for its affordable fish tacos, vegetarian and chicken burritos, and relaxed vibe. There’s a Tacofino restaurant in Gastown and Tacofino food trucks pop up all over the city.

Mains: $6-11

Brunch in Vancouver

Brunch is pretty much an institution in Vancouver. There are too many great spots to mention, but The Twisted Fork, Café Medina (long lines, but worth it), Boulevard, The Red Wagon Cafe, and the trendy YEW Seafood + bar are all well worth a visit.

Viator Vancouver Food and Drink

If you’re looking to take a foodie tour of Vancouver, check out what Viator has to offer. They offer everything from crab fishing tours to walking tours of Little Italy to a cultural and culinary tour of Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Where to Stay

Vancouver has hundreds of hotels. Places to stay in the downtown area tend to be higher in price. Here are our tip picks for where to stay, no matter what your budget.

Family – The Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

View from the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver

We stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver for two very happy days. This is a gorgeous hotel that caters perfectly to families. The rooms are modern and beautiful, with plenty of room for little ones to run about, and it has every amenity you would want, from a heated outdoor pool to a spacious gym to great dining downstairs. There’s even a rooftop herb garden and beehives that you can visit!

See prices and availability.

One of our favorite things about the hotel was the location facing Vancouver’s oceanfront. The kids (and us!) were mesmerized for hours watching the cruise ships (including the Disney Wonder) dock, and watching seaplanes land.

Fairmont Waterfront Welcome

 

Luxury – The Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver

Where to stay in Vancouver - the Vancouver Four Seasons Hotel Downtown

The Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver is everything you’d expect in a downtown Vancouver luxury hotel. Service is relaxed, friendly and impeccable. The hotel sits above the Pacific Centre mall, and it’s a short walk to most downtown Vancouver attractions. There’s a welcoming heated indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub leading to an outdoor rooftop patio, with the fantastic YEW Seafood +bar downstairs. Basic WiFi is free, but there’s a surcharge for those who’ll be using a lot of data.

See prices here.

Airport Convenience – Fairmont Vancouver Airport In-Terminal Hotel

The Fairmont Vancouver Airport In-Terminal Hotel is Vancouver’s only in-terminal airport hotel. It gets great ratings, and might be worth the splurge if you’re looking for a little luxury at the airport. There’s a surcharge for WiFi.

See prices and availability here.

Budget downtown

If you’re looking for a budget hotel in the heart of downtown, Robson Suites and Sunset Inn and Suites both get good reviews. We haven’t stayed in either because they’re always infuriatingly fully booked far in advance, but they’re both smaller boutique hotels that should run you close to, or under, $120 a night for a double room. Both hotels include free WiFi, but Robson Suites is closer to Stanley Park (but doesn’t include breakfast, though rooms have a kitchen or kitchenette), while Sunset Inn is right next to Stanley Park (and includes breakfast in the rate).

See Robson Suites availability.

Check Sunset Inn and Suites availability.

Value – Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Riverport Richmond

If you’re up for taking the SkyTrain or driving into downtown Vancouver, and want to save a few $$, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Riverport Richmond is an affordable, clean option. We stayed here for a few days last year, and would stay again. It’s a pretty standard chain hotel, but clean and new, with free breakfast, free airport shuttle, fast, free WiFi, and a pool and hot tub.

See prices and availability here.

Hostel – SameSun Backpacker Lodge

SameSun Backpacker Lodge gets great reviews (8.6/10 on Hostelz.com, which we like because it has independent reviews), and includes WiFi and breakfast. It runs about $28 for a bed in an 8 room dorm, or $42 a person for a shared double with en-suite bathroom. You must be 18 years old.

Check prices and availability now.

The Hidden Gem – The hotel on Granville Island

Granville Island Hotel is one of Vancouver’s less known gems. It’s a boutique hotel located right on Granville Island, overlooking the water, and gets great reviews. Check prices and reviews here.

Airbnb

Vancouver has a host of airbnb’s available. Prices vary a lot depending on location and size, but you can get a small private studio starting at around $60/night downtown, and a private two bedroom starting at around $100. Sign up using this link, and get $20 USD in Airbnb credits the first time you use them.

Camping

We don’t usually suggest camping in our city guides, but Vancouver’s proximity to nature makes it an option. You can pitch a tent or park your RV in the busy Capilano River RV Park, which has an outdoor pool, Jacuzzi tub, and WiFi. There is more concrete and cars here than nature, but it’s as close to metro Vancouver as you’re going to get while camping. Book as early as possible, as sites go fast.

Looking for something different? Tourism Vancouver lists a few campsites within Vancouver itself, and Destination BC has a helpful search feature here if you’re looking for a private or national campsite further out from downtown Vancouver.

You can rent camping equipment and outdoor gear from Mountain Equipment Co-op.

In the mood for a little more beautiful scenery? Check out this video from Destination BC that shows how truly wild and beautiful this province really is.

Need more info?

Be sure to check out the official Tourism Vancouver website, and the Destination BC website.

Lonely Planet Vancouver (Travel Guide) Fodor’s Vancouver & Victoria: with Whistler, Vancouver Island & the Okanagan Valley (Full-color Travel Guide) Walking Vancouver: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Spectacular Waterfront, Dynamic Neighborhoods, Hip Hangouts, and Tasty Diversions

*Note: I visited Vancouver courtesy of Destination BC. As always, though, all opinions are our own. We would never recommend a place to you that we haven’t visited and loved!

What to do see and eat in Vancouver + Where to Stay
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