March 26, 2001
Vancouver attracts all ages
by Deborah Stone
Vancouver is a great destination for a family getaway because it's chock full of interesting sights from opportunities to enjoy the beauty of nature to experiencing the excitement of the city's downtown action. In less than three hours, a family can find itself in a different world and ready to soak up the international ambiance of this fascinating Canadian port.
On a recent long weekend, my family and I ventured north to explore Vancouver. My children, having only been to the city once when they were very young, were long overdue for a return visit. We had two full days to experience some of the city's highlights and we made good use of the time, although by the end of quick trip, we knew we'd only sampled the tip of the iceberg, whetting our appetites for a future excursion. When seeing Vancouver, the ideal place to begin is the city's well-known landmark, Canada Place, easily spotted by its five white sails. The complex of buildings contains convention, exhibition and trade centers; hotels; a cruise ship terminal and an IMAX Theatre. The large promenade around the complex provides photo opportunities of the picturesque waterfront.
From there one can walk to the SeaBus Terminal in the Canadian Pacific Railway Station, a restored landmark and one of Vancouver's most beautiful buildings. The SeaBus offers a speedy and scenic ride to North Vancouver from downtown. At the terminus, you'll be at the Lonsdale Quay Market, a colorful marketplace offering food, clothing, art and a variety of interesting curiosities. Once back in downtown Vancouver, our family went to The Lookout!, on the top of Harbour Centre Tower, for spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding area. A stroll through nearby Chinatown, the second largest Chinatown in North America (after San Francisco's), offers a change of cultural pace. Here, you can find herbs, potions, exotic foods, trinkets and various exhibits on Chinese-Canadian history, traditions and arts and crafts. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is located here and a stroll through the covered walkways allows for a tranquil time out from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.
For a fun dining experience we sampled dim sum at one of the area's many restaurants. My kids were amazed to discover that the majority of the waiters did not speak English, even though we were in an English-speaking country. They were amused by the challenges of trying to decipher what was in the multitude of dishes that were wheeled by them at breakneck speeds. Down from Chinatown is Science World, a giant silver ball that contains an OMNIMAX dome, a 3-D Laser Theatre and many hands-on exhibits. Admission reciprocity is available for those with Seattle Pacific Science Center memberships.
For shopping, head to Robson Street, Vancouver's mecca of clothing, jewelry and accessories shops. However, if it's one of a kind and eclectic type items you're looking for, then Gastown is an interesting area to wander through, complete with its brick sidewalks, intriguing architecture and period lighting. One has only to go a few minutes in this city to experience nature, as Vancouver is known for its numerous parks and green spaces, including Stanley Park on the city's edge.
Within ten minutes of Vancouver lies another of the area's nature havens, the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park. This is the one of the world's highest suspension footbridge and Vancouver's oldest attraction, dating back to 1889. It hangs at 230 feet over the 450-foot wide Capilano Canyon. For those with a fear of heights, crossing the bridge is not a recommended activity. I inched myself along, trying hard not to look at the scene of rushing waters below. Once on the other side, there are several short hiking trails to waterfalls, ponds and forested areas. It's a lovely spot, secluded from the sounds of the city, yet so accessible. Beyond Capilano is Grouse Mountain, The Peak of Vancouver.
To reach the top of this 3,700 feet above sea level panoramic vista, we hopped on the Skyride, North America's largest aerial tramway. My children came away from their experience with an appreciation and warmth for our sister city north of the border.