I decided to visit Vancouver, Canada, during the hottest days in Dallas. While it was a steamy 90 plus degrees in Dallas, I wasn’t prepared for the chilly and drizzly weather at the hottest time in Vancouver. That is also a metaphor for how I felt about the city … lukewarm. It felt like New York City in miniature without the greatness of that city and a whole lot fewer people. There were no crowds. The buildings were generally moderate size glass structures built to withstand The Big One (Vancouver sits on a fault line) which nearly everyone believes will level Vancouver when it comes.
The suburb of Richmond, near the international airport, feels like you’re in China as many of the faces and signs on retail and commercial establishments are in Chinese. Although Vancouver itself has the world’s third largest Chinatown, most of its Asian community lives in Richmond. The “subway,” a light rail similar to Dallas’ DART, arrives in Vancouver in 25 minutes from Richmond. You’ll want to visit Richmond’s casino, the area’s largest, reputed to be a big site for money laundering. Next to the casino is a popular tourist attraction, the Richmond Night Market, an Asian inspired market, open during summer months at night.
In Vancouver proper, Stanley Park is the highlight tourist attraction. It’s a public park with many facets, including a marina, rose garden, totem pole exhibit and plenty of biking, surrounded on three sides by the water, which is ever-present in Vancouver.
Highlight two is Granville Island. Easily spend an entire day here. On the waterfront, you can see huge floating homes; there is a market selling everything and many places to dine. Interestingly, a cement factory that pre-dates the tourist development of the Island is still in operation in the center of it all.
A favorite and unique tourist site is the Capilano Suspension Bridge park, a private rain-forest development. Judging from the cost of entry and the large number of people visiting, it is hugely profitable. Admission price depends on the time you visit and your age. Average cost is about $50, but, hey, you do get a “free” rain poncho.
Just outside Vancouver, a long time ago an indigenous man built a cabin on the far side of a ravine. To cross the ravine, he built a rudimentary suspension bridge, now beefed up to safely accommodate hordes of tourists who flock here to cross it. On the foot trail to the bridge are exhibits about the rain-forest and the indigenous people that once lived here, including several totem poles.
In another exhibit a foot path with stairs is built jutting out from the mountain alongside a ravine. It offers breathtaking views as you feel you are walking on air. To-be-expected tourist-oriented souvenir and gift shops, fudge factories, ice cream places, coffee bars and restaurants abound. Discount coupons are widely available at hotels. Free buses from downtown go to this site throughout the day (allow 20 minutes for the trip).
Vancouver offers a good base for quick access to outdoor activities in the surrounding mountains and waterways. In this regard, it is unique. As an urban center, it feels more like a big town than a major city.