My first visit to Vancouver a few years ago was brief and somewhat unsatisfying, and it was all my fault. I was in the middle of a cross-country road trip and didn’t have time to properly research and prepare for each city.
Check out the biggest mistakes I made during my first visit to Vancouver, mistakes which I hope to correct during my next visit.
1. I drove everywhere.
Vancouver has solid public transportation, especially in the busy neighborhoods, but because I was on a tight budget and was only in town for a couple of days, I couldn’t be bothered to research the transit system. As a result, I decided to drive my van all over town.
Compounding this problem was the fact that parking in Vancouver is difficult. Meters and permit parking are everywhere, so I spent way too much time driving around desperately looking for parking, rather than getting out of the vehicle and enjoying the city. Big screw-up!
2. I skipped Granville Island Public Market.
I’ve been burned on a few popular tourist markets before. Living in Chicago, I know that the Navy Pier is a largely useless tourist trap. In San Francisco, I visited Fisherman’s Wharf and left unimpressed.
So even though everyone told me to stop by the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, I declined. Whoops! Turns out, according to everything I’ve read since then, that it’s actually a cool place worth spending some time. I’ll have to find out for myself next time.
3. I didn’t visit in winter.
Lots of travelers shudder at the thought of visiting northern cities in the winter, but I’ve done it several times. As long as you’re not afraid of a scarf, it’s all good. Vancouver and especially the surrounding mountains in British Columbia are beautiful when snow is on the ground. It would have been nifty to see that firsthand.
4. I didn’t know about the Museum of Anthropology.
Or the Aquabus. Or the Vancouver Lookout. Or the Jimi Hendrix Shrine. Or the Police Museum. Or the Inuit Gallery. Or the Maritime Museum. Or any of the interesting attractions around town. I mostly spent my time walking around cool neighborhoods – which is a worthwhile activity in any new city – but it still would have been nice to check out some of these places.
5. I didn’t spend enough time in Stanley Park.
The 1000-acre Stanley Park has been called the “top park in the entire world.” I did stop by, but didn’t give myself enough time to truly appreciate the park, and because I drove there (see item #1), I had to pay to park, another reason I didn’t feel like hanging around all day. I sort of did a loop around the main park road, got out whenever I saw something cool, then got back in the van and continued driving. Not exactly the best way to experience Stanley Park.
These were hard lessons learned, but they will be corrected the next time I’m able to make it back to the Pacific Northwest!