Explore Vancouver’s Spring Side!
Canada’s busiest western city, Vancouver, is also one of its prettiest, surrounded by water on three sides and teeming with waterfront beauty, cultural diversity and art, fabulous food and one of the largest urban parks in North America—Stanley Park. Often used as a springboard to the majestic Canadian Rockies, Vancouver warrants its own visit with cheap tickets, with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors, including whale watching and hiking, while delighting in the city’s unique cuisine, like the Japadog.
Vancouver has several whale watching expeditions, including Great Pacific Adventures, where you are transported by seaplane or ferry to Victoria Harbor at nearby Vancouver Island. Spring is the best time to observe orcas migrating or grey whales passing by while a naturalist aboard the tour describes the whales as well as other animals that share the whales’ ecosystem including seabirds and porpoises.
Back on dry land, there’s no shortage of green escapes in downtown Vancouver. At just over one thousand acres, Stanley Park is reported to be 10 percent bigger than New York City’s Central Park, and attracts eight million visitors every year, more than triple the greater metropolitan area’s population of 2.3 million residents. Opened in 1888, just two years after the city was officially incorporated, Stanley Park has 14 miles of seawall, an estimated half million trees, and about 120 miles of trails and bike paths. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including the blue heron and a number of other wild birds, and visitors can admire several beautifully carved First Nations totem poles, many depicting images of animals.
Stanley Park features several magnificently-maintained gardens, including the Rose Garden, with spectacular rose bushes and splashes of colors blooming between June and October, Next to the Rose Garden is the Shakespeare Garden with an arboretum featuring about 45 trees that represent various works by the bard with plaques explaining their quotes.
Vancouver is city known for rain so pack an umbrella. If it’s too wet to enjoy whales and gardens, there is plenty to see and do inside. For those who want to enjoy more First Nations art, the neighborhood known as Gastown has fine galleries featuring museum-quality Pacific Northwest indigenous peoples’ art. There is the Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery selling several high-end carvings, masks, baskets, textiles, including wraps, and jewelry. About a block away is the stunning Inuit Gallery of Vancouver Ltd with jewelry, sculpture and graphics by Inuit artists. The two galleries are near the popular Gastown Steam Clock, a steam-powered clock tower that whistles a tune every 15 minutes.
Vancouver is a melting pot of cultures and its cuisine mirrors the influences of the Pacific Northwest, European settlers, First Nations, and Asian immigrants. A personal favorite is Le Crocodile, a three-star Michelin restaurant near Robson Street, a popular shopping area. Opened by French expatriate, Michel Jacob, Le Crocodile’s menu fuses the best of French and Western Canadian fare, like wild British Columbia salmon with saffron sauce. Meals end with a plate of delectable chocolate crocodiles.
For local cuisine that is just as tasty though perhaps easier on the wallet, try a Japadog, which enjoyed some time in the international spotlight during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. For a few dollars, take a classic New York-style frankfurter, throw some seaweed and okonomiyaki sauce, and you’ve got a Vancouver culinary institution. If Japanese-style hot dogs aren’t for you, perhaps Japanese-style tapas are a better fit to your palate. Izakaya is found at many Vancouver bars and pubs. One restaurant called Guu Izakaya has several locations including one in Gastown that serves Japanese-style fries with honey mayonnaise, beef sashimi, kimchi pork bowls and grilled black cod with miso sauce. Be sure to save room for dessert—banana tempura with coconut ice cream!
For more information about visiting Vancouver, check out http://us.canada.travel/ or www.tourismvancouver.com/.
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