Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, Canada’s 8th largest city with a population of about 610,000, is quite accessible for a weekend trip from Kitsap county. We spent the first half of our 4-day weekend in Whistler (see our Whistler blog for more details) and the second half of our weekend in Vancouver. Downtown Vancouver is about 1.5 hours south of Whistler and 2.5 hours north of Seattle.

Grouse Mountain

After enjoying the beautiful scenery on the Sea to Sky Highway coming down from Whistler, our first Vancouver stop was Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver. There are several activities to do in this area, but we were most intrigued by the Grouse Grind. This is a 2-mile one-way (up) hike with 2,800 ft elevation gain. We are not kidding when we say this trail only goes up; you are basically climbing a giant staircase the entire way and you are not permitted to hike down this trail for safety reasons. There are quarter markers posted as you trudge up and you know you’ve reached the top when you see a large chalet! If you want to officially time your Grouse Grind, you can purchase a time card, but it’s $25.00 for the year, so we just timed ourselves on our Apple watches. It took us about an hour. Our time would have been faster if it wasn’t for the slushy steps as we neared the top during this late fall time of year. Keep in mind that they close this trail by 2:30 PM at this time so that you’re not hiking in the dark. The Grouse Mountain chalet pleasantly surprised us with Christmas decorations, Santa, gingerbread houses, Christmas movies, and a winter wonderland outside! After exploring the chalet a bit, we paid $15 for the gondola ride back down to where we parked. On a clear day, one would get an awesome view of Vancouver, but unfortunately the clouds were quite thick the entire way down for us.

Grouse Mountain is an area in North Vancouver with lots of activities!

The start of the Grouse Grind: a 2-mile trail with 2,800 ft elevation gain.

There are 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 markers to let you know how far along you are!

Stairs on stairs on stairs!

Some areas of the hike are so steep they don’t allow people to hike down this trail.

When you see the chalet, you know you’ve hit the top!

Grouse Mountain Chalet

We found a winter wonderland at the top of Grouse Mountain!

Luckily, we saw the Vancouver skyline in gingerbread house form…

…because we weren’t able to see it on the gondola ride down.

Grouse Mountain is an area in North Vancouver with lots of activities!

The start of the Grouse Grind: a 2-mile trail with 2,800 ft elevation gain.

There are 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 markers to let you know how far along you are!

Stairs on stairs on stairs!

Some areas of the hike are so steep they don’t allow people to hike down this trail.

When you see the chalet, you know you’ve hit the top!

Grouse Mountain Chalet

We found a winter wonderland at the top of Grouse Mountain!

Luckily, we saw the Vancouver skyline in gingerbread house form…

…because we weren’t able to see it on the gondola ride down.

North Vancouver

After our mid-day workout, we checked in at our Airbnb in North Vancouver. We stayed in a nice house with lots of wood work on an Indian reservation just north of the Lions Gate Bridge. It was a bit less expensive to stay in North Vancouver versus downtown and it was close to the North Vancouver attractions such as Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Because we had a car, North Vancouver was a good location for us. It took roughly 10-15 minutes to get into downtown over the Lions Gate Bridge, but during peak rush hours it could take at least 30 minutes.

Great views from our Airbnb on a Native American reservation in North Vancouver.

Great views from our Airbnb on a Native American reservation in North Vancouver.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

One of the highlights of our Vancouver trip was checking out the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. You can explore Capilano any time of year, but it is especially magical from Thanksgiving through the end of January because of the Canyon Lights. They decorate just about every inch of this bridge-filled park with lights that sparkle in the darkness. They also have live Christmas music and warm drinks to really get you in the spirit of the season. It’s a bit expensive for this experience at about $30 USD, but we think it is worth it for the unique suspension bridge, cliff walk, tree forts, and more! If you are looking for a free alternative, Lynn Canyon has another suspension bridge that is free to use. This is also located in North Vancouver.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Hanging out on this 459 ft suspension bridge over the Capilano River!

Adam discovered he has the wing span of an eagle!

Checking out the tree fort passageways!

The Cliff Walk!

Our favorite area of Capilano

Quite the light display!

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Hanging out on this 459 ft suspension bridge over the Capilano River!

Adam discovered he has the wing span of an eagle!

Checking out the tree fort passageways!

The Cliff Walk!

Our favorite area of Capilano

Quite the light display!

Gastown

For dinner on our first night, we checked out Gastown. Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown core and is now known for trendy food and drinks. We ate at Six Acres, a very small, but cute and cozy restaurant with tapas style warm eats and local drinks. It is located in one of the oldest buildings in this district. Of course, we had to get some poutine, a Canadian staple, as their dish is ranked as one of the best in Gastown. We recommend getting it with bacon.

Six Acres in Gastown

Brassneck Brewery

Next, we took one of our signature urban strolls about a mile south to Brassneck Brewery. When exploring a new city, we try to walk as many places as possible, so we can experience the areas between destinations. Brassneck Brewery had a nice, rustic tasting room with some tasty beers. Our favorite beer was the No Brainer, a pre-prohibition-style corn lager. In walking here, we discovered that this brewery is in the heart of Vancouver’s craft beer district, with at least eight other breweries located nearby.

Brassneck Brewery

Vancouver Christmas Market

In the interest of time, we tried to catch a ride to our next destination, the Vancouver Christmas Market, which is located in Jack Poole Plaza on the downtown waterfront. We discovered Vancouver does not have Uber or Lyft, so we opted for a cab. This was not difficult though, as in the span of five minutes roughly six cabs came cruising along. Once we got to the festival, we learned it was cash only entry. It was $10 Canadian Dollars (so about $7.50 USD) to visit this German-inspired Christmas village. You can peruse the shops, eat authentic German food, listen to live Christmas music, take a picture with Santa, find some tasty seasonal drinks, and enjoy the city lights. The Vancouver Christmas Market is open from about Thanksgiving time through Christmas Eve and the hours are 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. daily. We discovered this German tradition has now spread to several other large cities across the world.

Vancouver Christmas Market

Vancouver at night

Vancouver Christmas Market

Vancouver at night

Robson Street

After getting into the Christmas spirit, we wanted to explore more of Vancouver on foot, so we headed inland a few blocks to find Robson Street. Robson Street is a bustling higher-end shopping area in the middle of downtown. This street was easily the most crowded one in the area. We were exploring this area on Black Friday, so the street was especially alive with fantastic deals. Even though Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving at a different time than Americans, they still have the Black Friday culture.

Shopping on Robson Street

Parallel 49 Brewing Co.

While wandering the streets of Vancouver for the day, we noticed Parallel 49 was a common featured brewery, so we wanted to check out the source. We drove about 15 minutes directly east of downtown to find Parallel 49. They have a pretty extensive beer list and rotating food trucks that actually park in the building. This is one of the few late-night breweries, open until midnight on weeknights and 1:00 a.m. on the weekend. Again, we had their poutine, which was great, and really any of the beers were solid choices.

Stanley Park

For day two in Vancouver we wanted to sleep in following our late-night excursion to Parallel 49, but nonetheless we awoke by 7:00 a.m. to kick off our exploration. After fueling up at Daisy Sandwiches and Such in North Vancouver by our Airbnb, we headed toward Stanley Park, ranked one of the top public city parks in the world. We parked at the Stanley Park Pitch & Putt, a par 3 golf course located within the park, which was unfortunately closed for the season. From here, we were able to hop on the Seawall, a 5.5-mile trail around the perimeter of the 1,001-acre park just north of downtown Vancouver. There are several other activities to do in Stanley Park, but we just stuck with the Seawall this time. Make sure to do some of your own research if you want to hike in the park or go to the aquarium.

Daisy Sandwiches & Such

The Seawall surrounding Stanley Park!

Great downtown views from the Seawall!

Found some sea otters!

One of the several beaches in Stanley Park

Daisy Sandwiches & Such

The Seawall surrounding Stanley Park!

Great downtown views from the Seawall!

Found some sea otters!

One of the several beaches in Stanley Park

Granville Island

Another unique area in Vancouver is Granville Island– technically a peninsula southwest of downtown under the Highway 99 bridge. It’s a unique arts district filled with theatres, galleries, fun colors, shops, and restaurants. After walking around to soak in the arts culture a bit, we stopped in Granville Island Brewing for a flight of all their 10 beers. It was only $18 Canadian Dollars to try one of each, so we split this. While navigating our beer map, we had a nice conversation with a mother and son from Seattle who were also spending their Thanksgiving in Canada. After enjoying some brews, we strolled over to the Granville Island Public Market where we stopped at several booths for some local eats.

Granville Island: an arts district filled with shops, theatres, restaurants, and bars!

Granville Island Brewing

Granville Island Public Market

Granville Island: an arts district filled with shops, theatres, restaurants, and bars!

Granville Island Brewing

Granville Island Public Market

Four Winds Brewing

Another brewery that caught our eye when researching Vancouver was Four Winds Brewing because they won Brewery of the Year in 2015 at the Canadian Brewing Awards. This was about a 45 minute drive south of downtown to Delta, but we went to check it out. They had a relatively small tasting room, but some very good beers. We would only recommend a stop here if you have a car with you. If you are driving back toward the US border, this would be a good pitstop. It is located by the Tilbury ice hockey arena in a very industrial part of the sprawling city.

Four Winds Brewing

Four Winds flight

Four Winds Brewing

Four Winds flight

Tomahawk Restaurant

Our Airbnb host recommended the oldest family-run restaurant in Vancouver for breakfast on our last morning in town. Located in North Vancouver, Tomahawk offers tasty breakfast options with all local ingredients. They are known for their large portions and also offer meals other than breakfast. Guy Fieri, from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, recommends their organic roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, the Tomahawk Style Beef Dip, or the Steak and Mushroom Pie. Adam had the Yukon-style bacon with two scrambled eggs as well and it was phenomenal.

Tomahawk: a family-run breakfast place that was on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Bellingham, WA

To break up our drive on the way back to the Kitsap Peninsula, we stopped in Bellingham, WA which is right off I-5. We first took a stroll around the Whatcom Falls and Fish Hatchery. Then we headed downtown to stop at a couple breweries. Aslan Brewing Co., with a modern brewery vibe, was our first stop. They had some great seasonal options available and offered Mac Logs (deep fried mac n’ cheese sticks). We then caught the last quarter of a Seahawks game on the big screen in the Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro bar area. Our flight came in a wooden boat here and they had some delicious desserts such as peanut butter pie! Once we totally filled ourselves and the car up, off we went back home to recover from another fun weekend.

Whatcom Fish Hatchery in Bellingham, WA

Whatcom Falls

Whatcom Creek Loop Trail

Boundry Bay Brewery and Bistro

Boundary Bay Flight

Aslan Brewing Company

Whatcom Fish Hatchery in Bellingham, WA

Whatcom Falls

Whatcom Creek Loop Trail

Boundry Bay Brewery and Bistro

Boundary Bay Flight

Aslan Brewing Compan

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Carolyn Atwood

    Looks so beautiful! Love all of the solid info and great pictures! Have you thought of this as a career too! Merry Christmas to you both from DJ and myself!

    1. Megan McCarthy

      Thanks, Carolyn! Yes, it would be nice if we could monetize it at some point! Merry Christmas to you and DJ as well!

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