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Mediterranean_Honeymooner

What to do with a few hours in Vancouver?

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Hi all!  We will be arriving in Vancouver the evening before our cruise.  So we have that evening and the next morning (until we board at 11:30) to explore Vancouver.  What would you recommend in such a short time?  I looked at the hop on, hop off bus tour, but since we will still be on “winter time” the buses only run every hour, which I’m afraid might make it difficult to actually do much “hopping on and off” before we board.

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The best recommendation I can make is for you to do more research, and do it yourself;-)

 

There's far too many options, and far too little time, which means you have to pick maybe two or at most three things to do (depends what time you arrive in the evening, as opening hours may dictate you have few or even no 'sites' available that day). This makes it all the more crucial that you choose things that work for YOU - not me or anyone else. I don't know diddly-squat about you, your family, what you like to see and do and nor do any other posters - so telling you what WE think is best is unlikely to also be the best option for you - might be 'good enough' for you, but why settle for 'good enough' instead of doing the stuff that is most likely to be great?

 

So play the odds and use the biggest sample size possible - go look on Tripadvisor for the huge list of Things To Do In Vancouver and see what Joe Q Public en masse thinks are the top ten or so. Have ALL of your party check out the list separately, read up on each option, read a few of the longer reviews to see if the folks leaving them seem like they share your tastes or not, and come up with your own 'best bet' shortlist of say five things. Compare lists with each other and all the ones that appear on all your lists become YOUR priority things to do. Lists are really different? Split up - even if your cellphones don't work in Canada or cost too much so you don't want to use them, we have a free WiFi network across the entire downtown core run by the city; even kid's tablets without any phone capacity will work just fine to keep in touch with each other.

 

I'll also offer one more logistical suggestion - abandon your planned 11:30am embarkation. It's too late to guarantee the queues being short - you're better to arrive as late as you can possibly cope with (hard cutoff is 90mins pre-departure, so aiming for 2 hours before when you're already downtown is a very, very safe amount of padding). This will give you the chance to do more sightseeing, make HOHO a viable option for actually getting off and on instead of just circling round once, or open up some of the more distant attractions (e.g. Capilano bridge and Grouse Mountain, both very popular attractions with free shuttles to and from the pier, but impossible to do justice to if you want to be back at the pier by 11:30am).

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22 hours ago, martincath said:

The best recommendation I can make is for you to do more research, and do it yourself;-)

 

There's far too many options, and far too little time, which means you have to pick maybe two or at most three things to do (depends what time you arrive in the evening, as opening hours may dictate you have few or even no 'sites' available that day). This makes it all the more crucial that you choose things that work for YOU - not me or anyone else. 

 Thank you for your input.  What is the best way to get around to various sites if we don’t use HOHO?  Cab?  And do you have any suggestions for somewhere to eat in the port/downtown area?  We are staying at the Moda Hotel if you have any suggestions close to that.

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26 minutes ago, Mediterranean_Honeymooner said:

 Thank you for your input.  What is the best way to get around to various sites if we don’t use HOHO?  Cab?  And do you have any suggestions for somewhere to eat in the port/downtown area?  We are staying at the Moda Hotel if you have any suggestions close to that.

Our downtown core is small - walking is often the quickest way to get anywhere as many sites are within just a few hundred yards of each other, so finding a cab can easily take longer. We also have extensive transit options; multiple buses running along the same streets in the core before they split off further afield mean you can often have average wait times of <5mins between buses that work for you if you're just moving between different parts of downtown. If you can all ride bikes, this is even faster than walking over longer distances (especially if you have a working Smartphone so you can use our short-term MobiBikes which can be picked up and dropped off at any of their many branded bike racks around the city) and we have a LOT of completely-separated bike lanes in downtown - this is by far the most efficient way to see the Seawall & Stanley Park as you will cover at least 3x as much ground without compromising the route; bikes can get anywhere that pedestrians can. Cabs work pretty well too, especially if you have 3 or 4 people - most cab fares around downtown will be under $10, which compares well to a transit ticket which is just under $3 (but lasts 90mins, so you can do a bit of unofficial 'HOHOing' even without buying a transit Day Pass - though these are good value if your route works out to need 4+ bus rides).

 

Unfortunately all the options means that the best way is entirely dependent on which sites you decide to visit, so I can't recommend anything more useful than Google Maps right now - which not only has local transit schedules built-in, but Google also sent backpack/bike cameras along our No Vehicle pathways like the Seawall. This makes it really easy to virtually walk or bike your planned route so you can see what landmarks are easily visible, as well as giving you an accurate idea of distances - from the Moda you'll find it very hard to walk much more than a mile in any direction without hitting the edge of the downtown core, it's really just up to Stanley Park that would need more walking distance (Chinatown starts almost exactly a mile away, and is also compact; the furthest part of Gastown that tourists would want to see is the Gassy Jack statue, less than a mile from you).

 

I like both restos inside the Moda - it doesn't get more convenient than downstairs for you! Both are Italian-ish, seasonally-changing menus as well as some staple dishes on all year round; I used to visit Uva (the more casual cocktail bar) more often than Cibo (the regular resto) although since they moved breakfast service into the latter we've balanced our visits a bit more. The most reliably excellent offerings are on the more rustic end, especially sausages (I really enjoy the black pudding). Homer Street Cafe is just 2 blocks down Smithe from you, with perhaps the best roast chicken in the city and a nice booze list. You're also just a couple of blocks walk from Cafe Medina, who've been making the best breakfasts in the city for going on a decade now if you want to treat yourselves before boarding (NB: go early, no resos taken and they still have queues that can be an hour plus especially on weekends).

 

We're a big city with a ferociously-competitive food scene, some of the best seafood on the planet, and possibly the best Chinese food scene outside of the biggest cities in China - so recommending the best restos for you rather than just some super-close ones needs more input re: your tastes & budget. TripAdvisor resto reviews are a bit less useful than their hotels & tourist sites, but they still work pretty well to compare restos of similar type and price range - but personally I'd make use of OpenTable, which at least requires the folks reviewing to have actually visited, and there are enough local places using them that you still have dozens of options within walking distance.

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Martincath have hit on all the points but one other thing should be considered. 

 

Weather370125668_seawallsun.jpg.ae65a42b96aa165a561e55b07dc6afd7.jpg1076111712_seawallwet.jpg.a6414c86d868392f7f5fc3e616537160.jpg

 

Weather also plays a big factor.  If there is one thing you can count on in Vancouver it's that you can't count on the weather.  Have indoor/outdoor options when you get here.  I love the bike ride around the Stanley Park sea wall.  Such a glorious way to spend the day. Aquarium, which focuses on the oceans of BC and the Coast is quite enjoyable, though not cheap(good deal with American dollar though). Granville Island Market1850967312_granvilleisland.thumb.jpg.21562bd1d96f37fdb4843d83b2b52e8c.jpg is a great way to spend a Morning and is mostly all inside or covered.  Van Dusan (sp?) botanical Gardens, inside, Shopping on Robson, outside etc.  Art Museum, not for me, but if you love art it's there.  Also very close to ships.  Plan for weather options.

 

BTW, the white pointy things...that's where you ship will most likely be.

Edited by Aesop081

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1 hour ago, Aesop081 said:

If there is one thing you can count on in Vancouver it's that you can't count on the weather.  Have indoor/outdoor options when you get here. 

Excellent point - since we don't know when you're cruising OP, more research for you beckons! Though for several years we've had drier-than-historical-averages through most of cruise season, it's always wise to have a couple of indoor things in case - the day or two you are here might be the only rainfall days of a record-settingly-dry summer, but you'd still get just as wet 😉

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18 hours ago, martincath said:

Excellent point - since we don't know when you're cruising OP, more research for you beckons! Though for several years we've had drier-than-historical-averages through most of cruise season, it's always wise to have a couple of indoor things in case - the day or two you are here might be the only rainfall days of a record-settingly-dry summer, but you'd still get just as wet 😉

 

We will be there from the evening of 4/28 to the morning of 4/29.  Do you have any suggestions for a good bus route to Stanley Park from Moda?  Also, is the bus a good option for transportation to port from the hotel?  (Trying to decide if walking, cab, or bus is the best choice.)

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Stanley Park has a small number of services running through it, none of which go right past the Moda. Depending how much walking you want to do it's quite possible to get on a single bus without transferring - walk <400 yards up Seymour to the corner of W Georgia St, hop on the first 240/246/250 that passes then get off at Denman Street just outside the park entrance. or walk just over 100yards across along Smithe to Granville Street, board any of the passing 4/10/14/16/50 buses and transfer onto the 19 at W Pender (the 19 actually stops inside the park at the bus loop there before returning downtown, close to the Rose garden). You could also walk all the way up to Pender and get straight on the 19 (~half a mile), or hop off any of the 200-series above at Denman then get on the 19 - lots of options depending which bits of the park you want to see, and they're all built-in to Google Maps transit options so you can check the exact timings (I don't know if you are early birds who'll be up at dawn to go exploring or plan to lie in!)

 

Don't ever take buses with luggage - there's nowhere to put it that doesn't break transit bylaws. If you're traveling off-peak and there's plenty of space drivers may well turn a blind eye to a suitcase on a seat or in the aisle, but if it's busy they will forbid you boarding with anything you cannot place on your map/under your feet (i.e. small carryon size suitcase, backpack that sort of thing). Only the Canada Line SkyTrain, which has different rolling stock than other lines deliberately to allow suitcases to fit under every seat, is feasible with typical cruise luggage on transit.

 

If you can't handle walking with your bags to the pier - which is well under a mile on good sidewalks the whole way - call a cab. Meter would run about $7 without traffic, and since you're the only ship in town that morning there won't be much traffic as long as you avoid noon to 1pm-ish. Even though this is VERY early in the season, so n00bs among the pier staff will make things run a bit slower than later on when everyone is up to speed, on a single ship day if you wait until 3pm to start your boarding process you should be able to walk through every checkpoint without waiting - you'll only have to stop to take off belts etc. for Security and use the kiosks/speak to CBP agents at the immigration step. That gives you potentially six hours of sightseeing with places being open (nowhere ticketed in Vancouver opens before 9am offseason), and if you hit the park early even another three hours on top of that (sunrise is before 6am locally on April 29th).

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On 2/10/2019 at 1:48 PM, martincath said:

If you can't handle walking with your bags to the pier - which is well under a mile on good sidewalks the whole way - call a cab. 

 Martincath...you have been immensely helpful.  I have another question.  We can definitely walk to the pier, that shouldn’t be a problem.  But would there be somewhere in the area to store luggage if we wanted to explore the Lookout Tower or see Fly Over Canada last thing before boarding?

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39 minutes ago, Mediterranean_Honeymooner said:

 Martincath...you have been immensely helpful.  I have another question.  We can definitely walk to the pier, that shouldn’t be a problem.  But would there be somewhere in the area to store luggage if we wanted to explore the Lookout Tower or see Fly Over Canada last thing before boarding?

You're very welcome.

 

Three options, in order of convenience and cheapness:

  1. just check your bags at the pier - the Longshoremen officially start accepting them some time between 10 and 10:30am, but unless it's a very busy day they usually start even earlier. Since your planned activities are both close and short (the Harbour Centre Lookout is worth maybe an hour max if you take photos of absolutely everything you see; FlyOverCanada ride literally lasts 8 minutes but there's a pre-show movie then the whole getting strapped-in and staff removing loose items from people that pads the whole thing to about 30mins - if you book tickets in advance at a specific time assume you'll be in and out in 40mins or less, while if you have to queue up it could be an hour total) you could drop off bags as late as 11:30am, do both, grab lunch, and be back at the pier by 2-2:30pm when the queues should have died down nicely.
  2. Leave bags with Pan Pacific hotel bell staff (unless they increase it this season, expect to pay $5 per bag - and since you don't have to go inside the pier this saves a little time and money compared to the next option).
  3. Use the official pier storage, CDS, inside Canada Place (again prices may change, but expect $8 per bag)
  4. Secret bonus option - combine lunch and the lookout by eating in the rotating resto up there.  I take visitors for brunch quite often, as it's much better value than dinner. The food is of course overpriced for the quality because it's high up and rotating, but discounting lunch by $16pp (I think the Lookout still charges that) brings it down to not bad value at all, the food is plentiful and perfectly decent, and you won't need to move as the views come to you!

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On 2/10/2019 at 1:48 PM, martincath said:

 

 

 

I like the idea of the secret bonus option.  So you don’t have to pay the admission price if you are eating at the restaurant?  And would we just leave the luggage at one of the aforementioned locations before we went?

Edited by Mediterranean_Honeymooner

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2 hours ago, Mediterranean_Honeymooner said:

I like the idea of the secret bonus option.  So you don’t have to pay the admission price if you are eating at the restaurant?  And would we just leave the luggage at one of the aforementioned locations before we went?

Yes, check your bags elsewhere then come here. It's a bit weird actually - the restaurant gets you the same view to all intents and purposes as they sit right on top of each other (the restaurant is above, so technically ~3 metres higher up and thus marginally better views) but after you have dined, you cannot go to the observation deck without buying a separate ticket. Since even one hour of lunching means you see the full 360 degree rotation from slightly higher up, you don't really need to go to the other floor!

 

I just checked pricing and it's jumped up to $18.95 incl tax for Lookout, while the cheapest lunch option (just an entree, a few to choose from at $30) means you basically get a plate of pasta/decent sammich & sides for $12, which is cheaper then even most pub pricing around downtown (but obviously a Subway sammich or similar could be had for much less if you just want to be fed rather than eating fancy). We find brunch (Sundays only) is the best value; it's almost $70 but you can fill your boots from a wide variety so I've never had trouble finding enough good stuff even as a picky foodie type. Regular a la carte dishes are more akin to mainstream cruising MDR level  than fine dining, so if you're tempted to splurge on lobster or steak you'd definitely be better just buying the Observation deck ticket and hitting a ground-level resto - I think your dates were later Sunday arrival so unfortunately brunch is not an option for you.

 

TL;DR - either pay $19pp for the Lookout and grab a cheap or a fancy lunch elsewhere; but if you're looking for an in-betweeny decent lunch then eat at the Top of Vancouver. It's also possible on quieter days to get away without paying for an entree but just appies/desserts & drinks; basically if you drop at least $30pp you should be good.

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Go to Stanley Park.   Take a horse drawn carriage at the park to take you on the trip around, its nice, slow paced and you can enjoy the time.  Buses take credit cards now, take the Stanley Park bus. Here are the directions:https://moovitapp.com/index/en/public_transit-Stanley_Park-Greater_Vancouver_BC-site_12279347-145  Or take a cab to the Horse Carriage stop at the park (it's near the Yacht club at the park entrance, the cabbie should know).  Enjoy.  The park is beautiful, the sea is beautiful.  

 

Come again!

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