In Vancouver, British Columbia, most visitors head to the renowned Granville Island with its public market, restaurants, and boutique stores. Others stray from the roads most traveled and are surprised at Vancouver’s many attractions. Trolleys and trains, primeval (but passable) forests, native and contemporary art, innovative food, and its island setting make Vancouver one of the world’s top cities for tourists.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
A free trolley makes its rounds of the downtown area to pick up people eager to experience a rain forest in Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. When the bridge was built in 1889, the cedar planks and hemp ropes required a sure foot and a firm grip. Now, the 450-foot long footbridge sways 230 feet above the Capilano River and provides a safe passage into the deeper forest. The park’s forest trails reach new heights with suspension bridges 100 feet above ground through the evergreens.
The park’s newest (2011) attraction is the cliff walk, which is a series of cantilevered and suspended walkways along the granite cliff face above the river. The walk goes through previously unexplored areas of the park and provides breathtaking views of the canyon.
A ticket on the Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley that goes all over the city is a good way to enjoy Vancouver’s 1,001-acre Stanley Park. Totem poles on the park grounds tell stories of British Columbia’s First Nations people, their culture and environment. Begun in the early 1920s with four totems from Vancouver’s Alert Bay region, the display now includes totems from the Queen Charlotte Islands and Rivers Inlet on the central coast of British Columbia. Some of the original totem poles were carved in the late 1880s; others were commissioned by contemporary carvers or loaned to the park by museums.
Three trolley stops away and still in the park, the Japanese Tea House offers brunch, lunch, and dinner with a water view. When outdoor seating is not possible, indoor dining is cozy with a fireplace. Their Salmon Caesar Salad includes a large portion of fresh, grilled salmon from British Columbia. Other entrees include Brome Lake Duck Comfit with a fig demi-glaze and fresh grilled Haida Gwaii Halibut. Despite restaurant’s Oriental name, sushi is not on the menu. The Tea House is known for its delicious, fresh seafood and park setting.
Kitchen on Main
Vancouver’s Kitchen on Main (3914 Main Street) is an eclectic culinary surprise heavy on the meatballs. Their three-fork special includes Mama’s Italian Ball (veal & beef) with fire roasted tomato sauce, Lamb/Chorizo Ball with mushroom cream sauce, and Organic Chicken Ball with pesto and Parmesan cheese. Other innovative meatballs include the Reuben meatball, the poke (Japanese-style chopped fish), and a meat-free ball of kale and quinoa. While they serve other comfort foods, including pizza and hamburgers, meatballs in numerous, surprising varieties are their specialty that find their way even to the bar. Their Classic Meatball Caesar is served in a jar with three mini meatballs on a toothpick. The vodka-based drink contains clam-tomato juice, lemon, horseradish, Worchester sauce, celery salt and tabasco. To forget you are in the city, eat in their hidden garden patio.
The Rocky Mountaineer
Boarding the Rocky Mountaineer for a two-day, scenic rail journey is not your usual train experience. Before boarding, passengers are served juice and coffee in the Vancouver terminal while a piano player fills the room with festive music. A bagpiper plays while passengers board the train, and staff members wave as the train pulls away from the station. This is the Rocky Mountaineer’s 25th anniversary. The ride has improved from standard train carriages with airplane-grade food served at seats to a luxurious experience with deluxe seating in glass domed cars and fine dining on the lower level for Gold Leaf passengers. The scenery from Vancouver to Lake Louise is legendary, especially as the train enters the Canadian Rockies. Service for Gold Leaf passengers includes luggage transfer from hotel room to hotel room.
While the best part of Vancouver may be leaving it to the sound of bagpipes on the Rocky Mountaineer, the city is certainly worth exploring for a few days before relaxing on one of the world’s finest train journeys.