Staying just minutes from the Canadian border has provided the opportunity to make a couple of day trips to the vibrant city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver has been on my bucket list of cities to visit for quite some time. I am an avid science fiction fan and many Sci-Fi TV series has filmed here, including my all-time favorite “Stargate SG-1”. Vancouver is even known as Hollywood North, due to the very active film and TV production community. I looked forward to visiting the city and seeing if I could spot some of the shooting locations!
Our first visit was to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. It is part of Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, a private attraction that includes a boardwalk through the temperate rainforest, a “walk in the treetops” and a cliff walk anchored from a cliff face. Not for the acrophobic, the various walks and bridge take you face-to-face with high cliffs and long drops! It was very well-engineered and perfectly safe, of course. One tip though – go early! We arrived shortly after the park opened, and by the time we left a couple of hours later, the park was becoming extremely busy. Not surprising for a lovely sunny summer day.
Our next stop was the Anthropology Museum, located on the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus. It housed a fascinating collection of artifacts from cultures throughout the world, with a special emphasis on the region’s First Nations. One room was full of totem poles, used as house poles (supporting structures), and to mark significant locations. The rooms were not only crammed full of display cases, they often also had multiple drawers under the displays that housed yet more collections. You could literally be there all day just browsing through it all. My only criticism was that the displays weren’t organized in any way that I could discern (like, by geography or timeline). There were placards describing what the artifacts were, but didn’t provide a lot of context. I found it confusing.
We dropped by Granville Island, once home to factories and sawmills but now a market and shopping district. We browsed the shops and indulged in a late lunch / early dinner before heading back.
Another day we schlepped our bicycles up and embarked on a tour of the city by bicycle. Vancouver is extremely bike friendly, with wonderfully-designed trails that have separate lanes for pedestrians and two-way bicycle traffic. Keeping bicycles separate from both cars and pedestrians just makes SO much sense, and is way safer – and more enjoyable!
We cycled all around the seawall perimeter of Stanley Park, enjoying views of ships and ocean and the Vancouver skyline. We stopped at a sandy beach to watch several dogs enthusiastically chasing (and retrieving) balls tossed into the sea. We passed beautifully-landscaped parks and residential areas, museums and restaurants, as we cycled along the shoreline. We saw flocks of Canadian geese browsing the green lawns. (How did we know they were Canadian Geese? …. Because we were in Canada! <rim shot>) Circling back, we cut across the city to find a nice pub for lunch, then cycled by the cruise ship port and on back to our parking spot at Stanley Park. It was a great way to experience the city up close and personal on a cool and cloudy day. Oh, and did I recognize some of the Stargate SG-1 shooting locations? Yep, I noted a couple – which was super awesome!
My impression of Vancouver is that it is a fantastic city – clean, safe, friendly and scenic. There are cultural attractions, theaters, a university, and a thriving downtown. The outdoor activity options are almost endless, with ocean and mountains in close proximity. I did NOT see the homeless problem so evident in some of the other US cities we’ve visited recently, and I don’t know what Canada does differently to deal with that. The only negative I saw was the traffic, it pretty much sucks. Like many port cities, bridges are bottlenecks that back up almost all of the time. I’m also not sure how I would like the gray, cold and wet winters … but the summer weather is just ideal!
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