When deciding where to go for what’s become an annual girls’ getaway, we chose Vancouver for a few reasons, including its proximity to so many major cities. Vancouver is a short, easy and direct flight from San Francisco, San Diego and Denver, where the women in our group live.
The City’s Top Accommodations
Downtown Vancouver is quite small and walkable (depending on the weather), and all of the hotels are in the close vicinity. We opted to stay at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, which is an amenity-filled, tech-forward property that’s replete with character, located on the water near the convention center. We enjoyed this hotel quite a bit, mainly because the rooms are large, the spa is luxurious and relaxing and the bar offers creative craft cocktails against a backdrop of live piano music and the chatter of its stylish patrons, making it the perfect place to meet for a before-dinner aperitif or for a nightcap.
Other notable hotels include the two other Fairmont properties in the area; one is also located on the waterfront while the other is situated in downtown on Georgia Street. We also stopped by the Hotel Georgia, a Rosewood property also located downtown. This fashionable hotel was renovated in 2011, maintaining the property’s grand underpinnings but adding in modern, eclectic décor. In addition to the hotel’s spacious rooms and gorgeous spa, it boasts several great restaurant options and a charming rooftop bar adorned with greenery and hanging lights. The special touch is the swank speakeasy, which is a popular spot, so it’s a bonus that the hotel reserves seats for their guests.
At the time of our visit, the leaves were beginning to change colors, transforming from Kelly green into chartreuse, saffron and crimson. We decided to take advantage of the city’s breathtaking views, venturing to different vantage points throughout our visit.
We started our outdoor adventures with a stroll over the Capilano suspension bridge. (Note: Admission tickets are required, but you can purchase them at the entry.) This is an outdoor playland, where you can walk across large suspension bridges, explore walkways under a canopy of trees and pause at the cliffside vistas. Be sure to go early in the morning before the crowds from cruise ships arrive. Visitors staying downtown can take a complimentary shuttle from Canada Place, the convention center on the waterfront, to the suspension bridge.
After the suspension bridge, we continued up to Grouse Mountain. Here, you can enjoy a wide variety of activities, including zip lining and hiking. Most of our group decided to take on the grueling Grouse Grind hike, which is a relatively short distance (fewer than 2-miles long); although the hiking path literally goes straight up, to the top of the mountain. Apparently its nickname is “Nature’s Stairmaster.” (Don’t worry; you can also opt to take the gondola to the top, if this challenging hike isn’t for you.) It took our group about 80 minutes to climb to the summit, with lots of sighing and breathers along the way. At the top, we were rewarded with an expansive view of the water surrounded by mountains, as well as with lobster rolls and wine, which we felt were well earned.
Vancouver is notable for all its outdoor activities and adventures, which residents and tourists alike can experience. With this in mind, we embarked on a bike tour of Stanley Park the next morning. This large park, which is located across the bridge from downtown, rivals Central Park in New York and Richmond Park in London. Stanley Park is home to many biking paths, beaches — and totem poles. Despite the rain we encountered, we found the park particularly beautiful at this time of year, as we rode bikes under the canopy of colorful leaves.
Shops and Sustenance Stops
After our three-hour tour, we headed to Granville Island, which is a five-minute ferry ride from downtown. This adorable island is home to restaurants, shops and a bustling market that many compare to Pike Place in Seattle. After a lunch of fresh seafood and a bit more wine, we enjoyed wandering around and soaking in the arts and crafts.
We also managed to find a bit of time for shopping in Gas Town, the old town area of Vancouver. We meandered up Powell Street, stopping in the unique boutiques, where we found gifts to bring home for our loved ones — and attractive clothes to bring home for ourselves. The moose-print pants were particularly gleeful; we decided they were a must-have souvenir from Vancouver.
We, of course, dined well, from partaking in delicious Malaysian and Indonesian dishes at Banana Leaf, to bantering while we enjoyed tasty Canadian pub food at Belgrade Kitchen. Our final dinner was at the fine dining restaurant, Brix & Mortar, in Yaletown, which is a trendy neighborhood that’s a great for nights out and mingling over cocktails. Finally, we enjoyed a lovely farewell brunch at Chambar, as we didn't have time to wait in the line at Jam, a popular brunch spot next door.
While our girls’ getaway was a relatively short trip, we realized that, with so many other regions to see in Canada — from Whistler to Vancouver Island — we could easily have spent a week or more in the area, enjoying all that this beautiful part of the world has to offer. Vancouver proper was the perfect destination, in so many ways. In fact, we’re already looking forward to our next visit, which will hopefully be soon!