If you’re new to the Northwest or just haven’t made your way up to our sister city to the North, Vancouver, BC is a wonderful introduction to what Canada has to offer. The city is just 30 minutes away from one of the best ski resorts in the world, it’s bustling with big city nightlife every weekend, and it’s not far from sandy beaches for sunbathing in the summer. Regardless of your desired vacation, Vancouver has exactly what you’re looking for in a weekend getaway. The cosmopolitan Vancouver is a breathtaking seaport city with an international flair and a temperate climate. Whatever sort of getaway activities you can imagine, this city is chock full of the stuff dreams are made of. A busy city surrounded by mountains, water and hundreds of parks, Vancouver has plenty to do both indoors and out.

Getting There

You will be traveling North on I-5 most of the way until I-5 turns into Hwy 99 N, then in 25.9 miles you will turn left onto Park Drive, and then in a half mile turn right onto Granville St/HWY-99. Then adjust for final trip details according to where you will be staying. Your road trip to Vancouver will be approximately 140 miles, or 2 hours 45 minutes from Seattle. Not bad!

What to do

The Queen Elizabeth Theater
630 Hamilton St.
Vancouver, BC, Canada
(604) 665-2193

If you enjoy the attractions of a big city, such as world class shows and entertainment, check out new performances from Ballet BC or Vancouver Opera at The Queen Elizabeth Theater, where both companies appear regularly. Ballet BC has upcoming performances of “Nutcracker” and “Swan Lake,” and Vancouver Opera’s 2012/2013 season will include “La Boheme” and “The Pirates of Penzance.” Named after Queen Elizabeth II, who visited and attended a concert during the venue’s opening month in July 1959, The Queen Elizabeth Theater is one of the largest theaters in Canada.

Rogers Arena
800 Griffiths Way
Vancouver, BC, Canada
(604) 899-7400

What could be more exciting than taking in a hockey game in a country where the game found its beginnings and the players are bigger celebrities than most of the entertainers? At Rogers Arena, you can get tickets on the ice for an exciting Canucks game and watch the action up close. If you’re not into hockey (don’t say so out loud while you’re in Canada!), you can catch the likes of Madonna or Justin Bieber in concert at the arena as well.


Vancouver is a blend of Pacific Northwest, Euro chic, and downright style. The famous Robson Street is known to have nearly 100,000 people beating down the street in a weekend’s time! Of course, there are malls with some of the usual finds, but Robson is known as the best shopping street in Vancouver, so get yourself there! It’s fun, upbeat, and a great place to people watch. Look for Armani Exchange, BCBG, Bebe and Club Monaco, along with coffee shops, cafes, and cupcakes for your shopping fortification. If your tastes lean toward the haute couture, Chanel and Hermes can be found in downtown Vancouver in the Financial District. You can shop Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Burberry till your heart’s content.


Needing some nightlife? The New York flavored Bar None Nightclub and the consistently favored Opus are both in Yaletown, an area of great hotels, restaurants, and nightlife. Prefer relaxed with a sporty atmosphere? Shark Club on West Georgia has big screen TVs and skinny cocktails––something for everyone! Looking for a multi-level London feel? Republic on Granville, Vancouver’s busiest street, is acclaimed for its champagne and cocktail menu, as well as its interior design.

Family-friendly activities

Is this a family trip? Stanley Park officially opened in 1888 and has become recognized worldwide, and oh, the things you’ll see there! A rainforest, an outdoor heated beach pool, an aquarium, a seawall, gardens, and opportunities for both relaxation and activities galore. Science World and Omnimax are fun for everyone, so why not find out what’s playing? Go on a sky ride at Grouse Mountain Resort and see the spectacular views from up high, have a sleepover at the Greater Vancouver Zoo, or visit one of many wonderful museums the city has to offer, including MOV and the Museum of Anthropology. For those who care to venture farther, hop a ferry to take in the famous Butchart Gardens. The 55 acre jewel of Vancouver Island, or take a drive two hours north to the always terrific Whistler, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Where to eat

The Blue Water Cafe
1095 Hamilton St.
Vancouver, BC, Canada

Located in a vamped up, converted warehouse in Yaletown, The Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar is often recommended as a top restaurant in the city. Serving sushi, fresh seafood (can’t get much fresher than live tanks on site!), and BC wine, this elegant and sustainably conscious restaurant is a must try. Diners even get the added bonus of a little entertainment with their meals––the dining room offers up lively views of the kitchen and Raw Bar.

900 West Georgia St.
Vancouver, BC, Canada
(604) 662-1900

Griffins is a top hotel restaurant in The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, which is always a class act. Griffins is fairly casual and family friendly, with a bright and sunny interior and high, arched windows. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus breakfast and lunch buffets, and a children’s menu, Griffins generally has something for everyone.

1154 Robson St.
Vancouver, BC, Canada
604 688 7338

Looking for contemporary Italian cuisine that’s inspired by fresh, local ingredients? CinCin on Robson boasts a dining area that overlooks the kitchen, creating a warm and intimate ambiance. This restaurant has garnered praise nationally and internationally, for outstanding food, service, and a notable wine list.

Le Crocodile
100-909 Burrard St. (on Smithe)
Vancouver, BC, Canada
604 669 4298

French restaurants also abound in Vancouver, so be sure to make your French dining experience a memorable one. Try the award winning Le Crocodile, noted for wonderful food and service and an elegant decor. The authentic menu features fresh seafood, like the salmon tartare, succulent duck foie-gras and hearty fettucini dishes served up with lobster and grilled tiger prawns. But if you come to an award winning French restaurant like Le Crocodile, the real treat is the dessert. Choose from a tantalizing selection of imported French cheeses, apple and pear tarts, sorbets and crème brulée.

Where to stay

Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel
1038 Canada Place
Vancouver, BC, Canada
(604) 695-5300

Fairmont Pacific Rim is a luxury hotel designed to reflect the beauty of nature. Completed just prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, this stunning and highly rated hotel stands an impressive 48 stories tall. The Fairmont Hotels are known for their beauty, luxury, showcasing of their surroundings, amazing spas, and wonderful restaurants.

Century Plaza Hotel and Spa
1015 Burrard St.
Vancouver, BC, Canada
(604) 687-0575

For a highly rated budget hotel, try Century Plaza Hotel and Spa. This all-suite hotel is situated right downtown near Robson Street and within a mile of Stanley Park. The hotel features spa services on site, an indoor swimming pool, and is a 100 percent smoke-free facility.

Whether you are feeling spontaneous or you are a careful planner, there is no shortage of amazing things to see and do in this great city.

Jerri Lien has enjoyed working in the beauty industry for most of her adult life. As a Seattle examiner, she covers all things style, beauty and more. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.