Vancouver BC: Wrap up and Tips For Your Visit

Day 1: Border Crossing; Point Roberts Washington; Tsawwassen
Day 2: Bloedel Conservatory and Queen Elizabeth Park; Downtown Vancouver
Day 3: Victoria
Day 4: Museum of Anthropology; Vancouver LDS Temple
Day 5: Biking in Stanley Park; Lynn Canyon; Grouse Mountain
Day 6: English Bay Beach; Coming Home; Final Thoughts

 

We woke up on day six sad to leave Vancouver. We all had such a wonderful time, but all vacations must come to an end. We decided to head over to English Bay Beach for a little bit before hitting the road. We had ridden past it on our bikes the day before. Such a great little area, right downtown almost, with a great green space and wonderful views.Inukshuk Monument at English Bay

Located in the park is the The Inukshuk Monument, which represents Northern hospitality and friendship. It was also used in the Inuit culture as a navigational aid. I love this guy. He was everywhere. I got a little jade pendant of him as my souvenir. A symbol of friendship is so fitting for this beautiful area- the people were so nice, so friendly. We would all do well to remember to be a little more courteous I think.

For the win…

Here are my top 5 must do activities in Vancouver BC:

  1. BIKE STANLEY PARK: And the entire seawall if you can. Rent a bike just outside of the park entrance and spend the day exploring. Yes, the day. If you can. Pack a picnic, take your time, enjoy the beaches and stops along the way. The area is second to none and you will find yourself in awe of its beauty.Biking the seawall in stanley park
  2. GROUSE MOUNTAIN AT NIGHT: Even if you aren’t a skier. I most definitely am not. The views are breathtaking and the whole area is magical. There’s much to do up there including hiking, zip lining, eating, ice skating (in the winter/spring), watching some shows, etc. etc.. Grouse Mountain Ice Rink
  3. HIKE LYNN CANYON PARK: If you’re looking for a more authentic experience, skip Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and head over to Lynn Canyon Park. You’ll still get a suspension bridge, and it’s free (except for parking)! Less crowds, and more open spaces to explore and hike.Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge 2
  4. VICTORIA: Take the BC Ferries over to Vancouver Island and head in to Victoria. You could spend a day or even a week on the island. Rich in history and so much beauty. This peaceful getaway is an absolute must.Victoria Inner Harbour 2
  5. BLOEDEL CONSERVATORY AND SURROUNDING GARDENS: This is an inexpensive, close-in spot that the budding photographer dreams about. Hundreds of birds and beautiful foliage for a really reasonable price.Bird at Bloedel Conservatory

A few words of advice…

Here are 10 tips and tricks to help you have a great trip:

  1. CURRENCY: Before your trip, stop by your bank and order up some Canadian dollars. They accept US dollars at most places but you’ll end up paying more. In many shops if an item cost $5.00, you could either pay that in USD or CAD. If you choose USD, you’ll end up paying 25% more.
  2. CREDIT CARD: Make it easy and just use your credit card for most purchases. (You still want to have cash on hand for transportation and other things.) Just call up your credit card company in advance and make sure you won’t be charged a fee for using it internationally, and to ensure the exchange rate will be equal to current rates. Avoid those surcharges!
  3. CELL PHONES: Double check your coverage- you don’t want to get charged an arm and a leg for roaming and international fees.
  4. HOTELS: If you’re on a budget, saving on a hotel can be big. Look outside of the main city for cheaper prices. We stayed in Richmond and it was perfectly situated between everything that we wanted to do. Also, watch for parking fees. Many hotels in the city will charge you for parking. Look for a free breakfast to save lots of money!
  5. DON’T OVERFILL YOUR TRIP: Take time to really enjoy what you’re doing. We sometimes have the tendency to want to see everything. But that just makes you tired and you miss out on full experiences. If you can’t fit everything in, just enjoy the things you can do. Less stress = better vacation.
  6. TALK TO THE LOCALS: Get to know the people who live in the area. They have a great perspective and guys- they are OH SO FRIENDLY!
  7. VENTURE OUT: Vancouver has so many great features, and so does the surrounding area. One of our highlights on the trip was on our first day at a beach in Tsawwassen.
  8. EAT LOCALLY: We tried to eat at local spots as much as possible. On top of that, we tried to just happen upon our restaurants, meaning- we stopped at something that looked good or unique- we didn’t research it first (with the exception of Off the Grid Waffles).
  9. BORDER CROSSING: As I mentioned in a previous post, just have all your documents ready and be respectful. These guys were so friendly and helpful when we went through.
  10. DID YOU BUY SOUVENIRS: Don’t forget that when you cross back in to the US, you need to have an accounting for everything you’re bringing back in that you purchased in Canada. You’ll need to pay duties, or taxes, on items exceeding $200 if you were in Canada for less than 48 hours, or $800 if you were there longer. We kept all of our souvenirs and purchases in one bag close to the drivers seat so it would be easy to access should the officer need to look at it.

Enjoy your trip!

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Vancouver BC: Day 5 (And my top 3 things to do in Vancouver!)

Day 1: Border Crossing; Point Roberts Washington; Tsawwassen
Day 2: Bloedel Conservatory and Queen Elizabeth Park; Downtown Vancouver
Day 3: Victoria
Day 4: Museum of Anthropology; Vancouver LDS Temple
Day 5: Biking in Stanley Park; Lynn Canyon; Grouse Mountain
Day 6: English Bay Beach; Coming Home; Final Thoughts

Day 5 in Vancouver was a good day. A really good day. Let’s just get right to it:

Biking the Seawall around Stanley Park

Meerdink Boys and Vancouver SkylineWe rented our bikes from Bayshore Rentals, and were so happy with their service. They are located just a couple of blocks from the entrance to Stanley Park, were super friendly, and had great prices. They charge by the quarter hour (after a 2 hour minimum), and are so helpful in making sure you get a bike that you’re comfortable with. Biking the seawall in stanley park

This was probably my favorite part of the trip- and that’s saying something after Victoria! I think, actually, that it was everyone’s favorite. It was the most perfect weather, and the views of the city and the water were breathtaking. The boys are at the age where they biked on ahead and did their own thing, while Carey and I stayed together enjoying our time together.

The seawall is divided into two lanes- one for walkers/joggers and the other for bikers and skaters. This is great cause you don’t feel like you have to dodge people all the time. We biked maybe a little more than a third of the entire seawall- which is 22km (13.7 miles) long.  Bikes at Stanley Park

Half way through our ride we all stopped for a picnic lunch. I loved hearing my boys talk about how much fun they were having, and seeing them get excited about it. We only had one accident, when Steven went a little too fast down a hill and didn’t give himself enough time to break. He cut up his knee and scraped his hands, but was back on the bike without complaint. (Steven wants to be a PJ for the Air Force, so a little tumble is not a big deal for him.)Biking the Sea Wall

After a few hours it was time to be on our way, as we had other plans for the day. Nobody was ready to go. There was still so much more of the seawall to explore, but alas, it was time to move on. Next time we go, we plan on making a day of it and biking the entire seawall.

Lynn Canyon Park

Looking up at the trees in Lynn CanyonNext we headed to Lynn Canyon Park.

Well, actually, we headed to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. I had been looking forward to braving the suspension bridge and tree walk, but Carey was not looking forward to the crowds. We got to the parking lot and there were so. many. people. I was ready to tackle it but Carey wasn’t feeling it. On top of that, the guy working at Bayshore Bike Rentals told us we should avoid it and try Lynn Canyon instead- it would be less touristy. I didn’t want to hear it, because sometimes when I get my mind set on something, I just don’t want things to change.Carey at Lynn Canyon Black and White

Carey and Carrie at Lynn CanyonBut as we walked through the parking lot, I looked back at Carey and saw his face. He was trying to make sure we all had a good time (like he always does). And I realized that I was being a little selfish (like I usually am). So I stopped, we had a little chat, and decided to jump back in the van and go to Lynn Canyon. I’ll be honest. I was feeling cranky about it. But luckily that wore off- easily, once we got to Lynn Canyon Park.

The area was so fresh and beautiful, and as a bonus- no admission fee (as opposed to the $180 we would have spent at Capilano)! There were still lots of people, but not nearly as many, and they were mostly around the bridge. Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

The bridge. I was nervous. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a very deep, very big fear of bridges. Living in Portland, I’ve had to deal with it regularly and I am a lot better now than before we moved here, but it is a real thing. So why the heck did I want to go and walk across a suspension bridge?!!? Well, I’m trying to do things that scare me, trying to get over fears and things that hold me back. Walking the bridge was more of a metaphor for me, and I will not get into that here because this is a fun travelogue post and not a serious life motivating overcoming your demons sort of post. Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge Looking Down

I did it. And really, it wasn’t so bad. I even sort of wanted to stay on there and maybe even start rocking the bridge a little. But I didn’t. Meerdink Boys at Lynn Canyon Park

But the bridge wasn’t the best part, and this is why I’m so glad we went to Lynn Canyon. The trail hike was amazing. It has been a long time since I’ve been hiking. I don’t know why- life has just gotten in the way the last couple of years. We used to go all the time. And this hike reinvigorated me! It reminded me how much I love to be outside and away from it all.

We followed a river for a little while, and found a nice quiet spot to sit and just be. It was a really good afternoon.

Grouse Mountain

Grouse Mountain Night View 4After a few hours we walked back to the car and drove over to Grouse Mountain. Guys, I’m not going to lie- we spent a good chunk of money there. Between our tickets to get up (we did the Alpine Experience) and dinner, and then other rentals and plenty of hot cocoa, this was definitely the most expensive part of our trip. Luckily it was budgeted in and on top of that we under budget at this point because of our plan changes earlier in the day. It was so worth it.Grouse Mountain Ice RinkThere are some things you pay for and they don’t mean much, and there are others that you just know will stand out in your and your children’s memory forever. This was one of those lasting memory ones.

We took the tram up the mountain. It was full. Lots of people stuffed into that little tin can. Some with skis and snowboards, and others (me) quietly holding their husbands hand and praying the whole time that we didn’t fall to our death.Grouse Mountain Day View of Vancouver BC

We survived the ride and stepped out into snow. So much snow! It felt like Christmas with the trees lit in reds and whites. We walked over and checked out the amazing view and just took it all in for a few minutes.

Apple Crisp at Altitudes BistroDinner was at Altitudes Bistro, with an amazing view of Vancouver almost 4,000 feet below. I don’t remember what we all ate, but dessert was Apple Crisp, and it was divine.

After dinner we went on a sleigh ride, which took us past the slopes. Then the boys did some ice skating while we waited for the sun to completely set.

My favorite part of the evening was the Light Walk. There was a path on the snow that took us into the wooded area, and it was all lit up. There was nice music playing and the lights were surrounding us. It was magical.Grouse Mountain Light Walk

Grouse Mountain - Watching the StarsAs usual, my boys ran on ahead of us. At one point toward the end of our walk, we caught up to them. They were laying in the snow looking up at the stars. We joined them and we all just lay there looking up until our bums were too cold to take it.

We made our way back to the lodge and out on a patio where we had another amazing view of the city, lit up in the dark. It was approaching closing time, so we took the tram back down and headed back to the hotel.

Grouse Mountain Night View 1

TIPS OF THE DAY:

  • Sometimes you just have to give a little. Be mindful of who you are traveling with and respectful of the things they want to experience. It really can be win-win.
  • The three things we did today – Biking the seawall, hiking at Lynn Canyon, and Grouse Mountain – could have each taken the entire day, and I recommend that you let them.
  • You have to experience Grouse Mountain at night. You won’t regret it.

Vancouver BC: Day 4

Day 1: Border Crossing; Point Roberts Washington; Tsawwassen
Day 2: Bloedel Conservatory and Queen Elizabeth Park; Downtown Vancouver
Day 3: Victoria
Day 4: Museum of Anthropology; Vancouver LDS Temple
Day 5: Biking in Stanley Park; Lynn Canyon; Grouse Mountain
Day 6: English Bay Beach; Coming Home; Final Thoughts

Day 4 in Vancouver was basically our rest day. We were all a little tired so we decided to take it easy. We slept in and enjoyed a lazy morning, and then headed over to the Museum of Anthropology located on the University of British Columbia campus.

Museum of Anthropology

Museum of Anthropology ExteriorThis is a super great option for a rainy day. First of all, at about $60 cad for the family, it was an affordable way to spend our time. And if you or your kids are interested in history it’s a slam dunk. We are all basically nerds in our family so this made it on the list and we were happy we went.

Museum of Anthropology at UBCThe main displays are all BC first nation stuff. Lots of totem poles and carvings- it is really cool what these people could do with their hands.

There are other displays from around the world, and if you have the time you could spend several hours here looking through them.

Chef Hung

Chef Hung menu with teaAfter the museum we found a little spot close to campus to eat. Chef Hung Taiwanese noodles. This was pretty authentic and pretty expensive. Super tasty and very large servings. So large that none of us could finish our meals. We took the leftovers back to the hotel but never ended up eating it because the idea of old noodles just didn’t sound good to us later on. Because of that, I felt like we overpaid but at the same time it was a fun experience. Most of us just could not get those darn noodles from our soup to our mouths! We all need to sharpen our chopstick skills.

What made this place so worth it was the Mango Shaved Ice for dessert. This was not your typical summer street corner shaved ice. Nothing like it. This was like eating a cloud. I don’t know how they do it, but this stuff is amazing! You seriously need to find yourself some Taiwanese shaved ice near wherever you live (sometimes called snow ice).

Vancouver LDS Temple

After heading back to the hotel for some down time, we took off for the temple where we did baptisms. You can read about our time at the temple here.

Vancouver TempleI will just say that this was such an amazing experience. To spend time in the temple with our children, and to meet the local youth and their leaders- this is the point of the whole thing. This is why we chose to do this project. The gospel brings so much joy!

TIPS OF THE DAY:

  • Take time. We had a lot scheduled this week, and if you’re not careful, a full schedule can take away from the experience. Don’t push yourself so much that going out is more like a chore than a fun experience. Sleeping in is a luxury that we don’t get very often, so having a day or two on our vacation to sleep truly made it a vacation.
  • Meet and interact with the local people. Make friends around the world. It adds so much more to the experience and is so fulfilling.

Vancouver BC: Day 3 (Victoria)

Day 1: Border Crossing; Point Roberts Washington; Tsawwassen
Day 2: Bloedel Conservatory and Queen Elizabeth Park; Downtown Vancouver
Day 3: Victoria
Day 4: Museum of Anthropology; Vancouver LDS Temple
Day 5: Biking in Stanley Park; Lynn Canyon; Grouse Mountain
Day 6: English Bay Beach; Coming Home; Final Thoughts

This was such a good day. Oh Victoria, you have stolen my heart!

BC Ferries to Vancouver Island

Steven on BC FerryWe had breakfast and left just in time to make the 9am ferry to Vancouver Island. And I mean barely! In order to save some money, we parked the car and walked on to the ferry. No, we ran on. We got in to the terminal to buy our tickets and the agent at the counter told us, “You have 10 seconds!”Top Outer Deck BC Ferries

So we ran.

And we made it.

The ferry ride from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island is about an hour and a half. And it is beautiful the whole way, but especially as you pass through the gulf islands. Our ride was windy and drizzly, but for sure enjoyable. When we finally got a little chilly, we grabbed a hot cocoa and sat in their comfy seats next to the big windows so we could still enjoy the view.

BC Ferries through Gulf IslandsThe BC Ferries are HUGE! I’ve taken the Washington ferries over to the San Juan Islands, and they were great. These totally dwarf the ones I had been on before. With several levels of seating, outside decks and even a little kids play area, it’s a great ride.

On the ride home that evening, we got dinner from the restaurant- sort of a cafeteria feel. Then we got hot cocoa and stood on the deck watching the stars and the birds and lights off in the distance. That night on the deck will be one of my favorite memories with my family- we were all so relaxed from the day, the air was crisp and the wind was in our faces. It was just one of those peaceful happy moments that will stick with me for a long time.

Bus Ride

Double Decker Bus in VictoriaLike I said above, we left our car back at the terminal (saving over $100) and took the bus from Swartz Bay into Victoria. We did this because we knew we were just going to be there for several hours, so being on foot wouldn’t be a big deal. We took the bus that stopped at every stop along the route to Victoria. Holy smokes! The people are so polite! At every single stop, everyone who got off of the bus said “Thank You” to the bus driver. And guys- it’s not like they were right next to him. The exit was in the middle of the bus – so they raised their voices and looked up so he could hear them. Gosh! I was blown away. You hear a lot of talk and joking about our friendly neighbors to the North, and it is so true. The whole trip was refreshing! We all need to be kinder to others, it just feels good.

So we had about five hours in Victoria. Honestly, in planning the trip, I almost cut Vancouver Island out completely because there wasn’t enough time for what I wanted to do (which was explore a whole lot more of the island than just this capital city). But I just couldn’t do it- I’ve wanted to go here for most of my life, so even a few hours would be much better than nothing.

And I’m so glad we went.

There’s just this feeling of peacefulness there. So much beauty.

Frankie’s

Frankies Modern Diner Menu

Anyway, by this time we were hungry so we walked down Government Street until we came across Frankie’s Modern Diner. It looked fun and tasty so we thought we’d give it a try. Frankie’s had great atmosphere and amazing service. I ordered the Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwich and it was to die for. Seriously guys- this tomato soup is the best I’ve had! It’s not silky smooth- definitely made from scratch with a touch of basil on top. Other orders at the table included the Fish and Chips and of course a Cheeseburger. We hit the jackpot here- it was all so delicious!

And dare I say, the nicest bathrooms in town. Sorry- but I have issues with public bathrooms (or washrooms as they are referred to here), so when I find a good one I remember it. The nicest bathroom I’ve ever been in was in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Manhattan. The washroom at Frankie’s was the second nicest one I’ve been in. Just saying.

Government Street

This is the main touristy street the runs from the parliament building deeper into town. Full of great shops of all kinds- souvenirs, clothing, candy, restaurants, etc. You could spend a lot of time and a lot of money here.

We wandered down and Carey made sure to stop and get a photo with every statue along the way. We did a little shopping and made our way to China Town.

Fan Tan Alley

Victoria’s China Town is one of the oldest in North America.Chinatown Victoria - Fan Tan Alley

In it you will find Fan Tan Alley, which is the narrowest street in Canada, and full of little shops. We picked up some danishes and perused some vinyl. It was definitely a unique little spot.

British Columbia Parliament Buildings

Victoria Parliaments Buildings 2Victoria is the capital of BC, and home to the most beautiful Parliament Building. It is open to the public, where you can take a guided or self-guided tour.

The architecture is amazing- built in the 1890’s. I love the dome. I’m sort of obsessed with domes- It is the thing I go ga-ga over whenever I visit a state capitol building. I was mildly bummed that I couldn’t stand directly centered beneath it because of display that blocked off the area. But I enjoyed it nonetheless. There was also some beautiful stained glass, which seemed to be Carey’s favorite part.

Inner Harbour

Victoria Inner HarbourAfter visiting the Parliament Building, we still had a little time until we had to catch our bus back to Swartz Bay. So the boys all went back to do a little shopping (window and otherwise), while I found the most peaceful area and enjoyed a quiet view of Inner Harbour. The harbour sits directly across the street from the Parliament Buildings and just gives the town an old worldly, heavenly feel. I could have sat there all day, under my unbrella, just taking it all in. Victoria Inner Harbour 2

We will most assuredly return to Victoria- it was a highlight of our trip.

TIPS OF THE DAY:

  1. Enjoy the ferry ride. Don’t just sit in one place- explore! It’s its own adventure. Take time on the deck- especially when passing the gulf islands. Please don’t waste that time by staring at a screen. But if you do- they have free Wi-Fi!
  2. When you dock, be on the top deck and let your kids watch some of the cars drive off the ferry- it’s pretty cool, especially when you see the semi trucks start coming out.
  3. You need to spend time in Victoria- actually on Vancouver Island in general. If it works, plan at least a couple of days here, or make it its own trip. BUT- if you don’t have the time for that, a day trip like ours will leave you plenty satisfied.
  4. Have exact cash for the bus – and make sure it’s Canadian Dollars. (I’ll post more on currency on day 5.)

Vancouver BC: Day 2

Day 1: Border Crossing; Point Roberts Washington; Tsawwassen
Day 2: Bloedel Conservatory and Queen Elizabeth Park; Downtown Vancouver
Day 3: Victoria
Day 4: Museum of Anthropology; Vancouver LDS Temple
Day 5: Biking in Stanley Park; Lynn Canyon; Grouse Mountain
Day 6: English Bay Beach; Coming Home; Final Thoughts

Bloedel Conservatory

Inside Bloedel ConservatoryThis place was amazing!

I have teenage boys, and they even liked it.

It’s a photographer’s dream (just be prepared for your lens to fog up a little if its chilly outside).

There are over 120 birds and over 500 plants and trees- it’s like a little rain forest in there.

Bloedel Conservatory is located in Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. It was super easy to find, easy to get to, and a great way to start our drizzly “exploring-the-city” day. Here’s the great thing: for our family of five, it cost less than $20 (cad) – such a great value!Bloedel Conservatory Vancouver British Columbia

 

The Gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park

Gardens at Queen Elizabeth ParkAmazing. The gardens are just steps away from the conservatory. It seriously feels like the Garden of Eden. I was looking forward to seeing some beautiful gardens on this trip- we cut out Butchart Gardens in Victora in order to stay in budget and there just wasn’t enough time with everything else we wanted to do. And I have to tell ya, I’m satisfied. Someday I’ll go to Butchart, but even if I never do, seeing these gardens and just the beauty of the whole area will do, plus it was free (except for a few bucks for parking).

The Downtown Library

Vancouver British Columbia Public LibraryOf course we had to go to a library.It is just something my boys like to do.

Vancouver Public Library EntranceThe architecture of the Vancouver library is incredible. I mean, just look at the photos! Inside we made our way to the top floor, which housed the rare books and some historical stuff. Microfilm ReaderIt also had microfilm and readers. Michael is my son that is in to tech. He gets computers and is learning to code. Stuff way beyond me.
He went straight to a reader, picked up some microfilm and worked on loading it up. It was fascinating to him, and then my other boys joined him to see this super cool technology. It turned out that the roll Michael had picked up contained newspapers from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. That’s a lot of information on one little roll of film. He read about World War 2, and other events.

Lunch at the Library

Vancouver BC Public Library InsideIn the lobby of the library are a half dozen or so little restaurants- Flying Wedge Veggie Pizzaso we grabbed some lunch there. Four of us went to this delicious pizza place called Flying Wedge. I got the veggie and it was seriously the best slice of pizza I’ve had! Carey went to a place a few shops over and got some sticky rice. We all had satisfied and happy bellies when we left for our walk through downtown.

Christ Church Cathedral

 

We had heard that the cathedral had some amazing stained glass windows, so we walked maybe a half mile over to see them. I love stained glass- I dream of someday having the skills and supplies necessary to create some great works of my own.

The windows of Christ Church Cathedral were stunning. Think about all the time and love that must have gone in to creating them!

After the cathedral we went over to Yale Town and caught a ride…

The Aquabus and Granville Island

aquabusThe Aquabus is a system of little ferries that bus people around False Creek in downtown Vancouver. There are also the False Creek Ferries, which have mostly the same stops and are comparable in price. We chose Aquabus because it was at our stop first. When we asked the difference between the two, the captain jokingly said that the Aquabus crews were friendlier. I will say that they were super nice and helpful.

Guys- if you go to Vancouver, you need to do this. You can get a day pass and stop and explore all of the areas around town. The best part is you get a great view of the city from the water- it was just really nice.

Granville Island MarketWe took it to Granville Island, which I had read all over the place that it was a must see in Vancouver. Carey and Carrie at Granville IslandIt was pretty cool- the first thing my boys did was stop in at a music shop and explore every instrument inside. Granville Island would be ideal for the traveler who loves shopping. Tons of shops, a local market, some restaurants. And don’t let the name fool you, it is accessible by car, but you might have a difficult time finding a parking spot. We thought it was fine, but ultimately it wasn’t the highlight of our trip, or even the day.  After leaving Granville, we took the Aquabus to the far end of False Creek and then walked along the water back to our car. So to reiterate: Aquabus=Must do; Granville Island=meh (for the non-shopper).

Off The Grid Waffles

Waffles.

I think Vancouver has a thing for waffles. Seriously almost every street we walked down had some sort of waffle shop. We could have stopped by any of them and been happy I’m sure, but I had heard of Off the Grid Waffles from an Instagram friend and really wanted to check it out. It is not downtown- maybe a 15 minute drive from there. So we hit it at the end of the day on our way back to our hotel.

JengaHoly smokes! It was so tasty. The staff there were super nice, great service, and they had Jenga on every table and at the bar which was fun to play while they were prepping our treats. I got the brownie waffle bowl, Carey and Ryan got the Oreo bowl and the older boys each got waffle milkshakes. The waffles were so perfect- crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Everyone was super satisfied. It was a tad pricey, so we just had a cheap Subway dinner to keep us in budget.

TIPS OF THE DAY:

  • If you’re going to explore downtown, find a parking lot that will allow you to leave the car there for the day. That way you don’t have to worry about meters and time constraints.
  • If you do need to use a parking meter but don’t have change- no worries! You can pay with a card on your phone. We did this when we went to the Library but spent more time than we thought we would. The service is great because you can add more time to your meter remotely (as long as you don’t exceed the maximum time). So as we sat eating lunch I fed the meter, giving us time to walk down to the cathedral and do some exploring. Bonus- No service fee!
  • Pay attention to the weather and be flexible. We shuffled things around a couple of times because of the weather. Bloedel Conservatory and the Library are great things to do on a more drizzly day.
  • For sure don’t miss the area around False Creek! Take the aquabus or ferries to get a great view.
  • Every website you visit will tell you to go to Granville Island. I say go if you love shopping, but if your trip is short on time and big on ideas you won’t be missing too much if you pass it up.

 

 

Vancouver BC: Day 1

Day 1: Border Crossing; Point Roberts Washington; Tsawwassen
Day 2: Bloedel Conservatory and Queen Elizabeth Park; Downtown Vancouver
Day 3: Victoria
Day 4: Museum of Anthropology; Vancouver LDS Temple
Day 5: Biking in Stanley Park; Lynn Canyon; Grouse Mountain
Day 6: English Bay Beach; Coming Home; Final Thoughts

I don’t know why we hadn’t visited Vancouver sooner – it is seriously so great!

Here’s how it went down..Meerdink family in car

6:45 am

We hit the road. I gotta tell ya, packing for this trip was a breeze! I just put a checklist up on the fridge, and my boys did all of their own prepping. I did cross my fingers that they would have enough underwear to get through the trip. (They did!) The only thing I really checked for was temple recommends- I made them all show me theirs in the car before we left the driveway. And thank goodness I did because Carey had forgotten to put his in his travel wallet!

Anyway- like most of our drives lately, it was rainy. But a smooth drive nonetheless. We topped off our gas tank in Bellingham Washington so we could avoid the gas prices in Vancouver as much as possible, and then headed for the border.

11:45 am

Guys- the border patrol agent was so nice! In fact, every agent we encountered on this trip was great.Canada US Border in Washington

Once in Canada, my boys were quick to point out everything Canadian: A Canadian dog, a Canadian stop sign, Canadian road construction…

12:30 pm

We headed straight for the temple. It is always such a great feeling when approaching a new temple. Just that comfort that you are home no matter where you are. Canada Vancouver British Columbia LDS TempleWe walked the grounds for a little bit until it was too rainy to be enjoyable, then headed for the hotel.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Richmond, which was the perfect location. Nicely centered between everything we would be doing. We got a 1 bedroom room suite, so Carey and I got some privacy. The great thing about Holiday Inn Express is that they totally save us money. We took advantage of their free breakfast every morning, even making some extra PB&J sandwiches for snacks later in the day. And of course, we grabbed some forgotten essentials (toothbrushes, razors, and deodorant) for no extra charge.

3:15 pm

There was still plenty of daylight left, so we decided to hop on down to Point Roberts. Point Roberts is actually a city in Washington that is only accessible through Canada. Kids above second grade are actually bused like 40 minutes in through Canada and back into Washington state to go to school.

It is here:

Carey has always been curious about it, so we decided to check it out. It was…. okay. Monument Park Point Roberts WashingtonNot like the world’s most amazing town- it was pretty sleepy and a bit run down. I hear it gets busier in the summer, so it may be better at that time of the year. You should go just to go though.

When you cross the border to get into the city, you’ll be given a map. It was kind of fun to visit all four corners of the town, each with a different feature. Canada US Border at Point RobersThe highlight was definitely Monument Park, where you can look out on the Strait of Georgia and check out marker #1 on the US-Canada border. My boys really got a kick out of the “border wall,” which divided this town and a residential neighborhood in Canada.

4:30 pm

By this point we realized that we hadn’t really eaten during the day, aside from snacking in the car, so we set off to find a place. We stumbled upon Mario’s Kitchen in Tsawwassen.

It was a little unassuming from the outside, so we didn’t really know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised. This place was great. The atmosphere was calm and classy, with some fun artwork on the walls. Prices were moderate, and the food was divine! Carey and I split the Cream of Cauliflower Soup, Bruschetta, and Frankie’s Southern Crispy Chicken Burger. Seriously, the best soup ever! The boys split a couple of pizzas and I didn’t hear a single complaint. I can’t recommend this place enough! Such. Great. Food.

5:30 pm

Windy Day at Centennial BeachEven though it was rainy – and windy – we wanted to stretch our legs for a bit before heading back to the hotel. The waiter at Mario’sKitchen recommended Centennial Beach. It was a good beach with a playground nearby, clean washrooms, and lots of sand. Also, there were bald eagles! Just sitting there in the trees!

I kicked off my shoes and sunk my feet into the icy cold water and it felt oh, so good!Centennial Beach Tsawwassen BC

TIPS OF THE DAY:

  1. If you are heading in to Canada from the states, check gas prices in advance. We filled up as close to the border as possible and only had to put a few gallons in while in the country- which was almost double the price in the US.
  2. Remember when looking at gas prices that it is priced by the liter, not gallon.
  3. When crossing the border, have everyone’s passports ready and all together to hand to the agent, roll down any windows so everyone can be seen, and take off your sunglasses.
  4. Think about what experiences you want and budget for them- we knew that each day we would want to eat at a nice or fun local spot, so we also ate some cheaper meals to stretch our dollar. This way, at places like Mario’s, we didn’t stress about the prices, we just enjoyed the food.

Seattle Washington Day Trip

6:50 am

Loaded up in the van, filled up with gas, took a nice family selfie, and hit the road. It was already raining, and would continue to rain all the way to Seattle, all day, and all the way home. Hey, that’s life in the Pacific Northwest I guess. From our house to Seattle is about 3 hours- an easy day trip!20170204_065427

We currently drive a 2010 Chrysler Town and Country Minivan. It has a CD player and an aux cord input. We usually use an aux cord hooked up to one of our phones, but it wasn’t working, so we fished around and found a couple CDs. The first one we put in was the Chicago soundrack. The boys thought they were being tortured. It was fun to remember going to the show way back at the beginning of our marriage. But you know how when you listen to something with your kids (or maybe your parents) and you become a LOT more aware of some of the not-so-great content? Well, we ended up skipping several songs and then just turning it off. The only other CD we found – other than Christmas music – was one that I had burnt probably 5 or 6 years ago. There were some goodies on there: On My Way Back Home by Band of Horses; A Long December by Counting Crows; November Blue by The Avett Brothers.. But for some reason there was also a lot of Katie Perry. I must have been going through a phase when I put it together.

img_20170204_122853_27210:15 am

We arrived at the Seattle Temple 30 minutes before our scheduled appointment, so we walked around the grounds a bit and took some photos. It was still rainy, but we had umbrellas and stayed dry enough. The boys were less apprehensive to let me take their pictures than normal on this trip. I hope it’s a trend that continues.

We went in and did baptisms as a family, including some family names from both Carey’s and my sides. Afterward, we took the boys into the temple cafeteria for some lunch. Every one of us picked the barbecue ribs and mashed potatoes. Super tasty- but it was a little more than I was planning on spending for lunch. We made up for that with a smaller dinner.

12:30 pm

We headed toward downtown Seattle.img_20170207_052111_511

I really like Seattle. It’s really similar to Portland, only to me it feels a little more advanced, and a little shinier. I guess the part that really is the most like Portland (well, downtown Portland) is Pike Place Market. Red Sculpture at Olympic Sculpture Park Seattle WashingtonThe area is a little grungier than other parts of Seattle.
Still- downtown Seattle overall is a big thumbs up for me. Michael (my oldest) also really loves it and as we were walking through town started wondering about careers in the area and the possibility of moving there someday. Steven was indifferent – at least toward the city in general. Ryan and Carey are not big fans of city life.

Public Market Center Sign at Pikes Place MarketWe parked near the Olympic Sculpture Park, moseyed through that and then walked a mile to Pike Place.
We strolled through the market (I mostly just wanted to see the fish throwers- I love those guys!) and then continued on another half mile to the Seattle Public Library.

 

 

2-ish pm

Arrived at the Library. img_1802
Yeah, the library.
img_1744When we told the boys that we were going to Seattle for the day, we asked them what they wanted to do. The decision was quick and unanimous: img_1764The Seattle Public Library. We’ve been there once before, but didn’t have a lot of time to expolore. This place is amazing. The architecture, design, everything! So they wanted to spend a few hours there and who were we to complain. a_red-stairs

After visiting each floor, including my favorite red area, the map room, and the look out from the highest point, we met down on the main level and had Italian Sodas (Carey had a peppermint hot cocoa),
then took plenty of time in their little gift shop where Michael picked some Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy themed socks, Ryan opted for the Shakespeare theme, Carey got a notebook and I got a patch for my backpack. Steven, our minimalist, didn’t want anything.

 

5 pm

Arrived at Kerry Park, which overlooks downtown Seattle and has amazing views. Meerdink Boys in front of Seattle Skyline
We each took some time with my camera and got some shots. The idea was to stay until dark but it was flipping cold, so we lasted until 5:30 or so and decided to head on home

As we began the rainy drive, Carey started getting sick. We stopped in Tacoma for a new aux cord (so we could listen to some decent music) and Excedrin. I also picked up a few pizzas which we ate in the car while I drove.

Carey thought we were going to die. The Temple Travelers in Seattle WashingtonHe had to stop driving for a while because of a killer headache, so I took over. Unfortunately my night vision is not that great. I lose some depth perception. That along with the rain and no freaking street lamps had him on the edge of his seat. But we survived. After about 40 minutes we pulled into a rest stop. He got out, got some fresh air, vomited, and then felt a million times better. I happily handed the keys over to him and took control of the music instead.

10 pm

We pulled in to our driveway, came inside and went to sleep.

Chatter about the day proved to be very positive- a good time had by all. It was just nice to get away for the day, and to spend some time together outside of the house.

We did not hit the space needle or some of the other “main attractions” in Seattle this time around. We’ve done them before. It really was nice to just take it slow.

 

PS: The photos of and in the library were not taken on this trip. I put the camera away to enjoy the time. These were taken on a trip back in 2014.