A list! A list! We must have a list!Oh, but sister, in these parts you actually could fill three days with visiting the ocean:
If you would please, list in order of importance the top five things I must see when I visit Vancouver in August. Since I am living in the land-locked Midwest (MN), the ocean is on the top. However, the ocean does not three days fill.
Day 1: Walk around the Stanley Park Seawall. It's 10 kilometres long (or about six of your Yankee miles), and since Stanley Park is on a peninsula, the Seawall is always next to the water. There are several beaches along the way, the biggest being the one at English Bay.
Day 2: Go to any of the beaches in the neighbourhood of Kitsilano. Kits Beach. Jericho. Spanish Banks. They're all pretty nice, especially if you dig the classic volleyball/frisbee/barbecue vibe.
Day 3: Now that you're properly warmed up, head to Wreck Beach, the only recognized nude beach in the country. It's a bit of a trek to get to, involving a trip to the University of British Columbia and a hike down a long flight of outdoor stairs, but it's well worth it. The beach is clothing optional, so you don't have to peel if you don't want to. The vibe is low-key and friendly, not skeevy. I've always felt comfortable at Wreck. The best part of this beach, to me, is the variety of wares being peddled here. From Stormin' Norman's wild meat burger stand to the various vendors walking up and down the beach selling everything from shooters to watermelon to shiatsu massage to jewelry to various illicit substances, it's the weirdest assortment of goods and services you can expect to find in one place... all delivered straight to your beach blanket. As an added bonus, since many of the vendors are naked, you can get a firsthand chance to see how a fanny pack can be worn as a codpiece.
So that's how you could, feasibly, spend all three days in Vancouver near the ocean and have completely different experiences. But if you want to mix in some non-beachy activities and destinations, here are some other things you can do and places to go:
If you're downtown, you can take the Aquabus (a tiny foot-passenger ferry) from one of its many ports to Granville Island. It's about a 10-minute ride, and when you get to the island, you can stroll around and check out the many, many artist and artisan studios that are open to the public. There are a couple of cool public markets, too, including the Net Loft and the huge Granville Island Market. If you're hungry, the Market has a really funky food court, as well as a great outdoor space right on the water where you can eat your lunch. Or you can do what I prefer to do and go to the Sandbar for lunch (which is served all afternoon). This is a really nice restaurant with a fabulous outdoor deck, where you can watch the boats come in and out of the harbour. During the summer, there are buskers all over the island. Consider this either a plug or a warning, depending on your feelings about buskers.
The Vancouver Aquarium is really cool and definitely worth checking out. It's modern and well-designed, and you can tell the animals are very well cared for. The aquarium has larger mammals such as belugas, dolphins, sea otters and sea lions, all of which were born in capitivity. There are regular instructional lectures and stuff, or you can just stroll around. The aquarium is on the grounds of Stanley Park (which is more like a huge forest than a park), so you can combine a visit with a stroll on the park's trails and/or a walk around the Seawall.
The Seawall actually extends for miles and miles around the city. (If you look at a map of Vancouver, just picture the Seawall running along pretty much the entire perimeter where the ocean meets the city.) You could spend three days on a bike (you can rent bikes downtown, by the hour or by the day) just visiting various sites along the Seawall. All the beaches (with the exception of Wreck) are found along the Seawall. Stanley Park and the Aquarium? On the Seawall. Granville Island? Also on the Seawall. Another cool destination is Science World, which also houses an IMAX theatre. Right now, Science World has a major exhibit all about ancient Egypt... rendered in Lego. It's pretty nifty.
Vancouver's Chinatown is small, but as one of the oldest areas of the city, it's worth checking out, especially if you like authentic Chinese cuisine. Because it's small, you can make your trek to Chinatown more worthwhile by visiting neighbouring Gastown, an equally old neighbourhood. Most of the shops are of the tacky tourist variety, and definitely don't eat at the restaurants, but the architecture is cool. On one block of Cordova Street are some great little shops -- such as Dream and The Block -- featuring clothes and accessories by Vancouver designers, as well as one of my favourite vintage/consignment clothing shops, Deluxe Junk Co.
Ooh, I should also recommend some restaurants. Vancouver is FULL of great restaurants at all price points, so there's no need to ever suffer a bad meal. Apparently, Vancouverites eat out more than residents of any other city in Canada, which probably explains why we have so many great dining choices. A few of Rusty's and my favourites (you can look them up, as most have websites): Feenie's, Memphis Blues, Vij's, Sophie's Cosmic Cafe, Vera's Burger Shack, Rime, Ouisi Bistro, Clove, Deserts Falafel, Monsoon, The Reef, Moderne Burger, Barney's Caffe, Waazubee, Rodney's Oyster Bar, Bin 941, Bin 942, All India Sweets, The Afghan Horseman, and Stella's.
If you like sushi (or if you've always wanted to try it, but it's too expensive to experiment with, as is often the case in land-locked cities), you can get good, cheap sushi all over the city. A tip: If you walk into a sushi joint and you can smell fish, walk back out. A good sushi restaurant shouldn't smell like a fish market.
For THE best gelato in the entire city -- and possibly the continent -- go to La Dolce Amore on Commercial Drive. There may be a line-up, and while I don't normally advocate standing on line for anything, I'll make an exception here.
If you're a coffee fiend, there are Starbucks locations everywhere. I mean that literally. They just opened up one in my basement, which is already in fierce competition with the Starbucks located in my neighbour's basement. I'm not a Starbucks basher, but while it'll do in a pinch, I think there are better coffees to be found in Vancouver, a city dedicated to the mighty bean. In my neighbourhood (the aforementioned Commercial Drive area), I love both Abruzzo and Turk's. Further afield, Caffe Artigiano makes gorgeous "artisan" coffees and has a few locations downtown.
And to end this post on a bookish note, if you're strolling around downtown and you find yourself in the neighbourhood of Robson and Hamilton Streets, look up and take note of the (relatively) new Vancouver Public Library. Designed by reknowned architect Moshe Safdie, this edifice has created controversy since before it was even built. People either love it or hate it. Let me know what you think.
Whew. That's all I can think of for now, though I'm sure more will come to me. If anyone has any tips they'd like to offer Data Bunny, fire away.