Greetings, Internet Stranger! I don’t imagine many people are nervous about thinking of ways to spend 24 Hours in Vancouver. It is one of those cities that is always being voted “Best City to Live In” or “Coolest Vancouver Art Gallery” or “City in Which Locals Are Least Likely to Scream Obscenities At You On the Subway” or “City That Doesn’t Have Even One Pizza Rat”. You know, the kind of awards that New York City never wins.
Because of these tepid accolades, I was concerned that Vancouver would be comfortable but dull, the urban equivalent of getting socks for Christmas. Yet, fear not Internet Stranger! Vancouver is comfortable yet fun-loving, like getting a pair of satin pajamas for Christmas. Therefore, if you only have 24 hours in Vancouver to explore, and you like beautiful art, delicious food, and adorable otters, I suggest that you spend that day following this itinerary.
I actually followed this itinerary to the letter, so I know it works perfectly. However, keep in mind that this 24 hours in Vancouver itinerary is best followed on a Tuesday or Friday because those are the only days the Vancouver Art Gallery stays open late.
24 Hours in Vancouver
Where Do I Stay?
Vancouver is the third largest city in Canada, and it’s pretty spread out. So before you choose your hotel, pick your neighborhood. I loved the Victorian Hotel, located right near the atmospheric Gastown neighborhood. There were fresh croissants every morning, which is really all you need in life. Also, if you’re on a budget, you can get a cheaper room by going for one with a shared bathroom.
24 Hours in Vancouver
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which happens quite often in Vancouver, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
24 Hours in Vancouver
Morning: Food Trucks
You’re going to spend most of the morning exploring Vancouver’s food trucks but that doesn’t start until 11 and we don’t want to waste any of our precious 24 Hours in the ‘Couve. I recommend getting a light breakfast at/near your hotel (you’ll see why the light part is important soon) and walking around Canada Place, which is sadly not Vancouver’s answer to Sesame Street.\
Canada Place is, in scientific terms, a big ole building that resembles a boat with five sails located on the waterfront. It also apparently functions as a conventional center and a cruise terminal. But you will not be there for conventions or cruises! You will be there to stare at the gorgeous waterside views.
When you are done at Canada Place, continue to walk down the waterfront until you make friends with Shamu here.
Then you should turn left and head into the heart of Downtown Vancouver. At this point, you probably won’t have much time left before the next activity begins at eleven, so just mosey around and see what interesting buildings you can discover. I refuse to get more specific than that, Internet Stranger! Live a little!
At 11 o’clock, you will want to head over to Burrard St. to be ready for your two hour long food truck tour/lunch. When I was in Vancouver, I did this with a tour company, but they no longer offer the tour. So we’re going to do it self-guided styles!
I did not know this before taking the tour, but apparently Vancouver is one of the top food truck cities in the world. (Behind Austin, though, naturally.) We made five different stops, and in my opinion they were all equally delicious. This gives me the perfect excuse to share with you…
Approximately top 5: food trucks in vancouver
Japadog is an Asian hotdog place that apparently kicked off the food truck craze in Vancouver. It serves Japanese inspired hot dogs, but fear not! The hot dogs are made with Berkshire pork, not fish. We ate the Terimayo hot dog, which had teriyaki sauce, mayo, and seaweed on top. Does that sound kind of gross to you? Well, you’re wrong! It was amazing, like karaoke for your tummy.
2) Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck
Mom’s is a food truck apparently run by someone’s actual mother. We went here to taste the gooey warm grilled cheese with a little cup of Roasted Tomato Soup. I loved the smoky flavor on the tomato–it made me feel like a Canadian lumberjack whose mother truly loved him.
Our last stop was to get a fish taco and a spicy chocolate cookie from Tacofino. I still can’t believe how much they fed us on this tour. Look at all those toppings! The fresh fish (plus a spicy chocolate cookie, of course) was the perfect way to end the tour.
24 Hours in Vancouver
Afternoon: Stanley Park
After the Food Truck Tour ends, you will want to hurry and take the half hour or so walk straight to Stanley Park, which is one of the top attractions in the city. Also the Vancouver Aquarium is located in Stanley Park, and it is tied for the greatest Aquarium I have ever seen. (The other is in Atlanta.)
But I am getting ahead of myself here. Let me present my suggestions in an orderly fashion with…
Approximately top 5: stanley park
1) Trainer Shows at the Aquarium
The best thing about the Aquarium is the demented quantity of trainer-led shows that run throughout the day. You can see the schedule here. I went to the seal and sea lion show which was an enriching experience. I watched the seals leap and jump in and out of the water like husky yet sleek ballerinas (with whiskers). Then I learned how trainers teach seals to do different types of tricks and exercises by giving them rewards like food or tummy rubs. Mostly I just tried and failed to take decent pictures of marine life in motion.
My favorite show was the spotlight on sea otters. It is an obvious fact that sea otters are the cutest of all God’s creatures. The trainer gave us a lot of information about them, but I wasn’t listening. I was too busy giggling at the sight of the otter’s tummy.
OK, fine. I did learn that two of the otters were rescue otters and that the trainers had to bring them up by hand and feed them like babies with bottles. I have no background in the aquatic sciences, but that story makes me want to get a job in some sort of otter rescue capacity.
3) Walk around the stanley park seawall
If the weather is nice, there’s no better way to spend an afternoon in Vancouver than by strolling around Stanley Park looking at the water. Imagine all the injured baby seals out there, just waiting to be rescued!
4) see the totem poles
These totem poles are apparently British Colombia’s most popular tourist attraction, which is not surprising because they are so gorgeous. They were made by various First Nations (Canadian for Native American) tribes, purchased by the Stanley Park Board, and brought to Vancouver. It’s great that Canada honors its First Nations heritage in so many public ways. Way to rub your moral superiority in America’s face, Canada! (I’m American, don’t write me angry emails.)
5) see the faux-little mermaid
I’ve been to Copenhagen, and this statue looks just like their statue of The Little Mermaid to me, but that is false. Apparently it’s meant to be a statue of a girl in a wetsuit, but I don’t think it’s really fooling anyone. It’s obviously a little mermaid ripoff. Vancouver, you need to have some more self-esteem! You don’t need to trick people into thinking you are Copenhagen! You might not have as many cinnamon buns, but you have plenty of your own charms!
24 Hours in Vancouver
Later Afternoon: Vancouver Art Gallery
Again this will only work if you are doing this itinerary on a Tuesday or a Friday. If you are not, just spend some more fun times wandering around Stanley Park. As long as it’s a nice day, you will regret nothing!
24 hour tip
The Vancouver Art Gallery is a fun place to attend on an early Tuesday evening because it is jam-packed with thrifty, art-loving Canadians looking to take advantage of the “Pay What You Wish” evening. Check their website for details. The crowds give the evening a feel of being at a booze-free cocktail party, which is more fun than it sounds.
The one downside to that is that some people seemed to be there to try to pick up singletons, and I was followed by a creepy hairless stranger twenty years my senior until I gave him my best “If Looks Could Kill”, and he ran away with his tail between his legs.
I spent the whole evening perusing the Vancouver Art Gallery collection of the works of Emily Carr. Ms. Carr, as the New York Times would call her, is one of the most famous Canadian painters in history. She is most known for painting British Colombian landscapes and First Nations totems.
I loved her paintings because her deep feeling for the territory of British Colombia shines through in each one. All I ask of a work of art is that it allow me to experience the world for a moment the way that somebody else does, and looking at Ms. Carr’s paintings, I felt some of her love for British Colombia myself, though it was my first time there.
On a related note, I think someone should start a TV series called British Colombian, and it should be about Pablo Escobar waking up one day and thinking that he is Winston Churchill, insisting on speaking with a British accent, and dining on tea and crumpets. I feel quite confident that hijinks would ensue.
24 Hours in Vancouver
Forage, like many restaurants in Vancouver, puts a lot of emphasis on local sustainable food. Sometimes hearing the word sustainable too many times makes me go a little mad, and I have a sudden urge to be naughty and eat a Twinkie, even though I don’t like Twinkies. Fortunately, the food at Forage is excellent, even if it might also help the planet not disintegrate into a ball of fire in our lifetimes.
I wasn’t able to take any pictures of my food, so to add a little interest to my dinner review, allow me to share a restaurant review that looks like a menu!
Further Reading: 24 Hours in Vancouver
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Vancouver now? Then allow me to give you some suggestions for things to read about Vancouver. I always enjoy the Lonely Planet Vancouver travel guide. They divide the book into chapters based on neighborhoods, which is helpful.
Alice Munro is one of my favorite Canadian writers. I suggest just grabbing her collection of short stories and loving your way through all of them. Short stories are one of my favorite things to read because they don’t take that long, and I am easily distracted. SQUIRREL!
If you want to know more about the darker side of Canadian history, read Obasan. As an American, I knew about the American Japanese internment camps during WWII, but I didn’t know anything about the Japanese-Canadian experience until I encountered this book. A powerful read.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in Vancouver that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Vancouver.