Greetings, Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Vancouver! And may I congratulate you on your excellent taste in choosing to spend at least 24 hours in Vancouver. The “Couve” is one of those cities that is always being voted “Best City to Live In” or “Coolest City” 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 intimidating accolades, you might be concerned that Vancouver will 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
How to Get There
Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a beautiful box of homemade cookies. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to Vancouver.
But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to Vancouver, and I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to Vancouver at the best time of day. When I booked with them, I was able to get an insanely inexpensive ticket–I had to change planes twice but it was worth it. But you can always pay more and get fewer stops. Up to you!
Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out to Vancouver ASAP.
24 Hours in Vancouver
Where Should I Stay?
Vancouver is the third largest city in Canada, and it’s pretty spread out. So before you choose your hotel for your 24 hours in Vancouver, pick your neighborhood. I recommend the Victorian Hotel, located right near the atmospheric Gastown neighborhood. It has several charming amenities, but the best are the 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. But if money is no object, book a room with a glorious en suite commode all for your lonesome. Truly, it’s all up to you.
24 Hours in Vancouver
What to Pack?
- Stylish and comfy sandals that are just perfect for all two weeks of Canadian summer
- Cute boots for the many, many rainy days in Vancouver. Seriously, you will need these.
- A cell charger so you can keep taking pictures of the gorgeous trees in and around “the Couve”
- A rain jacket with a hood because it will definitely rain. That’s a given.
- My favorite guide book to Vancouver
- A great sense of humor is the best Canadian accessory. (At least 50 percent of all great American comics are Canadian. That’s a known fact.)
- The funniest book set in Vancouver’s province of British Columbia. Yes, it’s for young adults, and no, I feel no shame in suggesting it.
- A safety purse just in case you encounter that elusive Canadian thief.
- I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially if you are not Canadian, eh, and you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country without help. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by a roving gang of Martin Short impersonators during your 24 hours in Vancouver.
24 Hours in Vancouver
Morning: Food Trucks
You’re going to spend most of the morning of our 24 hours in Vancouver. 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 I falsely believed was 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 convention 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! We’ve only got 24 hours in Vancouver together, and we’re going to make the most of them!
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.) So you can’t spend 24 hours in Vancouver without trying one. We made several different stops, and in my opinion they were all equally delicious. And I imagine they’ll be equally delicious without a tour guide. This gives me the perfect excuse to share with you…
Approximately top 5: 24 Hours in Vancouver Food Trucks
Japadog is an Asian hotdog place that the guide insisted kicked off the food truck craze in Vancouver. It serves Japanese inspired hot dogs, which someone in our group was worried meant sushi. But if you are a seafood hater, fear not! The hot dogs are made with Berkshire pork, not raw fish. We ate the Terimayo hot dog, which had teriyaki sauce, mayo, and seaweed on top. It was bursting with flavor and also mayonnaise. Fancy hot dogs are just the perfect combination of classy and sassy, like Dolly Parton.
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. You’ll love 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. These are sometimes called the best fish tacos in Canada, which sounds like damning with faint praise, but isn’t. 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 Self-Guided 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. We don’t want to waste a single second of our 24 hours in Vancouver. Also the Vancouver Aquarium is located in Stanley Park, and according to me, it is tied for the greatest Aquarium in North America. (The other is in Atlanta.)
But I am getting ahead of myself here and probably confusing you. Let me present my suggestions in an orderly fashion with…
Approximately top 5: Stanley Park
1) Trainer Shows at the Aquarium
So first things first: I strongly suggest getting the Vancouver Attraction Passport, especially if you’ll spend more than 24 hours in Vancouver. On this itinerary alone, it offers discounts to the Aquarium and the Vancouver Art Gallery. It’s a great bargain. You can look into it more here.
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. Don’t miss the seal or sea lion shows if they are on when you visit. You can watch the seals leap and jump in and out of the water like husky yet sleek ballerinas (with whiskers).
Then you can learn 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.
The best show at the aquarium is probably the spotlight on sea otters. It is an obvious fact that sea otters are the cutest of all God’s creatures. I have to admit that though 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. How could you be sad when you are surrounded by otters all day?
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 Columbia’s most popular tourist attraction, which is not surprising because they are so gorgeous. They were made by various First Nations tribes, purchased by the Stanley Park Board, and brought to Vancouver.
On a personal note, my ex-best friend was proposed to by her now husband by these totem poles, and our friendship ended with a whole lot of messy drama, so now that’s all I can think of when I look at these. They’re the messy friend drama poles to me.
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 looks can be deceiving. Apparently it’s meant to be a statue of a girl in a wet suit, 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 24 hours in Vancouver 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!
Also, if you’re not visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery on a Tuesday, don’t forget to pick up the Vancouver Attraction Passport and save some money! You’ll thank me later.
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 filled with art nerds, 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. That’ll teach a Canadian to mess with a native New Yawker!
You could honestly spend your whole 24 hours in Vancouver 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 Columbian landscapes and First Nations totems.
Her paintings are special to so many because her deep feeling for the territory of British Columbia 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 Columbia myself, though it was my first time there.
24 Hours in Vancouver
We’ll conclude our 24 hours in Vancouver with a fabulous meal. 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 allow me to paint a picture with my words. Because Forage emphasizes the use of seasonal produce, I can’t be sure anything I ate will be available for you. But the seafood chowder and foraged mushrooms are must-haves if they are available.
The seafood chowder was topped with pork rinds and a quail egg, proving that sustainable food doesn’t have to be vegetarian or good for you. As long as it’s delicious, who cares? And of course you have to have the foraged mushrooms with goat cheese on rye bread. After all, forage is in the name of the restaurant! That’s just science.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Vancouver!
What would you do with 24 hours in Vancouver? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Vancouver now? And what is cuter than an otter? (Answer: absolutely nothing.) Please leave your thoughts below!
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 a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Vancouver.