Vancouver has mountains, the ocean, the food and the culture. It’s accessible and affordable in that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good time. But this world-class city also has some premium experiences on offer, for those who have the cash.
I’m not saying I should be known as Vancouver’s Biggest Fan—but I could be. I volunteer as a driver for the Vancouver International Film Festival, transporting filmmakers to their hotels and premieres and giving advice on where to go and what to see.
I host couchsurfers and loved ones in my home. I’ve even handed over my apartment to friends and families before, dubbing it “TarBnb”. And whenever I meet people on my own travels, I always quiz them on when they’ll be visiting Vancouver (and to call me if they do).
I do all because I absolutely love this city and want to share it with the world. We’ve got the mountains, the ocean, the food and the culture. It’s accessible and affordable (just not if you’re a millennial that wants to buy a home) in that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good time. But this world-class city also has some premium experiences on offer, for those who have the cash.
Speaking of, if you’re in the Splurge category, consider donating to the many incredible organizations that work to support our at-risk communities, like: The Dugout, Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, Urban Native Youth Association, and PHS Community Services Society. Visitors often ask me for answers about the poverty in the Downtown Eastside when they visit, and I always recommend supporting organizations like these to help alleviate the struggles of those who need support.
There’s lots to do, see and enjoy here—best on a sunny day, but always workable on a rainy one, too. Welcome to Raincouver!
Steal: Days Inn by Wyndham Vancouver Downtown
I’ve listed hostels before in other Steal, Deal, and Splurge articles—but today I’m going for a 3-star hotel as my steal of an accommodation.
Yes, you could get a cheaper stay at Samesun or The Cambie Hostel, but if we’re talking about value, I’d definitely opt for the Days Inn. The location is nearly unbeatable—just a few blocks from our Splurge—boasting easy access to Stanley Park, North Vancouver, and downtown’s many food and entertainment options. A room for four is as affordable as $150 per night right now—so commit to downtown and enjoy walking, biking, and riding the SkyTrain.
Deal: A Kitsilano Airbnb
I’ve always been an East Van girl, but since recently moving west to the Fairview neighborhood, I’m starting to see the Kitsilano appeal. Kits is almost synonymous with lululemon—it was the home of the brand’s original store, still houses a large portion of their head office, and encapsulates the vibe of the laid back, dog-walking, coffee-and-yoga pants vibe.
If you’re staying in Kits, you’ve got to stay near the beach—something like this renovated heritage home is affordable for a group, has plenty of room for socializing, and is—crucially—only a few steps from the water. For extra entertainment, look up a comparable home on rew.ca. Viewing the real estate listings is free, but the sticker shock of a 3-bedroom house is priceless.
Splurge: Fairmont Pacific Rim
As mentioned, we are back downtown for our splurge, at the Fairmont’s iconic Pac Rim hotel. There are plenty of luxury hotels downtown but this one has world-class suites where actors, athletes, and other rich and famous folks stay when they’re in town. I’d opt for the Stanley Park View Suite, which is 800 square feet, features two bathrooms, and a guaranteed iconic view of Coal Harbour, Stanley Park, and the North Shore mountains from floors 9-19.
Plus, of course, access to the hotel’s incredible pool, spa, and room service. This level of suite runs around $2000 per night—but their most premium offer, the Chairman’s Suite, is as high as $15,000 per night. It was featured on Vogue’s popular video series 73 Questions when Riverdale actor Cole Sprouse was interviewed, so watch that to get a peek!
Steal: Cheap Eats
Vancouver gets a lot of flack—being a “no fun city”, having terrible sports teams, raining more days than not, and being extremely expensive. Average income is lower than other parts of the country, and yet cost of living is rivaled only by San Francisco and Singapore.
But we are blessed in other ways—and one of those is the city’s low-cost dining options. This city is absolutely teeming with ridiculously delicious, affordable, and exciting places to eat. Seriously, you can get the world’s cuisines for under $15 per person.
Some of my favourites:
- Pho: Thai Son (Multiple locations)
- Tacos: Sal Y Limon (Multiple locations)
- Bao & pastries: New Town Bakery (Chinatown)
- Sushi: Sushi TonTon (Cambie Street)
- Dim Sum: R & H Chinese Food (Richmond)
Deal: Hoshi Sushi at the Sandbar Seafood Restaurant
Vancouver is known for its seafood and sushi, and at Sandbar, you can have both at any time of the day. They offer stunning seafood towers, an incredible happy hour, and fresh seasonal shellfish year-round. But the hidden gem of this aesthetically-pleasing spot (the Granville Island location features gorgeous waterfront views of Vancouver’s downtown) is Tsutomu Hoshi’s Omakase.
Hoshi is a master sushi chef who trained for a decade in Japan. You can order sushi off his menu at a table, as well, but if you sit at the bar for Omakase, you’ll be treated to countless dishes of the highest quality. Truly, I lost count. The soft-shell crab was a standout, as was the tamago nigiri that kicked off the meal. To book Omakase, call Sandbar directly—expect around $80-100 per person plus drinks.
Splurge: Dinner at Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca
Yes, Cioppino’s is an award-winning, long-running, fine dining restaurant. Yes, it’s still run by the highly-praised Chef Pino Posteraro who opened it in 1999. And yes, it’s a splashy vibe in upscale Yaletown.
Plus seafood, house-made pastas and sauces, and lobster risotto—need I say more?
Okay, one more: Celebrity watching. Vancouver is known as “Hollywood North,” and all of Hollywood’s finest are known to frequent Cioppino’s when filming in town, including Jennifer Aniston, Drake, Bono, and even Frank Sinatra. So if there’s any restaurant that’s likely to get you closer to the limelight, it’s Cioppino’s. But book early—I just checked for a birthday celebration in July, and there’s nothing available after 2pm.
Steal: Lynn Valley for Hiking and Sightseeing
Vancouver’s public transit isn’t perfect (Translink’s 2050 vision has been subject to some heckling online) but I’m still proud to live in a city where a car is a perk, not a necessity. You can take public transit anywhere—including to nature.
Hop the 240 bus from downtown to North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley and 50 minutes later you can enjoy world-class hiking. Lynn Peak is a lightly-trafficked challenge but offers a view as your reward, and Rice Lake Loop is casual but beautiful.
Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge is always worth a visit—free, compared to Capilano Suspension Bridge, and just as beautiful. Breathe in that mountain air and enjoy!
Deal: Ride bikes—anywhere, anytime
The absolute best way to experience Vancouver is by bike. A bikes & beers tour of East Vancouver (we have over 40 microbreweries in the vicinity!) is an absolute favourite for when I have visitors in town!
You can rent bikes throughout the city but if you want to do it like a local, get a $15 day pass for Vancouver’s bike share program Mobi so you can hop on and hop off as you please. I rarely ride my bike purely for fun—it’s usually transportation, best enjoyed with friends—so by using Mobi, you’re able to bike and dock as much as you want. Bonus: if you indulge in a few too many sour ales, you can easily taxi or Uber home (no worrying about your rental bike return time).
If beer’s not your style, check out the Arbutus Greenway, our world-famous Seawall, or just mosey around the neighbourhood you’re staying in, stopping for coffee, pastry, or sushi! If you’re a cyclist, try the Lion’s Gate Bridge to North Vancouver—but do not try that on a Mobi, trust me.
Splurge: Charter a Luxury Yacht
Vancouver’s weather is fairly manageable, but if the trends from recent years continue, heat waves are becoming an expected part of the summer months. Therefore, the ideal way to enjoy a summer day will be to get out on the water.
Private charters, like from Infinity Yachts, allow you to design the perfect day—cruising by Gulf Islands, hopping in and out of the water to swim, world-class catering, and even fishing experiences, if you desire. Founder Michael Sawyer is an expert on the region and can provide you with the information you need to map out an all-star route and experience. Pricing estimates on Infinity’s site are by the week, but you can inquire for shorter journeys—presumably including day trips.
If you book, let me know when and where—I’ll be there. And if you come to Vancouver, also let me know! I can’t promise a spot at TarBnb, but I can promise advice on where to get dinner.