So, my wife and I are planning a summer getaway to Vancouver, British Columbia, this year without the teen kids. (Yes, all on Marriott points and American miles.) We have never traveled to the Pacific Northwest. What suggestions, guidance, recommendations, etc. does the community have for us? Many thanks in advance for your valued advice!
Not sure how long your stay will be, but if you have a day to spare, consider taking an early ferry to Victoria. The boat ride is only about 90 minutes and you'll be treated to one of the most British cities outside of England. Double-decker buses, pubs, tea rooms, and the beautiful Empress Hotel and nearby Parliament buildings. Have afternoon tea before returning to the mainland.
There are plenty of things to keep you busy in Vancouver, especially around Gastown and near Harbour Center. Chinatown is worth a visit. There is also an excellent Maritime Museum. Vancouver and Victoria are amazing contrasts to each other, so try to visit both if you can.
Love love love BC. I would definitely recommend flying into Seattle, renting a car, then catching the ferry from Anacortes, WA, through the San Juan Islands and over to Sidney on Vancouver Island, BC. It is breathtakingly beautiful, with a high probability for some whale watching. I would then drive down from Sidney for a night's stay at he Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour. I would rank that Marriott as the best in service for any Marriott I have ever stayed at. As bejacob suggests, walk down to the Empress and have appies and a cocktail or afternoon tea to experience the grandeur of an old grande dame. For dinner I would hop a water taxi to the Spinnaker Brewpub, then take a leisurely walk back along the harbour path to downtown and pick up a keepsake at one of the many art galleries.
From Victoria I would drive up to Nanaimo where you will drive through beautiful scenery, then catch the ferry over to Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver. Or you could catch a ferry from Scwartz Bay to Tsawassen (pronounced too-wassen) on the mainland and a short drive to Vancouver.
If you don't take the ferry to Vancouver Island, but still want to get there, I would highly recommend Harbour Air from Vancouver Harbour. You can choose one of their day packages and get a chance to see the beautiful Butchart Gardens, not to mention a memorable experience of flying in a sea plane.
For a breathtakingly beautiful scenic drive from Vancouver, take the Sea-to-Sky Highway up to Whistler, or even just part way.
While in Vancouver I would visit Granville Island for a leisurely day out at the market. I would also visit Lynn Canyon (free), walk across the suspension bridge, then a short hike to the natural pool and/or the twin falls. There is also the Capilano Suspension Bridge but there is a fee involved in that. The old Expo site is also nice, as is the aquarium, as well as Gastown.
Finally, drive back to Seattle and stay at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront where it's a short walk to Pike Place Market. Hop on board a hop-on/hop-off bus right across the street from the hotel for a quick and informative tour of the area.
I've attached all the links below. Hope this helps!
Thank you, missgee! This is some great insight and advice. We picked Vancouver this year somewhat at random after other our planning efforts with points and miles just weren't working out to much. It was a place on our rather lengthy list that we have yet to visit and knew little about until now. This sounds already as if it is about to become a memorable trip for us and we are a bit off still from the departure. Keep 'em coming, folks! This is great stuff and most valued. -Tex
You may want to check the total cost in fees (on top of the airline points) to fly into Seattle vs. Vancouver. Typically, when you go international they start tacking on a lot of fees that are not covered by your points. Suddenly your "free" flight costs hundreds of dollars. My wife and I love Vancouver (and Seattle) and for our next Vancouver trip we will fly into Seattle and then take AmTrak into Vancouver. Vancouver (and Victoria) have good public transportation and I find no need to have a rental car and it's associated cost.
curiousone, Wow. I wish I had known that back in January when we planned this trip. At least we are traveling on miles with American (first class for a change), so the added international fees were all we had to cough up for this one and the really weren't so bad. The ironic thing is that we are now thinking about making a trip down to Seattle while we are there. Live and learn. Thank you so much for the valued insight. Seattle will be the target for our next trip there.
We've traveled throughout Pacific NW, with Vancouver, B.C., only one of our favorite places to visit. This photo shows city at dusk taken from roadside in nearby Stanley Park through which you ought to drive (day and/or night), and take time to eat (lunch or dinner) - with reservations at The Fish House in the park - http://www.fishousestanleypark.com There are some cost savings on meals if you dine early.
We normally stay at Marriott Pinnacle in downtown Vancouver which is in walking distance to the pier where cruise ships arrive, as shown here. If you have an auto I'd also suggest eating at The Cannery Seafood House at 2205 Commissioner St. It's a bit difficult to find, but the hotel can give you directions on local map - Suggest reservations: 604-254-9606.
Granville Island is a quaint village with shops and restaurants and worthwhile day trip across the bridge from downtown Vancouver. Our favorite restaurant, just off Granville Street, is the Star anise, 1485 W. 12th Ave. - Call 604-737-1458 for reservations. While there, if you like chocolates, visit nearby Daniel's - great Belgium chocolates!
I agree with others that flying into Seattle - instead of Vancouver - is best, and this would afford side trip off I-5 to Whidbey Island, where you could visit Fort Casey, and if you like rustic living - but fabulous food - try the Captain Whidbey Inn - 360-678-4097. Stay in the Inn, instead of the Lagoon room - but you'll share community baths in the hall as the rooms only have a sink. Don't leave without trying Penncove Mussels! You can take the lakeside road to Coupeville,
Someone suggested Victoria and this is nice but a bit out-of-the-way. You can take car ferry from south of Vancouver to Vancouver Island, stay in Victoria for 1-2 days, and then take car ferry from the city to Port Angeles, WA, and drive back to Seattle via Bremerton and Tacoma. If you have time to stay overnight in Port Angeles, take a ride up Hurricane Ridge in Olympic Mountains - it's breathtaking!
If you arrive in Tacoma near end of day, call ahead for reservations at Stanley & Seaforts Restaurant - 206-473-7300, located at 115E. 34th St., overlooking the city and Puget Sound. Two of our favorite restaurants in Seattle are Cutters Bayhouse near Pike Street Market and the Yarrow Bay Grill, East of Seattle, in Kirkland - 206-889-9052 - for reservations and directions.
If you want a truly memorable experience - and have the $ to spend - drive East of Seattle to Snoqualmie, WA at foothills of the mountains, and stay at the Salish Lodge - 206-888-2556. It's quite expensive, but it's a "honeymoon" experience, and if you stay on Saturday night, make sure you call for reservations for the multi-course Sunday brunch.
Haven't even mentioned Portland area, but you can see some of my photos from this area in photo album listed.
How could I forget Stanley Park?!
Speaking of Port Angeles.... My husband was called back to work on an emergency so we took the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles to SeaTac, following the directions of our beloved Amy the GPS (so named because she aims me in the right direction). I was gazing off into mindless space (as the passenger) as our lovely stay at the Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour had come to a very abrupt end with an early morning ferry call, so I was in dire need of sleep. All of a sudden my fuzzy brain registered that Amy was telling us to get on the ferry. I looked down at her and saw a picture of a floating boat. I looked up and saw a floating boat. And then my mouth dropped when my husband pulled up to the kiosk, paid, and then asked what time the next ferry was. I was like... "The next ferry?! How about "Where is this ferry taking us?!"
I had looked at Google maps before we left and I had just assumed that Amy would take us via Bremerton and Tacoma. But it turned out to be a very nice ferry ride and it got us back to the airport in a much timelier fashion. Well, my husband, anyway. I dropped him off then drove back up to Vancouver to continue our holiday alone. lol
Jerry, I'm headed to Portland, OR, again last week in August on business trip - actually, I'm staying at Marriott Waterfront, downtown Portland, Saturday-Monday nights, driving down to Eugene on Monday and then after calls in Portland area, driving to Seattle for more visits. While there, we will re-visit our favorite restaurants: Jakes, 401 SW 12th Ave. - 503-226-1419; McCormick & Schmick's, 235 SW 1st (on Willamette River and walking distance from Marriott) - 503-224-7522; and if you like German food, Rheinlander, 5035 NE Sandy Blvd (near airport) - 503-288-5503.
If you have time to travel about with a car, the drive from Portland West (Hwy 26) to Cannon Beach, then South on 101 to Florence and back into Eugene on Hwy 126 is a wonderful trip (see photo below).
Another suggestion is to drive East on I-84 from Portland to Hood River, taking side road up to Rooster Rock for overlook of Columbia River, then stopping at Multnomah Falls (beautiful any season, see photos) and eating lunch in the falls cafe, enjoying the falls, stopping at Bonneville Dam (picnic along river), and then driving South on Hwy 35 to Government Camp, and up to Mt Hood. You can book room at Timberline Lodge, or just eat dinner there, and afterward drive back into Portland via Hwy 26.
While staying in Portland drive up to Washington Park (west of downtown), which overlooks the city and Mt. Hood in distance, and enjoy the rose gardens, and eat lunch at one of the fine sidewalk cafes on Knob Hill (locals call it "Snob Hill"). The original Nike retail store, along with many other retail shops, are short walk from the Marriott.
Hope you have a good trip!
Thank you one and all for the great advice and insight into Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Pacific Northwest. My wife and I had a wonderful eight night stay there at the Renaissance Harbourside. The hotel was not quite what we had hoped for (see my review for the dirt) but our time there in and around the city was grand. We decided to ship the rental car and had no problems betting around town by foot, bike, taxi, bus, or ferry. We visited Coal Harbour, Gasville, Granville Island, Stanley Park by bike, the Aquarium, the Convention Center, Grouse Mountain, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and North Vancouver. The highlight of the trip was the ferry across to Vancouver Island to visit the beauty of the Butchart Gardens and lovely city of Victoria. Dining throughout the week was a delight. Between recommendations from TripAdvisor and the hotel staff, as well as blind chance, there wasn't a disappointing meal to be found. The last night was a sunset dinner cruise around the city. Our timing could not have been more perfect as the summer temperatures in North Texas finally hit the triple digits the day after we arrived to the ideal 60-70's in Vancouver. It was actually a 105 in Dallas the day we returned. There is so much more to do than we had time for this trip. We will be back to catch some of the sights you've shared with us here that we have yet to see. Again, our thanks to each of you for helping make this a vacation to remember. I will update my blog here soon with details and photos.