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Last month I spent a wonderful three weeks in Canada. For two of those weeks we stayed with some friends who had moved over for a year. Our friends live in North Vancouver, so this is my experience of the area.
North Vancouver is situated across the river from Downtown Vancouver, to the North as you may have guessed. It is one of the richest areas in the city although West Van prob has that crown. North Van is a densly populated area but it lies in the shadow of the mountains so in no way do you feel as if your in a major city.
There was so much to do in the area. A very good afternoon out was the short bus ride to Lonsdale Quay. The Quay has wonderful views across the water to the towering building in Downtown. It really is a wonderful skyline to admire. From the Quay you can catch the sea bus that takes you right into the centre of the Downtown area. Also there is the Lonsdale Quay Market. A really interesting little market with all kinds of local food and crafts. We only had a quick look in here but I could easily have spent a good few hours browsing round the place.
Another place where we spent a few hours was the Capilano Mall. A very modern place with some great shops and lots of nice places to eat and drink. If your after doing some shopping this is a great place to visit.
My friends who we stayed with boasted that this part of the city has the best level of fitness per person in Canada, now I don't know if that is a fact, but it would not surprise me. I was always seeing people out running and there is so much to do in the area. Being at the foot of Grouse mountain you can do lots of treks and hikes in the area. There is Skiing and snowboarding in the winter as well as sledding, snoe shoeing and many other great winter sports.
Its well worth a trip up the cable car to the top of Grouse mountain, even if you can't board or ski. There is a ice rink up there, outdoors! There is a nice restaurant and a bar and some simply stunning views. The cable car takes about ten minutes and is a great ride!!
Another local attraction is the Capilano suspension bridge. Now I must admit we did not get chance to visit this, but it is a big attraction. Its set in a very nice park where you can do lots of activities and see some great views. Although part of the reason we didn't visit was that we were told it was very expensive!
We went to a few bars and resteraunt in the area. Earls is excellent, famous for the 'Earls Girls' its like a classy version of Hooters apparently. Lots of pretty girls who are all very friendly. The service was excellent and the food was some of the best we had whilest in Canada. The prices were about average for what we encountered at most places. We also went to a few other places to eat and I was impressed with the variety of food and places that were availiable.
If your looking for some pancakes for breatfast then De Dutch is probably your best bet. I must admit I could not get into the whole pancakes for breakfast thing, but this place seemed to do the best ones. I had a Granola pancake with cinamon apples in the centre, were the best ones I had while in Canada. And the prices were very reasonable.
There is a really nice atmosphere to this part of the city, everyone is friendly as we found where ever we went in Canada. The public transport was very good, easy to catch buses, the scenery on the edge of the city is wonderful, and the place just seems like a great area to live in.
If you are lucky enough to go to Vancouver and have a choice of where to stay, I would recommend North Van. Its got everything you need and its close to Downtown and easy to head north into the mountains. This is a wonderful place and I would love to go back there and do some more exploring, North Van is the place to be!
North Vancouver is not actually the north part of Vancouver itself, it's a city separated from the bright lights of Van City by a short stretch of water. I was fortunate to spend a few months living there and really enjoyed the healthy, outdoor way of life that can be found so close to the big city. A lot of Vancouver's tourist attractions are actually located in North Van so I thought I would write a little about this lovely little place.
North Van is one of the wealthier neighbourhoods in BC, although not so much so as its neighbour, West Vancouver. With such a great location at the foot of Grouse Mountain, it's hardly surprising that North Van has been dubbed the city with the highest fitness level in the whole of Canada. It is densely populated, particularly around Lonsdale Avenue, its main hub, and is home to Lions Gate Studios, which were actually right down the road from my house! A great deal of movies and TV shows have been filmed around the Greater Vancouver area, perhaps most notably the X-Files. It is actually dubbed 'Hollywood North' as its ocean, mountains, parks and city buildings mean it can be passed off as a great number of worldwide locations. (I saw Jack Nicholson walking down the street when I was in Subway!)
WHERE IS IT?
North Vancouver is a part of the Greater Vancouver district, located in British Columbia, which is in the south west of Canada. From Lonsdale Quay, Vancouver City is cleary visible and just a stone's throw away. The surrounding area is also home to beautiful Victoria, situated on Vancouver Island, ski areas such as Whistler, and it is a relatively short border hop to Washington state.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO?
As mentioned before, outdoor activities are where North Van has the upper hand over its bolder, flashier neighbour of Van City. Downtown Vancouver can, in my opinion, get a bit much after a while, despite its many parks, and I'm sure most tourists want to see at least some of the beauty of BC during their trip.
For skiiers or snowboarders, Grouse Mountain is an obvious choice. But even if you don't fancy hitting the slopes, there's a lot more to keep you busy. Winter time is obviously the busiest, and has the widest range of activities - skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing, sleigh rides - but you can also enjoy helicopter rides, the Skyride cable car for a fantastic view over Vancouver City, zip lines and the wildlife refuge with grizzly bears and wolves year-round.
In the summer, you really can't pass up the Grouse Grind, it is almost a rite of passage and yes, it will make you want to die, but you will be glad you did when you get to the top! It's a 1.8 mile hike with 2,830 stairs, and the difference in elevation bottom-top is 2,800 feet! You can proudly purchase a "I Survived the Grouse Grind" t-shirt upon completion!
Daily admission to Grouse Mountain in CAD as follows:
Adult (19-64) - $34.95
Senior (65+) $32.95
Youth (13-18) $20.95
Child (5-12) $12.95
This includes (depending on the season of course) the Theatre in the Sky high-def cinema, wildlife refuge, snowshoeing, ice skating, sleigh rides, and in the festive season the Peak of Christmas, which has all kinds of festive activities, reindeer, Santa, etc. Rentals for equipment does cost extra and you will need to book some activities in advance. There are a number of places to eat and drink at Grouse Mountain.
Another wonderful place but not for the faint-hearted is Capilano Suspension Bridge. Featuring the bridge, the park also houses a totem park, treetops adventure (which claims to give a "squirrels eye view" of the park via a series of smaller suspension bridges) and first nations cultural centre. It's a truly beautiful park and well worth a visit if you have the guts for the 450ft long, 230 high bridge!!
Admission to the park is:
Senior (65+) $25.95
Student (17+ with ID) $21.75
Youth (13-16) $8.75
Under 6 free
For a slightly less terrifying, free option, Lynn Canyon Park has a smaller (but still scary) suspension bridge, as well as hiking trails and natural swimming spots in the summer. I have hiked here a number of times and it's a wonderful place.
As for "downtown", there are several places to eat and drink, mostly centred around Lonsdale, and a few shops, but to be honest Vancouver itself is much better for that. It's not far into West Van where Park Royal Shopping Centre is worth a visit.
Lonsdale Quay, however, does have a few nice one-of-a-kind shops with crafts especially, and a nice market, with plenty of places to eat before you catch your Seabus over to the city!
TRANSPORT AND LODGING
Honestly, lovely as it is, I can't see why you would choose to stay in North Van when you have the city itself so close, with more dining options etc. There is a hotel at the Quay, but I can't say I've heard great things about it.
Getting around and to Vancouver itself couldn't be easier. Either follow Lonsdale down the hill (and be glad you're not walking up it - especially in pouring rain!) to the Quay for a regular departure of the Seabus - a five minute ferry crossing - or jump on one of the many cheap and clean buses. They have a great transport system whereby you can use a single ticket as many times as you wish within an hour and a half of purchase. When I was there (2006) I believe tickets cost the equivalent of about £1 for two zones (which you need if you are going from North Van to the city itself), and you can use them on the bus, Seabus and metro train.
Public transport info linked below.
It tends to be a lot milder in BC than other parts of Canada, although be warned it can rain a LOT during the autumn months especially. Waterproofs and an umbrella are pretty much essential at those times. Because it rains so much (I don't want to be offputting, it can be lovely too!) activities usually go on as normal and there is rarely much snow, besides obviously on the slopes!
Many airlines offer cheap flights into Vancouver. Unfortunately now Zoom are no longer with us, there is less choice, but deals are there. A Canadian Affair is a good site for cheap flights, linked below.
Grouse Mountain - www.grousemountain.com
Capilano Suspension Bridge - www.capbridge.com
Lynn Canyon - http://www.dnv.org/ecology/see_do/see_do.html
City of North Vancouver - www.cnv.org
Transport info - http://www.translink.bc.ca/
A Canadian Affair - www.canadianaffair.com
In conclusion, North Vancouver is often overlooked in favour of the big city, but is a safe, clean city with lots of fun activities to try out. If you're planning on visiting Vancouver, spend at least a day on the other side!!
The City of North Vancouver, British Columbia, is a municipality located in the heart of the North Shore.