Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town.
Today, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Dee de los Santos, who kindly provided a Vancouver interview for my just-launched mini guidebook (you can grab your copy here). Today, in celebration of that launch, I’m publishing an excerpt of her interview:
First, tell us about you.
I am Vancouver born and raised and still live in the city. By day, I work as a PR and Digital Marketing professional at my own company, Pink Fork Media and by night, I am a food and travel blogger on my own blog, Gastrofork. When I do manage to have some free time, I normally spend it exploring the outer regions of the city, traveling, and taking photos.
If someone is visiting your town/area for the first time, what do you recommend they do and see?
There are so many great attractions in Vancouver. It really depends on how intense you want your experience to be and also the season. If it’s your first time in Vancouver, I recommend renting bikes and traversing Stanley Park via the seawall, visiting the market and artisans at Granville Island, admiring the view at from the Canada Place area, and visiting our diverse neighborhoods (Gastown, Mount Pleasant, Commercial Drive, Kitsilano, Yaletown, etc.).
If you’re an avid outdoors enthusiast, there are plenty of different hikes just outside the city, including the immense Stawamus Chief in Squamish and Dog Mountain at Mount Seymour.
Old Faithful Shop in Gastown is a general store with some interesting home goods. Secret Location is an apparel store and a place to grab something to eat. And The Umbrella Shop is a much-needed addition to our rainy little city.
Honestly, I can’t think of any attractions in Vancouver that aren’t worth a visit, it just depends on what you’re into.
For more experienced travelers, what are some of your favorite hidden gems?
In addition to the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge, there is another suspension bridge in North Vancouver. It’s over at Lynn Canyon and it’s free.
In the summertime, we have an Asian night market in Richmond called the Richmond Night Market and a huge market on the North Shore called Shipyards Night Market, right on the pier. Socks and stationary are my two favorite things to pick up at the markets and the Shipyards Nigh Market always has a good collection of food trucks.
Also in the summer, we have Bard on the Beach–Shakespeare plays performed looking out over False Creek. At the end of July, the Celebration of Light draws huge crowds to watch its fireworks display.
Balance Botanicals (4341 Main Street) have jars upon jars of different herbs and spices that will either cure any ailment or be the perfect addition to your cooking or baking.
What neighborhoods do you recommend staying in?
It’s a great idea to stay downtown. Everything is within walking distance and it’s easy to connect to outer regions. That said, staying close to transit on the outskirts of downtown can be really nice, particularly if you get a spot in Kitsilano.
Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should we consider visiting?
Hopping on a ferry and visiting Victoria or the Sunshine Coast, soaking in a natural hot springs at Harrison Hot Springs, and skiing/snowboarding and exploring in Whistler are my top picks. The drive up the Sea-to-Sky highway to Whistler is also pretty spectacular.
What nearby walking paths, parks, or natural areas would you recommend?
Stanley Park and the seawall are very popular for being picturesque. We have a lot of other great parks and gardens, including Dr. Sun Yat Sen garden, Queen Elizabeth Park (which has a conservatory at the top with a great view of the city), and Van Dusen.
Tell us about the food. What local dishes and drinks should people try while in your area?
The two biggest cuisines here are be Chinese and Japanese. Check out Kishimoto (2054 Commercial Drive; phone: 604.255.5550), but be prepared for long lines, or Miku (200 Granville Street, #70; phone: 604.568.3900) for their incredibly ornate aburi oshi sushi and just great rolls.
Our ramen is fantastic as well. I recommend Marutama (780 Bidwell Street; phone: 604.688.8837) and Ramen Koika (1231 Davie Street; phone: 604.336.2779).
For Chinese food, venture into Richmond. There are so many great hole-in-the-wall places that provide a greasy and filling meal for under $10. My own favorites include HK BBQ Master (4651 No. 3 Road), whose barbecue pork and roasted pork are probably the best in Vancouver. It’s under a supermarket and there are always lines, often out the door. Another I frequent is Deer Garden (8338 Captsan Way, #1213), a Taiwanese customize-your-own-soup place. The soup bowls are large and are under $10.
Since we are so close to the Pacific, our seafood is fantastic. Check out Buck-a-Shuck happy hours at Rodney’s Oysters (1228 Hamilton Street; phone: 604.609.0080), Chewies (2201 W. 1st Avenue; phone: 604.558.4448), and Joe Fortes (777 Thurlow Street; phone: 604.669.1940).
As for drinks, there have been many craft breweries and distilleries popping up in the past couple years. My favorite distillery is Odd Society Spirits (1725 Powell Street). Their creme de cassis is a must-have in every home bar.
If you’re looking for an authentic coffee shop experience, I highly recommend Revolver (325 Cambie Street). They switch up their beans frequently and you can choose which type you’d like in your espresso drink.
Basho Cafe (2007 E. Hastings Street) is a Japanese cafe that serves matcha drinks and other espresso drinks, roasting their own coffee in house. The interior is kitschy and they have an afternoon seating where you select your drink and are treated to small matcha sweets.
Do you have any tips for saving money while traveling here?
If your primary transportation for getting around Vancouver is public transit, buy a Day Pass from any of the Translink machines ($9.75 CAD). The Day Pass allows you to travel for the entire day throughout all zones in Vancouver.
Many attractions in the city are walkable, so be sure to use a map and plan ahead.
Richmond is a great place to have a meal under $10 – 20 CAD and there is good selection of Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Hong Kong style cafes.
There are also some great happy hour specials. Joe Fortes (see above) has a great one, with half off the bar menu and buck-a-shuck oysters!
What is the best way to meet locals and make friends?
Use Facebook to look up Vancouver groups. There are many meetups that are organized on Facebook and groups focused on international travelers in Vancouver!
Where are the best places to get a memorable photograph of your area?
Between Waterfront Station and the Vancouver Sun building, at Canada Place, on Lonsdale Quay looking out toward downtown Vancouver, at the Gastown steam clock, in Stanley Park (at Prospect Point), and at Ambleside Beach in North Vancouver.
Where can we find a good WIFI connection and working environment?
There are a lot of great cafes in Vancouver that you can sit down and work at. 49th Parallel, JJ Bean on Alberni, and Coffee Bar in Gastown are three favorites. If you prefer a quieter environment, the Vancouver Public Library downtown is a good place to work, as well.
Anything else you want us to know about your city or the surrounding area?
Come hungry! Vancouver is a foodie city but also a healthy city. Don’t mind the rain. Just be prepared and have an umbrella and sunglasses handy wherever you go.
Going to Vancouver? Get the full interview and two more in my new guidebook:
Buy it Now: Kindle for $2.99 – or Kindle Unlimited for free!