My Trip to Western Canada Part 2: Vancouver and Victoria

The breathtaking views from downtown Vancouver.

Day 1: Wednesday, September 20

I woke up at 6AM MT to make my way to the Calgary International Airport on the CTrain and bus. I arrived with plenty of time and boarded my flight to Vancouver. Due to the one hour time difference, I hopped on my flight at 10:55AM MT and arrived in Vancouver at 11:21AM PT — not bad!

Getting downtown in Vancouver was even easier than Calgary. There was a SkyTrain station (Vancouver’s LRT) right in the airport — awesome! Unlike Toronto where you can buy transit fare from an actual human, in Vancouver you must use a vending machine. The first time I used the machine, I found them pretty confusing (apparently, I wasn’t the only one, as there were long line ups; it would have been nice to have a transit employee there to assist us). There were so many different payment options and three transit zones (something I’d never dealt with before). In my haste, somehow I accidentally bought a day pass (I only realized this later on). On top of that, when I arrived downtown and went to exit the station, it said I didn’t have enough money on my transit pass (to say I was a little perturbed would be an understatement). I did eventually get used to the transit fares, but for anyone visiting the city for the first time, it can be pretty confusing. (Frugal tip: you can travel across all the fare zones for the price of a 1-Zone Fare on weekdays after 6:30PM and all day Saturday, Sunday and Holidays.)

After the transit ordeal, I met up with Kevin Sandhu and Jesse Penner from Powered by Grow. Kevin was nice enough to take me out for drinks. I first met Kevin at the Canadian Personal Finance Conference a couple years ago, so I was curious to see how his business was doing. After catching up, we had a fascinating discussion on the evolution of credit scores and the changing face of retail banking.

After that, I went exploring in downtown Vancouver. Vancouver reminded me a lot of San Francisco. Both cities are located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and use electric battery-powered buses. Vancouver is truly a city surrounded by mountains. I went to Canada Place in the north end of the city, which offers a spectacular view of the city. It gave me an obstructed view of the mountains, North Vancouver and Stanley Park.

My first day was pretty long, so I headed back to my Airbnb place in Burnaby to get a good night’s rest. (I stayed in Burnaby to help save money. My Airbnb place was in a great location, nearby a SkyTrain station, so it wasn’t a hassle to get downtown.)

Day 2: Thursday, September 21

Enjoying lunch at one of Vancouver’s finest restaurants.

On my first full day in Vancouver, I met up Chantel Chapman and Erin van der Lee for a tour of the Mogo offices in downtown Vancouver. It was pretty cool to learn about everything that goes on behind the scenes. After that, Chantel and Erin were nice enough to take me for lunch at one of Vancouver’s finest restaurants overlooking the harbour.

In the afternoon, I met up with Paul Kershaw, the Founder of Generation Squeeze, for coffee at Trees Organic Coffee on Granville Street. In the late afternoon, I rented a bike for a couple hours and explored Stanley Park. Stanley Park was named the “top park in the entire world” by TripAdvisor and I can safely say it lives up to the hype. There’s nothing like biking along the Vancouver Harbour during sunset. The views were absolutely stunning and the perfect way to cap off my first full day!

Day 3: Friday, September 22

Beautiful Victoria Harbour and the parliament buildings.

On Friday, I had lunch with Alan of MortgagePal in Victoria. Victoria and Vancouver are two major cities, so I figured it shouldn’t take long to go from one to the other — two hours tops. Boy, was I wrong! Travelling between them was quite a journey — it took over four hours! I left my Airbnb in Burnaby at 7:45AM and didn’t make it to Victoria until Noon (if it wasn’t for my friend giving me a lift from the ferry dock on Vancouver Island, it’d probably taken me almost five hours!). If you’re travelling from Vancouver to Victoria, my best advice is to spend the night. You can take the Harbour Air Seaplane to save time, but it’s pretty pricey (it costs more than my flight from Calgary to Vancouver). Nevertheless, if you aren’t in any hurry, the ferry ride over to the island is quite scenic.

After lunch, I went exploring in downtown Victoria. Victoria is a big city, but it has a nice small town feel. I forgot that Victoria was the capital of B.C. until I saw the parliament buildings. I went for a self-guided tour. It was interesting and a great way to learn about the history of B.C. I visited the inner Harbour of Victoria, one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, where I saw a seal (a lot better than the seagulls at Lake Ontario!).

Day 4: Saturday, September 23

Riding on top of the gondola at Grouse Mountain.

On my last full day in Vancouver, I wanted to make the most of it. I started my day by visiting Grouse Mountain. I hopped on a free shuttle bus that took me right there from downtown Vancouver. I had already rode inside a Gondola at Banff, so I decided to be a little more daring and ride on top of the gondola. It cost an extra $25, but it was well worth it — it was an exhilarating experience!

Once I made it to the top of Grouse Mountain, there was plenty to see and do. I got to see an owl and some bears up close and personal. I also got to see the lumberjack show, which included axe-throwing and log rolling competitions. Similar to Banff, the views from the top of Grouse Mountain were stunning. It gave me a spectacular view of Vancouver and the surrounding areas.

In the afternoon, I went to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (again, taking the free shuttle bus). I started by going over the suspension bridge. I also enjoyed Cliffwalk, where you’re literally walking along the edge of a cliff, and Treetops Adventure, where you’re walking through the trees. (Grouse Mountain and Capilano Suspension Bridge are only a few minutes outside downtown Vancouver, so make sure you visit them while you’re there.)

I finished my trip off by exploring Gastown, one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods, and seeing the famous whistling Steam Clock.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I had an amazing time in Western Canada. My time there flew by. It was easily my best trip ever. If you’ve never been to Western Canada, I highly recommend that you visit. Calgary and Vancouver both offer a nice blend of urban living and the outdoors. I still haven’t seen Jasper or Whistler, so I’m sure I’ll be back again one day.

Sean Cooper is the author of the new book, Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom for Canadians, available now on Amazon and at Chapters, Indigo and major bookstores.

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