Vancouver with Teens: A Perfect Family Day
The first order of business in Vancouver for me and my teen was breakfast. In the lobby of the Hyatt was a Starbucks. With the immediate food and caffeine problem solved, we headed out the door. Our first destination was the Vancouver Aquarium, situated in Stanley Park. The cab ride was less than $10.00 Canadian. Taxis throughout the city take U.S. Dollars, Canadian Dollars or Plastic. The cash exchange rate was an easy 1 to 1, though change was always given in Canadian currency.
As you enter the Aquarium, a huge two-story fish tank dominates, with hallways leading to each separate exhibit hall. I was especially mesmerized by the jellyfish displays. The lighting was such that each delicate tentacle was visible and every movement of the spotted jellyfish, no matter how subtle was easily seen. The exotic frogs in the rainforest display were worth the time as was glimpsing a Giant Pacific Octopus. We watched Pacific Salmon, as well as prehistoric looking sturgeon and of course the constantly moving sharks. There were sea otters and stately beluga whales, but soon we were outside, perched against the railing with a perfect view of the dolphin tank. The trainers were nearly as entertaining as the dolphins. There were three Pacific white-sided dolphins and they dazzled the crowd with a well choreographed display both above and below the water. I don't care who you are, dolphins should always make you smile. The aquarium is open daily from 9:30AM PST with admission rates of $27 per adult, $21 for seniors, youth and students, and $17 for children.
Harbour Cruises Ltd, located a short cab ride from the aquarium at 501 Deman Street. The paddle steamer would give us a chance to sit down and relax after walking the aquarium. This was the only reservation we'd made in advance-after all, this was a vacation day, not a forced march. Underway, the calm waters of Burrard Inlet gave us the perfect platform to watch the sights. We witnessed the world's largest seaplane airline at work; an assortment of float equipped airplanes were taking off and landing among the boats. Our friendly tour guide narrated as we passed cruise ships docked at Canada Place, bulk carriers, as well as container ships were anchored along with oil tankers. Ferry boats crisscrossed the water as we made our turn at the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge. On the way back she even pointed out two eagles that calmly watched as we cruised past. Harbor tours run $29.95 for adults, $24.95 for seniors and youth, and $10 for children.
We walked the seawall to a restaurant called the Lift Bar and Grill. We were shown a table on the second floor patio and ordered lunch. I had a chicken Caesar salad and my son had the Lift Burger. We both gave the place high marks for quality and service, but sitting outside with a bird's eye view of the yacht basin was easily worth the price of lunch.
Rejuvenated, we continued walking, the dedicated bicycle and pedestrian pathways made it easy. We couldn't help but be amazed by the parks, gardens and trees that flourished everywhere. We even spotted trees on high-rise rooftops. At the Convention center, we stopped to take in the six-acre grass roof. Laid out in a distinctive diamond pattern were 400,000 native plants and grasses, as well as hives for 60,000 bees. Also, at the Convention center sat the 2010 Olympic torch and a most unusual orca sculpture. The nearly 20 foot tall, black and white cubed work of art is one of the most visually interesting works either one of us had ever seen.
We strolled back to the hotel and I opted to take a break before dinner, while my son decided to explore the surrounding area. He took in Robson Street, west of the Hyatt, and told me afterwards he'd found a shopper's Mecca -- every retail outlet known to man lined the street. He also discovered an Italian restaurant just around the corner from our hotel.
With a glowing recommendation from the hotel concierge, we decided to eat at the Italian Kitchen on Alberni Street. The service was excellent and every member of the staff looked like they were having fun. Don't miss the Kobi beef meatballs-you'll be spoiled forever. We loved the fact that they were listed as an Ocean Wise establishment, which meant they were recommended by the Vancouver Aquarium as an ocean-friendly seafood choice.
After dinner, we made the twenty minute walk to the Vancouver Lookout. We rocketed up 430 feet via express elevator, and stepped out into a perfect 360 degree panoramic view. We could see every detail of downtown as well as the inlet and the mountains beyond. Snow-capped Mt. Baker was visible 50 miles away, as was distant Vancouver Island. From this vantage point, we were able to see and relive almost everything we'd seen that day.
As we headed back to the hotel, we talked more about Vancouver, and how it was certainly a study in conservation and green living. From the Convention city roof, to each carefully detailed urban green space, down to the hybrid powered taxis we'd taken, Vancouver was impressive. We both decided that this was not only a beautiful city, but perhaps it gave us a glimpse as to how all cities should be planned. It was a good day for father and son, and who knows, maybe there's a book in there somewhere.
Vancouver Aquarium: 845 Avison Way. Summer hours: 9:30AM. to 7PM ET Admission price for adults, $27; students age 13-18 with current I.D, $21; children 4-12, $17; children under 3 are free. www.vanaqua.org, Information: 604-659-3521.
Harbour Cruises: Four tours daily: 10:45AM, noon, 1:15PM, 2:30PM ET. Adults: $29.95. Youth rate, age 12-17, $24.95; children 5-11: $10; children under 4 are free. Advanced reservations recommended. www.boatcruises.com, 604-688-7246. Toll free: 1-800-663-1500.
Lift: 333 Menchions Mews. www.liftbarandgrill.com 604-689-5438
Italian Kitchen: 1037 Alberni Street. www.theitialiankitchen.ca 604-687-2858. Check for special early bird discounts.
Vancouver Lookout: 555 West Hastings Street. Summer hours: 9AM to 9PM ET. Adults, $15; students with current school I.D, $10; children 6-12, $7. www.vancouverlookout.com, 604-689-0421.
Philip S. Donlay is the author of Category Five and the high-flying disaster thriller Code Black, a Minnesota Book Awards Finalist. Read his blog on Red Room.
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