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Vacation Vancouver

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The Seawall in Stanley Park in Vancouver
Seawall in Stanley Park near English Bay


Wake up like a local with a latte and a waffle sided with fig-orange marmalade at Café Medina before you head to Stanley Park to stroll along the 6.5-mile seawall, one of the most popular and scenic routes in the city. If you're seeking significant physical activity, rent a bike from Bayshore Bicycle Rentals (all rentals include complimentary helmets), located at Georgia and Denman Streets near the entrance to the park and wheel along one of the designated bicycle paths civilly separated from the park's walking paths. Surrounded by water on all sides, Stanley Park provides excellent sightseeing and people watching with every workout. Bird watchers also flock to the park during spring and fall to see large numbers of migrating ducks, geese and other waterfowl. It's also the spot for strolling, canoodling and watching incoming boats, ships, and the lights of the city sparkle at the sunset.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge just north of Vancouver
Capilano Suspension Bridge

The vast downtown park is also home to the Vancouver Aquarium, Canada's largest, housing an amazing 70,000-plus undersea specimens. Its "Animal Encounter" programs, such as the Beluga Whale Encounter, take visitors up-close-and-personal with the magnificent white whales. The aquarium also hosts overnights for families on summer weekends, bringing new meaning to the expression "sleeping with the fishes."If you're suddenly famished after all this aquatic sightseeing, enjoy lunch inside or on the patio at the Raincity Grill on English Bay. In summertime, make it take-away and sit on the beach to dine.

To explore a few of the other places where Vancouverites enjoy walking, drive north over the Lions Gate Bridge to the North Shore and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. This wooden suspension bridge with its "Rainforest Adventure" is a unique destination. Originally constructed in 1889 high above the Capilano River, the rebuilt wooden walking bridge is huge and sways ever so slightly in the wind. But visitors should swallow their fear and walk across to see the magnificent view of the forest and river 250 feet below. The hesitant should take note: In 1999, a 17-month old infant fell from her mother's arms and miraculously survived a 154-foot plunge into the trees below. The newest addition to the rainforest park is the award-winning Treetops Adventure, seven suspension bridges through the enormous evergreens taking you up to 100 feet above the forest floor. Various First Nations artifacts and totems are also on view on the Capilano Suspension Bridge grounds. A few miles away is the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. It's every bit as breathtaking as the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and it's free.

The Lions Gate Bridge connects the city of Vancouver to the North Shore municipalities
Lions Gate Bridge

With your physical exploits complete, relax at dinner in the tony South Granville area stretching from West 16th Avenue to the south end of the Granville Bridge. If you're in the mood for contemporary French cuisine, drop by West, where succulent fish dishes, terrines and cutting-edge wines are served with unparalleled style. Or check out Vij's, Vancouver's top-ranked destination for authentic Indian curries. Note its sleek next-door sibling named Rangoli. It's bargain-priced but every bit as good. If meat is on your mind, head to Memphis Blues Barbeque House for the best pulled pork north of the Canadian border.

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* Images courtesy of Tourism Vancouver; Vancouver's West End in Winter by Andy Mons

(Updated: 08/24/12 KK)

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