Robson Street is often promoted as Vancouver's Rodeo Drive in tourism literature to make it sound more affluent and lavish than it really is. When it comes down to it, Robson's famed shopping only truly exists for 5 out of its 19 blocks.
I wouldn't say Robson should be avoided or that it's really a tourist trap, but just take it for what it is. Robson Street can be generic and underwhelming to those that already live in large cities as it's essentially a clone of the shops you find in regular North American malls. While it's peppered with a few Canadian retail chains and even fewer independent Vancouver shops, it's mostly the flagship location of the same old global retail franchises.
Unique Suggestions: Here's my top 10 things to do on Robson that doesn't really involve shopping:
1. Buy a hotdog from a street vendor and eat it on the Vancouver Art Gallery steps. This makes for great people watching.
2. Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery, or just browse through their gift shop or eat at their cafe. The shop has great art books and the cafe is top quality but reasonably priced - plus they serve wine!
3. Visit the Roman Coliseum-inspired Vancouver Public Library at Robson & Homer. Be sure to walk inside!
4. Browse through books at Chapters or music at HMV, both at Robson & Howe.
5. Walk to the eastern end of Robson to BC Place and visit the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
6. Have a gourmet martini at Zin Lounge in the Pacific Palisades Hotel on Robson & Jervis.
7. Do what the locals do and eat at Guu with Garlic or Hapa Izakaya for a tasty Japanese culinary experience.
8. At Robson & Broughton, go 2 blocks south to Barclay and see what Vancouver life was like in 1893. The entire block is home to some beautifully restored Victorian houses, including the Roedde House Museum.
9. Embrace the cliché and have a coffee at Starbucks at either of the two locations on Robson & Thurlow.
10. Walk to the western end of Robson and enter Stanley Park!
Fun Alternatives: If you want to go shopping around downtown Vancouver and want somewhere less touristy, less big-name chains, and more of a local Vancouver flavour, there are several options:
Yaletown in the south-west corner of downtown around Helmcken and Hamilton is an unscale yuppy shopping district full of heritage lofts, independent designer boutiques, snazzy lounges, and a variety of different restaurants.
Kitsilano (aka: Kits) is a popular beachside neighbourhood just south-west of downtown. All along W 4th (west of Burrard Street) is a collection of skate/snowboard shops, independent fashion boutiques, independent music shops, great restaurants and cafes, and a real local atmosphere. Be sure to spend time at the beach, or you're missing the point here.
South Granville, which is Granville Street from the bridge south to W 16th Ave is home to an upscale shopping area with clothing shops, home decor stores, and many, many private art galleries.
Main Street (aka: South Main/Mount Pleasant) between E 7th Ave and E 30th is an up and coming neighbourhood known for its independent clothing boutiques (run by their in house designers), vintage clothing shops, funky restaurants, cafes, and DIY arts scene. There are no franchises here. All the little indie rocker hipsters adore Main Street, and I do too.
Commercial Drive (between Broadway and Venables) is Vancouver's old "Little Italy" but in recent decades has become the bohemian culture pot of Vancouver. Commercial Drive is famous for its organic cafes, European grocers, and Italian espresso bars, but there a few unique retail shops to explore. Commercial Drive has a true community spirit, and it's the antithesis to Robson Street.
Well, like most major cities, it is very expensive to park your car in downtown Vancouver. Most places will charge you up to $10 a day, and $6-$8 on the weekends.
There's a really cheap spot that I always park at, and it's located on the corner of Seymour and Robson downtown. You can usually park for $4 on the weekends, and $3 in the evenings I believe.
Unique Suggestions: Find a cheap spot to park your car -- but be careful: some cheap spots don't have enough security.
Fun Alternatives: Your best bet is to bus or skytrain downtown, that way you don't have to worry about parking.
You'll find many stores in the Gastown area that claim to sell Cuban Cigars. I've been into a few, just to check it out, and I'm pretty sure most of these are fake. I spent some time in Cuba last year, and learned all about how Cigars are actually made.
If you do want a Cuban Cigar, you should expect to pay around $20 per Cigar here.. If you find them for under $10, you can be quite sure they are fake (they cost $10 USD in Cuba!)
If you look at a Cigar, it should be tightly rolled, and should have a pleasant smell. It should be slighty springy, and should not 'crack' or 'crunch' when you press it softly. If you look at the tobacco, make sure that you can't see any stems inside. The real Cuban factory's only use the leaves, and not the stems. Illegal cigar sweat shops are generally in a hurry, and just roll up the complete tobacco leaf.
Unique Suggestions: Use my tips, and do some research yourself!
Fun Alternatives: Try and find a store selling government issue Cuban Cigars.
Gastown is the worst offender, but there are others loads of places that offer what may look, to the uneducated eye, like native carved artifacts. They may be black plastic, or have lots of coloured paint on them. Please don't buy them, they're crap, and you're only encouraging a pathetic industry. Little totem pole keychains aren't exactly a representation of native culture.
Unique Suggestions: There are other places to find actual native arts and crafts, made by actual natives! Try the Native Friendship Centre on Hastings Street, which has a great shop with lots of local products.
Or you could even go to Hills Indian Crafts in Gastown. It's overpriced, in my opinion, but at least has better product than you'll find anywhere else in Gastown. You can get a decent pair of moccasins there (that's where mine are from), some smaller trinkets, or some full-blown art if you're feeling the need to lighten your wallet.
You'll find some decent native shops in North Vancouver as well. By car or bus, go west of Lonsdale Quay along Main Street, and look for the massive signs. As it's native land around there, you'll find lots of local artists selling their wares.
Fun Alternatives: See above.
Our arrival into Vancouver was on the Rocky Mountaineer Train and as we approached Vancouver the staff warned us to expect to see an unusual number of vagrant/ mentally disturbed people on the streets.
We kept this in mind and our experience during our 7 day visit was to see many of these unfortunate people throughout the city, more than you would expect in a normal city. The majority were young people, 30 years or younger and you would see them doing all sorts of unusual things, many would approach you for money.
Recommend that you ignore these people when they approach you, I listened to one once and regret it as he became slightly aggressive. If you ignore them you should be OK.
Unique Suggestions: Just ignore these people and do not give them any money.
Prospect Point is at the northern point of Stanley Park. It doesn't cost anything to enter the area, apart from a bit of physical exercise if you walk here. What makes me rank this as a 'tourist trap', though a relatively benign one, is that the view in the guidebooks is really over rated. You can just see Lion's Gate Bridge through the trees, the paths are overgrown and poorly maintained, there's litter, and the "stunning views" are actually rather mundane.
Better than the view was the chance to see racoons here!
Unique Suggestions: Have a delicious maple and walnut ice-cream!
Fun Alternatives: Best views of Vancouver and the harbour are from North Vancouver or the Harbour Centre.
It is quite a numbers of Canadian geese around the parks because they are protected by-law. In summer, large herb of them left droppings on lawn and walkways. Please keep an eye on the ground not to step on them, otherwise your shoes will get in trouble.
Alberni St. - one block north of Robson St between Burrard and Bute streets. This seems to be a tourist trap aimed at (primarily) Japanese tourists disembarking from tour busses. How much 'Anne of Green Gables' merchandice is too much? I'm sure the stores here will give you a quick answer to that question.
Don't get me wrong, Robson's great. But avoid Alberni... there are better things to spend your money on.
Canada place - lol
we went there - looks liek a big mall build on the sea...looks a bit like a big shi p - but..inside...nothing but conference rooms, expensive hotels and stuff like that (only thing nice there is the Imax theatre...love those)
Vistas Revolving Restaurant.
On the 20th floor of the Landmark Hotel, it's worth going to see how it revolves, if you've never been in a revolving room before.
However I can't comment on the food and drink, as we waited 15 minutes after sitting down before anyone even brought us a menu. After 25 minutes we got up and left.
I'm sure the view is great, but I wouldn't bother shelling out for a meal. Especially as the food is VERY VERY expensive by Canadian standards. Mains go up to $40 ...
The picture is of the restaurant's name, carved in ice. 'nuff said ...
Do your shopping away from downtown,It will cost you premium in downtown,otherwise it is a very safe city.The other thing i learn't when i had guests from Texsas if your car has out of town licence plates don't leave your valubles in the car or a camera in the back seat like my freinds did.
Unless you have a burning desire to pay $13.95 ($7.95 for students) to walk across a bridge, give the Capilano Suspension Bridge a miss and go instead to Lynn Canyon not far away (also in North Vancouver), which also has a suspension bridge, but is free!
Also, avoid the tourist shops in Gastown. Gastown itself is really overrated, and I only go there because I like a couple of restaurants (Incendio and Water St. Cafe) and to attend some special events at the club venues of Sonar and Purple Onion.
I feel I should warn you, if you want to go shopping at all the best shops and go to the theater every night. THis island is not the place. There a very few street lights, Only outside stores, it is very dark, and during the rainy season (fall) they lose power quite often. It is an amazing place to visit though.
I hate to admit it, seeing that I consider myself to be a somewhat experienced traveller, but my husband and I were had! By an innocent-looking elderly Asian man. While we were standing in front of the transit ticket dispensing machine, wondering how it worked, he told us it was broken and sold us a couple of his tickets. In reality, the machine was turned off because, due to the transit strike, all trips on the Skytrain were free! My gut told me, 'Don't trust this guy', but my upbringing said, 'Don't insult the poor fellow by refusing his help'. No harm done really, we were only a couple of bucks poorer. Just goes to show you that when you're new in town, better go with your gut feeling.
This is a picture taken when Dominique, her mother and I were heading out to Kelowna. Those smiles on our faces, they're smiles of come-on-take-the-picture-fast-I'm-freezing!!!! Kelowna is an icky, fabricated resort town. It's super expensive, and just think: pre-fabricated resort for tourists. The 4 and a half hour drive from Vancouver was more worth it. We ended up staying only about half an hour. We got out of the car, looked around, went to eat and went back to Vancouver.
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