Top 5 Seattle and Vancouver road trip attractions

22 April 2013

Visiting Seattle for the first time, I couldn't imagine a more beautiful Northwestern city. Nearly everywhere you look, you're surrounded by snow-covered mountains, vast bodies of waters and easy-going folks eating up all of it. And even after breathlessly climbing every hill in Emerald City, the views only get better. All around us lay incredibly beautiful parks, endless recreation, unique Seattle attractions, fish-filled Northwest dives and stunningly vibrant greenery. It couldn't possibly get better.

Top 5 Seattle to Vancouver road trip attractions by The Brave Little Cheesehead at braveliittlecheesehead.com
But once you cross the Canadian border, these claims of Seattle being the most scenic northwestern city are put to the test. Vancouver sure packs a punch, though the two cities offer fairly similar attractions in my opinion. Let's compare Seattle v. Vancouver, shall we?

At the end of August, my packed our bags and rode three hours north to British Columbia beside my brave, patient boyfriend. (It was his first sister trip and trust me, he had no idea what he'd signed up for...) Our first stop on the Seattle-Vancouver road trip, Anacortes, gave Holly and H the true Northwest whale-watching experience with Island Adventures. The travel time was so long, and our whale watching lasted maybe 30-45 minutes before heading back to the dock with another three-hour boat ride. Next time, I think I'll take my visitors to the San Juans for a Western Prince whale-watching tour, which I felt was far superior and documented here. Six long hours and a half dozen orcas later, we roared up the car engine and kept on truckin'.

Although we only had a three-day weekend to explore, we burnt ourselves out discovering the immaculate city of Vancouver and enjoying its many similarities to Seattle. There are so endless things to do in Seattle and Vancouver over a long weekend.

1. Granville Island v. Pike Place: One of our favorite explorations was to the Granville Island market. Comparable to one of Seattle's top attractions, Pike Place Market, Granville is a great spot for homemade products, fresh foods and waterfront dining. Tucked below a major overpass, we traveled over and under a bridge to get to the market. Once we arrived, Holly and I jetted off in search of our trademark ornament purchases while H hunted down foodie treasures to take home. Unlike Pike Place, Granville Island market has many more shops, rather than farm goods and seafood.
Top 5 Seattle to Vancouver road trip attractions by The Brave Little Cheesehead at braveliittlecheesehead.com
2. Water taxis: From Granville, we boarded an Aquabus for about $8 USD a pop. Although longer in duration, the more economical transportation offered a rather scenic alternative to a taxi ride. Somewhat similar to Seattle's $4 downtown water taxis, the Vancouver Aquabuses move tourists to various hot spots along the city's beautiful waterfront. With the Aquabus, visitors can easily reach the Vancouver Aquarium, Hornby Street, Yaletown, Spyglass Place and more. We loved how much they resembled mini tugboats! Seattle water taxis are really only good for getting from Downtown to West Seattle, yet another great neighborhood of the city. But I love how Aquabuses are little more scenic, with many stops at popular Vancouver attractions.
Top 5 Seattle to Vancouver road trip attractions by The Brave Little Cheesehead at braveliittlecheesehead.com
3. Stanley Park v. Discovery Park: Having heard the tales of Stanley Park, we saved the best for last and bicycled for nearly three hours throughout the 400-hectacre Canadian National Historic Site. It's a real gem, and I urge you to take at least half a day to explore the park. There's just so much to see!

Seattle boasts many outstanding parks, in fact I don't think you can truly get to know Seattle without exploring its many parks. Most tourists are drawn to Discovery Park, the city's largest park spanning 534 acres. Similar to Stanley Park, the Seattle attraction offers tourists and locals a tranquil sanctuary amidst the bustle of a major city. Both offer an outdoor oasis, complete with open greenery, waterfront paths, biking and hiking, and historic landmarks. Discovery Park and Stanley Park are just what the doctor ordered for those of us looking for budget-friendly activities and an outdoor escape within city limits.
Top 5 Seattle to Vancouver road trip attractions by The Brave Little Cheesehead at braveliittlecheesehead.com
4. Totem Park v. Seattle totem poles: We traded a few loonies (Canadian cash) for sets of wheels at Spokes Bicycle Rentals. Spokes' crew loaded us up with hybrid bikes, helmets, locks, baskets and more before we ventured into Stanley Park. Most importantly on my list of places to visit was the Totem Park. Growing up in Wisconsin, my sister's and I had a giant totem pole in our back yard (strange, I know). It always interested me to learn more about this Native American custom and having taken a college course on Native American history, culture and migration, I nerdily awaited our stop to check out various preserved totem poles at Totem Park.
Top 5 Seattle to Vancouver road trip attractions by The Brave Little Cheesehead at braveliittlecheesehead.com
The Northwest is rich with Native American history, and totem poles tower over many city parks whether they're found in Seattle or Vancouver. I love all of the totem poles throughout Seattle, including the ones in Pioneer Square, Steinbrueck Park, West Seattle, and more. I loved that Totem Park in Vancouver brought together many of them, all with such unique stories and heritage.

Biking along the seawall takes about one hour without stops and covers nearly 22 kilometers of the park. In addition to the totem pole park, a few notable landmarks include Siwash Rock, Hollow Tree, Prospect Point and Lions Gate Bridge. We were lucky enough to have a glorious day in the park and shared our awe of Vancouver's beauty with a number of other visitors and locals along the seawall path.
Top 5 Seattle to Vancouver road trip attractions by The Brave Little Cheesehead at braveliittlecheesehead.com
5. City neighborhoods: Before our weekend getaway concluded, the four of us walked through a number of neighborhoods including Vancouver's well-known Gastown, Chinatown and Yaletown. Comparable to Seattle's Downtown/Belltown, International District and Capitol Hill districts, Vancouver's diverse neighborhoods subtly merge into one another yet deliver entertainment, boutiques and dining options unique to their individual atmospheres and quirky characters. Although fairly similar, Vancouver exhibits a flavorful personality of its own, independent of its eclectic, neighboring cities to the south.

We crossed the border back into Washington, yet we already began planning our next trip to Vancouver, a city that—in many ways—wins my heart even more than Seattle.
Top 5 Seattle to Vancouver road trip attractions by The Brave Little Cheesehead at braveliittlecheesehead.com

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