A Girl’s Solo Fun in Vancouver, BC

A little while ago, I shared a brief story about my adventures as a single unemployed girl visiting British Columbia. So I wanted to follow-up on the great time I had while minding my budget and appreciating the generosity of my Aunt Marjorie and her beau, Larry.

Budget Conscious Planning

Vancouver, BC is a very exciting and beautiful place to visit. But it’s also extremely expensive, especially when you are on a very tight budget. One of the first things I did before traveling was Internet research. I wanted to know about safety, fun things to do, touristy things to do, single life, FREE things to do. I found all of that and more. But nothing beats getting there and just finding your way around, which is basically what I did.

Fortunate for me, I did not have any hotel expenses because my Aunt Marjorie gave up her lovely co-op apartment for me to enjoy – which is located just east of downtown Vancouver in a city called Burnaby. The apartment is within a five-minute walking distance to the rail station, known as the SkyTrain and my primary mode of transportation. When I was responsible for my meals, my breakfast consisted of yogurt, fruit and green smoothies; lunch was a sandwich and small salad; and dinner was some type of fish or tuna. I drank a lot of water and tea, and occasionally red wine.

Week One – Become Familiar with Environment

During my first week there, I mainly stayed near the apartment and did local sight-seeing with Aunt Marjorie and Larry. We went to dinner, the mall, and few cultural activities and local shopping. I also spent a lot of time traveling on the SkyTrain and buses with my aunt to learn my way around. I found a local library and because my aunt actively attends the recreation center, I found a Zumba class to attend. Because the recreation city is sponsored by the City of Burnaby, the price of the class was reasonable at $54 for 10 visits. This was not an expense that I had because the classes were gifted to me. But even if I hadn’t participated in the class, there was more than enough opportunity to get some exercise in with sightseeing and walking.

The good thing about light rail services is that passengers get to relax and observe. I took notice of where things were and what we were passing. Something that I found so hilarious was seeing a Dollar Tree. It caught my attention because it was a sign of familiarity, and well, just created normalcy for me in a new place. And plus I could buy inexpensive snacks at $1.25 CAD. But then there was Starbucks, too, which is very familiar (and pricey). And of course, a girl can’t pass up a mall. Whether buying small gift items, window shopping, or spending time hanging out while surfing the web and taking in the cultural atmosphere, I spent a lot of time at The Metropolis at Metrotown, which was two train stations from the apartment. It is a very nice mall with over 400 shops. I’m a people watcher, and that’s free, so for the price of a train ticket, the mall was a good place to hang out and just be around the energy of other people. Needless to say, I made several trips to the mall to see everything.

The Holiday Spirit in Vancouver

I took my trip between November and December because I wanted to spend one of my American holidays in Canada, so I picked Thanksgiving. While Canada has its own Thanksgiving holiday (celebrated second Monday in October), there are many restaurants that cater to the American holiday tradition, serving turkey and dressing. The restaurant we visited on the American Thanksgiving Day is called White Spot. It’s a Canadian chain restaurant with good food and friendly service. It’s very family friendly and offers menu variety at reasonable prices. The Roast Turkey Dinner is one of their classic meals that includes roast turkey, mashed potatoes, home-style stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and a seasonal vegetable. You can’t ever go wrong with this traditional meal choice.

With the Christmas holiday just around the corner, as you can imagine, the lights and decorations started to pop up. But there was no snow or really cold weather — maybe raining a bit — and temperatures generally remaining in the 60s. That is one of the beauties of Vancouver, its weather, which is some of the warmest in Canada. They miss the cold because the Rocky Mountains block it, but you can anticipate more rain. While I originally wanted to visit during the spring or early summer, I visited during an ideal time, and loved it. At this point, Christmas lights and decorations are starting to spring up, so to get me in the Christmas mood, I visited a holiday bazaar at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. This is a beautiful multi-use facility at Deer Lake Park. It was the usual bazaar with lots of arts and crafts vendors and hourly entertainment, but it was good way to round out my first week during my trip.

Week Two – Begin Exploration On My Own

I felt very safe alone on the train. As a matter of fact, Vancouver felt safe and looked really clean. After the first week, I was able to begin venturing out on my own. To me, travel on the rail was expensive. But in comparison to renting a car and paying for gas, I can’t complain. The train rates are by zones beginning at $2.50 for one and $5.00 for travel through three. And the fares only last for an hour and a half so you have to really plan your trip or be prepared to keep paying fares. The other option was to buy a day pass for $9.00. As with any urban area, be mindful of rush hour traffic. The trains get pretty packed. The majority of the people in metro Vancouver rely on the train for travel.

A quaint little city near where I was staying was New Westminster. It is also where my aunt’s beau lives. As we were traveling there one evening for dinner, I noticed a little boutique store I wanted to visit. So the next day, I took the train over and walked around looking at shops. I noticed a sign for a lunch special, which seemed reasonable, and I stopped into Okonomi Sushi, which was voted in 2013 for having the best sushi. I ordered the Dynamite Sushi Roll lunch box with chicken teriyaki and salad tempura. So not very exciting because this is what I always order, but it was new experience having lunch alone in a foreign place.

Prepping for the Second Half

During my travel back to the apartment, I noticed a banner on the train for the 102nd Grey Cup being hosted in downtown Vancouver. Of course, I didn’t know what the Grey Cup was but I saw there was going to be a parade, outdoor festival and street vendors. I was already making plans for my Week Three weekend activities to head into the big city alone. Stay tuned to find out how I couldn’t stay away from downtown Vancouver.