Vancouver, BC Canada: First Impressions
Royal BC Museum in Victoria was our favorite about Vancouver. We’re traveling around Alaska and Western Canada, will focus on environmentally-friendly travel, food, and activities in those areas.
I had high expectations for Vancouver. I’d never been to British Columbia, but I had heard great things about it; it’s green (literally – tons of trees), the people are friendly and eco-conscious, and it’s on the water and the mountains so it’s gorgeous.
We were only in Vancouver for 24 hours before we hopped on the cruise ship, so I’m still on the fence about it. We’ll be back next week and stay for four more days, so I’ll be able to form a fuller opinion then. In the meantime, here are my first impressions of Vancouver, BC.
So far, here’s what I like:
- Abundance of locally-owned delis, restaurants, and markets
- Diversity of food – you can find everything from Himalayan and Mexican to Japanese and Indian on the same block
- Independent, non-conformist vibe – kind of like Seattle or Portland
- Everyone rides bikes and there are lots of bike lanes
- You can walk a block off of a busy, vibrant street and be in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood
- People are incredibly friendly – a welcome change from Washington, DC
- You can walk to the mountains or the ocean
- There’s a ginormous park (Stanley Park) in the city
- Recycling bins everywhere – they’re easier to find than trash cans are on some streets
- Very walkable
- Good public transportation, specifically the buses
- Diversity of the people – it’s a very international city
Vancouver skyline from the ship
And here’s what I don’t like:
- Tall buildings – it doesn’t feel as claustrophobic as New York City, but it’s still too tall for my taste; the short buildings in DC are one of my favorite things about it
- McDonald’s, Cinnabon, Safeway, Subway, American Eagle – American brands everywhere (I know, I know – it’s inescapable, but I still don’t like it)
- Too much concrete, especially near the water front; the buildings and street weren’t as pretty as I expected them to be
- West Hastings Street near Chinatown – unless you’re looking for prostitutes, drugs, or really enjoy the smell of urine, you should avoid it (long story about how we ended up here)
- No easy way to get from the airport to downtown via public transportation; right now you have to switch buses, but they’re building a SkyTrain that will link the two areas
When we decided to expand our recent Vancouver trip to include Victoria on nearby Vancouver Island, the Royal BC Museum jumped to the top of my “things to do” list. I’ll admit, what won me over were the photos on the museum’s website of the natural history collections — there’s a special place in my heart for ancient, extinct creatures — but there’s so much more to the museum than that. There are so many fascinating things to see that even my 18-month-old son was entertained for an hour and a half.
The bottom line: If you’re in Victoria, Canada, you should definitely plan a stop at the Royal BC Museum. Here’s why.
Royal BC Museum in Victoria
As I mentioned above, I love natural history museums and the the natural history section of the Royal BC Museum did not disappoint. It’s full of fossils, stuffed mammals and birds, and live fish. My favorite specimens on display were a woolly mammoth and a gigantic sea lion. My son enjoyed the touch-and-feel animal footprint and egg replicas.
Human History of BC: Totem Poles and Ninja Turtles
I wasn’t sure exactly what I would find in the Human History collections at the Royal BC Museum, so I was thrilled when I discovered everything from First Nations totem poles and masks to a display of clothes over the decades. These collections walk you through the history of BC, starting with First Nations cultural artifacts and ending in the 1990s (with Ninja Turtles, among other things). The First Nations section has examples of baskets, tools, ceremonial clothes, and even a traditional house that’s been moved into the museum. The Modern History section reminds me a bit of the American History Museum in Washington, DC (which I also love). You can see the cabins in a boat, walk into a 1920s movie theater, and learn about BC’s gold rush.
Race to the End of the Earth: Antarctic Expedition
The Race to the End of the Earth exhibition tells the story of two exploration teams, one British and one Norwegian, as they attempt to beat each other to the South Pole in 1911-1912. It’s a dramatic tale that involves extreme freezing temperatures, unimaginable hardships, many deaths… and eating dogs and ponies. The exhibition features journal entries, photos, and artifacts from the explorations and is truly fascinating. (In fact, I think I’m going to buy a book about it so I can learn more.) This traveling exhibition will only be at the Royal BC Museum until October 2013, so be sure you catch it while it’s there. And after this expedition is gone, I’m sure an equally fascinating one will take its place.
The Royal BC Museum in Victoria, BC is one of the best museums I’ve been to lately. It has something for everyone — from a woolly mammoth to dresses from the 1940s. If you go to Victoria, visit the Royal BC Museum. A bonus: You’re sure to pick up a few fascinating facts that you can share at your next dinner party.
Disclaimer: The Royal BC Museum provided us with complimentary admission.