One of the perks of being a travel agent is the opportunity to go on familiarization trips(FAMs for short). On these trips, your host(be it a hotel, wholesale vendor, or a tourism board) does their best to show you what they have to offer so you get a better understanding and are able to sell it better. I recently had the pleasure of going on a FAM to Vancouver, aka the City of Glass as it’s known for its steel and glass architecture. The FAM was hosted by Tourism Vancouver, which represents 1,000 members in tourism and works to attract visitors to the city.
While there were site inspections, which are tours(usually of a hotel or cruise ship) that allow you to see the different room categories, amenities, and restaurants offered, most of this FAM consisted of fun and educational activities geared towards tourists. Each day was jam-packed with must-dos for first-time visitors and since it was my first ever trip to the city, let alone the country of Canada, I loved every minute of it.
Based on what I experienced during the fun-filled FAM, here is a list of things to do and places to go. I recommend you go on at least a 3-night trip when you go to Vancouver so that you have enough time to experience all it has to offer.
Starting from the gondola up, there’s no shortage of breathtaking sights at Grouse Mountain, which is just 15 minutes away from downtown Vancouver. Once on the mountain, you have your pick of an impressive amount of activities. Starting with “Breakfast with The Bears,” is a good idea as you’ll gain early access to the mountain and be treated to a delicious bear-themed breakfast before going out to watch resident rescue grizzly bears Grinder and Coola in their natural habitat. If you can tear yourself away from watching the fascinating cuties(I couldn’t), there are plenty of other activities to enjoy, including zip-lining, lumberjack shows, and skiing or snowboarding when the weather permits. For more information, visit grousemountain.com.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
While perfectly safe, the swaying bridges at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park are not for the faint of heart, or those afraid of heights. I had a perfectly great time even though heights are not my thing and I only saw one or two nervous park-goers clinging for dear life while walking some of the bridges. The park is just a few minutes drive from Grouse Mountain and slightly closer to downtown than the mountain. It’s made up of 7 suspended footbridges 110 feet above the forest floor. The new Cliffwalk is also something to enjoy while at the park, that is, if you enjoy walking on stairs and platforms held up only by 16 anchor points in a cliff. I had fun trying to balance myself in the middle without holding onto anything while silly passersby jumped and shook the bridges. If the ground’s more your style, there’s still plenty to see and do down below. Learn about the history of the native First Nation’s people and admire totem poles or take a guided nature and history tour. Visiting during the holiday season means you can also enjoy the beauty of the Canyon Lights. To learn more, visit capbridge.com.
Just minutes from Stanley Park and open 365 days a year, is Vancouver Aquarium. It’s a great place for kids and adults alike to learn about the ocean and its mysterious creatures with touch labs(I touched a starfish!), a 4D theatre, and daily dolphin, shark and sea otter shows. The aquarium holds over 50,000 creatures and recently acquired a baby sea otter. So cute! What I love most about this aquarium is that they do not capture from the wild. According to their site, vanaqua.org, they “now only accept and care for whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) that were born in an aquarium or were rescued and deemed non-releasable by an appropriate government authority.”
As this attraction is based off of Disney California Adventure’s Soarin’, I wasn’t expecting to be too impressed. The execution of the 8-minute ride and its special effects of wind, mist, and scents was amazing, however. Before we got on the ride, I laughed at the thought of Canadians tearing up during the ride that evokes Canadian pride. I found myself, an American through and through, a little teary-eyed and choked up, though. The breathtaking scenes as you journey coast to coast around Canada really makes you appreciate nature and its beauty. As one of the million of riders to enjoy FlyOver Canada(flyovercanada.com), I feel silly for initially dismissing it and wish I could go on it again.
Other activities to consider: Bike ride around Stanley Park, visit the Vancouver Lookout for a 360 degree view of the city, take a Vancouver foodie tour on Granville Island, enjoy a flight over Vancouver in a seaplane. Visit tourismvancouver.com for even more ideas.