Vancouver Tourism Challenge
I wasn’t even aware of this until a couple days ago, but there is a great program here called the Vancouver Tourism Challenge, which is available to everyone working or volunteering in the tourism industry in the city. How it works is each spring participants are given a tourism challenge passport, which grants free admission for themselves and a guest to a whole slew of tourist attractions in the city and surrounding areas for the next month. By collecting stamps in the passport at enough of these attractions, they earn free admissions for the entire year, as well as discounts at restaurants, hotels, and being entered to win prizes.
A good friend of mine volunteers at the VanDusen and UBC Botanical Gardens, and was able to participate in the program. And the best part is she took me with her as her guest. She had been in bad health condition earlier in the month(attacked by a dog actually), so it was now down to the last weekend in which to gather stamps to earn the free admissions for the rest of the year.
It was two full days of touristing in our own city, and it was a great time. Museums, art galleries, gardens, guided tours, trolley rides, and a ton else besides. And all completely free. It’s amazing to think what this weekend would have cost us paying regular admissions. Hundreds of dollars for sure. And the money we did spend was well worth it. Along with the free admissions, the passport gets you nicely discounted meals at some of the best hotels in the city. So between all our running around from place to place, we stopped for some great meals at the beautiful hotels downtown.
Far from a complete list, but here are some of the more memorable stops:
Botanical Gardens at UBC – There were actually 3 different gardens, all within easy walking distance, and I easily could have spent an entire day wandering through them. So many interesting plants, a large vegetable garden 100% donated to the salvation army, a huge herb garden with tons of fascinating information, a rose garden, and a canopy walkway high in the trees through the forest.
Museum of Anthropology – Another place I could easily spend an entire day. A huge exhibit on the Native American Cultures of both North and South America, as well as other cultures from around the world. An incredible number of artifacts. So much to read and look at. I will definitely have to go back again sometime.
Harbour Cruise – A one hour boat tour across the harbour and back. Learned a lot about the area, and had a great time meeting other people on the cruise. Even spotted some seals from the boat.
Vancouver Aquarium – Had been to this one before so I knew what to expect. But I was still blown away by the jellyfish in particular. So beautiful the way they light them up. Definitely worth seeing if you haven’t. And of the course the belugas are great as well.
Food at the Metropolitan Hotel – Joined by another passport holder, we shared 4 dishes for the price of 2. Delicious seafood, and the awesomest vegetarian pizza I’ve tried. Called the Fungi Pizza, it’s loaded with mushrooms and greens, and drizzled with truffle oil. So good.
Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour Through Stanley Park – I wasn’t looking forward to this one as much as most of the others, but after so much rushing around it was nice to slow down and take things at horse pace for awhile. Lots of interesting facts about the park, even about the plant and animal species there. Learned to identify red cedar, douglas fir, and western hemlock trees. And tree identification was never my strong point. I think I will also have to head back to the park once the salmon berries are ripe.
Vancouver Lookout at the Harbour Centre – A perfect end to the busy weekend. Well the real end was winding down with a drink at the Fairmont Hotel, but this was our last attraction. A glass elevator that whisks you 400 feet up for an amazing 360 degree view of the entire city. Unbeatable as long as you don’t mind heights. There’s even a revolving restaurant at the top. Pricey, but I do have a birthday coming up..
If you don’t live here in Vancouver, maybe I’ve tempted you to come visit. It’s really a fun city. If you do live here, maybe you should look at volunteering. Just a few hours a week should be enough. There’s definitely some great benefits. And if you can’t, then you just need a good friend who does 🙂
By the way, we collected more than enough stamps for my friend’s passport, so I think I can look forward to joining her for plenty more activities throughout the year.