By LUCAS AYKROYD
Exploring Metro Vancouver by SkyTrain this summer is a fast, fun, and family-friendly way to go beyond the downtown core.
The city’s light rapid transit system launched in 1986 for Expo ’86, the legendary World’s Fair. The original Expo Line whisks you southeast to the diverse communities of Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey. The 2002-built Millennium Line travels east through Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Moody. And the Canada Line, completed for the 2010 Winter Olympics, is your gateway to south Vancouver, Richmond, and Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
Whether you’re aiming to save the planet or save a buck, SkyTrain offers an environmentally friendly alternative to rental cars and taxis. Just hop off and visit the area around each station on foot. From casinos, cinemas and craft beer to shopping, swimming and strolling, these are the perfect stations for you to check out, with travel times from downtown. Ready to ride?
Canada Line 17 minutes from Vancouver City Centre
This bustling station connects directly to the River Rock Casino Resort. The glitzy venue by the Fraser River has six kinds of poker, more than 1,200 slot machines, and table games like baccarat, blackjack and roulette. The 960-seat show theatre features classic singers like Diana Ross and Julio Iglesias. Comedians such as Chris Rock and Kathy Griffin and pay-per-view sporting events are also on tap. At Tramonto, River Rock’s best restaurant, dine on seared Haida Gwaii halibut or slow-roasted lamb rack.
For another delicious food scene on weekends, amble over to the Richmond Night Market, burgeoning with Asian specialties. Some 100 food stalls hawk dragon’s beard candy, grilled squid and bubble waffles. Shop for Hello Kitty phone covers, beaded sandals and other knick-knacks, and enjoy live musical performances.
Canada Line 7 minutes from Vancouver City Centre
Want a natural experience fit for royalty? Queen Elizabeth Park includes a dazzling Rose Garden, and magnolias and rhododendrons in the Quarry Gardens. This magnificent 52-hectare (128-acre) park on Little Mountain attracts almost six million visitors a year. Admire the “Dancing Waters” fountain and the abstract bronze Henry Moore Sculpture next to the glass-domed Bloedel Conservatory. It’s home to tropical rainforest plants and exotic birds like blue-and-gold macaws and Chinese pheasants.
At the adjacent Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, baseball fans devour three-foot-long hot dogs and pulled-pork poutine in the sunshine while watching the Vancouver Canadians, affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays. Families frolic in the outdoor pool at Hillcrest Aquatic Centre, which also has a lazy river, spray jets, sauna and steam-room facilities.
Canada Line 22 minutes from Vancouver City Centre
A landmark Olympic legacy is a 20-minute walk away. The Richmond Olympic Oval hosted long-track speed skating in 2010. Now reimagined as a huge fitness centre, the 32,000-sq-m (344,450-sq-ft) riverside facility remains an architectural wonder with its wood wave roof. Tour the on-site Richmond Olympic Experience, an interactive museum with bobsleigh and ski-jumping simulations and Olympic Games memorabilia.
Canada Line 15 minutes from Vancouver City Centre
Vancouver author/artist Douglas Coupland created the 13-m- (43-ft-) tall “Golden Tree” sculpture that greets visitors to this station. At the Cineplex Cinemas Marine Gateway, three VIP theatres entice moviegoers with reclinable leather seats and a menu featuring chicken wings, calamari, popcorn shrimp, wine and beer.
Still hungry? Dig into Irish nachos or Fijian curry fries at the Dublin Crossing restaurant, or buy cartoon-themed fruit cakes and sushi platters at the Asian-themed T&T Supermarket.
Expo & Millennium Lines 45 minutes from Granville via Commercial-Broadway
Craft-beer aficionados swear by “Brewers Row,” with four breweries within a five-minute stroll. Sample the award-winning Hardy Brown Ale at Moody Ales, the Dreamboat Hazy IPA at Parkside, the Shake a Paw Smoked Porter at Yellow Dog, and the Back to Basics Lager at Twin Sails.
On the waterfront, Rocky Point Park has more tasty treats, from Pacific wild cod with tempura-style batter at Pajo’s to scoops of mint-flake and maple-walnut at Rocky Point Ice Cream. Burn off those calories by hiking the 6-km (4-mi) Shoreline Trail.
Expo Line 27 minutes from Granville
Explore the rich heritage of British Columbia’s original capital (1859). The Fraser River Discovery Centre features engaging exhibits on traditional Indigenous fishing tools and modern shipping and docks along BC’s longest river.
At the adjacent River Market, check out handmade pottery and soap, Italian-style pizza and Thai street food, and the Vancouver Circus School. Got a wedding coming up? Columbia Street’s “Bridal Row” offers nine bridalwear shops within two blocks.
Canada Line 10 minutes from Vancouver City Centre
Take a 20-minute stroll from Oakridge Centre mall to VanDusen Botanical Garden. At this beloved 1975-founded garden, admire the roses, azaleas and lilies, and meander through the Elizabethan maze, comprising 3,000 pyramidal cedars.
Top Travel Tips
For easy travel, buy a Compass Card (similar to London’s Oyster Card) at SkyTrain stations, BC Ferries terminals and London Drugs stores or other authorized retailers. See the website for info.
An alternative payment method is Translink’s Tap to Pay. Tap on card readers with contactless Visa and Mastercard credit cards to pay adult cash fares. Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay also work.
Plan your travel schedule online.
Go mid-day, evenings and weekends to avoid the commuter rush.
Keep in mind the $5 Canada Line YVR Addfare, applicable for eastbound (downtown) trips leaving from YVR Airport, Sea Island Centre and Templeton stations.