Being a tourist in your own city means having to get creative and seeing your home with fresh eyes. I can’t count the number of times I have wandered through the streets of downtown Vancouver immune to all the interesting things in the city that most visitors take in. Seeing as playing tourist in my hometown is all about seeing the city from a new perspective, I was excited to see what the day with bring with a Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour.
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I’ve never taken a Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour simply because I found the concept of it to be tacky. I must prefer to see a city in my terms and generally at a much slower pace than what these tour tickets would typically offer. However, I can see there being a time and place for these tours. For example, if you only have a limited time somewhere and want to see as much as possible or if city infrastructure or mobility makes it difficult for you to get around on public transit.
The bus had an overhead audio tour that would play as the bus drove along talking about the area. The speakers weren’t working on the bus that we were on, but the staff came up with a quick solution by handing out earbuds to plug into their audio jacks that run along the walls of the bus. The tour is offered in a variety of languages, covering the most spoken languages. However, it is a little cumbersome to use the audio jacks. The person sitting on the aisle will need to run their headset across the person sitting in the window seat.
Discovering Rays at the Vancouver Aquarium
Our first stop of the day was the Vancouver Aquarium to check out their current special exhibition, Discover Rays, which offers a unique experience to touch the animals as they dart around the water. And dart they did. Some were fast, causing splashes in the pool, others meandered slowly around.
We were instructed to scrub down an arm to the elbow before putting our hands in. The touch pool is home to two kinds of stingrays: cownose and southern stingrays. We were told that if we put our hand in, the rays would swim up to us, but I found most wouldn’t be close enough so you have to really reach into the water.
I was so apprehensive to touch them and it took me a long time to work up the courage to do it. They were very soft and squishy. Smooth and somewhat cool to the touch. It was a really weird sensation, but all in all an unique experience. Who can say they’ve touched a stingray?
Seeing as the nature of the exhibit involves interactions with animals, I was concerned about their well-being as well. I was pleased to note that the rays are given breaks throughout the day. Not to mention, the Vancouver Aquarium’s commitment to the conservation of aquatic life helped to ease my concerns.
This particular visit was short so I wasn’t able to visit the other exhibits. The aquarium is also home to belugas, sea otters and penguins to name a few. It’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you have kids that would enjoy the other interactive experiences.
845 Avison Way, Vancouver, BC V6G 3E2 (Located in Stanley Park)
Hours: 10 AM – 5 PM daily; 9:30 AM – 6 PM
Tickets can be purchased online (recommended to skip the line)
Admission: Adults $31; Seniors, Youth (13-18), Students $22; Child (4-12) $16
Behind the scenes with the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame
To be honest, before this day, I had no idea there was a B.C. Sports Hall of Fame or that it was located in B.C. Place. I’m a bad Vancouverite. I really didn’t have too high of expectations for what I was about to see, but there is a surprisingly amount of interesting exhibits to explore at the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
While a number of their exhibits require a lot of reading and looked dated, I especially enjoyed their Vancouver 2010 Olympic games exhibits with memorabilia from the games including a gold medal and Nancy Greene’s Olympic torch signed by the Opening and Ceremonies torch bearers.
The B.C. Sports Hall of Fame is fantastic for those who call B.C. (and Canada) home as it highlights sports heroes that you learn about in school. Exhibits on Rick Hansen and Terry Fox were especially interesting because these were people I grew up learning about, not to mention participating in an annual Terry Fox run throughout school.
There is also a viewing room that grants visitors a glimpse into B.C. Place for those curious to see the stadium that was home to the Opening, Closing Ceremonies, and evening medal ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Games as well as the Vancouver Whitecaps FC of the Major League Soccer (MLS) and the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League (CFL).
The B.C. Sports Hall of Fame also does an all-access tour of B.C. Place when available. The tour grants you access to the Media lounge, the Premium Suite areas, the team locker rooms (when available) and access onto the field (when available). I’ve visited BC Place a number of times for trade shows and events, but ironically, never for a game. I had never been in the seats and definitely not up higher in the stands.
On the day of our visit, they were preparing for a home game for the Vancouver Whitecaps. We were able to walk out on the turf behind one of the goals for a unique view.
I play ultimate frisbee on turf quite frequently and this turf is definitely a lot softer than any I’ve been on (and also no annoying pelts!). I really enjoyed this particular part of our visit to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame. It gives you a great look into something that most people wouldn’t get to see.
BC Sports Hall of Fame
Gate “A”, BC Place, near Beatty and Robson Streets and the Terry Fox Plaza
Admission: Adults $15; Seniors, Students, Youth (6-17) $12
Hours: 10 AM – 5PM daily
All Access Experience
Admission: $20 per person
Tours start and end at the BC Sports Hall of Fame
Ticket Info: Call (604)687-5520 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: If you’re going to an event at B.C. Place (all B.C. Place events, Vancouver Whitecaps, BC Lions and Vancouver Canucks), save your ticket to get half price admission within two weeks of the game day on the ticket.
Following our tour of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, we hopped back on the bus to continue the tour. While we didn’t get off at all of the stops along the route (that would have taken days, not the couple of hours I had!), the two places we visited were interesting to see. We also drove the majority of the bus route which covers a lot of ground in the downtown area (normally this takes 2 hours nonstop). The route is very comprehensive and if I were a visitor to Vancouver, I would be really happy with where the route takes me.
I snapped my whole day on Snapchat (add me! Username: packmeto) and you can see it here. Excuse the vertical video, but that’s how Snapchat rolls:
Should you go on the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour?
Your answer depends on your style of travel and how long you have the a city. If you only have a day or two in Vancouver, then the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour is the perfect way to see the city. Vancouver is very much a driving city with sights all over town so the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus can help you get around to the major sights with ease. Driving around downtown Vancouver is terrible so this way you can relax and enjoy the scenery while someone else fights the traffic for you.
Ticket Info: Tickets must be purchased ahead of time. You can purchase them online and only cover the cost of the bus (and not individual attractions along the route).
Price: Adult $42; Senior, Student or Youth $39; Child $25
Location: You can get on the bus from any of their stops. See a route map here.
Length: The tour lasts about 2 hours driving non-stop, but each ticket is good for a 24 hour period.
Do you like playing tourist in your own city?
Disclosure: I was a guest of Westcoast Sightseeing, the Vancouver Aquarium and the B.C. Sports Hall of fame. As always, all stingray fears, museum discoveries and opinions are my own.
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