Leah Explores … Capilano Suspension Bridge

My dad was just here for a visit, and since he has been here many times before it’s getting harder and harder to find new things to do with him, it’s a challenge, but a fun one! On his final full day in the city I decided that since the weather wasn’t that great, we would embrace it and go full PNW. We headed over to North Vancouver to explore Capilano Suspension Bridge. I’d taken him to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge (a free, smaller bridge just down the road) a few years ago, and always just skipped over Capilano as a bigger and more expensive version of something he’d already done. But I was running low on idea’s and this seemed like the perfect dad-friendly activity. I worked it out on the way over that I hadn’t been to Capilano since December 2011 when I went with some friends to see the Christmas lights, so it was about time for a do-over.

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Extreme nature ahead!

The Bridge: This is definitely the main attraction, a 450ft suspension bridge that hangs 230ft above the Capilano River, it is a sight to behold. The bridge itself had a definite wobble as you walk across it, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your feeling about heights, and suspension bridges. I would urge you to brave it because there is some cool stuff on the other side, plus how often do you get to walk across something like this?

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The bridge

Treetop Adventure: This might just be my favourite part of the park. It’s a route of seven smaller suspension bridges that lead you through the treetops, giving you an alternate perspective of the park. Walking through these bridges and lookouts makes me feel like I am in Neverland from the film Hook and I love it.

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Treetop exploring

Cliffwalk: The cliffwalk is a series of thin walkways that jut out from the side of the cliff face, leading you along the side of the cliff allowing you to gain stunning views of the river, trees and bridge.  It’s a great way to get a different perspective of the park, and the walk ways don’t wobble like the bridge does so it’s a great alternative for anyone not brave enough to face the bridge.

Other things: Make sure to check out the gift shop, which I was pleasantly surprised to see had a bit more than just the usual tourist junk in there, any gift shop with a counter full of fudge gets my vote. There is plenty of other stuff to check out in the park including totem poles, the story center that lays out the history of the bridge, a cafe,  and nature walks to name a few. If you want to take advantage of the stunning surroundings and get some killer photo’s its worth bearing in mind that it can get very busy with tourists, and selfie sticks. We went on a Wednesday afternoon in early November and it was nice and quiet. If you’re going to visit at a busier time of year, or  a weekend, I’d suggest going early in the morning. Also, if you are a BC resident make sure you take advantage of being able to switch your ticket for an annual resident pass which means that you can go back and visit as many times as you want in the year!

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Totem poles

Getting there:
Getting to Capilano is surprisingly easy. They offer a free shuttle from downtown Vancouver which picks up (and drops off) at four convenient spots around the downtown core and takes you straight to the entrance of the bridge. Check out the schedule on the website here for pick up times and locations. If you are feeling a bit more independent, you can also easily drive and park across the street, or take public transit.

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Admiring the Christmas Lights

This visit to Capilano has helped me out of a rut and to appreciate all that Vancouver has to offer. I honestly enjoyed my trip to Capilano much more than I thought I would. It had been a few years since I visited, and I remember the last time I went there that it felt a bit tame and on the family friendly side. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just didn’t see the point in paying $40 when I could go to Lynn Valley for free. That said, absence makes the heart grow fonder and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I will be making a conscious effort to go back and see the Christmas lights and throughout the year with my BC resident pass.

Head over to the Capilano Suspension Bridge website for more information on things to see and do at the park. Happy exploring!

Leah Explores … Santa Barbara

Before heading to Ojai for a few days I decided to take a little detour to the coast and spend the day in beautiful Santa Barbara to do a bit of exploring.  I only had the day there so I made sure I did a bit of research beforehand so I knew where I was going, to allow myself  maximum time for exploring. Santa Barbara isn’t that big, and is definitely somewhere you can get away with seeing most of it in a day. Here are my must see places for a whistle stop tour of stunning Santa Barbara.

The Historic Old Mission
This is definitely a must when visiting Santa Barbara. America is still a relatively new country so any chance to see something historic is an opportunity I always take. Founded in 1786, the mission is nestled against the hills and overlooks the city. You can take a self guided tour for $8, but I decided to skip it and just had a look around the beautiful grounds.

The Clock Tower in the Courthouse
This was recommended to me by my best friend, and I am so glad about it, even though it was pretty overcast and cloudy it still provided some amazing panoramic views of Santa Barbara. The courthouse itself is beautiful, and on the way up to the top you can stop in and see the bells inside the tower. There are some cool murals to check out too, as well as beautiful details like tiled staircases. Definitely worth a look, plus it’s free!

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State Street
State Street is where the main hub of activity in Santa Barbara is. Full of shops and restaurants there is plenty to explore, and it’s the perfect place to mosey in and out of shops admiring the beautiful surroundings. Also there are more cool staircases nestled into the Paseo Nuevo shopping complex, which are completely Instagram worthy.

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Stearns Wharf
A great spot to see the ocean and look back on the city. You can wander down the pier and look in some of the touristy shops, admire the stunning beaches, grab something to eat and drink, or look around the Sea Centre. It wasn’t too busy when I visited on a Wednesday afternoon, which was perfect, but I imagine it gets very crowded in the height of summer. I walked to the end, grabbed some Salt Water Taffy and headed back to spend some time on the beach.

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All in all I was pleasently surprised by how much I enjoyed my time in Santa Barbara. It didn’t sound like there was too much to do there and I was worried I was going to be easily bored and not be able to fill my day. But once I was there, I discovered it was just a really pleasant place to wander around and take it easy. Another pleasant surprise was how much free parking (for 1-2hours) there was dotted around. This made it so easy to park up and explore. A definite recommendation if you want a relaxing weekend away or a day by the sea! 

Leah Explores … Gibsons

Last week my mum came to visit on a spur of the moment trip. She was only here for a week, so I wanted to make sure that we made the most of her time here. She has been to visit me here in Vancouver many times before, and so is familiar with all the “tourist” things to do. It’s now a nice challenge to find new exciting adventures for when she is here, we already did a seaplane tour earlier in the week, so we chose to explore Gibsons, which is a tiny little town on the Sunshine Coast towards the end of her stay.

*disclaimer, I experienced no sunshine on the Sunshine Coast*

Gibsons isn’t somewhere people tend to flock to, even people who live in the lower mainland. It has a very small population and is a popular retirement destination. Although part of the mainland, Gibsons is not accessible by car, so after a short 45 minute ride on a BC Ferry to Langdale, from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, we jumped on the first bus which took us right to Gibsons Landing in around 10 minutes, easy peasy!

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Gibsons is pretty tiny so it is easy to have a stroll around and see the town by foot. We looked in some of the cute and quaint shops, and then wandered over to Molly’s Reach (most famous for its part in the CBC show The Beachcombers) for lunch with a view of the water. Afterwards we walked down to the marina to look around and admire the beautiful scenery before jumping back on the bus and ferry to head back to Horseshoe Bay.

We knew this wasn’t going to be a huge adventure, and  didn’t stay and explore for too long because the weather was pretty dismal, and honestly there isn’t a ton to do in Gibsons. That said, I would definitely go back, preferably in the summer when the weather is a bit nicer, and explore further, and even head up the Sunshine Coast to Sechelt. All in all it was a nice way to spend an afternoon and explore somewhere that is definitely off the beaten track. I would definitely recommend Gibsons as a day trip for those looking for something a little different to do without having to travel far.