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Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

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Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

My family (with 2 kids ages 11 & 13) is planning a trip to Seattle/Vancouver & Victoria for Spring Break in about a month or so.

We will be flying into Seattle airport, renting a car for 5 days & flying back out from Seattle. I would love your feedback on this itinerary & if it is "do-able" time wise. Our main goal is to focus on nature and see the "main sights" or highlights of Vancouver. We hope to plan many repeat trips in the future, Since we will be visiting at the height of spring, we want to make sure we see lots of flowers/nature.

The kids also love to see aquariums/museums, so its been tough figuring out the itinerary. I am especially confused about time taken to get from Seattle to Vancouver to Victoria. Which order should I be planning to visit these cities?

Here is my current planned itinerary:

Day 1: (Saturday)

Arrival in Seattle on Saturday morning at 9am.

Pick up rental car

Drive to the Skagit Tulip Festival route & see fields of Tulips.

(Husband is a photographer, so we may have to spend a few hours here!)

Cross the border & drive to Vancouver.

Check in to hotel & relax in the evening - dinner. Walk around downtown.

Day 2: (Sunday)

Granville Island

Stanley Park

Gastown

Day 3: (Monday)

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Grouse Mountain OR Museum of Anthropology/Aquarium? (Should I skip Grouse mountain? We are not planning on hiking or any adventure sports.)

Return to Gastown for dinner

Day 4: (Tuesday)

Leave Vancouver early morning & drive/take ferry to Victoria.

See Butchart Gardens

Explore Victoria in the evening.

Day 5: (Wednesday)

Check out sometime during the day.

Go back to Seattle.

Need to head back to airport by late evening.

What do you all think of this itinerary? Your input is much appreciated!

Thanks,

Sara

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

<<Day 5: (Wednesday)

Check out sometime during the day.

Go back to Seattle.

Need to head back to airport by late evening.>>

Whoops! That's a risky plan. Which ferry are you looking at for this trip - BC Ferries (Swartz Bay) or WSDOT (Sidney)?

If you go with BC Ferries, you can expect it to take about 3 hours from when you leave Victoria to when you get to Tsawwassen, then about 45 minutes to get to the border, then you need to anticipate 1-2 hours to cross the border. It might not take that long, but you can't afford mistakes if you are trying to make a flight. Then I would allow 3 hours to get to SeaTac for a flight. That's a rough (and perhaps slightly generous) estimate of 8 hours of travel time. Then you want to be at the airport a couple of hours before your flight to check in your rental car and wind through the various lines.

Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

Good first draft, desimom ~

The trip from Victoria to Seattle on the same day as your flight out is a bit risky, IMO. First of all it takes 4 hours to get from Victoria to the Peace Arch border crossing, then 3 hours down to Seattle. What time would you have to be at the Seattle airport? The chance of something going sideways on the ferry hovers in the air.

So I would keep things the same, except that I would take a day trip with Landsea to Victoria and Butchart on Day 4 putting you back in the Vancouver hotel that night. 12-13 hours no matter which way you slice it, with them or on your own. That way you are on this side of the ditch on the day of your flight out.

Grouse will not be friendly to tourists in April and will be just mountain, probably with snow. The tourist season doesn't really begin until Victoria Day long weekend in May. So the Museum of Anthropology, Nitobe Memorial Garden and even the UBC Botanical Gardens with its Greenheart Canopy treetop walk might be interesting to you for the day. From there you could cut across town to Queen Elizabeth Park and the Bloedel Conservatory with its exotic birds.

Stanley Park and the Aquarium in Stanley Park can be grouped. So:

One day: Capilano Suspension Bridge (2 hours), Cleveland Dam (30 min), Lonsdale Quay (1 hour), Lighthouse Park with its big trees (1 hour) and even Horseshoe Bay (1 hour), then back to Gastown for dinner.

OR: Cap, then back into town and across to the opposite side (40-50 minutes) to UBC for the MoA, Nitobe Gardens, Botanical Gardens, Queen E Park, Bloedel Conservatory. Decisions to be made here after researching all of these. If you go on Tuesday to MoA, they are open until 9 pm and charge half rate entry from 5 pm on.

One day: Stanley Park and Aquarium, English Bay, Granville Island, Gastown

One day: Victoria day trip

Last day: late April? Just allow enough time to cross the border (possible waits to cross) and then down in and through the congestion of Seattle from weekday traffic to 30 min south of the city to SEA airport.

My 2 cents.

Edited: 10:47 pm, March 20, 2014
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3. Re: Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

if you look on the Seattle forum on top right is a list of top questions. Lots of info on trips to Vanc and Victoria. If I may suggest having a car may not be a help in Vancouver. Parking is very expensive and there is no free parking anywhere. Even in Seattle its more of a hassle than a benefit. Seeing the tulips is great. Most people seriously underestimate the amt of time you will spend in border crossing, traffic, waiting for ferries etc etc. It takes a good part of a day to get from Victoria to Seattle. Its very scenic but not if your worried about a flight. If you didn't have the car then you could take the Clipper back to Seattle and cab to airport with no hassle, but taking a ferry, border crossing, Seattle traffic, returning a car, buying gas, and getting to airport all in the same day would stress me out.

The museum of Anthropology is a nice museum if your into first nations type things but the Aquarium may be better suited to younger people. No offense Vancouver but the Seattle Aquarium is much larger and recently expanded so that would be my choice. Grouse mtn has tons to do without ever 'hiking' so don't underestimate it. Its a several hours excursion where Capilano may be good for an hour or two. Hope this helps

Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

I just want to touch on Grouse again. In the third week of April, the non adventurous things to do, likely in some snow unless we have a warm stretch, are:

Possibly Sleigh rides, possibly ice skating, shopping, theatre in the sky, checking out the captive grizzlies Coola and Grinder, the Eye of the wind.

After Victoria Day long weekend, there will additionally be the tourist oriented:

Lumberjack show, Birds in Motion demonstrations, heli tours, paragliding to watch.

The adventurous zip lines go all year. It's a mountain to go up on a clear sky day, not so good if the peak is covered in cloud.

David, What activities and attractions are you thinking of up Grouse a month from now?

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5. Re: Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

Thank you all so very much for your suggestions & valuable feedback!

Our flight departs from Seattle at 8:30pm, so the thinking was that if I check out from the Victoria hotel early AM, we should have plenty of time to head back to the airport.. However, looks like I underestimated the distance/time needed to get from Victoria to Seattle! Would hate to miss the flight back & will not take any chances. Also, the whole idea is to have a "vacation", so wouldn't want to be all stressed out on the way back. Thanks for letting me know!

I will look into all the places you mentioned .. looks like there is lots to do just in Vancouver! Seems like my research was just the tip of the iceberg. :-)

Let me ask you all for some candid advice, It seems like we are wasting a ton of time going to Victoria & returning. Since this is our first time in British Columbia, would it be better to just skip Victoria entirely and just stay in Vancouver the entire time? Would the Gardens you mention above be at all comparable to the Butchart? I really wanted to see some pretty spring gardens, but if it involves 13 hours, might want to do something else! Landsea is also so expensive with $195/head!

The kids really want to see animals/visit aquariums and would probably enjoy those more than the gardens anyway. What is your opinion? I just don't know if I can ever time it right so that we visit in Spring again, so don't want to regret skipping Butchart.

Thanks again for all your help.

Sara

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6. Re: Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

With your short timeline Yes skipping Victoria would ease the stress-lots to see/do here for kids of all ages.

Of course the same could be said of skipping Vancouver-Victoria has it's charms too.

Butchart is a show garden-not to everyone's taste and hardly the only reason to visit the Island.

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7. Re: Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

Vancouver has many wonderful gardens. Skip Butchart's. Queen Elizabeth Park is quite lovely and also has the bloedel Conservatory. Q.E park is free . You need to pay to get into the conservatory.

Nitobe Garden at UBC doesn't have flowers, except cherry blossoms which should be in bloom..it is however a magical garden not to be missed. Van Dusen will be gorgeous in April....in fact the entire city will be awash in cherry blossoms, dafgodils, tulips. Save the money you would spend getting to Butcharts......visit the Aquariums in both Seattle and Vancouvet..visit Pike Place Market and Granville Island...

Follow your itinerary for day 1-3 ...after lunch on day 4 head to Seattle and possibly stop at the tulips again. ....you might look at staying in La Conner...or head to Whidbey Island for your overnight...then final day spend in Seattle at aforementioned Aquarium, market etc..

You won't regret missing Butcharts...

Edited: 1:35 am, March 21, 2014
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8. Re: Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

If you want gardens comparable to Butchart in Vancouver, go to VanDusen Botanical Garden where you can spend several hours exploring, and then maybe a quick stop at Queen Elizabeth Park, which is nearby and has a similar sunken rock quarry garden like Butchart's. Read up the TripAdvisor reviews of both to get a sense of what to expect. VanDusen is more of a botany lover's garden, where every plant is labelled, and there's a hedge maze, different themed gardens, but isn't as flower-bed heavy as Butchart. Queen Elizabeth Park is a city park, free to visit (though you pay for parking), and features ornamental flower beds and public artwork. The view of Vancouver from the top of Queen Elizabeth Park is also stunning. The best part? You can access both within a 10 minute drive of Vancouver, and they're only a 10 minute drive from each other.

BTW - I also don't think Butchart is worth 8 hours of transportation time. I only recommend visiting if a) you like show gardens, and b) you're already spending a few days in Victoria.

Edited: 1:39 am, March 21, 2014
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9. Re: Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

>>would it be better to just skip Victoria entirely and just stay in Vancouver the entire time?<< .... Yes.

>>Would the Gardens you mention above be at all comparable to the Butchart?<< Smaller, but very nice. Butchart has a cultivated sunken quarry garden in 22 hectares of cultivated themed gardens. QEP has a cultivated sunken quarry garden in 52 hectares of grass and trees, and a duck pond. Oh and the Bloedel Conservatory of exotic birds and flowers.

QEP: …photokaz.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/201…

QEP: vancouvercityphotoimage.com/wp-content/uploa…

QEP video with a pretty good caption to read: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQP1RlRlRdI

Butchart sunken quarry garden: …wikimedia.org/wikipedia/…Sunken_Garden.jpg

Spring at Butchart: butchartgardens.com/gardens/…

Decisions, decisions.

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10. Re: Tulip Festival + Vancouver + Victoria

"You can access both within a 10 minute drive of Vancouver, and they're only a 10 minute drive from each other." - I meant to say, they're both within a 10 minute drive of DOWNTOWN Vancouver. :)

Here are the TripAdvisor reviews:

VanDusen: tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g154943-d18…

Queen Elizabeth Park: tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g154943-d15…