I've never been to Vancouver and I'm a little overwhelmed by all the hotel options. I'd like to stay in a hotel that is central and gives me good sense of what Vancouver is like. I'd love to know where locals tell their friends to stay when they visit, and why those areas and hotels are special. thanks!
Honestly any hotel in the downtown area is fine (just don't stay in any hotel near chinatown and east hastings area). Sometimes there are great hotel deals on Groupon bec. hotels in dt area could be pricey so check that out! I once stayed at Ramada Limited Vancouver Downtown for a college research project and I saved a lot bec. of Groupon. Dt Vancouver is a very great place! Great nightlife, great seaside view, walking distance to everything, near different modes of transportations, near shopping places, lots of places to eat, etc. You don't even need to use your car if you want to go around downtown.
If you decided to stay in the downtown area, you can just walk to Gastown (take a picture with the steaming clock), to Canada Place (must visit: FlyOver Canada), Pacific Centre+ walk along Robson Street for more shopping and great restaurants, Granville St(head to the clubs and enjoy the nightlife and have some coffee at W Georgia and Granville that is open till 1am I think), etc.
You can also walk or take a bus ride to Stanley Park and English Bay. Don't forget to check out Denman St ! If you're done exploring Dt you can take the Skytrain and get off at Metrotown Station. That's where the mall where all locals go to. Or take the Seabus from Waterfront Station to go to North Vancouver. That place is heaven for people who loves nature! Have a stroll at Granville Island as well! Lot's of locally owned stores there which are unique and beautiful. Try the fish and chips and don't forget to eat a gelato when you get there!
Long story short if you want to save time, stay at the Dt area. If you want to save money for hotel and restaurants, try Groupon. Vancouverites are friendly so if you get lost or if you want to ask around for a great place to eat or visit, ask the people around you. If you're too shy or you just want to be careful, having google maps on your phone can be very handy. Free wi-fi at any Starbucks (it's crazy that they're everywhere), Tim Hortons, malls, etc. If you need to use the washroom you can go to coffee shops. If you're not buying anything don't be shy to ask for access. BARISTAS ARE VERY NICE! :)
One more tip before I finish my novel. It could be helpful to buy a daypass at any vending machines located at any Canada Line and Skytrain Stations. If you don't want to buy a day pass, it would be better to buy a single-fare pass in a vending machine at any train station that buying a ticket in a bus. If you pay for a ticket in a bus, you can't use it to have access in a train station (Canada Line nor Skytrain). However if you buy a ticket in a train station, you can also use it in the bus.
I think that's about it! Have fun and enjoy your stay at Vancouver! It's a rainy season here now so don't forget to bring an umbrella. :) I hoped my babbling helped. :P
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For a fantastic boutique hotel experience in the downtown core, my pick is the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa. A gracious, beautiful hotel with a cosy bar/restaurant. It's close to the Vancouver Art Gallery, Robson Street (the hot fashion shopping street), and all the downtown delights. A little more affordable and right on the water - Granville Island Hotel. It's not in the very core, but easy to get downtown. Nice restaurant overlooking a marina and the fantastic Granville Island Public Market, art galleries and a very charming retail community all in a short walking distance.
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Katie, This is a loaded question. Everywhere in Vancouver is a great area!! (Except for East Hastings). To be honest, I would stay in areas with easy access to transport such as the "skytrain" or bus. Yaletown, is a great area with a ton of trendy eateries, bars, shops, etc. South Granville is a cool blend of residential/tourism but will require a bus trip to other parts of downtown Vancouver. In my opinion, to get the most of Vancouver, you will want to stay near downtown. I would not recommend staying on Granville Street itself as it is full of bars that go all night so the noise levels will be "over the top". Another area that you can stay is Coal Harbour which is stunning as well. It will all depend on your budget. Check out Trivago.com for some great hotel options.
If you'd like to try something that's central to things but interesting to someone not from here, try Skwachàys Lodge - I'm pretty sure it's the only Aboriginal hotel in Vancouver! Have fun!
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I think that anything in the downtown area is a good option. I recently spent several solo days in Vancouver (a few blocks from the Vancouver City Centre station) and found many, many things to see and do within walking distance of my hotel. There is an extensive bus system too, which I found easy to navigate to places a bit farther afield.