GETTING THERE: Northwest, Air Canada, United and American, to name a few, offer connecting flights from at least one of the three D.C. area airports. Discount fares begin at about $450 and can drop to about $370 round trip. Proof of U.S. citizenship is required when visiting Canada.
WHERE TO STAY: Vancouver has a wealth of options, including choices on the waterfront, which we didn't get a chance to try. For Old World charm, luxury and a good downtown location near Stanley Park, consider the Wedgewood (845 Hornby St., 800-663-0666, www.wedgewoodhotel.com). Spring rates begin at $99 a night for a double. For hip and modern, the obvious choice is the Opus Hotel (322 Davie St., 866-642-6787, www.opus hotel.com). Doubles in this new boutique hotel are also a deal, beginning at $117. We also liked the Pacific Palisades (1277 Robson St., 800-663-1815, www.pacificpalisades hotel.com) for its pool, central location in the shopping district and price, with doubles beginning at $85.
WHERE TO EAT: Eating is one of the great delights in Vancouver, and prices are significantly less than comparable dining in the States. For elegance, romance and gourmet European/West Coast/Canadian-style cuisine, don't miss the Wedgewood Hotel's Bacchus (845 Hornby St.). Dinner entrees begin at $16; afternoon tea is $12. I still crave the breakfast crepes at the Opus Hotel's Elixir (322 Davies St.), and dinner was equally memorable. Dinner entrees at this upscale bistro range from about $8 to $15.
Locals line up for bargain Greek food at Stephos (1124 Davies St.), where entrees begin at about $6.50.
Choices for Chinese food are endless. High-end, luxury options include Imperial Chinese Seafood (355 Burrard St.), with stunning waterfront views. Entrees begin at $14. The budget choice is Hon's Wun-Tun House (with two locations, 1339 Robson St. and 108-268 Keefer St.), where entrees begin at about $5. In between, and with dim sum a specialty, are Floata (400-180 Keefer St). and Wild Rice (117 W. Pender St.). Entrees at each begin at about $7.50.
Bin 941 (941 Davie St.) is a happening tapas place with entrees ranging from about $7.50 to $13. Steamrollers (437 Davie and 586 Hornby) has burritos to write home about, starting at about $3.50. For incredible desserts: Sweet Revenge (4160 Main St.). For bargain gourmet meals by chefs in the making, reserve a week in advance at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (1505 W. Second Ave., 800-416-4040, www.picularts.bc.ca). A three-course lunch is $14, a three-course dinner $23.
For descriptions of many of the city's 4,000 restaurants: www.vancouverrestaurants.com.
WATER SPORTS: Ocean West Expeditions (800-660-0051, www.ocean-west.com) has packages for full or half-day adventures, including hiking, biking and kayaking, as well as overnight dolphin and whale-watching trips. Kayak rentals are $18 for two hours; a three-hour rental with lessons is $40. For sailing, try Simplicity Charters (604-765-0074, www.simplicitysailingcharters.com), and for cruises, Harbour Cruises (604-688-7246, www.boatcruises.com). Windsurfing, motorboating, fishing and swimming are also available within city limits.
DEALS: Contact the visitors bureau (see below) for a variety of deals on hotels, packages and tickets to attractions. Current deals include a two-night family package (two adults, two children) at the Fairmont Waterfront hotel, with four passes to the aquarium and the trolley, valet parking, Nintendo and gifts starting at about $300.
INFORMATION: Greater Vancouver Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-HELLO-BC (604-682-2222), www.tourismvancouver.com.
-- Cindy Loose