The countdown is on, and as of today there are only 19 sleeps until the best weekend of summer, also known as the lululemon Seawheeze Half Marathon. I’m already vibrating with excitement about it, especially because it also means that some of my besties from back in Ontario are coming to visit and these girls are, well, simply the best.
Last year marked the 4th year of the race, as well as my 4th time participating. At that point I’d been living here in Vancouver for about 4 months, (what is with all the 4s?!) so I posted a 2015 guide based on all the places I enjoyed as a visitor in previous years. Looking back, there were definitely some gems in that list, but now that I’ve been here for longer and have had a chance to do some exploring, I’ve got a few more can’t-be-missed recommendations for any of you who are flying out here for the race. Consider this the new and improved guide.
I’ve been getting lots of email questions lately from a few of you who are making your Seawheeze debuts (especially about the showcase store and what time you should get in line), so let’s start with those first.
This year the race is at 7am on Saturday August 13th, which means package pickup and the Seawheeze Showcase Store open on Friday August 12th. Both happen at the Vancouver Convention Centre which is in walking distance of most downtown hotels, it’s where the race starts, and it’s where most of the weekend goes down.
The Seawheeze Showcase Store + Package Pick-up: The Showcase Store is where you’ll go to spend allllllll the monies on Seawheeze-exclusive gear – as in, lululemon clothes made specifically for the race that you won’t be able to buy in regular lululemon store locations. It opens at 7am but you can count on a line wrapping all the way around the building and down the street, so plan to wait regardless of what time you show up. Trust me, it’s always fun, you’ll meet great people in the line, and once you get inside it’s always worth it.
What time should you set your alarm? Let’s just say there’s no such thing as too early. ? For the best experience…
- Bring something comfy to sit on – You’ll be waiting outside on concrete. I’ve seen everything from yoga mats and folding chairs to pillows and duvets – comfort is key!
- Bring something to snack on – Starbucks and Tim Hortons (which is coffee and donuts for all of you coming from outside of Canada) are nearby, but depending on what time you get in line they may not be open yet. The closest Tim Hortons is at 200 Burrard St and opens at 5am, and the closest Starbucks is in the Pan Pacific Hotel (999 Canada Place) and opens at 5:30am.
- Wear clothes that make it easy to try other clothes on over top of so you don’t have to wait for a changing room once you’re in the store.
- Make sure you have your photo ID to pick up your race package and read all the weekend FAQs to get the details on how much product you’re allowed to buy, payment methods, etc.
And of course, if you happen to see me in line, come say hi!
Nooner Yoga, Sunset Festival + all other weekend Seawheeze festivities: I say do them all, especially if it’s your first time here and you really want the full race experience. There are fun things happening all day on August 12th around the Convention Centre and in my opinion, every year gets better and better.
Where to Eat
Many of my recommendations from last year are still some of my all-time faves – Heirloom Vegetarian Restaurant (please promise you’ll go at least once), Tractor, Yew Seafood + Bar, and Nourish. Here are a couple to add to the list:
Nuba is a Vancouverite’s go-to for healthy Lebanese-inspired food like falafel, fattoush, tabbouleh, mjadra, and shish tawook. They’ve got plenty of meat-free options, and if you go you’ve GOT to order Najib’s Special, which is crispy roasted cauliflower with lemon, sea salt and tahini. (Not able to squeeze this into your visit? Try my re-creation of this dish.)
The closest location to downtown is Gastown (207 West Hastings St) but you’ll find the other Nubas in Yaletown, Mount Pleasant and Kitsilano (where they also have brunch!)
Field + Social
If you adore salads just as much as I do, you will adore Field + Social because this is their specialty. And for those that think salads aren’t a complete meal, I’d still recommend that you eat here! The menu items vary by season, the ingredients are so thoughtfully combined, and the presentation is always stunning. You’ll find them at 415 Dunsmuir Street, which is very likely between the Convention Center and your hotel.
Chau Veggie Express
I was very recently introduced to Chau – specifically their vegan and gluten-free ice creams which are incredible – and that’s coming from someone that doesn’t normally get excited about dessert! I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to discover this place, but they’ve got a main location in East Vancouver and another one within Granville Island Market (which is closer to downtown if that’s where you’re staying). You’ll find vegetarian Vietnamese fare (with plenty of gluten-free options) and it’s all super affordable.
If you want vegan food unlike anything you’ve ever tried before, The Acorn is where it’s at. The menu is always seasonal and I can almost guarantee that you’ll leave having eaten something you’ve never tried before – and love it too. The Acorn is consistently rated one of the top restaurants in Vancouver and the dishes are always so creatively plated – just check out their Instagram account.
I mapped out a couple of grocery spots that are in easy walking distance from many of the hotels downtown here, but realized I left out Whole Foods. What was I thinking??
If you need to stock up on a couple of hotel room snacks or grab some race fuel (like Vega!) the nearest downtown location is at 1675 Robson St. My favourite is ‘the big one’ on Cambie because it has a great smoothie bar and salad bar, and it’s also just around the corner from the lululemon lab (more about that below). There’s also a Whole Foods in Kitsilano about a 10 minute walk from the beach.
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to juice in Vancouver and it’s about as common to find as a coffee shop. Ok, maybe not quite, but theres LOTS of options. The Juice Truck (included in last year’s post) was one of the first that I visited upon moving here last year, and to this day is still a favourite. You’ll find their truck at Water + Abbot St downtown, and the physical location is in Mount Pleasant (about a 5 min cab ride away).
The Juicery has 2 locations in North Vancouver and one near Kitsilano on West 4th, which is perfect if you want to get away from downtown. They’ve got amazing and really interesting cold-pressed juice flavours, as well as all sorts of delicious, creamy nut mylks. My recommendation: the Family Farm juice, a 100% veggie blend that changes depending on whatever organic produce is available locally.
Glory Juice Co
If you’re looking for a killer acai bowl, this is where I’d send you. In addition to their bowls and juices, Glory Juice also has the BEST turmeric and ginger shots, so if you’re sensing a cold coming on or if you just really want a mega dose of anti-inflammatory goodies, be sure to pick one up and knock it back. ? Glory Juice Co‘s closest locations are in Olympic Village and Kitsilano, but you can also find them in JJ Bean coffee shops all over the city.
Places to visit
The biggest one is on Robson and Burrard, but if you can make your way over to Kitsilano, be sure to stop in at the West 4th store because it was the very first one! Kits is where lululemon was born, so if you have a day to explore after the race, I’d recommend heading across the Burrard bridge (the same one you’ll run over during the race… twice) to see it for yourself. Oh, and if you have little girls between the ages of 6 and 14 in your life, check out ivivva (the little sister brand I’m super proud to work on) two doors down.
Half design space and half storefront, the lab cranks out some super innovative and unique clothing. Watch the design and production teams create, then try on the pieces you like and walk away with a souvenir you can only get in Vancouver! (Side note: a lululemon lab just opened in NYC, but the collection available there is different and unique to the city.)
For the same reasons mentioned above, spend some time chilling in the neighbourhood where lululemon was born. The beach will be busy with runners, volleyball enthusiasts, picnic-packers and sunseekers, which means and it’s a great place for people watching! Bring some snacks and something to sit on, find a spot and relax while you take in views of the ocean and north shore mountains.
If you’re coming to shop, this is where you should start. Whether you want to buy sweatpants from Roots (#ohcanada) or Swarovski crystals, you’ll find it on Robson. Here’s a store list if you’re trying to decide how much money to bring. ?
Where to sweat
If you’ve still got some energy to spare after your 13.1 miles, don’t miss these spots:
On the sea wall
You’ll run along here during the race, but I remember wanting to go back during my first Seawheeze because you’ll want to take a couple squillion selfies. You can run all the way around from Stanley Park to Spanish Banks beach if you want to (there’s a path the entire way), but a shorter option would be to start from Stanley Park, run around to English Bay Beach, and come back into the downtown area via Denman St. Here’s a great map of the entire Sea Wall, and if you’ve got 28km left in your legs, feel free to do the entire thing! (Note that the sea wall is also bike-friendly, but it’s one-way traffic only in some areas.)
Hiking on the North Shore
This is one of my favourite parts about living here – you can escape the city for the morning, climb a mountain, come back and spend the afternoon on the beach. Luckily there are some great hikes within 15-30 mins of the city, and the site I’ve found most useful is the Vancouver Trails website. If you’ve only got a couple of hours and want something easy, check out Quarry Rock, Lynn Loop, Rice Lake or Mystery Lake. Hikes like Hollyburn Mountain, Mount Seymour and Mount Fromme have some good climbs (plan to dedicate a morning for these). If you want more of a challenge, go for the Grouse Grind and be sure to wear proper footwear because this is not an easy climb! It’s all worth it though, and you’ll get to take a gondola down to the bottom. The Grind gets busy, so for the best experience, get there before 8am.
Indoor sweat sessions
If it rains (and let be honest, this city was nicknamed Raincouver for a reason) check out Vancouver’s boutique fitness scene by booking a class at Lagree West, Tight Club, or Method Indoor Cycling. If it’s yoga you’re after, pop into Sunday morning yoga at lululemon on Robson. Alternatively, find a class at Yyoga on Burrard or Semperviva (Kitsilano or Granville Island). Most Vancouver studios are on ClassPass, so if you’re a ClassPass user, you’re already ahead of the game.
[Tweet “The Seawheezer’s Guide to Vancouver 2016 #yvr #seawheeze”]
Phew. That’s all I’ve got for now, but…
- If you’re a Vancouverite and have some more suggestions, please comment below so that everyone (myself included) can check them out.
- If you’re coming to Vancouver for Seawheeze, is it your first one? What are you most excited about?