Celebrating your birthday with a bang doesn’t have to mean throwing a huge party with all of your friends and family. This year I decided to keep things low key and relaxing with a weekend getaway in Vancouver, checking out the nicest spots and of course indulging in some delicious bites.

I knew that I wanted to make this trip extra special by picking the most perfect place to stay. The newly renovated EXchange Hotel offered a luxurious atmosphere without breaking the bank. EXchange promises that guests will experience “history re-imagined” during each visit, and it’s easy to see why. The hotel resides in what was once the home of the original Vancouver Stock Exchange, featuring exquisite details such as marble bathrooms and 20th century artwork, yet also has the honor of being Vancouver’s first LEED™ Platinum Heritage Conversion—that is, it is certified by LEED™ as one of the world’s greenest buildings. This has been achieved through the most innovative technologies including carpet made from recycled plastic bottles and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems. You can read more about EXchange’s eco-minded strategy (as well as book a room!) on their website. Unfortunately, I did have one bad experience during my stay at EXchange: When I returned to my room at one point, I discovered there was some money missing from my coat pocket. It’s important during your stay at any hotel to utilize the room safe if there is one (a step I wish I had taken!), or to be mindful of where you’re keeping valuables if a room safe isn’t an option.

The hotel is also home to Hydra, a new mediterranean restaurant that is a perfect spot for lunch or dinner whether you’re a guest of EXchange or staying somewhere else in town and looking for a trendy spot to eat and drink. Serving the freshest fish, tender chicken and lamb platters, and tasty shareable sides, Hydra focuses on serving food family style so that you can try a little bit of everything. Some highlights from the menu include the forno roasted whole leg of lamb, spanakopita (or traditional spinach & feta pie), and the “Chill Platter” featuring prawns, oysters, ceviche, sashimi, pickled octopus, tartare, and accoutrements. If you’re not looking for a huge meal but would like a taste of Greece during happy hour of pre-dinner drinks, the Hydra Bar offers bite size portions of some of guests favorite foods along with an extensive list of specialty cocktails. In addition to the delectable food and refreshing drinks, I loved the bright and elegant atmosphere it provided—the perfect way to kickstart a weekend of celebrations!

It wouldn’t be a perfect weekend away without a great brunch to kickoff our first full day in Vancouver. Honey Salt (located inside Parq Casino) boasts an atmosphere of “classic comfort with a relaxed sophistication,” which is evident through its menu filled with sweet and savory delights including monkey bread for the table, sweet potato pancakes, waffles with berries (my personal recommendation), smoked salmon, avocado toast, and steak and eggs. What sets Honey Salt apart from other brunch hot spots—aside from its farm-to-table locally sourced fare and large variety of offerings—is its make your own caesar cart. You may be thinking of a caesar salad, but this station is actually for caesar cocktails, which are similar to bloody mary’s but include clam broth. A Canadian favorite at brunch time!

The rest of the weekend was spent sightseeing in all of the best spots that Vancouver has to offer. From the amazing high end luxury shopping (I stopped in at Hermès—it was my birthday, after all!) to the beautiful waterfront scene best enjoyed at Canada Place, our trip balanced the perfect amount of relaxing, indulging, and just admiring the world around us. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown and Stanley Park in the West End both provide beautiful backdrops to walk around and admire the scenery.

Lastly, I would be remiss not to mention my favorite dessert of this birthday weekend, which was an artisan ice cream sandwich at Mister. This community-focused ice cream shop uses ingredients from local farmers combined with liquid nitrogen to create a richer, creamier, and denser product that was absolutely delicious. It was truly the sweetest way to celebrate!

Vancouver - Canada - British Columbia - Mister Ice Cream

Have you ever taken a vacation for you birthday in lieu of a party? Tell me where you went in the comments below!

 

 


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