Living in the West End means you can easily live without a vehicle. I should know, my family has existed without one for more than ten years. We brought a car with us when we first moved to Vancouver, and for our first couple of years living in Kitsilano. We gradually realized that we were not using our car nearly enough to warrant the expense, and that we could easily live without one.
One of the most challenging aspects of life without a car can be getting to the big box stores when you need to. I am not a huge supporter of stores like Wal-Mart, but sometimes it just makes the most sense to shop there, especially if you have children.
Over several years, I have fine-tuned using public transit to get to the malls. Whether you live in or near downtown Vancouver, or are just visiting and staying in a hotel in the heart of the city, getting to the mall via transit is easier, cheaper and less stressful than driving there.
The first and most obvious shopping mall is right downtown: Pacific Centre. It bills itself as being “chic” and its retailers are definitely on the high-end featuring stores like: Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen, MaxMara, Hugo Boss, Sephora, Apple, Coach, and Browns Shoes. The most reasonable stores in this mall are probably Sears and H&M (my personal favourite). Although the main entrance to Pacific Centre is on the corner of West Georgia and Howe Streets. You can easily walk there from anywhere in the West End or downtown, or take a number 5 or 6 bus on Davie or Robson Streets.
The next easiest mall to get to (and the largest in BC with 450 stores) is Metrotown Centre. It’s located in Burnaby and is a stop on the original skytrain, the Expo Line, which is easily accessible from anywhere downtown. Metrotown is huge and features most of the stores (big and little) that you may be looking for, except Wal-Mart. The flagship stores are: Sears, Real Canadian Superstore, The Bay, Zellers, Winners/Homesense, Old Navy and Chapters. The most appealing stores for kids are: Toys R Us, The Disney Store, Build-A-Bear Workshop and The Children’s Place. The toy department in Zeller’s is pretty good, too. The food court at Metrotown is huge and we usually make a point of having lunch, or at least a snack, while we’re at the mall.
The new Canada Line skytrain, which was built for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, started operating in August 2009. This skytrain makes it very quick and easy to get to Oakridge Shopping Centre. From the heart of downtown, it takes about 12 minutes! I had not gone to this mall for years, simply because it was not easy to get to without a vehicle. Oakridge isn’t huge, but has enough variety to make it worth the trip. This is especially true considering there is a theatre (Empire Oakridge Cinemas) and a branch of the Vancouver Public Library, connected to the mall. You can even pick up some fresh produce at Kin’s Farm Market. The flagship stores are Safeway, The Bay and Zellers.
If you catch the #240 bus anywhere along W. Georgia Street, heading west, it will take you directly to Capilano Mall in North Vancouver. This mall has the closest and most easily accessible Wal-Mart, from downtown Vancouver. The flagship stores are Wal-Mart, Sears, and Visions Electronics. The main reason I go to this mall is Wal-Mart. But Go Bananas Indoor PlayCentre is an added bonus, especially if you’re going with kids.
Catching any of the #250, 251, 252, 253 or 257 buses anywhere along W. Georgia Street, and you will get to Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver. Park Royal is unique because it’s actually two separate malls, divided by Marine Drive, where you get off the bus. There are no big flagship stores here, but many locations of popular chains like The Gap, Reitman’s and Winner’s.
The Village (which is part of the mall complex) is located beside Park Royal South and is actually 40 different shops that have separate buildings but are located together along a charming road. The biggest stores are Old Navy, Home Depot, Homesense, Michael’s, and Whole Foods Market.