Group Tour: Vancouver

[Note: this tour is no longer being sold, but it will give you an idea of the types of tours I can organize]

After our successful (and incredibly delicious) eating and drinking trip to New Orleans in March, I’ve decided to plan another group trip. This time, we’re going to visit one of my favorite cities in the world: Vancouver. The thing I love about this jewel, tucked into the corner of British Columbia, on Canada’s west coast, is the amalgam of ocean, mountains, forest, park and gleaming, all-glass skyline. But the heavily-influenced Asian food and locally-produced wine and spirits are just as impressive; this time around, I’ve curated a three-night, four-day trip that will leave you wanting a lot more. It’s scheduled for September 6 – 9, and all you’ll need to arrange is airfare.


Here is the detailed itinerary, followed by all of the fine print:


There will be BC oysters...
There will be BC oysters…


After you land on September 6, we’ll head toward the city and have lunch at The Fish Counter, a 100% sustainable seafood joint just south of downtown, for a light bite and a brief presentation from the co-owner about the Oceanwise Program, promoting sustainable fish. After lunch we’ll check in to the super-cool boutique Opus Hotel, Vancouver’s only Forbes Four-Star Boutique Hotel, and voted by Conde Nast Traveler as a Reader’s Choice Award (2013) as well as one of the Trendiest Hotels in the World.


On our first night, we have two stops. First, it’s off to Kingyo, a Japanese izakaya, or pub, prized by locals and undiscovered by tourists. We’ll start off light, with some junmai sake and a few bites of sashimi from the west coast and Alaska, followed by giant beers and karaage, or fried chicken; then we’ll hit the boisterous Richmond Night Market with the aid of local food writer Mijune Pak, who will tell us which stalls to wander to and where to find delicacies such as grilled squid, octopus and other Asian street food staples.


Dessert treats from Beaucoup Bakery

Next morning, award-winning chef David Hawksworth will take half of our group on a guided tour of a local farmer’s market, while the other half will go out on a fishing boat to set spot prawn traps with a local fisherman; they’ll have some of those prawns sashimi-style on the boat, then bring their catch back to the hotel and meet the other half of the group around noon. The entire group will get a private cooking lesson from Hawksworth, followed by a two-course lunch in his namesake restaurant utilizing whatever the group caught and purchased that morning. Right after lunch, one of my favorite bakeries in Vancouver – Beaucoup – will be dropping off some of their signature sweets for us to have with coffee, for a casual dessert service.


In the afternoon, it’s off to Granville Island, for shopping, sightseeing and a visit to a local distillery for a private tour and a bit of vodka, gin or whisky (your choice). Then we’ll walk a few minutes over to  Edible BC, also on Granville Island, where Vikram Vij (whom I profiled in The Chicago Tribune’s Travel section recently) will lead us through a three-course, interactive cooking class/dinner, paired with all British Columbia wines from Road 13 Vineyards.

Vikram Vij will host us for a cooking class/dinner


On Monday, September 8, we’ll walk across the street to take the super-efficient SkyTrain 20 minutes south to Richmond, where most of the Hong Kong ex-pats have established businesses, casinos and restaurants, and meet up with Vancouver Magazine’s Lee Man, who also serves as a judge for Vancouver’s annual Chinese Restaurant Awards. He’ll lead us around the area a bit, then take us to one of his favorite places for dim sum, Sea Harbour, where he’ll discuss how Chinese chefs have adopted British Columbia ingredients into their Hong Kong-style preparations.

Dim Sum at Sea Harbour Restaurant in Richmond (with translation)


After brunch, we’ll take a leisurely bike ride around breathtaking Stanley Park, in the heart of the city, to work off some of that har gao and shui mai.  In the evening, we’ll go visit my friend Lauren Mote, one of the city’s best bartenders, who is also co-founder of Bittered Sling Extracts. She’ll lead us through a cocktail class at UVA Wine and Cocktail Bar, have a round with us, then see us off as we head to dinner at Maenam, the hottest Thai restaurant in the city right now, led by Chef Angus An. The level of commitment to the fragrant, sometimes funky Thai flavors – reminiscent at places like Chada Thai in Las Vegas, Uncle Boon’s in NYC and Aroy in Chicago – is remarkable. It’s certainly one of the best Thai restaurants in North America you’ve never heard of. We’ll have a family-style Thai feast that I’m working out with Angus, and we’ll be sure to pair drinks to go along with it.


On our final morning, I’m bringing y’all pastries from Bel Cafe, then it’s off to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, just outside of town, for a brisk walk through the breathtaking beauty of a British Columbia rainforest, before heading to the airport for your flight home.


Fueling up at Bel Cafe for our final morning.
Fueling up at Bel Cafe for our final morning.



$1,599 per person/double occupancy

Add +$499 for single occupancy

Airfare additional

Cancellation penalties will apply




3 nights at the boutique Opus Hotel

Airport transfers when arriving/departing on group flights

Meals & sightseeing per the itinerary

Touring & events per the itinerary

Bike rentals in Stanley Park

Admission to Capilano Suspension Bridge

Transfers by private mini-coach

Sky Train Day Pass

Taxes & gratuities for all included meals & services

Hosted by Steve Dolinsky

Escorted by Deborah Childs, professional AAA Tour Director






Anything not mentioned in the itinerary



Airport transfers will be provided for these flights:


O’Hare/Vancouver 8:15A – 10:50A


Vancouver/O’Hare 1:48P – 7:47P

Operation of this tour is based on a minimum of 20 travelers –

Do not book your airline ticket until AAA confirms the trip is a go.



Contact Deborah Childs – AAA Travel


Disclaimer: Price is per person based on double occupancy and is subject to change & availability. A minimum number of participants (20) are required to operate this tour. Airfare is not included. Cancellation penalties will apply. Travel arrangements by AAA Travel – The Auto Club Group.