Kristen Swain Photography



new england families, COUPLEs, and landscapes

Visiting Vancouver & Arizona – Time Well Spent!


November 9, 2022


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I finally took a vacation. Shocker, right? Tim and I were already planning to go to Arizona for my sister’s wedding, so we saw a perfect opportunity to make it an extended trip (despite it being the middle of the busiest time of year for family photos in Boston). We went ahead and added Vancouver to the calendar. Best decision ever.

I didn’t realize how badly I needed a break until I left my responsibilities all the way across the country. It’s crazy how being thousands of miles away from your routine can give you a whole new perspective on things. But we were sorely missing our fur babies, Hudson and Brody, the whole time — wondering what they were up to at any given moment and gazing at their photos. That being said, this was our longest trip since Covid began. So… it’s safe to say that we were overdue for a proper getaway.

Planning a trip in Vancouver

Vancouver is absolutely jam-packed with things to do. It can feel pretty overwhelming when all you have is a little window of vacation time, but lucky for you, I sniffed out some of the best places. So if you’re looking for things to do in Vancouver, these spots are a must.

Where to stay in Vancouver:

We shared a jaw-dropping Airbnb with Tim’s brother and our sister-in-law, right on the water of North Vancouver Harbor. If you’re looking for places to stay in the Vancouver area, this is the one. They called it a “floating house” and it had a gorgeous view of the water (it was quite literally on the water, after all), a couple of yachts (we had fun guessing how much they cost), and downtown Vancouver in the distance. A big plus: there was plenty of space for all four of us. After almost a week on this house-boat/boat-house, I was rocking for several more days — I felt like I had just gotten off a cruise ship, if you know the feeling.

What to do in Vancouver:

Stanley Park. We drove through Stanley Park and made a bunch of scenic stops along the way. The park is right next to the city, which is super convenient (it was also on the way into town from North Vancouver, where we stayed). I could have spent weeks exploring this park. We got to watch a pair of bald eagles hanging out on the treetops near the Tea House on the west side of the park, which checked off a box on our bucket list.

Burnaby Mountain Park. We were literally bombarded with views at Burnaby Mountain Park. If you’re looking for sky-high views near Vancouver, this one’s for you. The views were on all sides and the park is really well cared for, so I found myself constantly spinning around in awe.

Burnaby Mountain Park

Where to eat in Vancouver:

Vegetarian – The Acorn Restaurant. I’m not vegetarian or vegan (sorry, cows) but I didn’t even miss the meat at The Acorn Restaurant. Our group shared a vegan tasting menu — and it was off-the-charts good. I wish I remembered all the dishes, but I’m sure they will be different when you visit anyway.  Just do the vegan tasting menu when you go — trust me, it will open your eyes to new possibilities. And for anyone else who limits their alcohol or doesn’t drink, they have a non-alcoholic cocktail called the Designated Driver. Sometimes mocktails are a little disappointing, but not this one; we ordered multiple rounds at our table.

Sushi – Miku Restaurant & Tetsu Sushi Bar. Ten out of ten. Both spots had great sushi and great atmospheres, though very different. Tetsu is a tiny little hole in the wall, while Miku occupies a huge, glamorous space right on the water. Honestly impossible to choose a favorite between the two. The view of the bay at Miku certainly earns bonus points, though. If you’re looking for the best sushi in Vancouver, I strongly advise you to visit both!

Beaucoup Bakery. I can’t believe we only made it to Beaucoup Bakery one time during the trip. It was highly recommended by my friend Gil, who grew up in Vancouver and told me he stops there every morning when he’s home. Everything was SO good — I’ll be dreaming of those baked goods for the rest of my life. My favorite ended up being their vegan peanut butter cookie. Again, I’m not vegan, but this thing was delicious beyond words. I also had a spicy (yes, spicy!) savory pastry with cheese and chives that I loved even more than I expected. Pretty sure it was made with hot sauce because parts of it were bright pink, which was a little weird at first, but I had a gut feeling about that thing and I’m so glad I went with it. Tim loved their palmieres, too.

Planning a trip in Sedona, Arizona

From Vancouver, Tim and I flew down to Phoenix and spent a couple of nights with family. My dad turned 70 years young at the end of October, so Tim and I took him out to celebrate at his favorite restaurant, Hillstone. At the location in Phoenix near the Biltmore, you can sit outside and order from a smaller menu, which has our favorite items (sushi and their smoked salmon appetizer, which I could truly eat every day for the rest of my life). Then we were on our merry way up to Sedona, AZ, where there’s no shortage of things to do and sights to see. Tim had never been and I really wanted to show off this gem in my homeland.

Where to stay in Sedona:

L’Auberge Resort is my mom’s favorite, so of course that’s where we had to stay in Sedona. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed a healthy balance of activity and rest. The resort is a restful sanctuary with plenty of activities like yoga, stargazing, classes on crystals, and even “forest bathing,” as well as many spa offerings, which nobody is complaining about! We got a couples massage, which we hadn’t done in ages! The food at L’Auberge is excellent, too, so we were lucky to have such a great option right where we were staying. Actually, I recommend grabbing lunch at their creekside restaurant whether or not you’re staying at the resort.

What to do in Sedona:

One day during our stay in Sedona, we visited the area around Cathedral Rock and took in the landscape over there from several angles. There are hundreds of trails in the area, some more strenuous than others, and if you can do them all, you should! The landscape is out of this world. Maybe I’m biased, but I think it’s worth spending as much time here as possible. 

On our way out of town, we decided to stop at the Airport Mesa Vortex for an entirely different (and equally stunning) view. If you drive up to the Airport Mesa Vortex, you can pay a small fee to park and then do an easy hike (about ¾ mile one way) to an alternate viewing site. In a setting like that, it’s really hard not to stop every five seconds to snap photos, so give yourself twice as much time as you think you need.

Cathedral Rock

Where to eat in Sedona: 

Shorebird. We had sushi for lunch (can you tell we like sushi?), and it was so tasty. If a restaurant can’t do sushi right, then what’s the point? Shorebird also has an outdoor patio with a nice view — when we went it was just us and one other couple, which was so nice — it felt like we’d found a hidden gem.

Mariposa. We were supposed to have dinner here one night but ended up being too tired, so instead we went for lunch on our way out of town. We were blown away by this place – the atmosphere, the Latin-inspired menu, and the scenery all hit the spot. Tim and I shared empanadas to start, and he had the most incredible steak sandwich — best I’ve ever tasted, hands down.  I also LOVED my green goddess “extremo” salad. Just beware that dinner here goes by reservation only! If you’re going for dinner, try to get a res around sunset so you can take in the magnificent views before dark.

We then made it back to Phoenix for my sister’s magical wedding at The Royal Palms. We got to stay at the resort for a couple of nights (which made it extra special), and of course it was really fun to be reunited with family after being apart for so long. This was without a doubt the best way to bring our trip to an end — we headed home to Boston feeling full of love, sunshine, and good food.

Although I’m not in the business of travel blogging, I really wanted to share my favorite parts of this trip in case you ever find yourself looking for things to do in Vancouver or Arizona. We truly made the most of every day, and the food and the sights were utterly spectacular. We’re already trying to figure out how soon we can make it back to both locations.

Now that we’re back, we are SO happy to be reunited with our pups (Hudson and Brody), and I’m beyond excited to see all my fall clients in and around Boston. It’s time to take on the busiest couple of weeks I’ve had yet! Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a while — I’ll be eating, sleeping, and breathing photography.

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