The aquarium at Vancouver International Airport (Photo: Tom Magliery/Flickr)
In Yahoo Travel’s Airport Review series, we dissect everything you need to know — from check-in to takeoff to landing — about airports all over the world.
Airport: Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
Star Rating: 4 stars (out of 5). Leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver International Airport got a massive facelift — and the improvements have held up wonderfully. Just like the city of Vancouver, the airport is squeaky-clean, efficient, green (in all senses of the word), and the people who work there are as friendly as you’d expect West Coast Canadians to be.
Passengers arrive at Vancouver International Airport. (Photo: Larry Goldstein)
The Good: When it comes to design, layout, and maneuverability, there’s really very little wrong with YVR. There are a handful of local retailers, a recreated mini Canadian forest complete with a bubbling stream, rocks and a canoe, First Nations art, a massive fish tank, and free Wi-Fi.
The Bad: The airport disappoints in its lack of luxury retailers and fine dining. And are there ever enough charging stations at the airport — any airport? No, there are not.
30 feet wide and 1 foot thick, the world’s largest Coast Salish spindle whorl welcomes passengers as they enter the Customs Hall in the International Terminal. (Photo: Larry Goldstein)
Walkability: YVR is compact and a joy to walk through, as you never know what wonder (a 30,115-gallon aquarium! the world’s largest spindle whorl!) you’ll find around a corner or at the bottom of an escalator. There are plenty of moving walkways, and there is good signage.
Art and Public Spaces: British Columbians are proud of their cultural heritage and their province’s stunning natural scenery. And the airport has been created to reflect just that with a theme of Land, Sea, and Sky woven into the architecture and design. Set against The Great Wave wall, a 131-by-32-foot wall of glass representing the ocean, is The Jade Canoe, a sculpture by famous Haida artist Bill Reid.
Across the street from the International Terminal is Chester Johnson Park, which features a tree-lined pathway, a pond and three ‘Ksan Totems. The Graham Clarke Atrium (between International and Domestic Terminals) features a waterfall tumbling behind an escalator, floor tiles that symbolize the rivers of British Columbia, and a totem by Don Yeomans. There are also children’s play areas and a chapel.
The Jade Canoe (Photo: Jeffery Simpson/Flickr)
Charging: Built right into the seats at every gate’s waiting area are charging stations featuring six 120-volt power outlets and two USB ports. They get claimed fast, so it’s not unusual to see people sitting on the floor next to plugs on the wall.
Food: Considering the abundance of fresh and sustainable ingredients available in its own backyard, it’s unfortunate how unimpressive the dining options are at the airport. Palomino Bar & Grill (Domestic Terminal, Gate A13) serves so-so Mediterranean fare and offers a gluten-free menu. Before security in the International Terminal is Hanami (9 a.m. - 3 p.m.), which serves sushi and udon. Canucks Bar & Grill (U.S. Terminal, Gate E81) offers a respectable breakfast menu as well as salads and seafood dishes. All restaurants past security have to-go options.
The Canada Line connects YVR to downtown Vancouver in 26 minutes. (Photo: Larry Goldstein)
Transportation: Taxi service to downtown takes around 40 minutes (and costs a similar figure), while the rapid transit rail gets you there in 26 minutes. Buy the $8.75 FareSaver at the 7-Eleven or Pharmasave in the Domestic Terminal or pay $13.75 from the vending machine at the station.
A massive aquarium showcasing 850 indigenous sea animals resides among cafes and shops in the International Terminal, Departures Level. (Photo: Larry Goldstein)
Shopping: The International Terminal has a Vancouver Aquarium shop (6 a.m. - 9 p.m.) with ocean-themed toys and books. At Gate D53 is YVR’s only luxury goods retailer, Hermès (9 a.m. - 5:15 p.m.). And at Gate D70 is Hudson’s Bay Company (9 a.m. - 10 p.m.), where you can pick up its iconic, multistriped Point Blanket. Before security in the Domestic Terminal is Rogers’ Chocolates, which sells yummy sea salt caramels, and nearby Taraxca Jewellery features Aboriginal-inspired handicrafts by local artisans. For Canadian fashions, go to Roots (U.S. Terminal, Gate E87, 7 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.).
The Fairmont Vancouver (Photo: FRHI Hotels and Resorts)
Hotel: There’s no hotel inside security, but attached to the U.S. Terminal is Fairmont Vancouver Airport, which features elegantly appointed rooms, afternoon tea service in the lounge, a health club with a mechanized lap pool, and 130 treatments in the Absolute Spa.
In Short: As long as you’re not here to shop or eat (and you’re not), Vancouver International Airport is as good as it gets.