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Olympic Outsiders

If you can't be inside the Olympic Games, then follow Seattle Times producers, reporters, videographers and Olympic fans as we take you to the streets of Vancouver, B.C., to show you what's happening on the ground and give you a taste of the scene swirling around the 2010 winter games.

February 18, 2010 at 11:30 AM

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Helpful tips for the Games

Posted by Seattle Times staff

Submitted by Jay Fredlund

My brother and I completed our first trip up to Vancouver for the Olympics and found out a few things that I think might be helpful for anyone headed up that way over the next 10 days.

Parking
If you're heading to Vancouver to catch an event or just going up to see the sights, make sure you know where you will park. Most of the downtown area is in the Olympic Security Zone, which means: NO PARKING.

Some hotels are allowing guests to park, but we found it was easiest to take Highway 99 into Vancouver and turn off into the residential neighborhoods nearest to the new Canada Line train. We parked about 3 blocks off of the highway (where no parking restrictions are in effect), and walked about 10 minutes to the 49th St-Langara Station. This cost us $2.50 each to take the train downtown. I strongly encourage you to figure out parking BEFORE you get to downtown Vancouver.

Shopping
Be sure to check out the Olympic Superstore inside the Hudson's Bay Company (just outside of Canada Line's Vancouver City Center Station or SkyTrain's Granville St Station) to pick up your official 2010 merchandise. Get your Quatchi beanie, cowbells, jackets, posters, pins, and those hideous red mittens that everyone seems to be in love with--all at this one stop shop. It's open from 9 a.m. to Midnight every day during the Games, but my recommendation is to go either in the morning (before 10 a.m.) or very late at night (after 10:30 p.m.), or you may wait up to an hour just to get into the store. It is also worth noting that there is only one entrance to the Olympic Superstore--you can't get there through the main store.

Also, as an earlier contributor said, there is a limited stock of Team USA items, and what's there is VERY expensive. I'd recommend buying Team USA gear down here in the states and bringing it with you.

Places to visit
Have kids? Be sure to check out Robson Square! This place is completely closed off to cars, and there is live entertainment throughout the day, an ice skating rink ($3 to rent skates), a zip line (FREE, but a long line), and much much more.

Don't forget to take a walk (or ride the train) down to the waterfront, where you can catch a glimpse of the Olympic Cauldron. While we were there, the tall chain-link fence was still up, but you can easily peek through, or stand on nearby benches and look over it to get a clear view. The organizers are working on providing a better experience down on the waterfront so you won't have to deal with the fence, but regardless, it's a breathtaking sight. You can also take a walk along the seawall--you'll see the Olympic rings in the middle of the bay and if it's sunny, you can get a nice view of the mountains in the distance.

Also, head on down to BC Place and Canada Hockey Place and visit the Science World and Plaza of Nations. You can find pretty much any type of food you want, meet people from all over the world, and check out some of the provincial and national "houses". These houses are places where fans of the country/province gather, watch the Games, drink a beer or two, and mingle around. Some houses are free, others require tickets. I suggest looking them up in advance. (We went to the German House on the waterfront (free before 6 p.m.), and attempted to go to the Molson Hockey House (not free--ever) near the Plaza of Nations. We've also heard good things about the Holland House (near the Richmond Oval), and plan on going there when we go up for trip #2!
Wondering about the USA House? We read various things online before going, showed up, and we were denied entry. The USA House is currently only open to Team USA Athletes, some media, and VIPs. If you happen to meet an athlete, ask them to take you there and you'll probably get in!

And lastly, MAKE SURE YOU GO TO GRANVILLE ST! At night, you may not want the kids here, but during the day, this bustling street contains Olympic art, lots of cool shops, eateries, and bars. What we found is that the food and beer is more expensive on this street, but we also found that it was worth the price. Every restaurant and bar we went to was packed (day and night) and you have an excellent chance of meeting a diverse group of people here. Just be careful wearing USA apparel and flags at night...we were circled by proud Canadian fans who sang a rousing rendition of "O, Canada!" to which our group of Americans responded with "The Star Spangled Banner." Good times all around!

Overall, the most important thing to remember is to have a good time! People at the Olympics are friendly and though they may joke about you being from the USA, remember that it's just friendly banter. Don't be rude and pompous, but rather friendly and proud, and you WILL have a great time!

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