THINGS TO DO IN VANCOUVER
Five stops worth making
This is Canada’s top urban park and one of the best in the world. Nestled at the northwest tip of downtown, the park bulges out into the Burrard Inlet like a giant green thumb. You’ll find centuries-old, sweet-smelling cedars, towering firs and deep, dark forests. There’s an 8.8-kilometre-long walking and cycling path around the perimeter, but you’ll miss the essence of the park if you only stick to the edges. The totem poles are a favourite for tourists, as are the aquarium and the miniature train. I love the little 18-hole “pitch and putt” golf course. At $12.95, it is a great bargain amid the greenery.
This area just east of downtown has exploded with wonderful restaurants and shopping spots. One great way to learn about the area is to take a walk with Judy Lam Maxwell of Historical Chinatown Tours (chinatowngirl.ca). She’s a wealth of information and can show you everything from beautiful shrines at so-called clan homes to lively shops and authentic restaurants. Chinatown is becoming much more of a mix these days, with not only traditional Chinese shops but also a German sausage spot and trendy vintage stores. Stop in at Musette Caffe for fantastic coffee and stay the night at nearby Skwachays Lodge, a hotel that benefits aboriginal artists and features a lovely gallery and cool rooms with First Nations’ motifs (skwachays.com).
The Granville Island market is one of the top city markets on the planet, a bustling spot bursting with fresh produce, seafood (naturally), fresh pasta and more. The island is also home to shops, galleries, restaurants, live theatre, the sleek Liberty Distillery and lots more (granvilleisland.com). One great way to explore the area is on a kayak tour or on a standup paddle board. If that’s too much, try a walk along the seawall or hitch a ride on the adorable Aquabus shuttle boat, which can take you to trendy Yaletown or to Science World (theaquabus.com).
BEACHES AND NATURE
Wreck Beach is the famous nude beach out near the University of British Columbia. Kitsilano Beach is closer to the city centre and offers great views and plenty of spots for water sports or a game of beach volleyball. Folks looking for an alternative should check out Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver. The Capilano Suspension Bridge (capbridge. com) in North Vancouver provides awesome views of the Capilano River from high in the air. It can get expensive ($39.95 for adults who don’t live in B.C.), so I also recommend checking out the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, which is free and also close to the city. It’s not as high as the Capilano bridge, but it’s a beautiful area and there is a lovely waterfall (lynncanyonecologycentre.ca).
FOOD AND DRINK
There is no shortage of great restaurants in Vancouver. Ancora features lovely seafood and awesome views of False Creek and Granville Island (ancoradining. com) while, in trendy Railtown, Belgard Kitchen offers fresh and tasty cuisine in the stunning Settlement Building (belgardkitchen.com). Also popular is Ask for Luigi, a tiny spot with fresh takes on classic Italian dishes and gluten-free pasta (askforluigi. com). Vancouver is home to a ton of craft beer spots. Bomber Brewing ( bomberbrewing.com) was started by a group of hockey lovers and makes a wide range of tasty beers, while Storm offers up some radically different brews. When I was there, offerings included an orange creamsicle ale and a dark raspberry sour (stormbrewing.org).