VANCOUVER – This is one of the world’s favourite cities, a perennial list-topper with gorgeous scenery, fantastic food and a wealth of great things to do. Here are a few favourites.
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 km 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 perennial favourite for tourists, as is the Aquarium and the miniature train. I love the little 18-hole “pitch and putt” golf course; at $12.95 a great bargain amidst the greenery.
This area, just east of downtown, has exploded with wonderful restaurants and shopping spots. One great way to learn about Chinatown in particular is with Judy Lam Maxwell of Historical Chinatown Tours . 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 currywurst sausage spot and trendy vintage shops. 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.
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 also is home to great shops, galleries, restaurants, live theatre, an artisan sake maker, the sleek Liberty Distillery and lots more. One great way to explore the area is on a kayak tour or on a stand-up paddle board. If that’s too much, try a long walk along the seawall or hitch a ride on the adorable Aqua Bus shuttle boat, which can take you to trendy Yaletown or to Science World.
BEACHES AND NATURE
Wreck Beach is the famous nude beach out near the University of British Columbia. More accessible is the beach at English Bay, subject of a lovely melody written by Blue Rodeo. Kitsilano Beach offers great views and plenty of spots for water sports. Folks looking for an alternative should check out Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver. The Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver provides awesome views of the Capilano River from high in the air. There’s also a cool cliff walk feature that’s pretty intense. It can get expensive, (it’s $39.95 for adults who don’t live in BC), so I also recommend checking out the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, which is not far away and is free. It’s not as high, but it’s arguably prettier, and there’s a lovely waterfall a short walk away.
FOOD AND DRINK
There’s no shortage of great restaurants in Vancouver. Ancora features lovely seafood and awesome views of False Creek. In trendy Railtown, Belgard Kitchen offers fresh and tasty cuisine in the stunning Settlement Building. Also popular is Ask for Luigi, a tiny spot with fresh takes on classic Italian dishes and great Brussels Sprouts. They also make a gluten-free pasta. Vancouver is home to a ton of craft beer spots. Bomber Brewing 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.
NOTE : This item originally appeared in Postmedia and Sun Media publications across Canada.