Carolyn B. Heller

Correspondent

  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Carolyn B. Heller is a Vancouver, BC-based correspondent who covers the city and Canadian travel for Forbes Travel Guide. She’s written two books, Moon Handbooks: Ontario (www.moon.com) and Living Abroad in Canada (www.livingabroadincanada.com), and contributed to more than 50 travel and restaurant guides for publishers including Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, and the Zagat Survey. Her articles about travel, food, and culture have appeared in LonelyPlanet.com, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, FamilyFun, Real Weddings, Hotel-Scoop, and Perceptive Travel, among others. She’s eaten her way across more than 40 countries on six continents, and when she’s not traveling, she enjoys theatre, beaches, and hanging out with her twin daughters.

  • On June 7, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What is the best way to see the Vancouver Art Gallery?

    The Vancouver Art Gallery isn’t a mega-museum like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Louvre in Paris, but a little planning will help you make the most of your visit. The gallery typically shows a mix of special exhibitions and works from the permanent collections, so check the gallery website before you visit to see what interests you. The gallery’s permanent collection is strong on art from British Columbia and western Canada, including the world’s largest collection of works by the BC artist Emily Carr (1871-1945), so make time to see whatever BC works are on view.

    To learn more about particular exhibitions, take one of the gallery’s tours, which are offered Thursdays and Sundays. The regular one-hour tours take you through a particular exhibit; the 30-minute “hot spot” tours present a more focused look at a particular artist or exhibition. Both tours are included with your admission ticket.

    If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, come to the art gallery in the morning. You can start your visit with coffee or a bite to eat in the Gallery Café (which opens at 9am weekdays and 9:30am Saturdays and Sundays), or wrap up your gallery tour with lunch. A number of food trucks typically park around the gallery at midday, so that’s another option for refueling before or after your museum visit. The gallery is open by donation on Tuesday evenings after 5pm, but that’s also one of the busiest times to visit.

    An entertaining way to experience the gallery is to visit during the periodic Friday night “FUSE” events, when you can not only see the exhibits on display but also enjoy live music and other activities. Check the gallery website for the FUSE schedule.
  • On June 2, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What is the Capilano Suspension Bridge like near Vancouver?

    At the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver, you can explore the rainforest with a number of different attractions. First, there’s the suspension bridge itself, a 450-foot (137-meter) swaying span that stretches high above the Capilano River below. The views of the surrounding forests and the river gorge are classic British Columbia vistas, and yes, you’ll feel the bridge swing with every step.

    Daredevils may also get some thrills with a stroll on the Cliffwalk, a glass-floored walkway cantilevered out over the gorge. More gentle is the Treetops Adventure, a network of gently swaying bridges and suspended walkways between the trees. Back at ground level, you can follow a network of easy walking trails through the woods, or check out the small exhibit area that features local First Nations culture.
  • On May 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What is Commercial Drive like in Vancouver?

    A funky mix of coffee houses, Italian pasta shops, vintage clothing stores, and eclectic eateries, Vancouver’s Commercial Drive is a fun district for browsing and nibbling. Once the center of the city’s Italian community, this East Side neighborhood now blends hipsters, hippies, and long-time residents. Stop for an espresso at the laid-back Continental Coffee, pick up an overstuffed Italian sandwich at La Grotta del Formaggio, or graze on freshly shucked oysters at Merchant’s Oyster Bar. Later on, see what’s happening in the tiny theatre at the Havana Restaurant, or detour off the Drive to the nearby Vancouver East Cultural Centre, known as “The Cultch,” which offers an always changing menu of eclectic theatre, music, and dance events.
  • On May 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What is there to do in Stanley Park in Vancouver?

    You could spend days in the 400-hectare (990-acre) Stanley Park before running out of things to do. One of the park’s main attractions is the Vancouver Aquarium, which is hugely popular with families. If you’re interested in aboriginal culture, head to Brockton Point with its nine towering totem poles, then visit the summer-only Klahowya Village, for First Nations storytelling, dance, and art. Take a walk in the Stanley Park Rose Garden when the 3,500 rose bushes are in bloom.

    Rent a bike and pedal the seawall that circles the park for great views of the surrounding mountains and ocean, or stroll shorter stretches of the seawall path on foot. Stanley Park has two beaches, Second and Third Beach, where you can swim or sun. If the ocean water is too brisk, go for a swim in the oceanside pool at Second Beach. Near Third Beach, look for Siwash Rock, a dramatic rock tower that’s millions of years old. You can play tennis or practice your golf skills at the Stanley Park Pitch & Putt, and you can even try your hand at lawn bowling. The Stanley Park Lawn Bowling Club welcomes visitors.

    And when you get hungry, you can settle anywhere around the park for a picnic, grab a snack at Prospect Point, tuck into a west coast seafood dinner at the Fish House in Stanley Park, or have a drink at the Teahouse in Stanley Park as you watch the sun set over the sea.
  • On May 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best kids’ activities in Vancouver?

    Vancouver has a very good science museum, Science World, as well as a popular aquarium, the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. Most kids enjoy a ride on the cute mini ferries that cross False Creek; you can get to Science World on the ferry or visit Granville Island where you can stop for snacks and check out the Kids Market. Grouse Mountain has lots of family activities, from skiing, snowboarding, and hiking, to a bear and wolf sanctuary, to a lumberjack show. Another fun family activity is to rent bikes and ride the flat seawall path around Stanley Park, and on a summer day, you can take the kids to any of the city’s sandy beaches. If you’re in town with the family in May, don’t miss the annual Vancouver International Children’s Festival.
  • On May 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best day trips near Vancouver?

    One of the most popular day trips from Vancouver is to the North Shore, just across the Burrard Inlet from downtown, where you can visit Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

    If you get an early start, you can make a day trip to Whistler for skiing, mountain biking, or hiking; it’s about a two-hour drive from downtown Vancouver. You can also visit the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island in a day trip, particularly if you hop on a float plane that whisks you from downtown Vancouver to Victoria’s Inner Harbour in under an hour.
  • On May 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best festivals in Vancouver?

    Vancouver has numerous festivals throughout the year, celebrating art, music, theatre, and many different cultures. Here are a few of the best:

    Celebration of Light: On three summer nights in late July or early August, it seems like the entire city gathers around False Creek for this annual fireworks competition. Find a spot along English Bay if you can; the fireworks are launched from a barge in the harbor.

    Vancouver Pride Festival: Vancouver’s large gay community celebrates with a lively multiday Pride Fest in July/August, including the city’s biggest parade.

    Vancouver Folk Music Festival (mid-July): If you enjoy folk music, join the throngs who’ve been turning out for this weekend-long folk celebration that been held outdoors at Jericho Beach for more than 35 years.

    Vancouver Fringe Festival: For theatre lovers, the annual Vancouver Fringe Festival (September) is an eclectic smorgasbord of stand-up comedy, serious plays, amateur musicals, and professional productions. It’s always great fun.

    Chinese New Year: Vancouver’s large Chinese community celebrates the annual lunar new year (January-February) with fireworks, parades, and other special events. The festivities are big in Vancouver’s Chinatown, but even more events take place in the nearby suburb of Richmond, where more than 60 percent of residents are of Asian heritage.
  • On May 27, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best farmers markets in Vancouver?

    Vancouver’s largest farmers market is the Saturday market at Trout Lake, on the city’s East Side. Vendors sell both local produce and prepared foods, and local performers often entertain market visitors. The Trout Lake Market runs from mid-May to mid-October, from 9am-2pm Saturdays. Another popular market is the Sunday Kitsilano Farmers Market, on the West Side. The Kits market season is also mid-May to mid-October; market hours are 10am-2pm.

    The University of British Columbia operates an on-campus farm, and you can purchase the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor at the weekly UBC Farm Market. The UBC Farm Market is open Saturdays from 9am-1pm, June through October.
  • On May 27, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best beaches near Vancouver?

    Vancouver is ringed with beaches, both along the downtown peninsula and on the city’s West Side. The most popular downtown stretches of sand are the always bustling English Bay Beach (which is great for people-watching) and Second and Third Beaches in Stanley Park.

    On the West Side, Kitsilano Beach is another prime people-watching spot, with both sand and grassy areas for lounging. Further west, Jericho, Locarno, and Spanish Banks Beaches are all popular with families. If you find the ocean water too cold for swimming, head for the oceanside pools at Second Beach and Kits Beach.
  • On May 27, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What is the best way to see Vancouver’s Granville Island?

    Particularly in summer and on sunny days, Granville Island is packed with visitors, so if you can get an early start, you’ll avoid some of the crowds. The popular Granville Island Public Market opens at 9am; go early for coffee and bagels or to pick up picnic supplies for lunch. Most of the other island shops and galleries open at 10, so you can do your browsing and shopping once you’re done in the food market.

    Later, you can stroll along the waterfront path on either side of the island, or stop for a beer on the patio at Dockside, the pub at the Granville Island Hotel. When you’re ready to go back downtown, hop on one of the mini ferries that will shuttle you across False Creek.
  • On May 27, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What is public transportation like in Vancouver?

    Translink runs Vancouver’s public transit system, which includes the SkyTrain subway, buses, and the Sea Bus ferry. The transit system is generally fast and efficient, and a single fare, good for 90 minutes in any direction, is valid on all modes of transportation. Fares are zone-based. Any trip within Vancouver proper is a single zone; if you cross to Richmond, North Vancouver, or other cities, you need at least a two-zone ticket.

    There are three SkyTrain lines. For visitors, the most useful is the Canada Line, which makes several downtown stops and then continues south to the Vancouver airport and the suburb of Richmond. Buses crisscross the downtown area – Granville Street is the downtown bus hub – and also take you across the bridges to Kitsilano, the University of British Columbia, and the North Shore. Another way to get to the North Shore is on the Sea Bus, which may be Vancouver’s cheapest and most scenic cruise, a 15-minute ferry trip across the harbor.
  • On May 27, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    Should visitors rent a car in Vancouver?

    Most visitors to Vancouver will find that they can easily explore the city without renting a car. On the downtown peninsula, most sights are within a short walk or cab ride, and the city has a good public transit system that can take you around downtown and farther afield.

    The main reason you might consider renting a car is if you’re planning to travel outside of Vancouver, for example, to Whistler or Vancouver Island. You may find it easier to rent a car for those out-of-town excursions.
  • On April 26, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best outdoor activities in Vancouver?

    Hiking
    Vancouver’s most famous (or some might say, infamous!) hiking route is the Grouse Grind, a steep stair-like climb that rises more than 850 meters (2,800 feet) in elevation on the 2.9-kilometer (1.8-mile) trail. You’ll find a broader range of trails in the nearby Cypress Provincial Park, also on the North Shore. Within the Vancouver city limits, you can hike the 73 kilometers (45 miles) of trails in the rainforest Pacific Spirit Regional Park, near the University of British Columbia campus.

    Cycling
    Vancouver is a bicycle-friendly city with off-road bike routes and designated bike lanes around the region. For an easy, flat pedal around Vancouver, follow the seawall along False Creek and around Stanley Park. You’ll find bike rental shops downtown in the West End (near Stanley Park) and in Yaletown near the seawall. The City of Vancouver website has a free map of area cycling routes.

    Kayaking
    In a city surrounded by water, it’s no surprise that kayaking is a popular sport. The Ecomarine Paddlesport Centres rent kayaks from three locations: Granville Island, English Bay, and Jericho Beach. They also rent standup paddling gear. Another option for kayak rentals is Creekside Kayaks on False Creek at the Olympic Village.

    Snow sports
    It snows infrequently in the city of Vancouver itself, but there’s plenty of the white stuff on the nearby North Shore mountains. You can ski and snowboard at Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain, and Mount Seymour. Cypress and Seymour are popular snowshoeing destinations as well.
  • On April 26, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best vegetarian restaurants in Vancouver?

    The Acorn, a tiny, perpetually-packed Main Street bistro, is currently serving some of Vancouver’s most creative vegetarian fare. You might dine on locally-foraged fiddleheads served with polenta and a brown butter purée, kale and tempeh salad with crispy capers and smoked paprika croutons, or beer-battered halloumi cheese paired with a zucchini pancake and smashed peas. Just be prepared to wait, since they don’t take reservations.

    Another relative newcomer, Heirloom Vegetarian, serves more casual veggie fare with lots of plates designed for sharing. The don’t-miss dish here is the avocado frites – avocado dredged in cornmeal-chick pea flour and gently fried – but you might also sample raw cauliflower “risotto” topped with a pumpkin seed and basil pesto, red chard salad with black quinoa and pickled peanuts, or Cuban-style black bean chili.

    While Vij’s, Vancouver’s best-known Indian restaurant, isn’t meat-free, the menu offers plenty of vegetarian options, from jackfruit in black cardamom curry, to vegetable koftes, to saag paneer with dal.
  • On April 26, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    Where is the best sake in Vancouver?

    Vancouver has its own sake brewer, the Artisan Sake Maker. They produce several varieties, including a sparkling sake, and you can sample their wares in their compact Granville Island brewery. For a broader sake menu, visit Tojo’s, Vancouver’s top Japanese dining room, where you can sip in their sake lounge or pair your meal with sake selections.