On April 25, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:Vancouver is a casual active city, so you can leave the formal wear at home. Neat, stylish clothing will suffice most anywhere. Vancouver is also a great place for walking, whether between the downtown attractions or along the waterfront, so pack a pair of comfortable shoes. It’s always smart to have an umbrella handy (although most upscale hotels will provide loaners), and even in summer, you should carry a sweater or light jacket, since evenings tend to be cool.
Depending on the season and your preferred outdoor activities, you’ll want clothes and gear for running, cycling, kayaking, skiing, or lounging at the beach. Don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen, too. If you decide to hit the slopes but you haven’t packed your parka, though, don’t worry; you can rent gear and winter clothing at the local mountains.
On April 25, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:Vancouver has several Forbes’ Four-Star lodgings, including the Shangri-La Hotel, the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, and the Sutton Place Hotel, as well as the soon-to-be-rated Rosewood Hotel Georgia. To this illustrious list, I’d add the modern Asian-influenced Fairmont Pacific Rim near the waterfront and the Vancouver Convention Centre, the clubby boutique Wedgewood Hotel downtown, and the trendy (and recently refreshed) Opus Hotel in the Yaletown neighborhood.
On April 25, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:If you’re a fan of gardens, visit one of British Columbia’s finest: Butchart Gardens, just north of the city of Victoria. On this 23-hectare (55-acre) property, there’s always something blooming, although the gardens are especially lovely in the spring and summer.
The city of Victoria has lots of attractions, from the grand Royal BC Museum to the Inner Harbour, where you can stroll along the waterfront, enjoying the sun or watching the ever-present buskers. Have afternoon tea at the stately Fairmont Empress Hotel, or save your appetite for one of the city’s new chef-owned bistros.
The Cowichan Valley is Vancouver Island’s wine country, with about 15 wineries offering tastes and tours. It’s about an hour’s drive north of Victoria. You’ll find several more wineries on the Saanich Peninsula, not far from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, where the boats arrive from Vancouver.
Some of the island’s most spectacular scenery is on the west-facing Pacific coast, around the town of Tofino. Beautiful beaches and a rainforest national park are the highlights. You can go whale-watching, learn to surf, or kayak among offshore islands.
On April 25, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:It’s hard to pick just one “best view” of Vancouver, since this photogenic city has so many striking viewpoints. Here are a few great-view suggestions:
Perch yourself on a bench at Kitsilano Beach. Not only is it a great spot for people-watching, but you’ll have a great view of the water, the downtown towers, and the North Shore Mountains.
Exit the rear doors of the Granville Island Public Market, and you’ll be right on the False Creek waterfront, looking across to downtown Vancouver.
Walk onto the Burrard Bridge that connects downtown with the Kitsilano neighborhood, and your reward will be a lovely view of the English Bay beaches, the tip of Stanley Park, and the mountains beyond.
Head to Vancouver’s Waterfront Station and catch the SeaBus, a 15-minute ferry that shuttles across the Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver. Aboard the ferry (the city’s best, inexpensive “cruise”), or once you disembark at Lonsdale Quay, look back across the water for fine views of the downtown skyline.
On April 25, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:Our favorite Chinatown activities include:
Visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, a peaceful collection of walkways, ponds, courtyards, and traditional buildings, modeled after classical gardens in China. The well-trained tour guides enlighten you about the garden’s history and design.
Take an Edible Canada Chinatown tour with food writer and Chinese food expert Stephanie Yuen, for an introduction to the neighborhood’s history, shops, and edible attractions. If you’d like, you can wrap up your tour with a dim sum lunch, where Yuen offers tips on what to eat.
Wander the streets, explore the produce markets, and pick up treats from one of the bakeries. Coconut buns from the Sun Fresh Bakery or “wife cakes” (a distinctive winter melon pastry) from Maxim’s – both on Keefer Street – are good choices.
On April 25, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:There’s no contest here. You’ll find Vancouver’s best ice cream at Bella Gelateria, adjacent to the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel near the Vancouver Convention Centre. Their gelato, in an ever-changing assortment of flavors that might range from dark chocolate to dulce de leche to green tea, is made fresh daily, and even their sorbets (often an ice cream-maker’s afterthought) are intensely flavorful. Sure, it’s pricey – a small cup will set you back about $5 – but it’s a relatively low price for a dish for frosty happiness.
On April 25, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:Any time you board one of BC Ferries’ ships, you can expect a scenic ride, whether you’re heading to Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, or the Sunshine Coast. Traveling between Vancouver’s Tsawassen ferry terminal and Victoria’s Swartz Bay, your boat meanders through the southern Gulf Islands, and it’s not unusual to catch a glimpse of a frolicking whale. Also from Tsawassen, you can travel to Salt Spring Island, the largest of the southern Gulf Islands – and with Forbes Four-Star Hastings House Country House Hotel, it also has the islands’ best place to stay. From Horseshoe Bay, northwest of Vancouver, you can catch the ferry to Langdale, gateway to the Sunshine Coast, for beaches, hiking, and exploring.
On April 25, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:If you have time to do only one thing during your stay in Vancouver, I’d visit Stanley Park, the city’s 400-hectare (990-acre) green space, and ideally, you’d tour it on a bicycle. Ride the flat, paved nine-kilometer (5.5-mile) seawall path, with its views of the downtown skyline and across to the North Shore. Stop at Brockton Point to see the nine First Nations totem poles. You’ll ride under the Lions Gate Bridge – now you’re facing the North Shore Mountains – continuing around Prospect Point and past the towering Siwash Rock. If you need to refuel, stop at the Teahouse in Stanley Park, or cool off with a dip in the Second Beach pool.
On April 25, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:Vancouver is a casual outdoor-oriented city, more about beaches, parks, and yoga classes than grand museums or posh restaurants. Even in the city’s most upscale eateries, there’s no need to dress up; you’ll be fine in smart-casual togs. Vancouver has a significant multicultural population, with a particularly large Asian community (and first-class Asian food!). Expect temperate temperatures year-round – cool in the winter, mild but not hot in summer. Yes, it will rain (except, if you’re lucky, in July and August), and yes, you’ll go out anyway.
On March 29, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:Here are my picks for Vancouver’s most worthwhile museums:
Museum of Anthropology
Designed by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, this striking contemporary museum on the University of British Columbia campus offers an excellent introduction to Western Canada’s aboriginal culture. Highlights include the glass-walled Great Hall, filled with massive totem poles from several First Nations, and the Rotunda, which showcases notable Haida artist Bill Reid's sculpture, "The Raven and the First Men."
Vancouver Art Gallery
In a 1906 former courthouse building downtown, the Vancouver Art Gallery has a permanent collection of more than 10,000 artworks, with an emphasis on British Columbia artists. The gallery also mounts frequently changing exhibits of both classic and contemporary art.
Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art
Reid (1920-1998) was a British Columbia artist of mixed European and First Nations heritage. He’s best known for his sculptures, carvings, and jewelry that explore the Haida traditions. This downtown gallery opened in 2008 to showcase Reid’s work.
If you’ve got kids, they can play (and learn) for hours in this hands-on science museum. And if you’re traveling child-free, look for the periodic “Science World After Dark” evenings when adults are free to explore the museum without the little ones in tow.
Museum of Vancouver
Small but edgy, this Vanier Park museum examines both historical and contemporary life in the city of Vancouver. Recent exhibits have included a retrospective of works by the eclectic Vancouver-born artist Tobias Wong and “Sex Talk in the City,” an exploration of sex and sexual mores in Vancouver. Check their calendar for talks, parties, and other cool events that accompany each exhibition.
On March 29, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:Vancouver is only a two-hour drive from Whistler Blackcomb, one of North America’s top ski destinations, with more than 200 trails, 37 lifts, and a pedestrian village packed with restaurants and bars.
Even if you don’t have time to get to Whistler, you can choose from several smaller but still worthwhile ski destinations on Vancouver’s North Shore. Less than 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain has 26 runs, including 14 that stay open for nighttime skiing. On a sunny day, the views from the summit are spectacular.
Cypress Mountain, which hosted several events during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, is the highest and largest of the North Shore ski mountains, with 53 runs and nine lifts. It’s a popular destination for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing as well. You can drive from Vancouver in less than 45 minutes.
With five lifts accessing 40 trails, family-friendly Mount Seymour is also less than 45 minutes from downtown. Seymour is a good spot for snowshoeing, too.
On March 29, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:Vancouver’s best newcomer for pull-out-all-the-stops fine dining is Hawksworth, the sophisticated restaurant in the beautifully refurbished Rosewood Hotel Georgia. Chef David Hawksworth’s kitchen draws influences from around the world, while emphasizing local foods and Asian flavors. You might find starters like hamachi crudo with Meyer lemon, horseradish, and soy truffle vinaigrette, or caramelized squid paired with a salsa verde. Among the mains, the Pacific sablefish could come with pickled shiitakes and crispy yams, while the hearty beef striploin might be served with smoked beets and leek ash. The service is as sparkling as the lavish chandelier.
If you’re craving traditional Spanish tapas, head to the West End, where chef Neil Taylor (formerly of Cibo Trattoria) is cooking up excellent Iberian small plates at the cozy España. The tortillas (the Spanish egg pies, not the Mexican flatbread) are tops, as is the roasted ling cod with Catalan-style spinach and chorizo. More adventurous eaters will appreciate the inspired duck liver and quail egg salad. Good sherry selection, too.
For vegetarians and their friends, the latest go-to spot is The Acorn. As tiny as its namesake nut, this perpetually packed Main Street bistro serves madly creative meat-free fare, from beet tartare with goat cheese panna cotta, to kale salad topped with smoked paprika croutons and crispy capers, to raw zucchini lasagne. Go early or late; they don’t take reservations.
On March 29, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:Vancouver’s dining scene is local and laid-back, with casual contemporary restaurants featuring regional-sourced ingredients and seafood caught in Pacific waters. Small plates are big, as are custom cocktails. Asian food is a highlight, too, from the ever-popular Japanese izakayas that serve tapas with a Tokyo twist to the high-end Chinese fare that rivals the best of Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing.
On March 27, 2013Carolyn B. Heller answered the question:First Nations art and jewelry from the city’s museum shops and galleries makes a striking souvenir. Look for works in the Museum of Anthropology gift shop and in Gastown galleries, including Hill’s Native Art, Coastal Peoples Fine Art, and Spirit Wrestler Gallery. On South Granville Street, check out the Douglas Reynolds Gallery.
For your foodie friends, bring back local smoked salmon; it’s sold packed to travel at several stalls in the Granville Island Public Market. Also on Granville Island, you can source other BC-made foods, from jams to spice rubs to chocolate, at Edible Canada.
Though Lululemon, the yogawear company, is now an international brand, the business launched in Vancouver. To bring home their latest styles and scout out their creations-in-progress, visit the Lululemon Lab.