From “Hollywood North” to soaring mountains, this adventure will make you feel on top of the world.
Catch Vancouver Fever
When a pearl white Jaguar awaits you in front of your Vancouver hotel, there’s no reason to hesitate. It practically begs you to speed off into the city — sometimes referred to as “Hollywood North” for its appeal to filmmakers drawn to capture its breathtaking natural beauty. Nestled between the waters of the Pacific and the Coast Mountains, Vancouver is blessed with a maritime setting that glistens in the gloaming — especially from the front seat of a fabulous Jag.
You’re headed down to the harbor where the 48-floor Fairmont Pacific Rim (fairmont.com) has launched Botanist (botanistrestaurant.com), the latest addition to Vancouver’s celebrated culinary scene. Inspired by the botany and bounty of British Columbia, the restaurant features a glass-enclosed cocktail laboratory where mixologists concoct signature cocktails with the precision of chemists.
Served in a vessel the size of a goldfish bowl, the Deep Cove is a sea glass green elixir of island gin, sea buckthorn, and blue algae resting on a driftwood base. As delicious as it is potent, this crowd pleaser also serves as a centerpiece on the dining table where Chef Hector Laguna offers a five-course tasting menu called “We’ll Take It From Here.” Botanist’s merry band of experts also includes a gifted sommelier with her own white terroir blend from the nearby Okanagan Valley.
Truth in Advertising
What quickly becomes apparent in Vancouver is the credibility of the tagline: Super, Natural British Columbia. Situated on the Burrard peninsula, Vancouver has an abundance of waterfront, including the world’s longest uninterrupted seaside greenway. No matter if you’re biking, skating, jogging, or walking, you’re bound to be mesmerized by its flurry of seaplanes and boats amidst a shimmering backdrop of emerald forests and snow-capped mountains. No wonder Vancouver has remained North America’s third largest film production center (right behind Los Angeles and New York).
But that’s not necessarily what has allowed Vancouver to double for a variety of American locations on screen. A city of diverse neighborhoods, Vancouver offers 11 miles of beaches and more than 3,000 acres of parkland, including the 1,000-acre Stanley Park, almost entirely surrounded by water. Should you wander the park’s natural rainforest with a First Nations guide, you might learn to identify the forest’s natural Viagra — which has enabled Canada’s indigenous males to “stand like a tree” throughout many a night. (Hint: hemlock isn’t always poisonous.)
Similar salacious secrets are revealed on a walking tour of Davie Village, the city’s rainbow-colorful neighborhood with its bubble-gum pink bus stops and benches. At the historic Rainbow Crosswalk, Jim Deva Plaza is dedicated to the indefatigable gay activist whose Little Sisters bookstore fought the Canadian Customs Act all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court — and won. Should you feel the urge to champion human rights (or sing like Adele), step up to the oversized pink megaphone and let your voice ring out.
Where the Boys (and Girls) Are
It’s no surprise that Vancouver is home to the largest LGBT population in Western Canada, especially when you consider that British Columbia was the second jurisdiction in North America to legalize same-sex marriage. Held during the first week of August, Vancouver Pride (vancouverpride.ca) will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2018 with a seven-day festival that attracts nearly 700,000 people to its annual observance.
The city’s Pride festivities coincide with Celebration of Light (hondacelebrationoflight.com), the off shore fireworks festival held annually along English Bay at the base of Davie Street. Equally festive is Vancouver Fetish Weekend (vancouverfetishweekend.com) and the fabled nightclub Celebrities (celebritiesnightclub.com), which is housed in a heritage building that has been a dance club since its construction in 1908.
Vancouver’s LGBT population was once centered in Yaletown, a red brick warehouse and rail terminal district now home to Vancouver’s digital entertainment and interactive industry. Thrumming with hipster energy, the neighborhood offers a marvelous medley of coffee shops, smoothie bars, vegan restaurants and chic boutiques.
Opus Hotel Vancouver (vancouver.opushotel.com) — located in the heart of Yaletown — exudes effortless cool with a chill vibe and a passion for equality, which is manifest in its sponsorship of the annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival (queerfilmfestival.ca). Now celebrating 15 years in the neighborhood, the 96-room boutique hotel recently redesigned its rooms and suites with vibrant splashes of ‘70s style by designer Robert Bailey. Complete with spa bathrooms, soaking tubs, wet bars and microwaves, the Executive Suites function as Vancouver pieds-à-terre. General Manager Nicholas Gandossi explains, “Our guests are like good friends coming to stay in our home.” Among those friends: Lady Gaga, Cher and Jennifer Lopez.
Welcome to Lotusland
Park the Jag and take a jaunt to Granville Island, a short ferry ride from the marina down the street. With more than 12 million annual visitors, Granville is on everyone’s Vancouver bucket list. Its Public Market offers a cornucopia of regional bounty, including bakeries, fishmongers, and chocolatiers. With more than 150 purveyors tempting you with tastings, you might wish you hadn’t made dinner reservations.
That said, you wouldn’t want to miss an evening at Minami (minamirestaurant.com), the Yaletown sister of the acclaimed Miku (mikurestaurant.com). With gastronomic roots in Japan’s aburi-style cuisine, Minami debuted its signature flame-seared seafood in a city filled with sashimi connoisseurs; locals keep the lively restaurants packed like an all-night dinner party.
Throughout your time in Vancouver, it’s likely you’ll discern a certain bonhomie in nearly everyone you meet. Widely recognized as one of the world’s most livable cities by numerous global studies, Vancouver emits a relaxed ambiance that has earned it the sobriquet “Lotusland.” Not only is this the third greenest city in the world but Vancouver is also the continent’s number one biking city with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions rate per capita.
In keeping with a Prime Minister who champions “diversity over division,” Vancouver exemplifies Justin Trudeau’s values: more than 50% of the city’s population is non-Caucasian — and, perhaps not coincidentally, the largest religious group is people without any religious affiliation. As the home of Flickr and Hootsuite and Canada’s number one city for startups, it’s no surprise that Vancouver has become a Mecca for North American millennials.
Should you wander into Vancouver Art Gallery, you might seek out the works of Emily Carr. Housed in the city’s former courthouse (a neoclassical beauty with Ionic columns and a central dome), the museum holds Canada’s largest collection of works by the native British Columbian artist whose oeuvre is devoted to depicting the province’s natural beauty. It was Carr who wrote, “In the forest, think of the forest, not of this tree and that but the singing movement of the whole.” Carr’s words make a fitting tribute to a city whose beauty derives in no small part from seeking harmony with nature.
Last modified: May 9, 2019