Weekend City Picks: Vancouver
Surrounded by rainforests, mountains and a glittering sea, Vancouver resembles the mythical city of Oz – its glass façade just waiting to be explored. With its cosmopolitan population, the city is a bastion of culture, cuisine and entertainment all with stunning scenery just a bike ride or ferry boat away.
Arts & Entertainment
Worship at the altar of music and movement at this former church turned performance space. Perched at the top of a hill that overlooks the city, the Cultch has become an artistic mecca in recent years and offers a diverse lineup of theatre, dance and music by local, national and international artists.
This renowned gallery strikes the perfect balance of old world and new, where British Columbia's distinct First Nations artwork mingles alongside major international traveling shows. Its quarterly late-night party, FUSE, combines live performances, DJs and eclectic tours that attract the city's vibrant artist community.
This contemporary gallery proves good things come in small spaces. As one of the longest standing non-profit public art galleries, the CAG offers a snapshot of work from Canadian and internationally-known artists in an inviting space. With the exhibitions constantly changing, it's worth a quick stop on your way to the VAG down the street.
For a slice of real Vancouver nightlife, ditch the lines and red ropes for this indie venue. Check out the schedule to find out when Soul Night or Ice Cream Social dance night is happening or catch a local act to hear some of the best bands coming out of Canada.
Food & Drink
As if getting the entire city hooked on gelato wasn't enough, dessert chef and maestro of Bella Gelateria opened a second location of his popular artisan sweet shop that offers a full line-up of Italian Napoletana pizzas, sandwiches and unique Italian desserts married with gelato and a full coffee bar. Sidle up to the marble counter and watch the gelato-making process through a glassed-in "laboratory," or try a "gelatini" (gelato martinis) on the patio.
With a dizzying array of vendors and stalls to peruse, sometimes it's best to leave browsing to the experts. Led by culinary professionals, you'll taste the best that butchers, bakers, fishmongers, cheese specialists, sweets stands and local artisans have to offer at BC’s most visited public market.
With such a vibrant Asian culinary scene, no trip to Vancouver is complete without a requisite stop at Guu – the pioneer of the city’s izakaya scene. Here at its trendy Gastown location, locals, tourists and recent Japanese transplants all seek comfort in shareable plates of pork buns, fresh seafood specialties and heaping bowls of udon at this Japanese version of a gastropub.
Dine on rustic Italian in an ultra-sleek setting. While there's no shortage of well-heeled clientele, the food is the real star here. Multi-regional specialties include handcrafted pizza, dry-aged steaks and artful antipasto platters with the added charm of fresh West Coast ingredients.
You couldn't dream up a better family-friendly destination if you tried. The "Island" offers activities and maritime adventures for all ages including a waterpark, the Kids Only Market, the Granville Island Brewery, street entertainers and a fun ferry ride that affords beautiful views of this coastal city.
Home to more than 9,000 underwater animals – including sharks, wolf eels and beluga whales – this aquarium takes interactive exhibits to a new level. Spot sloths as you walk through the miniature rainforest, check out a 4-D movie theater or consider booking an Animal Encounter tour, where you can get up close and personal with your chosen mammal and learn all about being a trainer.
An iconic part of the city's skyline, it's impossible to miss the giant silver golf ball that is Science World. Hop on the SkyTrain from Downtown and enter a world of mind-bending puzzles, explosive science shows and a wraparound Omnimax theatre that will make even rainy days seem worthwhile.
Take advantage of Vancouver's aquatic surroundings and set off with a paddle in hand. Headquartered on Granville Island, Ecomarine offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals as well as guided kayak tours by day or special trips at sunset for postcard views.
No matter the season, this mountaintop playground lures active-types and tourists alike for its stunning panoramic views and endless outdoor challenges. Traditional skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing in the winter give way to a summer of alpine hiking, zip-lining and trips up Grouse Grind to the Eye of the Wind, a 20-story, elevator-accessed turbine tower.
For those who prefer to break a sweat in the poshest place possible, this stylish yet rugged 16,000-square-foot facility blurs the line between gym and hotel lounge. Whatever makes you sweat – spinning, Crossfit, power yoga and circuit classes – Studeo55 has it, plus excellent coaching, first-class shower facilities and water-bottle service.
The best way to see the city and burn some calories in the process is by riding the Stanley Park seawall. Start in Coal Harbour to take in the waterfront views of the North Shore Mountains, then make your way through the old-growth forests of Stanley Park and the seawall that wraps around the largest green space in the city. Stop for a picnic in the park or finish the ride through English Bay and down bike-friendly Denman Street.
Achieve your inner Zen at this beautiful urban oasis. A replica of a Ming Dynasty scholar’s residence and courtyard, this was the first authentic classical Chinese gardens ever built outside of China, constructed using traditional methods without the help of nails or power tools. Learn the secrets of its serpentine double corridors and arched pavilions with a 45-minute guided tour.
Not many cities boast a giant suspension bridge that loops through a lush rainforest, but the Capilano makes you feel like you're trekking through the jungle like Indiana Jones. Stretching 140 meters (460 ft) long and situated 70 meters (230 ft) above the river, it's an impressive trek that's followed by a series of smaller suspension bridges called the Tree Top Adventure.
Sporting flora and fauna from around the world, VanDusen's 55 acres are a horticultural delight. Wind your way through more than 255,000 individual plants representing ecosystems of the Far East, Africa, South America, Europe and Australasia and explore entire gardens devoted to roses, herbs, heathers and even an Elizabethan hedge maze to get lost in.
Canada's answer to the label-loving department stores of the states, Holt Renfrew more than delivers. With an extensive selection of men's and women's contemporary departments and high-end in-store boutiques devoted to big designers, its biggest draw remains its end-of-season sales where you can riffle through racks of Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Marni, Hugo Boss and other top labels at a bargain.
As the name suggests, this beautifully curated boutique offers refreshingly unique designs that set it apart from the rest of the fast fashion stores that line Robson Street. Carrying an impressive range of designers and styles across all budgets, it's a perfect spot to break you out of a wardrobe rut.
Nestled between the cobblestoned and gas-lit streets of historic Gastown, this ultra-modern concept store sticks out like a very fashionable sore thumb. After surveying $100 design magazines, furred hobo hats and bird-shaped cameras sufficiently works up your appetite, head to the in-store restaurant, the Tasting Room, and indulge in an imaginative tasting menu.