No matter what the weather, there’s plenty to do – and eat and drink – after you close the briefcase for the day while in Vancouver.
Rain or shine, dull or fine, Vancouverites live outdoors – and then scurry to oases of indoor indulgence while watching the rain pour down the windows. Bring a raincoat, buy or borrow a brollie – and be prepared to dance in the rain.
There are a number of directions you can take , but a great stroll starts at the Canada Place convention centre. Starting at the Olympic cauldron, you’ll see Douglas Coupland’s Lego-like Digital Orca near the western edge of the new convention centre. Walk west and down the stairs to the promenade that follows the edge of Coal Harbour. You’ll find a leisurely two-kilometre walk to the entrance of Stanley Park, past seabirds, seaplanes, and sculptures. If the clouds lift, you’ll get the postcard view of Vancouver’s mountains on the North Shore. But the real thrill is the daredevil seaplanes that seem to dive-bomb to land in the harbour.
At Denman and Georgia Streets, you arrive at the entrance to Stanley Park, where you will be greeted by the time-worn bronze lady who sits on a park bench, often holding a bouquet of flowers left by a stranger. You can wrap it up here and have a meal or a coffee on vibrant Denman Street, or carry on into the park.
Yes – you can take a bus or other forms of vehicular transit, if you truly insist. But why would you? You’ll miss the mist on your face, the call of the seagulls, and the opportunity to greet other sodden walkers in the rain with the cheery hello that says you’re having a grand time and you’re one of us.
After your stroll by the sea, there are many places to soak up some culture. The glorious Arthur Erickson-designed Museum of Anthropology is a bit of a trip from downtown, but worth the visit just to experience the building. Inside, you’ll find an unparalleled collection of treasures of the First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Downtown, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Bill Reid Gallery, and Contemporary Art Gallery are easy walking distance from most hotels.
If visual arts aren’t your thing, you might enjoy Canada’s longest running poetry slam, Van Slam, or, if you’re in town between Oct. 18 – 23, check out the Vancouver International Writers Festival.
And, finally, you may have heard we have a little hockey team in town. Any night the Nucks play, you can commune with locals around the three-metre digital hearth at any downtown sports bar and watch the lads in green and blue play.
Vancouver is a foodie’s town. This is a great place to eat, and the city takes some deserved pride in the culinary kudos that have come its way from the New York Times, Gourmet Magazine, and Fodor’s, among others. There are a lot of wonderful options – Vij’s (1480 W.11th Ave.), Tojo’s (1133 W. Broadway), West (2881 Granville Street) and Market by Jean-Georges (1128 West Georgia Street) are just a few.
For my money, nothing beats a Meal with a View. The Rain City Grill is a personal fave, but there are other great choices, such as C (1600 Howe St.) and Fraiche (2240 Chippendale Rd., West Vancouver – more of a trek).
Just in need of a beverage? The Sylvia Hotel bar is the locals’ local in the West End. It’s an absolutely trend-free zone with a lovely view of English Bay, resolutely average food and what may be the world’s best Caesar.
And here’s something special: You don’t have to spend hours on a jetliner to get to Asia. You can zip over in less than a half-hour from downtown Vancouver by heading to Richmond’s No. 3 Road. Aberdeen Centre is the glittering Forbidden City of Consumerism hidden in the string of charmless suburban strip malls that forms the heart of this neo-Chinatown just south of Vancouver. Whether you need to pick up a Lamborghini, dried mangoes, or some Hello Kitty lunch boxes, Aberdeen Centre meets every want. Expect to hear – and read – a lot of Mandarin and other Asian languages. Native English-speakers are the distinct minority here.
You can eat in the mall’s restaurants, or pick up various snack foods. But this little corner of suburbia is home to what Gourmet Magazine has called the best Chinese food in North America. Just a few blocks away from Aberdeen Centre is the much-honoured Sun Sui Wah restaurant. If Aberdeen Centre is a hidden gem, Sun Sui Wah is under witness protection. Extraordinary Chinese food.
See all the fun you can have in RainCity?
Have a sopping good time.
Special to The Globe and Mail
IN THE EVENING
4:30 p.m. – Sample the arts
If you would like something more intimate than the Vancouver Art Gallery then head to the Bill Reid Gallery, which has a small but exquisite collection of the renowned Haida artist's work. (639 Hornby St., www.billreidgallery.ca).
6:30 p.m. – Stroll the seawall
A nice short evening stroll is along the Coal Harbour Sea Wall. With sculptures en route, you also have a chance to stop for a drink or a bite. Eateries along the path include the Mill Marine Pub at Harbour Green Park (Bute and Cordova), Cardero's (1583 Coal Harbour Quay) and The Crime Lab.
8:00 p.m. – Enjoy a meal with a view
C (1600 Howe St. www.crestaurant.com), an elegant but understated dining room on False Creek that celebrates the sea with verve and imagination. Or you can try Bridges (1696 Duranleau, Granville Island. www.bridgesrestaurant.com), which .looks out on the marina and the beautiful Art Deco Burrard Bridge.
10 p.m. – A nightcap
Finish the night with a Sylvia's Bloody Caesar at the old hotel on the Bay (www.sylviahotel.com)