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Summer in Vancouver is not unlike when Cinderella twirls into full regalia, or when Maria sings in West Side Story – it’s a city-wide makeover montage that starts strong with cherry blossoms and keeps turning up the dial until we’re all so saturated with natural resplendence we need a solid nine months of wet greyness just to bring us back down to Earth.
In Vancouver, summer is precious and ephemeral. Tail me on a bluebird day and you’ll probably end up basking on a rock near Whytecliff Park with one hand in a sweating bag of nectarines and redcurrants acquired at a farmer’s market. Or you might be jumping into the alpine waters of Cabin Lake atop Cypress Mountain, or chilling your bones in the blue-green pools of Capilano River, which snakes through the forest from high in the Coast Mountains down to Burrard Inlet. The North Shore, home to our local mountains, is where I pursue my favourite seasonal traditions: wandering the trails, picking huckleberries and dipping into creeks. It’s also where one begins (depending on pandemic travel advisories) many adventures further afield toward Squamish, the islands or the Sunshine Coast.
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In the city proper, summer is an excellent time to be a hungry flâneuse. You can walk for hours, along the seawall, over the Burrard Street Bridge, into Kitsilano, picking up snacks along the way. When I take this route, a cone of Rain or Shine chocolate-honeycomb ice cream at the end is a must. You can visit the weed dispensaries on Robson Street, get a Korean corn dog, a sushi roll, bubble tea or a box of frozen silvanas, and take your spoils to English Bay to watch the sunset. Our beachside concession stands carry things such as local kombucha and vegan gelato these days – the one at Second Beach even has ramen. I’m not saying you have to like the idea of beach ramen, but it’s pretty much the most Vancouver thing possible.
If you’re hot from all that walking, go to Kits pool, a glorious body of water right next to another glorious body of water (the Pacific Ocean). Sit on your towel and take in the 18 different sources of saturated blue in your field of vision. Afterward, enjoy a beer on one (or a few) of the city’s many brewery patios.
Whatever you do in the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, you will feel nurtured by your surroundings – never quite as gently as in summer, when every scenic moment, forest walk and ocean swim reminds us what is important – and notice what needs our nurturing, too. We have so much to celebrate, and so much to protect.
After a year-long closing, the Rosewood Hotel Georgia resumed taking overnight reservations on June 1 (with two freshly renovated VIP suites available), and reopened Reflections, its rooftop bar-slash-garden terrace – a very elegant hangout. The Fairmont Pacific Rim, never short on amazing dining options, has announced the addition of Giovane Bacaro – a Venetian-style wine bar, dining room and lounge. Over at the Shangri-La, new restaurant Miantiao combines Italian and Chinese cuisines. Located in the lower Lonsdale Shipyard’s District, North Vancouver’s year-old Seaside Hotel offers views of downtown rising over the ocean, and proximity to the mountains.
In Vancouver, you hardly have to leave the city to experience nature. Start by taking an Indigenous history walking tour of Stanley Park with Talaysay Tours – your local Indigenous ambassador guide will share how people lived here sustainably for thousands of years before the city existed. Don’t forget to stroll around Lost Lagoon, keeping an eye out for blue herons and other wildlife. Explore the shoreline by kayak with Vancouver Water Adventures, who offer both daytime and sunset tours, as well as stand-up paddleboard lessons and boat rides along the gorgeous coast. For more wilderness, go with Deep Cove Kayak – on their summer night tours, you might just see the water alight with bioluminescence.
Most of Vancouver’s local mountain biking terrain is on the challenging side, but experienced bikers looking for a tour can contact Endless Biking to organize everything from rentals to transport to the local mountains. Some Vancouver activities are classics for a reason: Visiting VanDusen Botanical Garden – especially in early summer, when the yellow laburnum trees are in bloom – is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Checking out Capilano Suspension Bridge and scaling local evergreens as part of their Treetops Adventure course is especially fun for kids. While you’re on the North Shore, don’t miss Lighthouse Park, where you can walk a number of mostly short, gentle trails through coastal old-growth forest.
Let’s talk al fresco bites. If you long to eat amazing sushi on an elegant patio overlooking the ocean, it’s Miku you’re looking for. The restaurant launched a new kaiseki (traditional multicourse Japanese diner) pop-up this spring, and are looking to expand it into the summer. If you want top-quality takeout sushi to eat sitting on a log at Sunset Beach, go to Sashimiya, a new restaurant and Japanese grocery store from chef Taka Omi, formerly of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and the Fairmont Pacific Rim Raw Bar.
Drink B.C. wine and eat locally sourced ceviche and octopus on Dachi’s cute patio, then try a spiked freezie for dessert (they also offer local-everything picnic boxes for takeaway), or visit Keefer Yard, Chinatown’s buzzy, open-air destination for cocktails, Peking duck crepes and minigolf. Need a breakfast patio? Try Livia Sweets, where you can enjoy a mortadella-and-egg breakfast sandwich under striped umbrellas, or just order coffee and pastries from their takeaway window.
Speaking of takeaway, support new restaurants that opened during the pandemic, such as Superbaba (delicious Middle Eastern wraps and bowls), Do Chay Yaletown (mostly vegan and vegetarian Vietnamese), Lunch Lady (recipes adapted from an Anthony Bourdain-approved Saigon street vendor), Oca Pastificio (handmade pastas), Potluck Hawker Eatery (Asian street-food-inspired cuisine) and Published on Main (West Coast modern comfort fare).
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