Enjoy salmon, stories and savoury bites, and cocktails, in Vancouver
Winter fans often head straight to nearby mountains for snow-based activities, but the city, and its seasonally mild weather (particularly when compared to the rest of the country), offers plenty to explore – and eat. Just when you think you’ve recovered from an indulgent December, Dine Out Vancouver pops up, running for the second half of January (Jan. 14-31) and enticing the culinarily curious with exclusive meals and food-focused experiences like gelato making classes. This year, the event toasts its 20th year (dineoutvancouver.com). Has that whet your appetite? Read on for more to explore in town.
Local tour company Rockwood Adventures’ Rainforest Bathing Wellness and Salmon Adventure is a mindful way to beat the winter blahs. A guide leads guests through Lighthouse Park, on undulating trails that wind past towering Douglas firs and cedar trees, stopping to explain the Japanese art of forest bathing, or Shinrin Yoku. You’ll be asked to explore the forest through your senses – even taking of your shoes to explore touch through your feet, if you’re inclined. When open (visits are temporarily paused because of the pandemic), there’s also a stop at the Capilano Salmon Hatchery to learn about the work being done to sustain the species. Afterwards, to get you looking as good outside as you feel inside, head to Chi, the spa at the Shangri-La, for the Sangre de Fruta treatment, a massage using products from the Bowen Island, B.C., skin care company. rockwoodadventures.com; shangri-la.com
In the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown, the recently opened Chinatown Storytelling Centre is an opportunity to learn diverse stories about this community – not just of hardships but of resilience and victories. Through sharing anecdotes and histories of community members – from the head tax to iconic store fronts – the centre also tells the story of the city. Several interactive exhibits are on site, including a recreation of the photo studio of Yucho Chow, a celebrated photographer who first opened up shop in 1906 and was known for his props, such as pocket watches and books, which helped portrait sitters look successful in the photos that were sent back home. chinatownstorytellingcentre.org
Eat and Drink
There’s no shortage of options for comfort meals in the city, whether it’s Gastown’s Pourhouse, which specializes in burgers, or the Chickadee Room in Juke, a cocktail-focused snack bar adjacent to Juke Fried Chicken. For drinks, the Keefer Yard offers playful and creative cocktails – mini-putt too – across the street from Juke. For something sweet, don’t miss Kouign Café, which fuses French and Asian flavours to create baked goods out of this world. pourhousevancouver.com; thechickadeeroom.com; thekeeferbar.com; thekouign.com
The Fairmont Pacific Rim offers stunning views of the Vancouver Harbour, and lots to do on site should the weather be a bit too dreary to head outdoors. Relax at the heated rooftop pool and jacuzzi, get inspired at the on-site Pacific Gallery, currently exhibiting Green Light Red Light, a collection of works by Douglas Coupland, or give your tastebuds a trip to Italy with a meal at Giovane Bacaro, at the hotel on street level. The menu is inspired by Venice’s bacari, neighbourhood joints that specialize in snacks, small bites and stellar wine options. fairmont.com; giovanebacaro.com
The writer was a guest of Destination Vancouver. The organization did not review or approve the story before publication.
Get knee-deep in snow and culture in Whistler
Snowfall is a magical thing in this mountain town. It’s like living in a postcard. Every bough of every fir tree sags under the weight of a perfect pillow of snow. When the clouds lift and the sun shines, the surrounding glaciated mountains take your breath away – you will never tire of this view. Sure, the skiing at Whistler Blackcomb is legendary with more than 200 marked trails and 3,307 hectares of skiable terrain. Even folks who’ve been coming here for decades haven’t hit every corner. But the mountains are open to everyone who makes the effort to enjoy them.
Upgrade your ski day substantially with an Extremely Canadian guide. Their clout – they’ve been here 28 years – is as cool as the company name, and they are keen to share their big-mountain skiing secrets. Plus, these guides can short-cut lift lines for clients (and that’s an unbeatable bonus). Got kids? Hop in a taxi for a 10-minute drive to Cougar Mountain where you’ll find the enchanted forest of Vallea Lumina. The dazzling light show and mythic storytelling as you climb up and down forest trails and over rushing creeks will blow their minds (and probably yours). extremelycanadian.com; vallealumina.com
Before heading to the thermal wonders of Scandinave Spa to soak your aches and pains, spend a couple of hours at the Audain Art Museum. It holds a treasure trove of B.C. art and (until Feb. 21) features the touring Jean-Paul Riopelle exhibit that explores how Northern Canada and its people influenced his work. The museum is hidden amongst a pine grove but you won’t miss the striking piece of public art recently erected outside: Haida carver James Hart’s red-tinged bronze, the Three Watchmen, sits atop an aluminum wrap designed by Xwalacktun of the Squamish Nation and Levi Nelson (Svpyan) of the Lil’wat Nation. Bring the kids: Children under 18 are free. scandinave.com; audainartmuseum.com
Eat and Drink
In February, plan your visit around a Friday night Spo7ez Winter Feast at the Squamish and Lil’wat Cultural Centre. Guests are welcomed with traditional songs (and taught an animal dance as an ice breaker). After a short film and guided tour of the art and exhibits, you’ll dine on cedar-plank salmon and venison stew (amongst other yummy dishes) while watching Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation performers in a grand circular hall with enormous windows and cedar beams that’s based on an istken dwelling. On Whistler mountain, raise a glass or two at 1,825 metres at Umbrella Bar. Skiers and foot traffic (take the Blackcomb Gondola to Roundhouse Lodge) enjoy a nearly 360-degree view of the ranges. slcc.ca/feast; whistlerblackcomb.com
Two options depending on your escape plans: Powderhounds can book newly renovated Gold-level rooms at Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Blackcomb Gondola is right behind the hotel and Fairmont Gold rooms offer what could be called all-day après (you’ll never go hungry) and the exclusive lounge is an oasis from what can be a busy resort hotel. For a quieter spot to sleepover, try Nita Lake Lodge in Creekside (10 minutes south of Whistler). This five-star resort overlooks a serene alpine lake and is surrounded by coastal mountains. The hotel’s new Winter Den restaurant is a cozy spot with a creative menu, everything from duck doughnuts to vegan cheese plates (the latter will change your mind on the tastiness of vegan cheese. Seriously). fairmont.com; nitalakelodge.com
The writer was a guest of Tourism Whistler. It did not review or approve the story before publication.
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