Vancouver for First-Timers
Have you made it to classy and elegant Vancouver yet? You might have noticed that this city, which has been consistently – if quietly – ranked among the best spots in the world to live, hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, earning it the international attention it so deserves for its stunning natural scenery and chic, metropolitan way of life.
Vancouver, little more than 125 years old, is that hip young adult you see walking down the sidewalk looking content, poised and bursting with confidence and vitality, and what’s even more exciting is that the city has really come into its own even while it continues to evolve and develop.
This means that if you haven’t ventured yet to Vancouver, now is the perfect time to plan your first trip. Expect city prices on trendy lodgings, cuisine and attractions, but rest assured that you get what you pay for, and in an area where the outdoor activities rule, there are plenty of free pastimes. Vancouver with kids is also easy to do and they’ll have a great time with everything on offer.
No trip to Vancouver would be complete without at least a day spent in the great outdoors. It all starts with the uber-popular Stanley Park Seawall, where locals and visitors alike run, bike, rollerblade and generally get out to see – and be seen – while keeping fit. The park is also a lovely place for a sunny picnic or a leisurely stroll.
If you’re a snow bunny, you’ve obviously come to the right place. There are ample opportunities for skiing, snowboarding and even snowshoeing in the always-snowy upper elevations.
Hiking is also a popular pastime, particularly on Grouse Mountain, where gondolas lift you to the summit if you’re not up to the 90-minute vertical hike. And in the summer, try the Second Beach, near Stanley Park, an especially family-friendly place for sand and sun.
You’ll also be pleased to hear that Vancouver whale watching is something you can do! To increase your chances of seeing orcas and even humpbacks you can do a tour from Vancouver or Vancouver Island between May and October.
There are eateries all over the city for every budget, from the finest of dining in the Shangri-La Hotel at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Market restaurant to the less assuming and entirely unpretentious out-of-the-way Shanghai eatery known as Chen’s.
Thanks to Vancouver’s multicultural population and hungry natives, restaurants come in all kinds of tempting ethnic cuisines, like tapas at BierCraft on Commercial Drive, Thai at Simply Thai in Yaletown, expensive seafood and sushi options at Blue Water Cafe (also in Yaletown) and romantic Italian-style fare at Lupo downtown.
Vancouver is also home to plenty of drinking establishments. The Refinery on Granville Street makes their own syrups, preserves and vermouths; the Tiki Bar at the Waldorf Hotel provides an oasis of kitsch in a room spotted with fake palm trees; and the Cambie is a famously divey location with $11 pitchers and sticky bathroom floors.
If you’re looking for the very best in upscale shopping, try Alberni Street, where all the high-end designers display their wares; one block north is the Holt Renfrew and department store The Bay, other fun downtown shopping destinations.
Boutiques and one-of-a-kind stores abound in South Granville, which is also an appealing place to pick up a new piece of local art. Little India and Chinatown are both teeming with international exports, from textiles and fabrics to jewelry and more.
Accommodation Options in Vancouver
There are plenty of places to stay in Vancouver and hotels tend to be centered in the downtown area. If you have the cash flow, try the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver, a home away from home where hospitality is king and guests’ needs always come first. Fine dining comes on-site, along with a spa, fitness center and special luxury suites with a view of the sparkling downtown area. Talk about a memorable stay!
For a more boutique vibe, but with no concession on luxury, consider the Le Soleil Hotel and Suites, also downtown, a 13-year-old hotel which has already been named one of top 100 hotels in the world.
Its sumptuous Old World European decor evokes the regal courts of yore, while the “Le Soleil” – “the sun” in French – calls to mind the infamous Bourbon king Louis XIV, the Sun King, and the builder of Versailles. Bed down in rooms fit for royalty, receive an in-room massage or venture downstairs for an exquisite dining experience in the Copper Chimney restaurant.
For more budget-friendly bedding, the University of British Columbia Conferences and Accommodation offers: comfortable rooms, suites, apartment-style housing, hostels and even dorm rooms for low prices.
Eliza Jones is a contributing writer and UBC graduate who lives and works in the downtown Vancouver area. When she’s not crocheting never-ending blankets and scarves, she enjoys kayaking on False Creek and ferreting out the newest restaurants in Vancouver.