Vancouver City Guide


©2006 John Sinal Vancouver's multicultural, urban attractions now compete with the natural beauty of this northern city.  See more pictures of city skylines.

You've heard that Vancouver is gorgeous -- nestled into a fjordlike setting between ocean, mountains, and mighty river. That said, the city formally established in 1886 in a coastal rainforest, by the sometimes dour Brits and Scots, was once a bit staid. No more. In recent years, Vancouver has morphed into a lively, cosmopolitan metropolis.

Immigration of mostly skilled newcomers -- from Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China, India, and other countries -- has worked well. The result is an upbeat, prosperous multicultural character reflected in the streets, restaurants, theaters, and elsewhere. The downtown peninsula has been thoughtfully redeveloped to accommodate more than 100,000 apartment and townhouse dwellers in an appealing, pedestrian-oriented environment.

Youthful, bright, and affluent, Vancouver is on the ascendancy. Of course, the region's physical attributes remain a big attraction, making this an ideal destination in which to combine urban pleasures with outdoor recreation.

The Best of Vancouver

Vancouver is distinctly "West Coast" -- combining lingering Anglo-Saxon origins with decades of pan-European migration and most recently a major infusion of Asian Pacific peoples and cultures. While closely linked with the rest of Canada, it shares many of the attributes of U.S. neighbors like Seattle and Portland.

At its heart is 1,000-acre Stanley Park, which is largely a forest and a hint of what the entire landscape looked like before Europeans arrived. An ideal way to enjoy the park is on a horse-drawn carriage ride around its rim. You can also walk, jog, bicycle, or otherwise propel yourself along the perimeter seawall. The 13-mile seawall continues around much of the rest of the downtown peninsula, from English Bay to Granville Island and beyond.

Granville Island, accessible from the south shore of misleadingly named False Creek (it's a lakelike inlet) is another must-see. Happily, some of the island's early industrial ambiance remains in buildings converted to artist studios and shops. The island includes theaters, restaurants, and pocket parks, but the hub is the Granville Island Public Market.

Great city neighborhoods (for exploring, dining, and shopping) include trendy Kitsilano, counter-culture Commercial Drive, slightly edgy Main Street, and chic Yaletown.

Other highlights include a gondola ride up Grouse Mountain, kayaking on Indian Arm, hiking on the North Shore Mountains, and flight-seeing up to Whistler. The stunning University of B.C.'s Museum of Anthropology boasts world-class aboriginal art.

©2006 Al Harvey The Granville Island Public Market is great spot for tourists to experience glimpses of what Vancouver used to be like.

Fast Facts & Info

Geography and landscape: Vancouver nestles into the southwestern mainland of Canada's British Columbia. It's a coast of inlets shaped by mountains and dotted with islands. The dense rainforest still rules.

To the south, a 45-minute drive is the Canada-U.S. border. To the east sprawls the Fraser Valley -- the region's breadbasket. To the north rise the coastal mountains. To the west lie Georgia Strait and Vancouver Island, with B.C.'s capital city, Victoria, at its southern tip. It's a 90-minute BC Ferries ride (for foot passengers and cars) to Vancouver Island.

General orientation: Metro Vancouver, with 2 million residents, extends from the north shore of Burrard Inlet south to the shores of Georgia Strait and east to the Fraser Valley. At its center is the city of Vancouver, with half a million residents.

Most visitors stay on or near the downtown peninsula. Adjacent neighborhoods -- Kitsilano, West Point Grey, South False Creek and South Granville -- are also attractive. The suburbs of North Vancouver and Richmond offer lots of hotel and motel accommodations.

Downtown Vancouver is walkable; the central city is well served by buses. A large public passenger ferry, the SeaBus, connects the downtown with North Vancouver. Small, private passenger ferries run from the downtown peninsula to Granville Island and Kitsilano. A major attraction of the inner city is the seawall, so bring your walking or running shoes (as we call them in Canada), bicycles, or inline skates.

Safety: Vancouver is relatively safe and peaceable. This applies to most of the city, including the vast part of the downtown peninsula. That said, visitors should take normal precautions with valuables. Avoid, for example, leaving visible valuables in a car or a good bike where thieves could cut through a lock in a flash.

However, Vancouver's Downtown Eastside should be avoided, especially at night. The area lies northeast of the downtown -- east of Cambie Street, along East Hastings Street for about a mile. Few visitors see this area, and it shouldn't be a concern. Problems are mostly confined to its denizens. A few panhandlers may amble downtown, but they are not aggressive.

Historic Chinatown nestles just to the south, and the popular tourism district of Gastown to the north. Both can be accessed from the downtown without entering Downtown Eastside. Kingsway, a major arterial that bisects the east side of the city at a diagonal, is not particularly appealing either, and should be avoided at night.

©2006 Tourism Vancouver Getting to the top of Grouse Mountain is an easy gondola ride up. With views like this, it's definitely worth the trip.

Climate/weather: Vancouver's climate is temperate. In winter, temperatures fall below freezing, but irregularly. There might be a week of snow, but it usually melts quickly. In January, the average daily temperature is 42 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius). Spring, when the city's flowering street trees bloom, is mild and wet. Summer is short, but sweetly warm and rarely hot. July and August average 74 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius). The early autumn is often dry and lovely.

Of course, Vancouver is famous for rain -- particularly in winter, but (in truth) year-round. A total of about 44 inches falls each year, so make sure to pack your umbrella.

Population: The city of Vancouver has just more than 500,000 residents; metropolitan Vancouver about 2 million. Visible minorities -- mostly of Chinese and South Indian ancestry -- now account for almost one-third of the population.

Thanks to the city's street grid plan, getting around town is quite simple. Still, visiting a new city can have its challenges, so see the next section for tips on navigating Vancouver.

Getting In, Getting Around Vancouver

©2006 SkyTrain SkyTrain is a great way to get around, whether you're sticking to the downtown area or need a way to get out to the suburbs.

Because the city is laid out on a grid, traveling the streets of Vancouver is quite easy, whether you're driving or on foot. Here are some tips regarding Vancouver transportation:

From the Airport

Vancouver International Airport is located on Sea Island in Richmond, south of Vancouver.

Rental car: Major car rental outlets are located on the ground floor of the parkade, a few steps from both the international and domestic terminals. Pickup and returns are provided directly from these staffed outlets. Rates are comparable to elsewhere in North America. U.S. citizens will not need any special permits to rent vehicles, but have your passport handy in case you are asked for additional identification.

Taxi: Metered taxis run from outside the terminal 24 hours a day; the fare to downtown is $23 to $26 CDN. It takes about 40 to 45 minutes and longer during morning rush hour, which is roughly between 7 and 9 am. Most taxis are standard four-passenger vehicles; there are also vans, some equipped to carry wheelchairs.

Public transportation: The YVR Airporter shuttles between the international and domestic terminals and downtown hotels. Public buses on the No. 424 route pick up outside the domestic terminal. They connect to downtown and other routes at the Airport Station Bus Terminal, located outside the airport. For details, visit www.translink.bc.ca.

Driving In

Rush hour: Driving into the city is easy. You follow Grant McConachie Way out of the airport and the signs to Vancouver. You'll cross the Arthur Laing Bridge and take the right off-ramp to the "City Centre." The route circles west onto Southwest Marine Drive, then turns north onto Granville Street, which runs all the way to the downtown area. The morning rush hour into the city is 7 to 9 am; the evening, outbound, 4 to 6 pm.

Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada) skirts the eastern boundary and continues over the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge to the North Shore and Horseshoe Bay (where you can find BC Ferries). Highway 99 begins at the Canada-U.S. border, continues through Vancouver on Oak and Granville streets to West Vancouver, and connects with Highway 1 and Highway 99 to Whistler.

As for driving in the city, it's a simple grid. Except for the downtown peninsula, east-west streets are "avenues" -- No.1 (starting in the north) to 77. Ontario Street is the division between "east" and "west" avenue addresses. Some downtown streets are one-way.

Pedestrians have the right of way in Vancouver and have grown so assertive that they step into the street without looking left or right, so it's important to be aware of this.

Rules of the road: Vancouver drivers are generally orderly and polite. This isn't to say you needn't drive defensively -- the city has its share of bad drivers. Where vehicles yield into a funnel from two or even three lanes, as in entering the Lions Gate Bridge, drivers neatly alternate; aggressive driving is frowned upon. You can turn right on a red light except on the rare occasion when a sign forbids it.

Getting Around

Public transportation: Buses provide most public transit. An adult one-zone fare is $2.25. (The 98 B-Line between the airport and downtown is two zones -- $3.25).

SkyTrain is an elevated light-rail system that joins downtown Vancouver with the east side and with suburbs that include historic New Westminster. The same fares apply. Downtown SkyTrain stations include the Waterfront (on Cordova Street), which connects with the SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay in North Van. West Vancouver runs a "Cadillac" Blue Bus system, which picks up passengers on Vancouver's Georgia Street for travel to West Van, including Horseshoe Bay. From here BC Ferries depart to the islands of Howe Sound, the Sunshine (Sechelt) Coast, and Vancouver Island.

Taxis, on foot, by bike: Metered taxis are reasonably priced. There's a dire shortage, however, and getting a taxi ride may entail an annoying wait, so it's best to call ahead to the taxi company. Though the downtown peninsula is large, it's pedestrian-friendly. With buses and taxis, a car isn't required. However, if you want to go to the North Shore or beyond, you may need one.

Vancouver has a network of cycling routes, suitable for most bicycle riders, but only the most skilled riders should use the major arterial streets.

Most of the city's special events and attractions involve the great outdoors. There are, however, some unique things to do inside on those rainy Vancouver days. See the next section for some suggestions.

Vancouver Special Events & Attractions

©2006 Colin Jewall July and August in Vancouver bring an incredible display of fireworks at the Celebration of Light.

Vancouver's joie de vivre is bound up with the outdoors -- all that beauty! Roller-blading the seawall. Golfing inner-city courses. Mountain biking on the North Shore. All are huge, so are water sports, particularly sailing and kayaking.

Thousands hike the precipitous trails of the North Shore almost year-round, including the grueling Grouse Grind. Skiing and snowboarding draw legions to Cypress Bowl, Grouse and Seymour mountains, and Whistler. There are always sport-related competitions and celebrations.

Major events range from the Chinese New Year parade to the mid-summer fireworks in English Bay. Festivals happen from spring to autumn, with one or both feet in the outdoors. They include the Vancouver International Jazz Festival (June); Vancouver Folk Music Festival (July); Festival Vancouver, with jazz, classical, and world music (August); and Vancouver International ComedyFest (September). Gay Pride Week, including a big parade in English Bay, is in early August.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Vancouver

Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Vancouver

Granville Island is no secret. But when all is usually quiet, artsy byways come to life with inspired festivals. In September, comedians from around the world bring their madcap humor to its plazas and patios. Audiences are charmed to bits -- even (literally) tied into knots. The annual Fringe Festival, also in September, is a phantasmagoria of short plays at 11 venues. The festival is famously uncensored, with full cheek and wild surprises.

For a sense of Vancouver's large and vibrant Chinese community, cruise the Richmond Night Market (12631 Vulcan Way, Richmond), or the Chinatown Night Market (100 and 200 blocks of Keefer St). The Richmond event is huge; the Chinatown one small. But both are full of the good vibes that characterize this city's multicultural reality. There's lots of enticing street food, wonderful trinkets from China, and free entertainment.

The Alcan Dragon Boat Festival takes place in False Creek

in June, with more than 100 teams drawing on people of every ancestry. This is another sign of the growing connection between Vancouver and Asia, where dragon-boating originated. Winners of this popular festival go on to international competitions.

A delightful family-oriented festival takes place in Trout Lake Park (East Van) in late July, and it's never advertised. That's because organizers don't want an even bigger crowd. But there's always room for a few more lucky souls at the Public Dreams Society's Illuminaires Lantern Procession. Suffice to say it takes place after dark and features magnificent paper lanterns, music, and magic.

Late August to early September marks the annual (and joyous) Fair at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE). Rooted in British Columbia's agricultural sector, it still features the likes of the Safeway Farm Country and the Pacific Spirit Horse Show. But there's myriad other exhibits and attractions, rides, games, foods, and entertainment.

Immerse yourself in this vast fun-fair, and you'll forget there's an outside world!

"Celebration of Light" fireworks displays explode over English Bay in late July and early August. The event draws hundreds of thousands of children and adults with beach blankets in hand to the beaches at English Bay and Kitsilano on four consecutive Wednesdays and Saturdays. International pyrotechnic manufacturers each have their own night, culminating in a mega-finale.

Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park (3735 Capilano Rd, North Vancouver) features a hemp rope bridge strung across the Capilano Canyon, which is a big tourism draw. The bridge was first made in 1889, then replaced with a wire cable bridge in 1903. It runs (and swings) 450 feet (137 meters) across the canyon and 230 feet (70 meters) above the river. A recent addition is the Treetops Adventure -- seven adjoining suspension bridges at 100 feet (30 meters) above the forest floor. The site also includes native Indian cultural center and several restaurants.

Hastings Racecourse (Gate 6, off Renfrew Street into Hastings Park) has been in business for more than a century. The track offers thoroughbred racing April through November, and simulcast racing the rest of the year. An added attraction is the setting, with fine views of the North Shore Mountains.

Harbour Centre Tower (555 West Hastings St) has a glass-wall elevator that can zip you to the top for a 360-degree-view of Greater Vancouver.

Great Canadian Casinos (8811 River Road) is the newest and grandest facility in the RiverRock Casino Resort in Richmond, just south of Vancouver. It includes a luxury hotel, nine restaurants, Vegas-style entertainment, and a full casino complex, including 1,000 slots. A smaller full-range casino is at Vancouver's Holiday Inn (709 West Broadway).

Vancouver Aquarium and Marine Science Centre (Stanley Park, 845 Avison Way) is conservation-minded center that includes a 90-minute performance by beluga whales. Exhibits also feature dolphins, sea otters, and thousands of other creatures.

From art museums to playhouses to botanic gardens, this city has plenty of arts and culture to offer its guests. Learn more about arts and culture in Vancouver on the next page.

Vancouver Arts & Culture

©2006 A. Rios This totem pole is just one example of the artifacts you'll find from native villages at Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology.

Vancouver has a thriving arts and culture scene. The Vancouver Art Gallery, in a former courthouse, is a downtown centerpiece. Its permanent collection includes many works of British Columbia's best-known artist, Emily Carr (1871-1945). Carr's paintings, along with those of the still living "national treasure" E.J. Hughes, best express the coastal wilderness.

Smaller public and private galleries dot the downtown and South Granville districts. Stores selling quality native Indian and Inuit art are concentrated in Gastown and, to a lesser extent, Yaletown, and the downtown business district.

Major downtown theaters include the Orpheum and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Playhouse. For popular theater fare, there's the Granville Island's Granville Island Stage and Revue Theatre (adjoining) and the Stanley Theatre (on Granville Street in the South Granville Rise).

Of course there's a counter-culture culture, too, that's prominent on Commercial Drive, on Main Street, and at major events like the Fringe Festival. Music is everywhere, from the stage of the Orpheum to the pocket parks of Granville Island.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Vancouver

It bears repeating, the modernist Museum of Anthropology (6393 Northwest Marine Dr) is a must-see destination. The Great Hall alone, with weather-worn totem poles from native villages along the coast, merits a visit.

Exceptional jewelry in gold and silver, elegant argillite carvings, and superbly woven baskets are also displayed. Most of the work is by regional tribes (or "first nations," as they're called in Canada). But there's also a vast and accessible storage area of world aboriginal art.

While you're on the University of British Columbia's campus, it's a short walk to see the First Nations Longhouse, a unique architectural building where Aboriginal students can study traditions and cultures of their people in the Northwest region.

On the way, visit the tranquil Nitobe Memorial Garden, which is an enclosed and authentic Japanese garden intended as

"a bridge across the Pacific." It's operated by the much larger and quite separate UBC Botanical Garden). This is an exceptional destination if your interest runs to temperate plants -- Asian, alpine, and native to the Pacific Northwest.

A city-owned showpiece is the 1927 Orpheum Theatre (Smith and Granville streets), built for the vaudeville circuit. The building is home to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

For offbeat entertainment, check out the shows at the somewhat lefty Vancouver East Cultural Centre ("the Cultch"), near Commercial Drive (1895 Venables St). While Granville Island hosts the mainstream Granville Island and Revue stages, there are funkier options. Look for the listings at the Waterfront Theatre or Performance Works, at the east end of the island.

If you're dining at the lively Havana Restaurant (1212 Commercial Dr), consider a performance at the 60-seat theater it runs at the back. Another option is the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival in Vanier Park, hosted there from June through September.

City museums with a local flavor include the Vancouver Maritime Museum (1905 Ogden Ave) , where you'll find treasured mementoes of Captain George Vancouver's voyages, including his arrival here in 1792. Children can clamor over the St. Roch, a much-loved wooden Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) schooner that braved the Northwest Passage more than half a century ago.

For a perfect picture of what middle-class life was like in the West End a century ago, there's the Roedde House Museum (1415 Barclay St).

Culture includes public art, and Vancouver is blessed with hundreds of pieces, from the traditional to the outlandish. Some of the best clusters are on the downtown peninsula -- ideal for an after-dinner stroll. Along the North False Creek seawall, between Davie and Homer streets, you'll see (in the water) what looks like a giant pen dipping into what could be a sea of ink ("Brush with Illumination").

You'll also find some Chinook (an early native language) phrases woven into the seawall railings, such as "Welcome to the Land of Light." What looks like a classical temple sits among the tide-washed rocks ("Marking High Tide and Waiting for Low Tide Pavilions"). 

Coal Harbour, too, has novel public art blended into gardens, walls, and sidewalk paving stones. A literal standout is "Light Shed," imitating the simple worksheds that stood here a century ago. Poised on log stilts, this aluminum-coated shed is particularly lustrous after dark, when a dim, moving light shines from the interior. The city's Public Art Registry list is available at www.city.vancouver.bc.ca.

Festival Vancouver is a series of August performances at venues that include spectacular Christ Church Cathedral and the UBC First Nations Longhouse. Music runs from classical to jazz to world music.

Also popular is the annual Vancouver Recital Society Summer Combustion concert series, featuring superb younger international performers at attractive locations citywide.

Go to the next page to learn about the unique landmarks and architecture you'll find in Vancouver.

Vancouver Architecture & Landmarks

©2006 Tom Ryan Check out an excellent example of Art Deco architecture at the Marine Building on Vancouver's Burrard Street.

Vancouver and Seattle are similar in history and personality, but they appear very different. That's because Seattle has retained much of its historic downtown -- mainly its better mid-size downtown brick buildings -- while Vancouver has been (some say overly) liberal with the wrecking ball.

Downtown Vancouver looks pretty modern. Then factor in a recent explosion of glitzy residential high-rise construction, and you have an inner city of unusual density (for North America, at least).

Yet, the buyers keep coming. New buildings routinely sell out before construction even begins at unconscionable prices. Outside the downtown, homeowners vigorously defend their single-family lots from encroaching developers, and so they should.

Many, particularly on the city's West Side, feature wonderful arts-and-crafts bungalows or large pseudo-Tudor houses built in the last century for the city's elite. Around the University of British Columbia and on the North Shore, glass-fronted West Coast modernist homes perch on oceanfront ledges among the trees. They're hard to spot, however, exceptional buildings in this post-Second World War style, unique to this coastal region, are found downtown and elsewhere -- including those of Canada's most famous architect (a Vancouverite) Arthur Erickson.

Important landmarks are located around the edges of Stanley Park. They include the totem poles at Brockton Oval, the 9-O'Clock Gun, the Brockton Point, and Prospect Point lighthouses and Siwash Rock.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Vancouver

One building that always tops a "best architecture" list is the Marine Building (355 Burrard St). This gorgeous Art Deco pile was built during the Depression on a "marine" theme. The exterior and interior feature superior stone, wood, and metal detailing that recalls the European explorers who sailed this coast.

The Central Library, in Library Square, is controversial and worth checking out on that basis alone. Designed by Boston-based architect Moshe Safdie, it resembles the round Roman Coliseum. While it's hugely popular with the public, architects hate it because it thumbs its nose at West Coast materials and styles.

Among local celebrity architect Arthur Erickson's best-known buildings are the low-rise Robson Square complex, with lots of glass, water (pool and waterfall), and draping vegetation. Another is the Museum of Anthropology at UBC (6393 NW Marine Dr).

Vancouver also has some fine churches, including the wood and stone Christ Church Cathedral (690 Burrard St) and St. James Anglican Church (303 Cordova St East). Built of exposed concrete, St. James unites Art Deco modernity with gothic, Byzantine, and Romanesque influences.

Coal Harbour and North False Creek (Concord Pacific Place) epitomize Vancouver's headlong rush to downtown living. Southwest of the (Art Deco) Burrard Street Bridge sprawls the trendy Kitsilano neighborhood, with street after leafy street of wooden-frame houses of every vintage.

Upscale Shaughnessy (between 16th and 41st aves, west of Granville St), Kerrisdale, and West Point Grey also boast some of the city's most attractive homes.

From hip clothes to fine arts and crafts, visitors to Vancouver won't be at a loss for shopping outlets. See our suggestions in the next section.

Vancouver Shopping

©2006 John Sinal Yaletown is a great spot to find home-decor items and hip clothing.

When it comes to shopping in Vancouver, Pacific Centre, wrapped around the Granville and Georgia intersection, remains the central location. The Bay, Sears, and Holt-Renfrew department stores are in the complex, along with many smaller outlets.

Near Canada Place is the small, upscale Sinclair Centre (Howe and Hastings streets). For frivolous spending, window-shopping and people-watching, Robson Street is your destination.

Seekers of ultra-hip clothing and accessories will venture to Gastown, Yaletown, or the South Granville Rise. Fine art and crafts -- typically West Coast or aboriginal -- are found in studio/stores around Granville Island and in Gastown. For everyday hipster goods head to Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano, Commercial Drive, or Main Street.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Vancouver

Assuming you're not after utilitarian goods and chattel, Granville Island (1661 Duranleau St) provides the most interesting shopping. Here, independent artists and craftspeople create gorgeous garments, shoes, handbags, jewelry, wood and glass works, pottery, and other pieces. In the Netloft, at the island's heart, you'll find stores devoted entirely to hats, paper, exotic fabrics, beads, eyewear, books, or out-of-this-world knickknacks.

South Granville Rise is a pleasant stroll; its sidewalks are lined with trendy clothing shops (for all ages) and commercial galleries.

Yaletown (Hamilton St from False Creek to Burrard Inlet on the NW and Georgia St on the NE) has turned to interior decoration but has held onto some of its hipster clothing outlets -- particularly for the younger set -- and other artsy retailing. Younger bargain hunters will appreciate the contemporary and vintage outlets along Main Street.  

Gastown (Columbia and Alexander sts) has become a center for aboriginal art. For a genuine Asian experience, head to Richmond's Golden Village -- with a dozen contiguous malls hawking a huge range of imported goods -- most of it from China.

After you've finished shopping, you may want to take in the nightlife and entertainment in Vancouver. Go to the next page to find out about Vancouver's many nightlife opportunities.

Vancouver Nightlife & Entertainment

©2006 John Sinal When the sun goes down in Vancouver, the streets come to life.

Vancouver has been ratcheting up the night scene, and extending the hours. Today you can drink until 4 am at selected clubs and bars in the downtown entertainment district, though the city generally mellows after midnight.

Venues that rock include the Caprice and Roxy nightclubs and the Commodore Ballroom (raunchier than it sounds), all on Granville Street. Chic bars and lounges draw nocturnal sophisticates to Yaletown, including the George (Ultra) Lounge and the Elixir in the Mobil Two-Star Opus Hotel.

While downtown is epicenter, the nightlife seeps into Gastown and over to Davie Street (the gay scene). Commercial Drive, with its political and Latin cultures, is hot into the early hours. A youngish, fashionable crowd hangs out well into the morning on Yew Street in Kitsilano. Main Street has a number of small, funky music venues.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Vancouver

Downtown's Granville has been leveraging in the trendy bars, clubs, and late-night restaurants -- the scene is happening. Yet the longtime Roxy (925 Granville St) remains a favorite club. Similarly, the Shark Club sports bar (180 West Georgia St) packs 'em in.

The Commodore (868 Granville St), with its legendary dance floor, dominates the live music scene. And DJ fans favor the Sonar Cabaret (66 Water St) in Gastown and Lotus Cabaret (455 Abbot St) just east of the downtown.

What's new are the ultra-hip lounges, sometimes in restaurants where you can eat up at the bar. They include the Century Restaurant & Bar (432 Richards St) and Elixir at the super-chic and Mobil Two-Star Opus Hotel (380 Davie St). Also the George Lounge in Yaletown (1137 Hamilton St).

A great place for a microbrew or two is the Yaletown Brewing Company (1111 Mainland St). A lush, laid-back watering hole for Beautiful People is the Bacchus at the Mobil Three-Star Wedgewood Hotel (845 Hornby St).

Most movie theaters are downtown, including The Paramount (900 Burrard St), Empire (855 Granville St), and alternative Pacific Cinemateque (1131 Howe St). Fifth Avenue Cinemas in Kitsilano (2110 Burrard St) shows popular independent films.

Big stage shows of every type are held at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and the Vancouver Centre for the Performing Arts.

For classic standup, there's Yuk Yuks Comedy Club (1015 Burrard St); for Improv by veterans of the Vancouver Theatresports League, get to the New Revue Theatre (1601 Johnston St, Granville Island).

If you'd rather relax and unwind than party all night, Vancouver is an ideal destination. With so much natural beauty, it's hard not to relax in Vancouver. On the following page, we'll provide details on some great retreats.

Relaxing & Unwinding in Vancouver

©2006 Tom Ryan Take an enjoyable hike in Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver.

There is no shortage of ways to relax and unwind in Vancouver, a city known for its stunning natural beauty. If you're in Vancouver off-season, grab your umbrella and head to Stanley Park. Walk the seawall -- from either English Bay or Coal Harbour. You may get only a mile or two, but your nerves will be soothed, your spirit lifted.

In the depth of summer, pack a picnic and head west to Spanish Banks or clothing-optional Wreck Beach (down a steep trail from the western edge of the UBC campus).

If your idea of chilling out depends on a comfy chair, spend an hour or two in the Central Branch of the Public Library or in one of the coffee houses on nearby streets. The piano bar in the lobby level of the Mobil Three-Star Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, with its big, padded chairs, promises a mellow, laid-back evening alone or with friends.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Vancouver

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Vancouver

Of course, what constitutes "unwinding" depends on the unwinder. For outdoor types, it might mean walking Vancouver's woodsy and sometimes mountainous trails. For a true hiking getaway, drive to West Vancouver and Cypress Provincial Park and follow the trails to Hollyburn Mountain, lakes and meadows. A cross-country ski area, it remains a rustic summer and fall retreat for those in the know. Take a map, downloadable at www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks, and dress appropriately.

A less demanding walking retreat is Lighthouse Park off Marine Drive, also in West Vancouver.

Water-lovers should consider kayaking around False Creek and possibly English Bay. Kayaks and canoes are rentable

at Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre on Granville Island. Serious water-crafters should take on Indian Arm.

For those who prefer to get off their feet (or lay down their paddles), seek out the easy-going coffee houses, lounges, and eateries with water outlooks. For the former, there's Bojangles Cafe (1506 Coal Harbour Quay and 1097 Marinaside Crescent in Yaletown). For a drink and lunch or dinner, settle into The Lift (on the Coal Harbour seawall).

Restaurants providing a quiet, sophisticated atmosphere and exceptional food include The William Tell (Swiss-influence cuisine, 765 Beatty St) and the Mobil Four-Star Bishop's (2183 Fourth Ave).

Those into people-watching will appreciate the ultra-hip Lift Bar and Grill (technically 333 Menchions Mews -- but on the seawall). For just plain flash, dine at Morton's Steak House (750 West Cordova St).

A long-established retreat (dining and drinking) for the well-heeled insider is the Mobil Three-Star Il Giardino (1382 Hornby St). You'll see beautiful faces on the patio at the Mill Bistro (north foot of Bute Street).

If you want to take a tour of Vancouver rather than go it alone, we have several suggestions on the next page.

Vancouver Organized Tours Overview

©2006 Tom Ryan Vancouver's organized tours include unique activities like whale-watching.

For travelers looking for guidance, Vancouver has plenty of organized tours. Some good sightseeing companies you can try include Gray Line West (255 East First Ave) and Vancouver Trolley Company (875 Terminal Ave).

A novel way to see Stanley Park is by 20-passenger horse-drawn carriage. In summer, a free open-sided shuttle bus runs around the park throughout the day.

Take in the entire city by going on a walking tour, such as A Wok Around Chinatown and walkabouts with historian John Atkin.

If food is more your hobby and delight, Edible British Columbia offers culinary tours that will satisfy your tastebuds.

There also are cycling tours of the downtown and beyond (City by Cycle) and self-guided architecture tours from the Architectural Institute of British Columbia.

If you're a movie buff, you can receive a tour of celebrated movie locations with Vancouver Movie Tours. More than 200 Hollywood movies and TV productions are filmed in

Vancouver each year.

For guided wilderness visits, go on an eco-tour with Rockwood Adventures, whale-watching with Lotus Land Tours, or sea kayaking at the Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak Centre.

Before you pack your bags, take a look at the next page for some suggestions on where to stay in Vancouver.

Vancouver Hotels Guide

©2006 The Sutton Place Hotel The Mobil Four-Star Sutton Place Hotel-Vancouver offers the ultimate in pampering and is located downtown.

If it's pampering you want, Vancouver hotels have it covered. Vancouver's Mobil Four-Star hotel are the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver (791 W Georgia St) and The Sutton Place Hotel-Vancouver (845 Burrard St), also Mobil Three-Star hotel includes Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver (

), all conveniently located downtown.

A lesser-known gem is the Granville Island Hotel (1253 Johnston St), poised on the quiet end of the island. The historic Sylvia Hotel (1154 Gilford St) on English Bay is a budget option, as is the tiny Buchan Hotel in the West End.

For glamour, consider the Mobil Three-Star Wedgewood Hotel (845 Hornby St) or the Mobil Two-Star Opus Hotel (322 Davie St). Rates are highest in summer, but this climate draws visitors year-round, so the range isn't huge.

Now that you have some tips on where to stay in Vancouver, we'll provide suggestions in the next section on where to eat. Obviously, seafood figures high in our recommendations.

Vancouver Restaurants Guide

©2006 John Sinal Check out Wild Rice for a unique culinary treat in Vancouver.

Vancouver's reputation as a culinary center is on the rise. Much of it is associated with growing Asian influences and commitment to a West Coast style. Seafood is big. Local, seasonal produce is the norm in the better eateries. And the cost remains modest (the Canadian dollar aside). It's said that you can eat well here for considerably less than in comparable restaurants around the world.

There are great restaurants, like Mobil's Four-Star Bishop's (2183 West Fourth Ave) for steamed smoked sablefish or Fraser Valley lamb or the Mobil Four-Star Lumiere (2551 West Broadway). A signature Lumiere menu might feature pan-seared squab breast.

Then there are punchy places where imaginative food comes with attitude. The pioneer is the Bins -- Bin 942 (1521 West Broadway). Plates run to free-run Alberta elk and a portobello mushroom cutlet. There are also good wines by the glass here. Another hot-spot is Wild Rice (117 West Pender St). Try its crab and taro-root cakes or duck confit baozi steam bun, along with a specialty tea. Neither restaurant takes reservations. 

Others offering the best of West Coast cuisine: Yaletown's Brix (1138 Homer St) for Nicola Valley Venison Scaloppini; the Aria Restaurant at the Mobil Three-Star Westin Grand (433 Robson St) for an ahi tuna and Pacific prawn 'tower'; and the Mobil Three-Star Raincity Grill (1193 Denman St) for seared Pacific halibut.

For super-bargain gourmet dining, find your way to an outdoor, unlicensed spot (a hut, really) called Go Fish, on the waterfront just west of Granville Island (1505 West First Ave). The salmon and halibut or whatever else is in season come straight from the boats moored nearby. This restaurant is open year-round, weather permitting.

No matter where you choose to dine, remember that tipping ranges from 12 to 15 percent before the goods and services tax (GST) of 6 percent.

It's nice that there are so may places to eat and play in Vancouver, but how will you fit everything into one trip? The next page will help, with suggested itineraries for all types of interests.

Others offering the best of West Coast cuisine: Yaletown's Brix (1138 Homer St) for Nicola Valley Venison Scaloppini; the Aria Restaurant at the Mobil Three-Star Westin Grand (433 Robson St) for an ahi tuna and Pacific prawn 'tower'; and the Mobil Three-Star Raincity Grill (1193 Denman St) for seared Pacific halibut.

For super-bargain gourmet dining, find your way to an outdoor, unlicensed spot (a hut, really) called Go Fish, on the waterfront just west of Granville Island (1505 West First Ave). The salmon and halibut or whatever else is in season come straight from the boats moored nearby. This restaurant is open year-round, weather permitting.

No matter where you choose to dine, remember that tipping ranges from 12 to 15 percent before the goods and services tax (GST) of 6 percent.

It's nice that there are so may places to eat and play in Vancouver, but how will you fit everything into one trip? The next page will help, with suggested itineraries for all types of interests.

Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Vancouver

©2006 Tom Ryan The Gastown Steam Clock sounds its whistles every 15 minutes.

There are so many things to do in Vancouver that you may not know where to start. The following suggested itineraries -- broken down into categories of interest ranging from shopping to the arts scene -- should help.

Special Events & Attractions in Vancouver

Special Events & Attractions in Vancouver

From the cultural attractions in Chinatown to the natural wonders along the seawall, Vancouver offers loads of special events and attractions for every type of visitor. These suggested itineraries will ensure that you won't miss any of the must-see attractions.

1 day: Make the seawall your lodestar. Since it runs around the downtown peninsula for about 13 miles (21 kilometers), you should pick a few sections to walk and experience.

One option is to catch a small passenger ferry to Granville Island (False Creek Ferries or Aquabus) from a public dock along the north side of False Creek or Sunset Beach. After a cappuccino and pastry, amble through the public market and walk west on the seawall for about 20 minutes to the Vancouver Maritime Museum (1905 Ogden Ave). Visit the St. Roch RCMP schooner that defeated difficult ice conditions in the Northwest Passage in the 1940s. Just beyond the museum sprawls Kitsilano Beach Park, with a spectacular outdoor pool and popular restaurants.

Alternately, walk the seawall from Canada Place westward through Coal Harbour into Stanley Park (2009 Beach Ave). Spunky coffeehouses line this route. Just inside the park is the Vancouver Aquarium and Marine Science Centre, one of the best anywhere.

Later, make your way to English Bay and Denman Street, filled with modestly priced traditional and ethnic eateries, or head back downtown for an exploration of oh-so-hip Robson Street, where you can dine or chose a place in the Granville Island Entertainment District.

2 days: Head from the downtown eastward this time -- not far -- to Yaletown. This one-time railway terminus sports a funky industrial ambiance and exceptional restaurants. Then continue to the Urban Fare Food Emporium (177 Davie St) and (again) to the seawall on the North Shore of False Creek.

Check out Vancouver's chic inner-city lifestyle and eye-opening public art, or venture northeast to historic Chinatown (E Pender and Gore sts) or Gastown (Columbia and Alexander sts) -- both a little tatty but always interesting. In Chinatown you can purchase or see unique items like 100-year-old duck eggs, and in Gastown you can watch the Gastown Steam Clock pipe up every 15 minutes or visit the Vancouver Police Centinnel Museum, which covers notorious local crimes.

Spend the rest of your evening at a downtown venue or maybe take in a groovy Yaletown bar like George (1137 Hamilton St) or Elixir at the Mobil Two-Star Opus Hotel (322 Davie St).

3 days: Drive or join a bus tour to the North Shore, via the iconic Lions Gate Bridge. Visit Capilano Suspension Bridge (3735 Capilano Rd) and its Treetops Adventures, then take the SkyRide up Grouse Mountain, where from up high you can see Greater Vancouver -- even Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands on a nice day.

If you're feeling fit, rent bikes or inline skates at one of the rental shops on Denman Street (in the West End) or Davie Street (Yaletown). Then cycle or skate the entire Stanley Park Seawall (5.5 miles or 8.8 km).

Vancouver's White Spot restaurants (renowned for their sloppy burgers and fries) make a great finale. Or enjoy a serious restaurant on the water -- in English Bay, False Creek, or Coal Harbour. Follow up with a nightcap in the Bacchus Lounge of the Mobil Three-Star Wedgewood Hotel (845 Hornby St) or the 900 West Lounge in the Mobil Three-Star Fairmont Hotel Vancouver at Granville and Georgia.

Arts & Culture in Vancouver

Arts & Culture in Vancouver

With several museums, theaters, and galleries, the arts and culture scene of Vancouver is bustling. See the itineraries below to make sure that you catch some of the best the city has to offer.

1 day: Art lovers will want to visit the Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby St) for the Emily Carr paintings, as well as University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology (6393 NW Maritime Dr). (Eccentric in her day, Carr was especially sympathetic to the native people, and her paintings reflect that.)

©2006 John Sinal See Emily Carr paintings and more at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

To shop for a superb aboriginal mask by a Haida or Kwakiutl artist, head to Gastown (Columbia and Alexandria sts) or Yaletown (Hamilton St from False Creek to Burrard Inlet on the NW to Georgia St NE), where high-end art emporiums offer a good selection in terms of style and price. A sophisticated (and hip) place for dinner is Yaletown's Blue Water Cafe (1092 Hamilton St). While the menu will depend on the season, fine options include B.C. sablefish and Queen Charlotte Islands halibut.

Hop a False Creek Ferry at Sunset Beach in the West End for a short bob to the Vancouver Maritime Museum (1905 Ogden Ave) in Kitsilano. Then amble along the seawall path for meal at the fine new Watermark restaurant in Kitsilano Beach Park).

Evening might include the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at the Orpheum Theatre or an offbeat production at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (1661 Duranleau St). After dinner, stroll the seawall in Coal Harbour and have a look at the Light Shed.

2 days: South Granville (recently re-dubbed the Granville Rise) is a dozen city blocks of higher-end stores and galleries south of the downtown peninsula. Commercial art galleries and antique dealers cluster here, making it ideal for an artsy stroll. Near the entrance to Granville Island, the Waterfall Building includes the flagship Elliott Louis Gallery, specializing in Canadian art (1540 West Second Ave).

Avant-garde art seekers will appreciate the downtown Contemporary Art Gallery (555 Nelson St) and the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery on the UBC campus.

In Kitsilano's Vanier Park, near the maritime museum, you'll find the Vancouver Museum (1100 Chestnut St) and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre (1100 Chestnut St). The latter shows astronomy-related laser shows in its rooftop Planetarium. Both museums are child-friendly. Science World (1455 Quebec St) at the east end of False Creek is mainly for kids.

For a unique theater experience, take in Bard on the Beach also in Vanier Park. This phenomenally successful seasonal Shakespeare festival takes place in marquee tents that overlook the West End and North Shore mountains.

3 days: Storyeum (142 Water St), a classy tourism-oriented multimedia show about British Columbia's history is in Gastown. For mildly edgy street culture and antiques culled from around the province and beyond make your way to Main Street in Mount Pleasant.

The commercial district is long, but interesting pockets are found between (East) Eighth Avenue and 30th. Movie stars who work briefly in this Hollywood North have been known to shop at Vancouver Architectural Antiques (2403 Main St) for maybe a pair of luxurious wall sconces or an elaborate armoire.

Adventurous visitors will want to explore the Punjabi Market on Main Street around East 49th Avenue. Here's a little bit of genuine India in shops selling luscious clothes and fabrics, along with a few modestly priced restaurants.

Wrap up your visit with a night at The Playhouse (Hamilton and Dunsmuir sts). Then slip into Yaletown to the Coast Restaurant (1257 Hamilton St). The seasonal menu will likely include spring or sockeye salmon with a distinctly coastal twist.

Architecture & Landmarks in Vancouver

Architecture & Landmarks in Vancouver

The following itineraries will help you experience the best of Vancouver's architecture and  landmarks:

1 day: Spend the morning around Canada Place in the north of the city. Just to the west, on Burrard Street, is the evocative Marine Building (355 Burrard St). Step inside and check out the atrium and elevators. Then walk westward along the seawall (past the new convention center construction site) into Coal Harbour. Here you'll get a sense of a burgeoning Vancouver lifestyle -- the good life in modestly sized apartments with lots of nearby amenities.

Among them is the Coal Harbour Community Centre (480 Broughton St), with a park on its roof and a juice bar that makes a good pit stop. In the afternoon, take in the UBC Museum of Anthropology (6393 NW Marine Dr), notable both for its architecture and world-class collection of coastal aboriginal art.

Another option is Vancouver's Chinatown (E Pender and Gore sts). Though not as vibrant as it once was, it remains a genuine slice of the South China Sea region from which most early immigrants came. Note the elaborate porches in the colonial-era Chinese-style buildings on East Pender Street, suggestive of the tropical heat they left behind.

For dinner, an obvious choice is Wild Rice (117 West Pender St). Recommended dishes include shanghai sweet & sour sticky ribs and knotted long beans and capsicum saute.

2 days: For a sense of Vancouver's industrial history, begin with an amble through Yaletown (Hamilton St from False Creek to Burrard Inlet on the NW and Georgia St on the NE). Once a Canadian Pacific Railway terminus, its Hamilton and Mainland streets retain the original loading docks with overhanging canopies. Today they shelter chic coffeehouses, eateries, bars, and brewery.

Then take a ferry to Granville Island (1661 Duranleau St), which has also preserved a little early character as a nexus of shipyards, sawmills, and iron forges. Explore its Maritime Market, with a large boat repair facility, marina, and other nautical features.

©2006 Tourism Vancouver Granville Island is a must-visit spot, offering plenty to see and do for hours.

If it's a nice day, travel over the Lions Gate Bridge -- an important Vancouver icon -- to Grouse Mountain (6400 Nancy Greene Way). Take the SkyRide to the top for a fine view of the city. For a gander at the best of suburbia, motor (or take the West Van Blue Bus) along West Vancouver's Marine Drive. Homes sited on coves and hillsides west of Dundarave -- through West Bay, Caulfeild, Eagle Harbour, and Fisherman's Cove, all the way out to Horseshoe Bay -- are among the most desirable and coveted on the West Coast. A longtime favorite at Horseshoe Bay is Troll's Restaurant (6408 Bay St). What to order? Fish and chips, of course.

3 days: Christ Church Cathedral (690 Burrard St) is open weekdays for visits and daily for services. Built in the late 1800s in the Gothic Revival style, it's a wonderful combination of old world design and new world materials, mostly fine woods.

Across the street stands one of Canada's great railway hotels, the Mobil Three-Star Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (900 West Georgia St), where you should explore its lower floors for a step back in time. For a sense of how the city has evolved architecturally, walk through the West End, where you'll find a scattering of century-old mansions among the mid-rises.

From English Bay, head back east along the seawall to False Creek and Concord Pacific Place, a new community of luxury condo towers and townhouses that typifies today's downtown lifestyle. Note the street-level architectural features, including lamps, furniture, public art, and the Roundhouse Community Centre. The community also has facilities for children -- this is downtown living for affluent families. Dine nearby at the Provence Marinaside Restaurant (1177 Marinaside Crescent), where you should try the seafood platter, a chef specialty.

Shopping in Vancouver

Shopping in Vancouver ranges from unique purchases in Richmond's Golden Village to great finds at Yew and Vine streets. These suggested itineraries should make it easier to plan out your shopping excursions.

1 day: For an appreciation of Vancouver's artistic output, you can't beat Granville Island (from West Second Avenue, onto Anderson Street). Prepare to spend half a day perusing the studios and shops. Include Railspur Alley and the Netloft and the vendors in the Granville Island Public Market. Also have a gander at the Crafthouse and the Gallery of B.C. Ceramics, both on Cartwright Street.

Distinctly Canadian goods such as Hudson's Bay Company wool point blankets are sold, of course, downtown at The Bay. Designer fashions dominate the Pacific Centre's Holt-Renfrew, Leone in the Sinclair Centre (Howe at Hastings), and on the South Granville Rise at outlets like Boboli (2776 Granville St) and Zonda Nellis (2203 Granville St).

A high-end restaurant nearby, renowned for its regional cuisine, is the Mobil Four-Star West (2881 Granville St). Make sure to try the Quebec foie gras followed by Canadian prime tenderloin with short rib ravioli.

2 days: Gastown and Yaletown offer a smattering of stores that in no way resemble The Gap. In Gastown you'll find them mostly on Water Street, but don't forget about the side streets as well. They include reputable outlets for quality aboriginal art from around British Columbia and the Arctic, such as the Spirit Wrestler (47 Water St), Marion Scott Gallery (308 Water St), and Inuit Gallery (206 Cambie St). In Yaletown an eclectic selection of interesting retailers cluster on and around Hamilton and Mainland streets.

Main Street, bisecting the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, has a new cachet. This historic thoroughfare has morphed into concentration of young designer shops and quality vintage outlets. They're all mixed up with inexpensive eateries, many of which serve the latest in coastal cuisine or ethnic foods. A chic, modestly priced newcomer is Habit (2610 Main St). Comfort dishes (for sharing) include duck ragu with olives on herb polenta.

3 days: For an all-round West Coast shopping experience, explore the mostly mid-priced stores along Kitsilano's Fourth Avenue. What's been called the "golden block" lies between Yew and Vine streets and includes destinations shops like Paboom (good junk, 2209 West Fourth Ave), the Magic Flute (classical music, 2203 West Fourth Ave), Duthie (gorgeous books, 2239 West Fourth Ave) and Gravity Pope (exotic shoes, 2205 West Fourth Ave).

For a slightly grittier shopping experience, get yourself east to Commercial Drive (the SkyTrain will take you to the Broadway Station, then walk north on Commercial). This is as near to lingering hippie-dom as you're going to get.

For a near-Asian cultural experience, immerse yourself in Richmond's Golden Village -- a massive agglomeration of mostly low-rise shopping malls located along No. 3 Road. At the high end is the glamorous Aberdeen Centre (4151 Hazelbridge Way). Several hundred dining options abound in this area, too. A good bet is Aji Taro Japanese Bistro (101-4940 No. 3 Rd), where you should try the classic tempura. 

Nightlife & Entertainment in Vancouver

Nightlife & Entertainment in Vancouver

Whether you prefer a nice glass of wine or a dance club that's open till 4 am, Vancouver can deliver. Check out these suggested itineraries to catch all of best in nightlife and entertainment:

1 day: With just one night in the city, stick downtown. Amble into to Yaletown, and drop in at the George (1137 Hamilton St), an "Ultra" lounge celebrated for its mixed (and classic) drinks from gifted mixologists. Try a Mumbai Sling, a gin cocktail reflective the trend to classic spirits. Drop in at the Elixir at the super-chic and Mobil Two-Star Opus Hotel (380 Davie St), also home to gifted bartenders.

Or if you prefer a nice glass of B.C. wine (don't scoff, the industry here is stellar), amble down to Urban Fare (177 Davie St). There's a perfectly acceptable wine (by the glass) and coffee bar here, and good, inexpensive take-away meals, too.

If you're into socializing and heady music, head to the Roxy Night Club, (925 Granville St). A hot dining spot is the George Lounge (1137 Hamilton St). Sip a cocktail, with plates such as finger spring rolls and satay trio.

2 days: Now that you're warmed up, check out the Caprice Night Club & Lounge (965 Granville St), or slip over the Burrard Street Bridge to Kitsilano and the foot of Yew Street. There's a cluster of drinking spots here that draw a gorgeous crowd with a fair age range. They include Malone's Bar & Grill (2210 Cornwall at Yew), Urban Well (1516 Yew St), King's Head Pub (1618 Yew St), and Rossini's for live jazz (1525 Yew St).

South on Fourth Avenue is Bimini's Tap House (2010 West Fourth Ave), a local institution. Another laid-back fixture is Las Margaritas Restaurante & Cantina (1999 West Fourth Ave), where a must-try classics dish includes the deluxe quesadilla.

3 days: Commercial Drive, on the East Side, teems with spicy places for drinks and tapas-style plates -- and, importantly, eyeballing the passing sidewalk scene. This is little-bit edgy territory. Best bets include WaaZubee (1622 Commercial Dr), Havana (1212 Commercial Dr) and Stella's (1191 Commercial Dr). At Stella's, order a Belgian beer, poured in the traditional manner, and a "cornet of Belgian frites with aioli."

Now head to Main Street, where you'll find King Edward (East 25th Ave), with a number of small, understated clubs, restaurants, and coffeehouses with live music. Back downtown, late-night clubs include veteran Richard's on Richards (1036 Richards St). If there's a happening at the Commodore Ballroom (868 Granville St), don't miss it.

Celebrities Night Club (1022 Davie St) is a popular dance spot for the gay crowd. For dining with buzz, drop into Bin 941 (941 Davie St, no reservations), where you can't go wrong trying the coconut-steamed mussels.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Vancouver

You'll find plenty of ways to unwind in this naturally beautiful city. Here are some of the best bets:

1 day: Walk the Stanley Park seawall, and contemplate the horizon. A circumnavigation will take a couple of hours -- longer if you linger at Third Beach. Have lunch at a waterfront location, such as the Mobil Two-Star Sequoia Grill at the Teahouse in Stanley Park (7501 Stanley Park Rd) for a ricotta and spinach tortellini or the Watermark on Kits Beach (technically at 1306 Arbutus St) for pan-fried coastal oysters.

Explore Granville Island, then enjoy a quality brew at the Dockside Pub in the Granville Island Hotel (1253 Johnston St). If it's a nice evening, take the SkyRide up Grouse Mountain (6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver), and dine at the Altitudes Bistro (honey mussels) or fancier Observatory Restaurant (beef carpaccio). If it's raining, consider the Mobil Two-Star Cannery Seafood House on the East Van shoreline (2205 Commissioner St). Best bet: Any one of the day's wild salmon entrees.

©2006 Tom Ryan Bloedel Floral Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park is just one of many great gardens in Vancouver.

2 days: Rent a kayak or two (or a kayak for two) on Granville Island, and paddle placid False Creek. Fly a kite in Vanier Park in Kitsilano, or walk or cycle to Kitsilano Beach Park. Swim in the Kitsilano pool, one of the world's best outdoor public pools.

Explore the city's great gardens: VanDusen Botanical Garden (5251 Oak St); the tropical Bloedel Floral Conservatory (Queen Elizabeth Park); UBC Botanical Garden and Japanese Nitobe Memorial Garden.

Revel in the tranquility of the UBC Museum of Anthropology, or roam the peaceable Vancouver Art Gallery. In the early evening, cozy up to the bar at the Mobil Three-Star Pan Pacific Hotel at Canada Place. Afterward (and if you're feeling flush), dine on prime Alberta beef at its Mobil Three-Star Five Sails Restaurant.

3 days: Even if you're not a serious cyclist, rent bikes (they, too, come tandem) and cycle around Stanley Park. If you're with a companion, walk the park's leafy interior trails (it's not a good idea to walk alone). Rent kayaks at Deep Cove in North Vancouver (Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak), and paddle across Indian Arm. Picnic on an island or take the Blue Bus from downtown Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay.

Watch the fishing boats and ferries come and go, then have a beer or dinner at one of a dozen bars and restaurants along the beachfront.

Back in Vancouver, mellow out at a restaurant on False Creek, in Yaletown, or Coal Harbour, and watch the sun go down. On the north shore of False Creek, Mobil's Three-Star C Restaurant (2-1600 Howe St) will dazzle with the likes of its crisp rainbow trout.

No matter where your interests lie -- from native art to trendy shopping to kayaking -- Vancouver will deliver. This Canadian city has really come into its own, with a wonderful blend of culture, nature, food, and good old-fashioned fun awaiting its visitors.

©Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alison Appelbe is a travel writer and photographer, based in her native city of Vancouver, B.C. While she's written extensively about the city, including her own guidebook Secret Vancouver, her travel articles on other parts of the Pacific Northwest are frequently published in newspapers and magazines in Canada and the United States. Beyond that, Europe, and particularly its smaller walkable cities, are a perennial attraction. She's visited Europe almost every year of her adult life.

Nightlife & Entertainment in Vancouver

Nightlife & Entertainment in Vancouver

Whether you prefer a nice glass of wine or a dance club that's open till 4 am, Vancouver can deliver. Check out these suggested itineraries to catch all of best in nightlife and entertainment:

1 day: With just one night in the city, stick downtown. Amble into to Yaletown, and drop in at the George (1137 Hamilton St), an "Ultra" lounge celebrated for its mixed (and classic) drinks from gifted mixologists. Try a Mumbai Sling, a gin cocktail reflective the trend to classic spirits. Drop in at the Elixir at the super-chic and Mobil Two-Star Opus Hotel (380 Davie St), also home to gifted bartenders.

Or if you prefer a nice glass of B.C. wine (don't scoff, the industry here is stellar), amble down to Urban Fare (177 Davie St). There's a perfectly acceptable wine (by the glass) and coffee bar here, and good, inexpensive take-away meals, too.

If you're into socializing and heady music, head to the Roxy Night Club, (925 Granville St). A hot dining spot is the George Lounge (1137 Hamilton St). Sip a cocktail, with plates such as finger spring rolls and satay trio.

2 days: Now that you're warmed up, check out the Caprice Night Club & Lounge (965 Granville St), or slip over the Burrard Street Bridge to Kitsilano and the foot of Yew Street. There's a cluster of drinking spots here that draw a gorgeous crowd with a fair age range. They include Malone's Bar & Grill (2210 Cornwall at Yew), Urban Well (1516 Yew St), King's Head Pub (1618 Yew St), and Rossini's for live jazz (1525 Yew St).

South on Fourth Avenue is Bimini's Tap House (2010 West Fourth Ave), a local institution. Another laid-back fixture is Las Margaritas Restaurante & Cantina (1999 West Fourth Ave), where a must-try classics dish includes the deluxe quesadilla.

3 days: Commercial Drive, on the East Side, teems with spicy places for drinks and tapas-style plates -- and, importantly, eyeballing the passing sidewalk scene. This is little-bit edgy territory. Best bets include WaaZubee (1622 Commercial Dr), Havana (1212 Commercial Dr) and Stella's (1191 Commercial Dr). At Stella's, order a Belgian beer, poured in the traditional manner, and a "cornet of Belgian frites with aioli."

Now head to Main Street, where you'll find King Edward (East 25th Ave), with a number of small, understated clubs, restaurants, and coffeehouses with live music. Back downtown, late-night clubs include veteran Richard's on Richards (1036 Richards St). If there's a happening at the Commodore Ballroom (868 Granville St), don't miss it.

Celebrities Night Club (1022 Davie St) is a popular dance spot for the gay crowd. For dining with buzz, drop into Bin 941 (941 Davie St, no reservations), where you can't go wrong trying the coconut-steamed mussels.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Vancouver

You'll find plenty of ways to unwind in this naturally beautiful city. Here are some of the best bets:

1 day: Walk the Stanley Park seawall, and contemplate the horizon. A circumnavigation will take a couple of hours -- longer if you linger at Third Beach. Have lunch at a waterfront location, such as the Mobil Two-Star Sequoia Grill at the Teahouse in Stanley Park (7501 Stanley Park Rd) for a ricotta and spinach tortellini or the Watermark on Kits Beach (technically at 1306 Arbutus St) for pan-fried coastal oysters.

Explore Granville Island, then enjoy a quality brew at the Dockside Pub in the Granville Island Hotel (1253 Johnston St). If it's a nice evening, take the SkyRide up Grouse Mountain (6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver), and dine at the Altitudes Bistro (honey mussels) or fancier Observatory Restaurant (beef carpaccio). If it's raining, consider the Mobil Two-Star Cannery Seafood House on the East Van shoreline (2205 Commissioner St). Best bet: Any one of the day's wild salmon entrees.

©2006 Tom Ryan Bloedel Floral Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park is just one of many great gardens in Vancouver.

2 days: Rent a kayak or two (or a kayak for two) on Granville Island, and paddle placid False Creek. Fly a kite in Vanier Park in Kitsilano, or walk or cycle to Kitsilano Beach Park. Swim in the Kitsilano pool, one of the world's best outdoor public pools.

Explore the city's great gardens: VanDusen Botanical Garden (5251 Oak St); the tropical Bloedel Floral Conservatory (Queen Elizabeth Park); UBC Botanical Garden and Japanese Nitobe Memorial Garden.

Revel in the tranquility of the UBC Museum of Anthropology, or roam the peaceable Vancouver Art Gallery. In the early evening, cozy up to the bar at the Mobil Three-Star Pan Pacific Hotel at Canada Place. Afterward (and if you're feeling flush), dine on prime Alberta beef at its Mobil Three-Star Five Sails Restaurant.

3 days: Even if you're not a serious cyclist, rent bikes (they, too, come tandem) and cycle around Stanley Park. If you're with a companion, walk the park's leafy interior trails (it's not a good idea to walk alone). Rent kayaks at Deep Cove in North Vancouver (Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak), and paddle across Indian Arm. Picnic on an island or take the Blue Bus from downtown Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay.

Watch the fishing boats and ferries come and go, then have a beer or dinner at one of a dozen bars and restaurants along the beachfront.

Back in Vancouver, mellow out at a restaurant on False Creek, in Yaletown, or Coal Harbour, and watch the sun go down. On the north shore of False Creek, Mobil's Three-Star C Restaurant (2-1600 Howe St) will dazzle with the likes of its crisp rainbow trout.

No matter where your interests lie -- from native art to trendy shopping to kayaking -- Vancouver will deliver. This Canadian city has really come into its own, with a wonderful blend of culture, nature, food, and good old-fashioned fun awaiting its visitors.

©Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alison Appelbe is a travel writer and photographer, based in her native city of Vancouver, B.C. While she's written extensively about the city, including her own guidebook Secret Vancouver, her travel articles on other parts of the Pacific Northwest are frequently published in newspapers and magazines in Canada and the United States. Beyond that, Europe, and particularly its smaller walkable cities, are a perennial attraction. She's visited Europe almost every year of her adult life.

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Architectural Institute of British Columbia

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