Almost exactly halfway between Europe and the Asia Pacific region, the cosmopolitan city of Vancouver, British Columbia is located only 24 miles north of the U.S. border. While Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is well connected, flying into Seattle is relatively cheaper as you avoid paying international fees and taxes. The drive is approximately three hours and offers scenic views of vast tulip fields, apple orchards and the green countryside.
The city itself is a paradise for nature lovers. Vancouver is surrounded by water on three sides and has one of the continent’s largest downtown green spaces, Stanley Park, on the fourth. Vancouver has the smallest carbon footprint of any major city in North America and Mayor Gregor Robertson is committed to making it “the world’s greenest city” by 2020.
October through April is off-season in Vancouver and you can expect to find the lowest prices on hotels, resorts and tours. This is great for winter birds that come here from around the world to experience some of the best ski slopes, family-friendly resorts and international cuisine.
Downtown is the best place to stay when here for a leisure trip. Many of the hotels offer packages that include spa treatments, dining, entertainment and family attractions. If you are out for a romantic getaway, you may want to stay at a celebrity favorite suite or be pampered at one of the city’s most luxurious accommodations.Some of the hotels in Vancouver pride themselves at offering unique services. The Rosewood Hotel offers the Rose Buds program which includes amenities such as Baby Primrose skincare products, full-size cribs and linens, child-sized bathrobes and slippers, a children’s menu for in-room dining and babysitting services. Families can rent luxurious cottages with full kitchens and grocery delivery at Tigh-Na-Mara in Parksville or rent an environmentally friendly car toThe Fairmont Waterfront, a green hotel that has EV charging stations and offer complimentary parking for hybrid and electric cars. Guests can also rent BMW bicycles.
Vancouver has a strong immigrant culture which is also reflected in its food. Almost 50% of the population considers English as its mother tongue, while the most recent census (2011) also revealed that 25% consider Chinese as their first language followed by Tagalog, Punjabi and Vietnamese. Here you can sample the widest array of great Chinese and sushi restaurants outside Asia.
While ethnic foods are already very popular in Vancouver, the recent street food license has given way to innovative street food carts all over town. Nowhere else in the world can you find fusion delicacies such as hotdogs with Japanese noodles or seaweed (Japadog), kosher flame- broiled hot dogs with tandoori masala (Tandoori Tikka Dog), hot smoked salmon sandwiches (The Kaboom Box) and spicy Malaysian chicken tacos (Roaming Dragon). Find the food truck location, hours and menu at http://streetfoodapp.com/vancouver or access the app directly from your smartphone.
Seafood is a Vancouver culinary specialty and there are plenty of options for waterfront dining. The best restaurants with a view include Carderos, The Boathouse and The Monk’s Queen. Another great way Vancouver supports its sustainable culture is through the Ocean Wise initiative which creates sustainable fishing practices, ensuring that the seafood at your restaurant table has been raised, sourced and supplied in an environmentally sound manner.
The two not-to-be missed dining neighborhoods are Yaletown, famous for its hip eateries and celebrity sightings and Granville Island where you can enjoy fine dining with a backdrop of the city’s best views. If you really want to indulge, go to the Fairmont Vancouver for high tea where you can re-live the aristocratic British tradition of afternoon tea in a classy environment.
Vancouver natives love to see and be seen. The lounge culture is very popular here and it is not uncommon to grab a vodka and cranberry with 7-UP at one of the popular lounges in the evening. The Black and Blue, Glowball and The Coast are just a few you would want to dress up for.
With a temperate climate and plenty of green space, Vancouver is a city for outdoor and adventure lovers. If you like to hike, bike, jog, swim or ski, this city will keep you busy! 1,000 acres of trails through thick forests and greens are situated right in the heart of the city at Stanley Park. One of the best walks is a 5.5-mile seawall pathway offering beautiful sea-to-sky mountain views. While at the park, the Vancouver Aquarium, Miniature Railway and Nature House at Lost Lagoon are also fun places to visit for the entire family.
On a summer day, nature lovers can take a park and garden crawl around Vancouver, visiting the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Nitobe Memorial Garden, and the rainforest wilderness of Pacific Spirit Regional Park. When the weather is nice, head over to the beach, take a whale-watching cruise or go to Victoria Island for a day trip.
Another nice way to check out the city is by strolling through its neighborhoods. Gastown, Chinatown, Yaletown, the West End and Granville Island each offer something very unique and plenty of opportunities to shop, eat and people watch.
While it rarely snows inside the city of Vancouver, the neighboring ski slopes - Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour - offer great downhill and cross country ski facilities. Whistler (2010 Winter Olympics) and Blackcomb are beautiful ski resorts located only 90 minutes north of the city. Snowboarding, snowshoeing, skating, tubing and night skiing are other popular winter sports enjoyed by visitors from around the world.
No matter what time of year you travel to Vancouver, there is always something to do for everyone. To plan your future trip, visit www.vancouver.ca.
Photo credit: Tourism Vancouver