New York Times Travel Section:
36 Hours in Vancouver
By MARC WEINGARTEN
Published: July 15, 2007
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, is two cities rolled into one. For outdoorsy types, this western Canadian city is a nature paradise, with miles of scenic hiking trails and bike paths that sweep along the Strait of Georgia, the pine tree-lined waterway that connects Vancouver with the Pacific Ocean. For urbanites, Vancouver is a sophisticated destination, with thriving immigrant enclaves, an ever-expanding restaurant scene, quirky neighborhoods, distinctive shops and lively bars that party all night. Part of the fun is weaving your way through Vancouver's two sides, and realizing that's why the city ranks as one of the world's most livable places.
Where to Stay | Where to Eat |
What to Do Friday
1) WATERFRONT REVIVAL
Start out in one of Vancouver's oldest districts: Gastown. Once the seedy home to drug addicts and prostitutes, the old waterfront neighborhood is now a restored district of cobblestone streets and antique gaslights. The changes have been accompanied by an influx of trendy restaurants, art galleries and specialty stores, including Livestock (239 Abbot Street, 604-685-1433; www.deadstock.ca
), a sneaker shop that carries limited-edition Nikes and Adidases, and Button Button (422 West Cordova Street, 604-687-0067), which sells nothing but buttons — more than a million at last count.
2) SEAFOOD BY A CREEK
Vancouver has emerged as a major foodie destination, with a constellation of star chefs who are using local ingredients. A current hot spot is Nu (1661 Granville Street, 604-646-4668; www.whatisnu.com
), a space-age-style restaurant that looks out over False Creek with oversize mohair chairs and groovy neon lighting. It's a lightheared place with serious cooking, especially for seafood like wild salmon with orange fennel (26.60 Canadian dollars, or about $24.60 at 1.08 Canadian dollars to the U.S. dollar) and a wild-shrimp risotto (26.80 Canadian dollars).
3) STRICTLY BALLROOM
Vancouver's nightclubs are rather generic, the kind of clamorous, multilevel mega-clubs you find in most major cities. You're better off scanning the concert schedule at the 75-year-old Commodore Ballroom (868 Granville Street, 604-739-7469; www.hob.com/venues/concerts/commodore/).
It offers a crystalline sound system, excellent sight lines and an impressive roster of live acts that have included Tortoise, Polyphonic Spree and the Deftones. Shows this month include Dolores O'Riordan and Femi Kuti. It's downtown, near major hotels, so it's easy enough to stumble back to your room.
4) A SPOT OF TEA AND SQUID
Time for a taste of Vancouver's thriving Asian culture. There is, of course, the tourist-thronged Chinatown, but for a more authentic experience, head to the Yaohan Centre (3700 No. Three Road), a sprawling mall in the predominantly Chinese community of Richmond. You'll find an amazing selection of cheap and delicious food stands serving everything from egg rolls to chicken feet. Try the fish prawn wontons (3.75 Canadian dollars) at the Wah Yuen Noodle House, and the chrysanthemum tea with herbal jello (3 Canadian dollars) from a medicinal tea stand. Afterward, browse the nearby Osaka Market (1000-3700 No. Three Road; 604-276-8808), which carries an astounding selection of groceries from Sichuan peppercorns to red-bean popsicles.
5) BACK TO NATURE
Amid the glittering skyscrapers and Victorian mansions, it's easy to forget that this area was originally a temperate rain forest on the Strait of Georgia. Go back to nature at Stanley Park, one of North America's largest urban parks (www.city.vancouver.bc.ca/parks/parks/stanley). The park offers 1,000 gorgeous acres of flower gardens and majestic cedar, hemlock and fir trees. A six-mile bike path rings the park. Bicycle rentals are available at Denman Bike Shop (710 Denman Street, 604-685-9755; denmanbikeshop.com) and Bayshore Bike Rental (745 Denman Street, 604-688-2453; bayshorebikerentals.com).
6) LUNCH WITH A VIEW
If all that biking has made you hungry, head to Lift (333 Menchions Mews, 604-689-5438; www.liftbarandgrill.com
) a sleek and modern restaurant that hangs over a seawall just outside Stanley Park. The crisply elegant space, with sunny views of Coal Harbour, attracts a smartly dressed business crowd, but it's neither stuffy nor formal, so you won't feel out of place. The inventive American menu includes duck leg confit (15 Canadian dollars), and chicken breast with artichoke polenta and sun-dried tomatoes (29 Canadian dollars).
7) FOR ART'S SAKE
Vancouver isn't known for its art scene, but it does have one terrific gallery that's more like a museum. Located in the heart of the overcrowded and touristy Robson Street shopping district, the Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby Street, 604-662-4700; www.vanartgallery.bc.ca
) has a large collection of British Columbian artists, including a few super-sized photographs from its native son the photographer Jeff Wall. The collection, which is housed in a former neoclassical bank, also includes old British masters and provocative contemporary artists. Current exhibits include a retrospective on the Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping (through Sept. 16); and the work of the Canadian artist Emily Carr and the so-called Group of Seven (though April 2008).
8) POSITIVELY FOURTH AVENUE
In a city with no shortage of charming enclaves, West Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano may be the most whimsical shopping neighborhood in town. Start at Moule (No. 1994, 604-732-4066), a whitewashed design store that specializes in nothing and everything. It recently carried a high-end air hockey game (1,000 Canadian dollars) and gem-encrusted mezuzahs (140 Canadian dollars). A few doors down is Ironhead (No. 1952, 604-736-4411; www.ironhead.com
), a tiny storefront that sells casual wear emblazoned with the company's graphics, which change weekly. Grab a sweatshirt while you can; they aren't sold online or anywhere else.
9) SPAGO, UP NORTH
Vancouver has emerged as a film and TV production center, churning out shows like the Sci Fi Channel's “Battlestar Galactica,” and the TV medical drama “House.” Rub elbows with the Hollywood exiles at Bin 941 (941 Davie Street, 604-683-1246; www.bin941.com
), a tapas bar that looks like it was designed by Gaudí on a wine bender. Get there by 9 p.m. before the lively, fashionable crowds arrive and turn this place into a late night party. Start with a glass of bingria (sangria with apricot brandy, 8 Canadian dollars), then sample the crab cakes with burnt orange chipotle sauce (15 Canadian dollars), mussels with coconut milk and garam masala (13 Canadian dollars), and beef satay with a Thai chili glaze (11 Canadian dollars).
10) INTIMATE BACCHANAL
After the frenetic scene at Bin 941, how does a single-malt Scotch in an intimate clubby setting sound? If that's up your alley, head to the cozy Bacchus Piano Lounge in the Wedgewood Hotel (845 Hornby Street, 604-689-7777; www.wedgewoodhotel.com
). Intimate yet buzzy, it's the type of place where business deals are closed and romances are stoked — like a private social club but without membership fees. The fire is always roaring, and the red velvet banquettes are forever plush.
11) LOST IN THE MARKET
To catch Vancouver's laid-back vibe, hop on a water taxi to Granville Island (604-666-5784; www.granvilleisland.com
). From the mainland, take the Aquabus (1333 Johnston Street, 604-689-5858; www.theaquabus.com
), 2.50 Canadian dollars each way across False Creek, and walk to the bustling market, where a stunning variety of independent vendors sell wild-berry jelly, homemade mango yogurt, grass-fed bison and much more. It's easy to get lost in the labyrinth.
12) DOWNTOWN BEACH
Vancouver flocks to the water during the summer, when boaters fill the Strait of Georgia like so many water moccasins. There are a number of ways to enjoy the water views, but a less crowded alternative is Jericho Beach (3941 Point Grey Road), a barren stretch of sand in downtown Vancouver. Lean against the many logs that are strewn across the beach and let the lapping waves lull you into a power nap. Pack a picnic; chances are you'll have plenty of room to spread out your blanket.
Many major airlines in the United States serve Vancouver International Airport. A recent Web search showed round-trip fares from Kennedy Airport to Vancouver starting at $492. A taxi into downtown Vancouver is about 25 Canadian dollars, or about $23 at 1.08 Canadian dollars to the U.S. dollar. You can also take an express bus from YVR Airporter (604-946-8866; www.yvrairporter.com
) for 13.50 Canadian dollars. Vancouver is a great walking town. For longer distances, the city's mass transit system, Translink (www.translink.bc.ca), offers a network of buses, light rail, water taxis and sea buses.
The Wedgewood (845 Hornby Street, 800-663-0666; www.wedgewoodhotel.com
) is small and elegantly appointed, with fresh-cut flowers in the lobby and every room. Doubles start at 268 Canadian dollars during the high season.
Sutton Place Hotel (845 Burrard Street, 866-378-8866; www.vancouver.suttonplace.com
) is the prime spot for Hollywood types. Doubles start at around 299 Canadian dollars.
The Century Plaza (1015 Burrard Street, 800-663-1818; www.century-plaza.com
) recently underwent a renovation, making it somewhat like a W hotel in spirit, only cheaper. Double rooms start at around 189 Canadian dollars