Vancouver is Canada’s second most-visited city after Toronto, but is probably Canada’s most attractive city for tourists. Many of Toronto’s visitors can be attributed to the city’s proximity to major American cities and its importance for business and trade, while Vancouver draws visitors from around the world with its reputation for cleanliness, friendliness and natural beauty. Vancouver’s consistently high rankings on widely publicized ‘World’s most livable city’ lists definitely hasn’t hurt either.
The stereotype of the quirky, progressive West Coast city that originated in San Francisco and drifted north to Portland and Seattle has also taken root in Vancouver — but with a distinctly Canadian flavor. This is especially apparent in the city’s sustainably-minded, gastronomically adventurous and heritage-embracing tourism industry, which has been rapidly transforming the Vancouver experience into an exploration of the city’s most prominent and unique characteristics: proximity to vast coastal rainforests, a proudly multicultural population, passion for sustainable enterprise and a millennia-old aboriginal heritage, all accented with laid-back West Coast charm.
These are a few of the latest developments from the forefront of Vancouver’s ongoing campaign to develop a one-of-a-kind experience rooted in nature, culture and creativity. If you’re wondering what’s up in Vancouver, look no further.
Sea to Sky Gondola
Vancouver’s closest outdoors adventure hubs, Squamish and Whistler, are both (surprisingly) overlooked by many summertime visitors, but that’s quickly changing with new facilities, such as the Sea to Sky Gondola, which was built last year. Until now, these two mountain communities were summer hideouts for local mountain bikers and climbers.
The addition of the gondola has, however, opened up a maze of easily accessible trails with spectacular panoramic views of the Howe Sound so that the average day visitor who isn’t interested in climbing a mountain, but is willing to shell out a few bucks for one of the most beautiful views in Canada, can enjoy the best of the West Coast. Squamish and the gondola are just beginning to register on visitors’ radars, but still haven’t reached peak popularity. The word is spreading fast, though, so it’s best to get there before the crowds do.
The rise of ramen noodle popularity is nothing new. Ramen noodle eateries have sprung up around the globe. With it’s strong Asian influence, Vancouver now appears to be hitting peak ramen with a plethora of hole-in-the-wall noodle joints across the city as well as a small ‘ramen district’ along a stretch of trendy Robson Street where more and more restaurants are serving up steaming bowls of savory broth and coiled noodles.
The competition has been pushing the noodle houses to experiment and improve their game, so it’s always worth Room5g out a new place: Taishoken, Ramen Butcher, and Santouka are definitely worth Room5g out.
Craft spirits (and beer, of course)
The popularity of craft beer is old news. And, true to its hipster roots, Vancouver was doing it before it was cool (see Granville Island Breweries and the Yaletown Brewpub).
The latest trend in the hip and unique drinks scene is craft spirits, which is beginning to take hold in forward-thinking culinary scenes around North America. From the novel white whiskey produced at the Liberty Distillery, to Artisan Sake Makers Canadian sake (which pairs well with Vancouver’s famous sushi scene), Vancouver’s many boutique distilleries are messing with your favorite liquors in wonderful ways.
False Creek is like the new Stanley Park, except it’s not a park. It’s a body of water.
Compared to urban water bodies in other cities, False Creek is relatively clean (big emphasis on ‘relatively’ here). The calm waters make it a convenient and accessible area for water adventures like kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, which are both safe and low-impact ways to get out, enjoy the ocean, and see the city skyline from a point of view that few ever get to enjoy. There are several rental shops located around False Creek, including Vancouver Water Adventures and EcoMarine Paddle Sports.
The British Columbia Provincial Government has been working hard to encourage Aboriginal tourism businesses in recent years. The effort was an attempt to help a traditionally marginalized group build an economic base that would help them retain their heritage while improving commerce within their communities. It has had a refreshing and invigorating effect on the tourism industry, creating unexpected ways for visitors and locals to experience Canada’s oldest culture.
The Musqueam Cultural Centre gives visitors a an overview of local history, while the Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro serves aboriginal dishes in an upscale trendy bistro atmosphere, and the Skwachàys Lodge gives visitors insight into the land on which it’s located through local First Nations’ artwork and a traditional sweat lodge experience.
The Skwachays Lodge. Photos taken from trivago.
Vancouver is a notoriously creative city and with a rapidly growing and diverse immigrant community — it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen next. This is what’s going on right now. But don’t wait long to check it out because it won’t be long before Vancouverites have devised new and novel ways to treat visitors to the city.
*Cover image by Tomas Konefal CC BY