Welcome to Vancouver everyone attending TBEX ’11! There’s a crazy amount of things to do while traveling here for a weekend and little time to do it. I’ve created a brief description of a few of the communities that would make a great walking tour while your here. You can piece them together or try for an epic walk one day, the choice is yours.
The downtown area of Vancouver is from Burrard to Howe, West Hastings to Georgia and has a huge variety of stores. You can eat some delicious street food that’s available or hop into a sushi shop for some great cheap eats. Robson St has the most variety of stores lined up on a great walking street leading you straight to the beach / West End. Granville St is another great choice that is full of unique alternative shops and night clubs that will lead you to the bridge that takes you into Kitsilano or if heading the other direction, towards the Vancouver Conference Centre for TBEX.
WEST END (map)
The West End has a huge residential area and starts at Burrard St until Stanley Park. You can walk along the seawall and get a great feel for the daily life the locals lead and of course enjoy some beach action yourself. English Bay is a popular beach and during late July and August an international fireworks competition is held each year. Head up any of the streets surrounding the beach for great food or to find that perfect latte. Sushi shops are everywhere and all of them are pretty good. Life in the West End is pretty good with a strong and highly supported gay community that also loves to spend their time in this part of town. Life is pretty chill here. You can either walk into Stanley Park from here or go a bit across downtown to the Convention Center and on to Gastown for a big walk.
Named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton who opened the areas first saloon, it’s turned from skid row with ‘Blood Alley’ to a hip and edgy area filled with restaurants, nightclubs, pubs and hipster clothing stores. Surrounding by tree lined streets, cobblestones, and historic buildings there’s great photo ops everywhere. There’s even an old steam clock that still works with great accuracy. If your into street art check out some of the alleys in the area for a nice visual treat. Or, if alleys scare you there is a great street art inspired gallery located inside Tinsel Town Mall on the third floor. On top of this all, Gastown is perfectly situated right next to the Convention Center making it the perfect place for after TBEX drinks. A great place to grab a beer is at Steamworks Brewing Company who make excellent seasonal beers. One of my favorite being the Ipanema Summer White.
A popular tourist destination and not only Canada’s largest Chinatown but one of the largest in North America. An easy walk up from Gastown you’ll find things in the markets that you can’t find anywhere else. There’s quite a few historic buildings, a huge list of stores, and a fantastic traditional Chinese Garden. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday head down here between 6:30 and 11pm for a Summer Night Market filled with traditional asian handicrafts, other made in china wares, and of course lots of food. So, enjoy some food and shopping and if your feeling thirsty and a little fancy, you can head to Yaletown drinks.
Vancouver’s trendy and yuppy area, here you’ll find overpriced drinks, 5 star restaurants with tiny plates and people walking small dogs on the seawall. You might even spot the odd celebrity or two spending their evening after doing a shoot in the city. The area used to be an neglected warehouse district but after The Worlds Fair – Expo ’86 it was revitalized with building restrictions. There’s great architecture and people watching, plus some of the best food (although expensive) in town. Even with the high prices, every place is also packed so book a reservation if you can.
OTHER COMMUNITIES OUTSIDE DOWNTOWN
GRANVILLE ISLAND (map)
Just across from Yaletown and a short 3 minute ferry ride is Granville Island. Named one of the 60 greatest places in the world it’s visited by tourists, Emily Carr Art Students and locals looking to eat, shop and watch the buskers. The Public Market is filled with all sorts of amazing top quality fresh foods to eat there or take with you. Or walk around the island to find an interesting mix of shops filled with that perfect gift for anyone. In the evenings you can find some nice restaurants for great seafood and even catch yourself a great improv comedy show. For the best fish and chips in Vancouver (and in my experience, the world) walk along the pier to Go Fish. It’s a small hut right on the pier and you can sit on the seawall looking at the boats while eating your snack. DO NOT GET DISTRACTED by the other fish & chips shops or the long line, it’s worth the wait. If your not standing in front of the fishing boats your in the wrong place.
If you walk along the pier from Granville Island you’ll walk into the friendly neighbourhood of Kitsilano. You can follow the water and beaches up as far as you want until you feel like grabbing a drink or looking at some local shops. Just head up one of the streets south to 4th Ave. If the hockey game is on when your there check out one of these top pubs to watch the playoff games. When you finish up you can either catch a cab downtown ($10) or if you have energy walk across the Burrard St Bridge back into Vancouver.
Known to the locals as “The ‘Drive” , Commercial Drive can easily be considered to have the largest counter-culture demographic in Vancouver. Expect to walk by a vast array of hippies, punks, artists, hipsters, political activists, interesting cats, whatever. However, what truly makes Commercial Drive unique is the large immigrant population. Italians, Asians, Latin-Americans, East Indians, Africans and more have set up amazing and authentic cafes, delis and restaurants with some of the most delicious food that cater to their individual specialties. The majority of these eating establishments are also kind on your pocket book. Love to shop? Be prepared to find many artisan shops, one of a kind items, vintage clothing, green friendly products, antiques, and anything else considered fun & unique. Once the sun goes down it’s quite easy to find a little spot to have a few drinks and listen to some live music in one of the many pubs found along the street.
To get here just hop the Skytrain from downtown to Commercial St Station. Worth dropping by and checking out for sure.
So there’s my list of some local communities to check out here in Vancouver. Let me know if you hit up any of these places and where you went!