Part Two: The Urban Delights
Read Part One: The Great Outdoors
Read Part Three: Food and Drink
Read Part Four: Local's Favourites
Read Part Five: Multicultural Experiences
In celebration of the city’s 125th birthday in 2011, we’re counting the top 125 reasons to love Vancouver — whether you’re a local or a visitor. In part two of our five-part series, we’re focusing in on the urban perks of this bustling, cosmopolitan metropolis. Here are 25 ways to enjoy the city’s arts, entertainment, nightlife, shopping and history.
26. Rock out to big-name headliners at The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver has a thriving live music scene, from intimate jazz lounges to raucous rock bars, but for music lovers looking to catch a big-name performer, The Commodore Ballroom is a “must” on the hit list. This historic venue has been open since 1929 and has hosted notable performers such as Sammy Davis Jr., Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Nirvana and Lady Gaga.
The excitement never ends at this waterfront casino, which offers more than 60 table games and 500 slot machines. Catch a live performance at one of the entertainment venues and fill up on delectable cuisine and premium cocktails in one of the many upscale restaurants and lounges.
28. Indulge in retail therapy at British Columbia’s largest shopping centre, Metropolis at Metrotown
Boutique-lined streets and distinct shopping areas make Vancouver a prime destination for retail lovers. Spend an entire day at Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby, which boasts 450 stores, as well as many entertainment options. Watch blockbuster movies or catch a live act in the Grand Court, which has hosted exciting events like Cirque du Soleil performances and pop-rock idol competitions. Find out more about Vancouver’s shopping malls here.
“Dinner and a show” takes on new meaning with this politically incorrect comedy performance, which is paired with a four-course meal. Watch as a cast of six performers brings sketch comedy, musical numbers and improvisational antics to the stage to keep the audience laughing through dinner. For more comedy and performing arts, read our roundup of not-to-miss experiences, and find more theatre companies here.
30. Strike a pose and find zen
As the birthplace of yoga wear powerhouse Lululemon Athletica, it’s apparent that yoga culture is everywhere in Vancouver. Get involved in this uplifting practice at one of Semperviva’s yoga studios, which are located throughout the city. You’ll be able to do — and say — chaturanga dandasanas in no time.
31. Find your groove on the dance floor
No matter what you’re into, Vancouver has a nightlife scene to fit your style. But if dancing all night with sexy strangers sounds like a great time, make sure to visit Ginger62, where high-energy DJs from around the world keep the crowds moving until the early morning. After working up an appetite on the dance floor, revive with specialty cocktails and mouthwatering small plates such as mini lamb burgers and grilled top sirloin steak. Find plenty other nightlife hot spots here.
32. Feed a beluga whale at the Vancouver Aquarium
Get up close and personal with a snow-white beluga whale at Canada’s largest marine science centre. An animal trainer will take you behind the scenes to feed, touch and help train a beluga. While you’re at the aquarium, you also can see more than 70,000 animals, watch entertaining shows and get the whole family involved in educational programs.
33. Catch a live blues show at The Yale
Located in the Granville Entertainment District, this 19th-century hotel has hosted rhythm-and-blues legends such as John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor and Buddy Guy. Order up a classic cocktail and enjoy soulful performances seven nights a week at this landmark live music venue.
34. Take a self-guided tour of 32 stained glass windows at the historic Christ Church Cathedral
Since 1888, this place of worship has been a gathering place for Vancouver’s devout and a highlight for those simply interested in admiring a spiritual masterpiece. Take a walk through the majestic cathedral, which was designed in the Gothic Revival style and features Douglas fir ceiling beams and beautiful stained glass windows.
35. Harmonize your chi with a holistic spa treatment
Vancouver is the perfect city for luxurious pampering and unique spa treatments. Using a range of Asian massage techniques and aromatherapies, CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La Hotel focuses on restoring energy and vitality to the body with its array of massages, spa journeys and body treatments. See a full list of Vancouver spas to find your ideal spot for rejuvenation.
36. Read a classic at Library Square
This expansive public space includes the Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch, Federal Office Tower and retail and service facilities, which occupy an entire city block. The nine-storey library building houses more than 1.5 million books, periodicals and reference guides, and the Colosseum-like design makes this building one of the architectural gems of Vancouver.
37. Hear performers hit the high notes at the Vancouver Opera
Have a seat in the sophisticated Queen Elizabeth Theatre, where you can get a dose of music and culture with the Vancouver Opera, Canada’s second largest opera company.
38. View Canada’s largest collection of artist Emily Carr’s works
Local artist Emily Carr is renowned for her series of books that explore her experiences in First Nations villages, as well as for her prolific paintings depicting totemic carvings and Pacific Northwest rainforests. Wander through the Vancouver Art Gallery to see Canada’s largest collection of her works, which portray coastal Canada and its Aboriginal culture.
39. Watch a hand-dyed silk scarf created before your eyes at the Silk Weaving Studio
This unique store gives shoppers an inside look at the weaving process. Get a glimpse of silkworms eating mulberry leaves and spinning silk, and then watch colorful threads being woven on one of the five in-house looms. Buy a locally made accessory or buy a spool of silk yarn imported from Laos to make your own.
40. Learn about the local fishing industry at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery
For a lesson in the Pacific Northwest fishing industry, venture to the historic village of Steveston, which is a quick 30-minute drive from Vancouver. Built in 1894, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery was once British Columbia’s largest cannery, and it is now an interactive museum featuring images, artifacts, fishing exhibits, a restored salmon canning line and a massive herring reduction machine.
Afternoon tea just got better with this matinee music series. Indulge in complimentary tea and cookies in the lobby before each performance, and then take your seats inside the Orpheum Theatre for the themed classical concerts.
42. Spot a ghost on the 14th floor of the Fairmont Hotel
Vancouver is filled with historical landmarks and old buildings — and as a result, the city also has plenty of legendary haunted places. Visit the luxurious Fairmont Hotel, where a woman in a long red dress is known to float through hallways and into rooms, especially on the 14th floor, where she causes the elevator to make unexpected stops.
43. Hop on a trolley car to see the city
For a quick introduction to the city without the hassle of driving, opt for a hop-on hop-off tour. You’ll be able to see Vancouver’s most popular areas, get live commentary on attractions, and whenever you see something interesting, you can just hop off and get started on your own adventure. Check out our list of the best trolley stops.
Throughout history, the starry night sky has filled people with curiosity and awe, and this museum is the perfect place to carry on that tradition. Learn about constellations and the solar system in the Planetarium Star Theatre, or see real stars and planets with the half-metre telescope in the Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory. On Friday and Saturday nights, don’t miss the action with music, laser and light shows.
Vancouver’s neighboring town of Burnaby has an impressive mix of modern entertainment and preserved heritage. Learn about this historic tram-stop community located along the B.C. Electric Railway, and explore its 10-acre living village, which will take you back to the 1920s. Talk with costumed townspeople, tour restored and replicated buildings, ride an authentic 1912 CW Parker Carousel, and make sure to have a treat at the old-fashioned ice cream parlor before heading back to Vancouver.
46. Spot celebrities around town
Vancouver is called Hollywood North, as it’s a popular filming spot due to the city’s moderate climate and lower production costs, so make sure to keep an eye out for silver screen A-listers at hotels and upscale nightlife spots around town.
47. Visit the Circle Craft Co-op to browse locally made arts and crafts
Granville Island is a one-stop shopping experience for locally made food, produce and arts and crafts, so it should come as no surprise that Canada’s most successful craft co-op also is located on this island. Choose handmade house wares, arts and decorative pieces from more than 180 artisans at Circle Craft Co-op’s shop and gallery.
48. Get an adrenaline fix on the wooden roller coaster at Playland
Ride on nearly 20 scream-worthy rides, such as the high-velocity Corkscrew or the brand new AtmosFEAR. No matter what level of adrenaline you choose, make sure to hop on the historic wooden roller coaster that was built in 1958, which gets up to 72 kilometers per hour on its steepest drop.
There are plenty of museums for kids, but at this unique institution, even adults can enjoy hands-on experiences. Put your sleuthing skills to the test in one of the forensics science programs, and get a glimpse of police artifacts and confiscated items such as counterfeit currency, unusual firearms and rare weapons.
50. Get a rush — of air — at an indoor skydiving facility
Experience the excitement of jumping out of a plane (without actually having to muster up the courage) at Fly Zone, Western Canada’s first and only vertical wind tunnel. After gearing up with a flight suit, goggles, helmet and earplugs, get lifted right off the ground with powerful blasts of air at more than 200 kilometers per hour. View our blog post here to see a video.
There’s more things to love about Vancouver on the way in parts three–five of our 125 Things to Love About Vancouver series. Did you see Part One?