Places to Love: Vancouver
A cosmopolitan city located on the edge of the wilderness, Vancouver offers both natural and urban beauty. On my trip, I trekked through scenic Stanley Park, hopped aboard a floatplane for stunning tour of the city, followed by landing on a mountain lake. Back in the city, just minutes away, I also discovered the unique shops of Granville Market, tasted local salmon at a First Nations restaurant, and so much more. Here’s why Vancouver is a place to love.
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
A refuge in the middle of a metropolis
They call Stanley Park a refuge. I must ask, a refuge from what exactly? This entire city is filled with natural beauty! But I digress. This greenspace offers a playground for urban dwellers and tourists. In fact, the park hosts over eight million visitors a year. Explore the 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest, soaking up scenic views of the water, mountains, sky, and majestic trees along Stanley Park’s famous Seawall.
Though the city feels new, Stanley Park has housed people for a Millennia. I learned all about the park’s cultural and natural history from guide Candace Campo. Candace, anthropologist and school teacher with a great love of sharing outdoor education and culture, started Talaysay Tours in 2002. Her Talking Trees Tour tells the rich history of the Shíshálh and Squamish nation in the area, focusing on how they lived off the land. Seeing the park through her eyes gave me such a deep appreciation for this picturesque park.
IF YOU GO
Want to get out on the water? Book one of Taylaysay’s kayak tours, available May – September. Register early, as these sell out!
334 Skawshen Rd
West Vancouver V7P 3T1
Toll Free 1 (800) 605-4643
A taste of the First Nations
As Vancouver’s only First Nations restaurant, Salmon n’ Bannock is your best bet for trying indigenous foods. Owned and operated by Inez and Remi Cook, Salmon n’ Bannock serves wild game, fish, and of course bannock—a traditional, unleavened bread originally introduced by the Scottish and adopted by the First Nations. This small, casual bistro teems with charm, and the food is outstanding. Think of it as aboriginal dishes served in a modern way. I tried the elk shoulder osso bucco, served with the marrow-filled bone. Inez suggested spread the marrow on the fresh bannock, and all I can say is wow! They also do house-smoked salmon, wild game burgers and daily fish and game specials.
IF YOU GO
Start with the salmon or game sampler. It’s the best way to try a lot without ordering everything on the menu.
Salmon n’ Bannock
7-1128 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC V6H 1G5
1 (604) 568-8971
The shop that swept me off my feet
There’s nothing I love more than shopping for unique gifts and souvenirs. That’s why I was thrilled to find the Railspur district on Granville Island, near the Public Market. The place is occupied by artist shops and studios. I love Sterling Glassworks, a studio who’s designed and created contemporary hot glass for over 30 years. Artists like David New-Small and Benjamin Kikkert specialize in freeblown glass using only heat, air, gravity, and a few simple tools.
One of the most notable shops has to be Granville Island Broom Co., where sisters Sarah and Mary Schwieger make brooms by hand. I know what you’re thinking: Samantha, how can one get so excited about brooms? One look at their creations and you’ll be a convert, too! They sell over 4,000 brooms a year, and create specialized brooms for all your sweeping needs—big, open spaces; small whisk brooms; even brooms made with a hockey stick handle.
IF YOU GO
They say to never shop when hungry, but that doesn’t apply at Granville Public Market. From coffee and pastry to fish and chips and tacos, you’re sure to find something you love. You can even sign up for a foodie tour.
Granville Island Broom Co.
1406 Old Bridge St
Vancouver BC V6H 3S6
Toll Free:1 855 519 0506
Artisan sake, made stateside
Oh, sake. It has always intimidated me. Do you drink it hot or cold? What do you pair it with? And between you and me… do I even like it? Thank goodness Masu Shiroki walked me through the process. Established in 2007 on Granville Island, Masu’s business Artisan SakeMaker specializes in hand-made, small batch and fresh sake. His OSAKE brand is widely recognized as Canada’s first locally produced fresh premium sake. Masu brews his soft-pressed sake year-round, unlike premium sakes imported from Japan, which are typically produced once a year in winter. This means he can experiment with the in-season bounty of local west coast ingredients. Guess what? I absolutely loved it!
IF YOU GO
Artisan SakeMaker offers tasting programs between 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Visitors can try a single tasting for $2, or the three styles of sake for $5. They also lead group brewery tours by appointment. Be sure to bring an I.D.—and keep in mind that legal drinking age is 19.
1339 Railspur Alley
Vancouver, British Columbia V6H 4G9
Float Plane ride over Vancouver
Walking is good, but an aerial tour adds some serious excitement. Harbour Air Seaplanes offers a wide range of scenic tour options that show off British Columbia’s coastline. Pilot Tim Clough took me on an epic tour showcasing downtown, then we headed off into the wilderness, landing on remote lake. Glassy water against towering mountains and with the sound of a waterfall in the distance… it really doesn’t get better than that!
IF YOU GO
There’s a seaplane ride for all budgets. Choose between 20 minute tours showcasing the downtown cores and surrounding mountains of Vancouver or Victoria or add some time to experience more of the rugged coastline. Book here.
Harbour Air Seaplanes
Unit #1 Burrard Landing
1055 Canada Place
Vancouver, BC V6C 0C3
Toll free: 1.800.665.0212
Explore Richmond’s epic night market
Richmond, Vancouver’s smaller city to the south, is known for its strong immigrant population and incredible Asian food scene. For the ultimate experience, go to Richmond’s Night Market. Though you can find just about anything at this sprawling market, most of the food is Asian-inspired. I sampled dragon’s beard—a hand-pulled cotton candy; tuna poke; grilled lamb kidney; mango mochi and grilled squid. This greater Vancouver event offers more than just food—you’ll find live music, shopping, games, rides and more. It’s like visiting China without the crazy jetlag!
IF YOU GO
Get there early. Attendance usually hits 10-15,000 a night! The market runs weekend evenings from 7pm – 12am, April – October.
Richmond Night Market
8351 River Road
Sustainable fishing, one crab trap at a time.
With its seaside location, it’s not surprising Vancouver menus are filled with seafood. The issue is ensuring the seafood that ends up on your plate got there sustainably. This essentially means your seafood comes from a well-managed fishery that practices responsible aqua culture. You only take what you need, and leave enough for the next season, next year and even next generation. I joined chef and Ocean Wise seafood ambassador Ned Bell on a crab fishing outing in north Vancouver’s Deep Cove. This area is known for its incredible wildlife, including seals, killer whales and Dungeness crab. We checked his traps, which were full of Dungeness crab. Even though most were the legal size, we threw some back in the water. That’s what sustainability is all about.
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IF YOU GO
Chef Bell doesn’t normally lead fishing trips. That said, you can still be sure to support the Ocean Wise cause while in Vancouver. Look for the Ocean Wise symbol on local menus—that means the seafood you’re about to enjoy was sourced sustainably.