Winter Olympics 2010: Your Guide to Vancouver

Vancouver3Ranked by many publications as one of the best cities to live in the world, Vancouver, Canada is a dynamic multi-cultural city that offers its visitors a world-class atmosphere with a great emphasis on quality of life.

With a very open and diverse population coming from all ethnical backgrounds and lifestyles, Vancouver is a city where you can truly be yourself.

So whether you love dining at fine restaurants, exercising in the park, shopping, walking through lush gardens, visiting art museums, or people-watching, Vancouver has plenty of activities you can enjoy both indoors and outdoors, whatever the weather.

Around Downtown

Vancouver2If you don’t know where to begin, a great place to start is the Vancouver Lookout, an observatory at the top of the Harbour Centre that offers a spectacular 360° view of the metropolitan area of Vancouver.

Once you see everything from above, you can come down to street level and tour the city.

In the heart of downtown, the Vancouver Art Gallery will make modern art lovers salivate. With a main focus on contemporary art and the works of Canadian internationally renowned artists, like Emily Carr, this gallery has also displayed the works of artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Rodin, among many others.

Shopping

Love to shop? Then head to Robson Street. From big-name stores to small boutiques, Robson Street will captivate the most serious of shoppers.

Robson Street is also full of coffee shops, ethnic restaurants, and it makes a great place for people watching.

For a different kind of shopping experience head to Granville Island. In its colorful public market you can find fresh produce, flowers, and seafood, among other goods.

Stanley Park

You just can’t leave Vancouver without visiting Stanley Park. This is one of the most beautiful parks I’ve seen in my life.

Vancouver1Located in the northern part of the city, Stanley Park is 1.5 square miles and mostly surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.

This multi-purpose recreational area gives you the opportunity to admire and enjoy a wealth of lush green areas and gardens, totem poles, beaches, historical monuments, and a 5.5 miles seawall path that circles the park.

This seawall pathway is used by pedestrians, cyclists, and inline skaters, and is perhaps the most popular recreational feature in Stanley Park.

Also located in Stanley Park is the Vancouver Aquarium, a major tourist attraction and a world-class center for marine research and conservation. Don’t forget to say hi to the beluga whales for me.

Critical Mass

On the last Friday of every month you are invited to be part of Critical Mass. This is a fun bike ride where participants cycle through parts of the city that are typically packed with cars.

Vancouver4And I’m talking about thousands of people cycling through the streets!

Many streets in downtown are closed for this colorful monthly parade and most cyclists show up in costumes, which is encouraged.

The purpose is to not only enjoy cycling around the city, but also promote the safety and respect for cyclists; a type of awareness for bicycle rights.

The Wines of British Columbia

Close to Vancouver, there are five wine regions that have produced award-winning wines.

Some of the best Canadian wines come from Okanagan Valley, located about 100 miles east of Vancouver. Among their range of grape varietals you can find Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.

Quails’ Gate is a family owned wine producer that has produced great Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. However, their Dry Riesling actually pairs very well with seafood.

And since Vancouver offers excellent seafood restaurants, my recommendation is to explore the whites first. The production ratio of red vs. white wines in British Columbia is almost 50-50, so give reds a chance too.

Other Activities

If you have more time to spare, other sites to visit are the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden and the Capilano Suspension Bridge, the latter located 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver.

Where to Stay

The Fairmont Hotel – Built in 1928, this gorgeous hotel stands out among the modern high rises dotting the skyline. You can’t beat the location, just a short walk from the trendy boutiques on Robson as well as the picturesque waterfront. The downside to staying at the Fairmont: $13/day for in-room internet.

And remember: Vancouver will be hosting the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games starting February 12. So if you are visiting Vancouver during these days be sure you know the venue area road closures.

If you have visited Vancouver and want to share your experiences and/or favorite spots, please post your comments.