A year to make the most of Vancouver's culture and outdoors
January 21, 2022 11:00 AM   Subscribe

This summer, I (mid-30s) plan to move from London, UK to Vancouver, BC, Canada, for a year (working and living). I'm looking for personal recs or tips for things to see and do, no matter how broad or small, but also "city life" recs (and for BC generally) as opposed to traditional tourism.

There are some good previous threads: (the good stuff; in the winter; hikes and nature; sights; sights last-minute) - but rather than a flying visit I have months to plan and a whole year to spend.

I'd like to get out of the city for weekend breaks - what are your outdoorsy recommendations for someone reasonably active? Walking, hiking, cycling and skiing - if you had to pick just one or a few routes or areas around BC? Is there a good car share scheme for irregular drivers?

Are there good annual memberships or city discounts, (ir)regular events to watch out for, things I should book well in advance, or suchlike?

And what are your recs for art, museums, galleries, theatres, concerts, restaurants, and generally keeping culturally enriched, offbeat and mainstream? Are there good publications to track these things and look for upcoming events?

For example, for someone like me (mid-30s) planning the reverse trip, I'd recommend they check out British Museum / Tate Gallery / Southbank Centre memberships and events; get themselves a Santander Cycle hire key and a Network Railcard for trips about and out of the city; take the train to the coast to walk the Seven Sisters; look into Sofar Sounds for mini concerts and check The Bridge / Donmar / Old and Young Vic for upcoming theatre.

Thanks so much, MeFi!
posted by Quagkapi to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I left Vancouver 12 years ago but I think these are still good suggestions. I do go back fairly often.

Diez Vistas hike
Stawamus Chief in Squamish
Kayaking from Deep Cove
Biking around the Sea Wall in Stanley Park

UBC Museum of Anthropology
Science World After Dark
Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Celebration of Light fireworks festival

Richmond Summer Night Market

Weekend trips
posted by carolr at 11:38 AM on January 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There are 2 car share programs: modo and evo. Look them both up before you get here, and get your international drivers license if needed, or BC license. That will make weekend trips easier.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 12:09 PM on January 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: June to September (exact dates vary) is Bard on the Beach, which is hands down some of the best Shakespeare you can see anywhere. The venue is technically a tent, but a very impressive multistory one. The main stage has no back wall, so if you go for an evening show you can watch the sunset on the mountains behind the stage (but not RIGHT behind the stage, as that would make it kind of hard to see the show).

And seconding everything that carolr said, especially the food items, they are both Vancouver institutions.

I would also add Nuba, which got me hooked on Lebanese food and was always my go-to restaurant to impress out of town friends when I lived in Vancouver.

Also for a challenging but very rewarding hike: Garibaldi Lake Trail. Approx 9km long and approx 1km vertically, but the views at the top are worth it.

That being said, if you're from out of town, especially if you have never lived anywhere with mountains you should make sure you understand what it means to hike up a mountain. e.g the weather can undergo a six month change in a couple hours and you could die as a result if you are not properly prepared. Some of the trails on the North shore are less than 20 minutes from downtown, and you can see Vancouver from many places on the trail, and yet every year somebody dies within sight of the city because they didn't understand what it means to go up a mountain in Canada. I recommend reading the whole Education section on the North Shore Search and Rescue site. That said, if you are prepared (and it's really not that hard to be, it's mostly about knowing you need to be) then these hikes are among the best anywhere in the world.
posted by tiamat at 12:19 PM on January 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Best Trails in British Columbia
posted by tiamat at 12:30 PM on January 21, 2022

Best answer: I have family and friends on the west coast and visit reasonably regularly.

Vancouver has a bikeshare called Mobi. BC requires everyone wear helmets when cycling.

You can take the ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay and ride the Galloping Goose rail trail through Victoria to Sooke. You can stay in a hotel to make it an overnight trip instead of having to camp. My cousins have also taken me to Boundary Bay.

The Sunshine Coast Trail is a hut-to-hut backpacking trail.

Juan de Fuca Trail is a backpacking trail on Vancouver Island where you need to camp. You can also do day hikes there.

My Toronto-based AGO membership has levels. I get the level that allows reciprocal admission to places like the Vancouver Art Gallery, so watch for stuff like that.
posted by TORunner at 12:35 PM on January 21, 2022

Best answer: The GVA has the best Asian food in North America. Sushi, dumplings, noodles, Korean fried chicken, Korean BBQ, Chinese BBQ, ramen, etc etc etc. The night market is a fun way to sample some of this. But honestly, sushi at almost any reasonably rated place should be excellent.

If you're up for some Asian food adventures, these places are fun destinations:
- Richmond Public Market
- The Crystal Mall food court
- HK BBQ Master
- The ramen shops on Denman near Stanley Park
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 1:26 PM on January 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Parker Place (across the street from HK BBQ Master) is even better.

Indian food is very much unlike that in the UK, but Surrey has a large Indian population.

Where you work/ live is going to count somewhat for what will be convenient. If you work someplace close to a Skytrain station, take advantage of the Skytrain. Lonsdale area in North Van isn't bad; you can take the Seabus downtown and avoid either Lion's Gate or Ironworkers (2nd Narrows) bridges. This makes Cypress and Grouse mountains very convenient. Stuff to do year-round.

The 'Georgia Straight' is a free weekly paper, and a good resource for happenings around the Lower Mainland/ Metro Vancouver. It used to be a great local paper, but... newpapers in general.

The Vancouver Giants are a WHL team (15-20 year olds) based out of Langely (45-60 minutes out of Downtown) and sometimes has games at the old Pacific Coliseum (~15 minutes out of Downtown). The Abbotsford Canucks are an AHL team, and the Vancouver Canuck's (NHL team) affiliate team, about 1+ hours out of Downtown. Both are great experiences for young families. Great atmosphere, won't break the bank.

If you enjoy driving, the Gold Rush Trail is a good excuse to explore a bit of interior BC.
posted by porpoise at 6:13 PM on January 21, 2022

Best answer: Ditto the museum of anthropology, but also keep an eye open at the airport as you arrive. There are some pretty impressive first nations pieces.

As for food, I recommend Linh Cafe. They do a great pho but also serve french fare. I always get a kick out of seeing the two side by side on the menu. My haunt has been the kitsilano location which is currently closed for renovation but I've had a good salad lyonnaise & cassoulet there though neither appears on their online menu at the moment.

Also Phnom Penh. Things not to miss there are the chicken wings and, if you're ok with raw beef, the butter beef. If you go with a lot of people then probably the dry egg noodle is my favourite of their noodle dishes & if you like oyster their oyster pancake thing is pretty good.
posted by juv3nal at 7:51 PM on January 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Go for dim sum. Frequently and anywhere that serves it. You cannot almost not go wrong. If it's busy, it'll be good.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:08 AM on January 22, 2022

Best answer: Festivals
You'll just have to check what these festival organizers are doing because of COVID. Some events have gone completely virtual in the past two years, and some have continued to operate within public health guidelines.
  • Vancouver International Jazz Festival - some paid and some free events, and lots of artists (not just chill jazz). Pre-COVID they had big outdoor venues at parks and everyone would be dancing on the grass, so fun!
  • Carnaval Del Sol - celebrating Latin American food, music, and culture
  • Vancouver Mural Festival - not just for Instagram fanatics. They also host a lot of live events and cool talks during the festival run. Honestly the murals are gorgeous (Mount Pleasant area), even if the festival is not running just find their map and walk around on a sunny day to check them out!
  • Celebration of Light fireworks competition - yeah it's a big deal, but also, is it really worth all the trouble? Try to reserve your spot on English Bay Beach from 4pm-10pm as everyone around gets drunker and rowdier. Watch the fireworks for ~20 mins and then wait another hour to leave because there are sooooo many people and there always seems to be a fight or two? In my early twenties it was fun, now maybe I am too old and grumpy for that.
  • Vancouver Fringe Festival - great way to support up-and-coming theatre artists. Lots of cheap shows so even if it's kinda meh, it's still fine!
  • Not really a festival but the 4/20 "protest" still seems to be a thing, even though there is practically a dispensary every third block.
  • Canada Day celebrations were also really fun pre-COVID, whether downtown at Canada Place or in the smaller cities/suburbs.
  • In the summertime there are lots of neighbourhood-specific or street-specific events. Main Street Car-Free Day, Greek Day in Kitsilano, Italian Day on Commercial Drive, etc.
  • Dine Out Vancouver, Hot Chocolate Festival
Oh my gosh, where to start? When it comes to food in Vancouver, it's not just about picking a continent (Asian food) or even a country (Chinese food), you can say that you want that certain fish soup with pickled veggies from the Szechuan region in China, and there are multiple restaurants that serve this! So it's great variety but also hella overwhelming. The really famous places can also be booked out for prime dinner time and weekends several weeks out (or don't take reservations at all!) so unfortunately it's hard to be spontaneous sometimes. But below are the places I'd take family and friends to. This is a mix from fast food to fine dining.
  • French: Provence, Absinthe, Les Faux Bourgeois
  • Chinese: Yu Shang hotpot, Bao Bei, Sun Sui Wah dim sum.
  • Indian/Afghan: Dosas (not a resto per se but a specific type of food, lots of diff restos serve this), East is East if you want to sample lots of food, and they have live music!
  • Korean: Sura, Damso, BB.q Korean fried chicken
  • PNW: Grub, Anna Lena, Chambar, unlimited brunch at ARC
  • Vegetarian: Chickpea, Do Chay, Meet on Main/Yaletown
  • Japanese: Jinya, Santouka, Marutama, Kunyari (all of these serve ramen, and that's just scratching the surface), Kaide sushi especially the butterfish nigiri, Zakkushi izakaya
  • Italian: Savio Volpe, Ask for Luigi
  • Malaysian: Banana Leaf (this is a chain so maybe not super special, but the food is good nonetheless)
  • Tapas: Como Tapería, Sardine Can
  • Mexican: La Taquería, Tacofino
  • Filipino: Pinpin, Max's
  • Pastries: Purebread, Thierry, Small Victory
  • Bubble tea: Sharetea is my favourite chain, but like cannabis dispensaries these are all over the city
  • In Richmond: Hai Di Lao hotpot, Fisherman's Terrace dim sum, Sauerkraut Fish or Fish Man for that soup I mentioned, and honestly just all the restaurants on Alexandra Road.
Trips out of town
  • Bowen Island is a fun day trip
  • Vancouver Island - Victoria if you want the city and to explore BC's capital, Tofino for storm watching, nature, and surfing
  • Okanagan for BC wines
  • Manning park seems popular year-round for outdoorsy folks, and relatively close to the city
I'm not a big outdoorsy person but I know that the West Coast Trail is one of those bucket list items that people plan way ahead for, because you have to reserve your spot.
posted by tinydancer at 10:05 AM on January 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh to tag on from tinydancer, for French I would recommend Au Comptoir. I don't know how busy they are with covid and all but they don't take reservations and "normally" they're packed but they remain open between lunch and dinner so your best bet would have been an abnormally late lunch or early dinner.

And for kind of hipster-ish higher end vegetarian-friendly, Farmer's Apprentice.
posted by juv3nal at 3:59 PM on January 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh wow, thank you, thank you everyone who has replied! You've all given *exactly* what I wanted; there's a huge amount of info here to now research and dig through, and I couldn't be happier! Especially thank-you tinydancer (but also everyone); that's a huge number of specific recs! I'm looking forward to checking these all out.
posted by Quagkapi at 12:25 PM on January 23, 2022

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