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Canada’s third largest city is a true gem for the LGBTQ community to discover.
In addition to an extremely inclusive atmosphere, Vancouver boasts everything you’d want from a big-time international city—and it is dramatically set amidst a natural wonderland of mountains, water and beaches. Here are some of our favorite things after a recent stay in the city.
There seems to be an endless array of walking and biking paths in the metro area, as well as more hiking-oriented options in the mountains that surround the city. My favorite was the Vancouver Seawall, which is a long route from near the convention center to Stanley Park.
The trail is quite dramatic, with the harbor and distant mountains on one side, and towering glass skyscrapers on the other. You’ll also see plenty of boats, from pleasure craft to huge cruise ships. And I enjoyed watching the many seaplanes arriving and departing the city, and this path was a great vantage point for watching the planes make water landings.
The above-mentioned park is a treasure, a 1,000-acre public park located on the end of a peninsula, right at the edge of downtown Vancouver. You can get lost in its trails and quickly feel like you’re a thousand miles from the nearest city amidst the century old cedars and Douglas fir trees.
There are also plenty of tours offered, from horse-drawn carriage rides to Indigenous-run learning experiences like the excellent Talaysay Talking Trees Tour. The park is also home to the Vancouver Aquarium, a collection of totem poles, several beaches, Lost Lagoon, a miniature train and Beaver Lake.
A stunning Stanley Park walk. (Photo Credit: Paul Heney)
The city’s iconic queer area is centered on Davie Street. While it isn’t as much of an LGBTQ hub as it once was (due to today’s wide acceptance of queer people across the city), you can still visit plenty of bars and clubs. Some popular locations include PumpJack Pub, The Junction, 1181 Lounge, Numbers Cabaret and The Fountainhead.
This incredible Indigenous-owned restaurant (the only one in the city!) is a meat lover’s delight. From the Bannock (a bread) to expansive charcuterie plates, smoked salmon and venison, and even candied salmon, you can’t go wrong here. They even have a nice selection of wines from the three Indigenous wineries in the province. The restaurant opened during the 2010 Winter Olympics and recently opened a second location in Vancouver airport.
Another fascinating look into the local Indigenous culture can be discovered at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art. Reid, who was a well-known CBC broadcaster and Haida Canadian artist, was a brilliant sculptor, as the pieces show. From an intricate tea set he carved as a young child to his later work with wire sculpture—even as he fought Parkinson’s Disease—the gallery gives a fascinating glimpse into his work, as well as other modern Indigenous artists. The temporary exhibits here change several times per year, with the current one being “Bright futures.”
Fairmont Hotels have an airport location here, as well as a trio of lovely properties right in the heart of the city. I chose the Fairmont Waterfront, a stunning hotel with views of the dramatic convention center, the water, and the mountains to the north of the city.
Corner room at the Vancouver Fairmont Waterfront. (Photo Credit: Paul Heney)
Kristyna Vogel, Director Marketing & Public Relations for the hotel, explained that the Fairmont hosts a popular “drag recovery brunch” every year after the city’s Pride celebration in August. They also have a partnership with Kendall Gender, the local drag queen known for appearing on Season 2 of Canada’s Drag Race. The hotel flies its Pride flag 365 days a year.
“It started out as a political statement,” said Vogel, “but then it became a welcoming sign. But I think that it’s becoming a political statement once again.”
I was also eager to check out the hotel’s work with honeybees. In addition to having the first green roof in Vancouver (in 1995), the hotel added bees in 2008. It was the first Fairmont to have bees on site. There’s a free daily tour open to guests or interested locals, and I learned so much! I lucked out to take the tour when Chief Beekeeper Julia Common was on site.
Dinner at ARC Restaurant. (Photo Credit: Paul Heney)
I learned about British Columbia having more than 500 species of indigenous bees! And how the mason bees here at the Fairmont don’t sting—but only travel a few hundred feet. That means the hotel needs to provide lots of nearby food and plants. The property’s bees produce about 200 pounds of honey annually, and the honey from the rooftop apiary is used in the kitchen’s culinary masterpieces, as well as in the signature honey-infused gin.
Make sure to try that gin in the hotel’s splendid ARC Restaurant, which boasts a fantastic weekend brunch that is not to be missed. In addition to great food all day long, there are special events to watch for, including a Bee Sustainable menu that features more than a dozen items that require pollination.
Paul J. Heney is a lifelong writer and avid world traveler. He's served as Editorial Director for several hospitality...
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