Vancouver outdoor activities

Days out in Vancouver don’t get much more exciting than a trip up Grouse Mountain, an all-year-round entertainment paradise that mixes the wildness of the great outdoors with opportunities for family fun and learning.  It takes only 15 minutes from downtown heading north to get to this amazing attraction, and I found it hard to cram everything it has to offer into one day.

Skyride Gondola

This does exactly what it says, taking you on a 1,100 meter climb into the sky over a mountainside covered in pine trees. The whole cityscape below opens up, as well as nearby peaks, inlets and bays, the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf Islands. You’re in the wilderness but civilization is spread out beneath.

Wildlife Refuge

The Refuge for Endangered Wildlife is a conservation centre right at the top of the mountain, where research and education go hand in hand. It’s fascinating to explore conservation issues through its interpretative programs and find out more about wildlife and plants that are at risk. Spread over five acres, it’s home to a large habitat for Timber Wolves and for two orphaned Grizzly Bears.

Eye of the Wind

A gigantic wind turbine is the setting for a viewing pod accessed by elevator, some 20 storeys high. As the blades slowly turn, visitors get stunning views of the city and surrounding area, including the harbor and the Coastal Mountains.

Theatre in the Sky

Here’s a chance to learn more about the wildlife of Grouse Mountain, with an HD electronic cinema showing fascinating films about eagles, Grizzly Bears and the latest addition, a Barn Owl called Tyto and work underway to save another species, the Northern Spotted Owl.

Winter calls

When the snows come, Grouse Mountain acts as a magnet for skiers and snowboarders, hikers with snowshoes and ice skaters. There are trails for novices up to the highly experienced, and it’s easy to rent equipment and to have lessons to get into the swing of winter sports activities.

Outside of winter there are opportunities to go ziplining or do the famous “Grouse Grind” a steep climb to an 850 meter elevation that really does test the stamina!

Rogers Arena

Like many Canadians, I like to get my fix of live ice hockey occasionally, and the place to do that in Vancouver is down at the Vancouver Canucks. It’s possible to get a taste of the local atmosphere at one of the downtown sports bars, where the games are frequently screened live, but when the Canucks are in town, a taste of the genuine article can be found down at Rogers Arena.

Getting there

Rogers Arena was formerly known as General Motors Place, and when the stadium is close to its 19,000 capacity, you can get a proper feeling of what ice hockey means to Canadian sports fans. What is more, the stadium is easy to get to, and with the SkyTrain stop at Stadium-Chinatown station in the downtown area, it really isn’t necessary to use your own car to get there. The SkyTrain is my preference, but if you do drive, there is plenty of parking capacity within a few minutes of the stadium on foot.

Tour visits

Rogers Arena has a place in Olympic history as well as in Stanley Cup history, as both the men and the women won gold for Canada here in 2010. Stadium tours are available, which I think are a good way to get a feel for the stadium before going to see a game there. Tours last for about an hour and a quarter, in the late morning on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. It isn’t necessary to book for a tour in advance, unless you’re planning to go with a large group, so the best plan is usually just to turn up in good time on the day. Wednesdays and Fridays are not usually game days, so unless there is a special event on, it is often possible to see the dressing rooms on the tours, too.

Game visits

For the full flavor of the stadium, though, it is best to get to a game. The Canucks made a run to the Stanley Cup finals as recently as 2011, and there is a proud history of hockey surrounding the team and the stadium, so the atmosphere is almost certain to be special. Most games are scheduled for Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends, with the full schedule available on the Canucks website. Tickets can be bought online or at the ticket center, which is next to Gate 10 at the stadium. If, like me, you try to get to places early, there are lots of decent spots to grab a bite to eat, and maybe a beer or two, ahead of the game. It is also worth checking out one of the options for dining while you watch, and the Center Ice Grill is open to ticket holders from two hours before the start of a game, for a view right over center ice. This is a prime spot for sports fans like me, as it is the only live-action sports restaurant in the city, so well worth a visit.

Experience the Richmond Night Market

Every place in the world has what falls under the title of a ‘must-see’ attraction. It is often times associated with something that has a large attraction of people from all over the world. The ‘Richmond Night Market’ is the equivalent of this type of event, located in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. It has a strong affiliation with Asian-ethics and background, and people can’t seem to get enough of it.

Entertainment

People thrive for entertainment. When they hear about an exciting moment going on, or a festival, many of us simply need to take a look and see what it’s about. The Richmond Night Market offers a bit of everything, but can be categorized as good, old-fashioned, genuine entertainment. You can expect to see:

  • Terrific Food
  • Entertainment
  • Exciting night life
  • Booths of merchandise- over 250!
  • 80 different food vendors available
  • Games and prizes
  • Incredible bargains

The night market is about an opportunity for everyone to band together for a good time, and to promote the very essence of a ‘good’ time.\

Bargains are everywhere

If you are someone like me who looks for bargains and shops with the intent to save, there is no better place to go. They have everything with over 250 booths of merchandise, ranging from unique and handmade, to massively produced electronic accessories for your iPod and iPhone.

There is also the prime opportunity to test out varieties of food that you may otherwise not have a chance to experience. At a large gathering such as this, you will run into very experienced chef’s looking to show off their trade and potential. You are getting the very best someone has to offer; at a fraction of the price you would pay at a restaurant.

The atmosphere is warm and chipper and just gives a very welcoming feel to it.

Diversity

Everything at the Richmond Night Market has a close tie to culture; at each stand you are likely to see something from a different cultural background, and that’s what makes it so very exciting. Diversity and different cultures off a taste of the unfamiliar; it grants an opportunity to learn about what isn’t associated with our daily lives. It is a way to learn about something in a way that is enjoyable and influential.

A taste of change

The Richmond Night Market allows the engagement of taking a walk around and admiring the atmosphere to be quite an experience. Let alone, attempting to taste a dish you’ve never seen, or getting a great bargain on a shirt or electronic accessory, the Richmond Night Market has something to offer everyone. It’s a celebration that allows everyone to get a great experience.

By granting yourself the opportunity to attend the Richmond Night Market you get to experience something that is out of this world. It’s the gift of change fitted to a community event; based on bargains, good food, and a pleasant atmosphere. It comes around once a year, and then it is gone. Each year it continues to come back slightly modified with the same end-consensus; an opportunity to experience an incredible time. The Richmond Night Market gives the community a chance to interact and genuinely learn about each other. It’s a great experience and something everyone can enjoy and take something from.

Kayaking in Vancouver

Not only is it a great way to exercise and keep fit, but kayaking in this Pacific Coast city also offers a completely new perspective on its natural beauty and urban delights. One of Vancouver’s joys is its watery setting, and one of my personal pleasures is taking a kayak out early in the morning when often there’s no one else about. It gives me the chance to take in the spectacular views of mountains and ocean set against the thrusting, modern skyline that defines the city.

One of the best locations for kayaking is English Bay, to the west of the city. It’s part of the Strait of Georgia, itself a part of the Pacific Ocean, and immediately south of it is False Creek, so called because in fact it’s a protected inlet that divides downtown Vancouver from the southern part of the city.

If you prefer a bit of wilderness kayaking then head north-east to Indian Arm where pristine waters and views should keep you well occupied. Indian Arm is a fjord forged by a glacier and its protected waters make a fascinating day’s paddling.

I’ve always enjoyed a paddle on Buntzen Lake, which is just north of the eastern suburb Port Moody. It too is like a fjord and as powerboats are forbidden, and it’s surrounded by wilderness, you can be pretty certain of a peaceful and scenic day out. Not surprisingly it’s popular with kayakers and canoeists as well as picnickers.

The small, oval Deer Lake is in the middle of Burnaby, a few miles east of the main city. It’s a haven of tranquility amongst the bustling urban surroundings and a gentle paddle here offers possibilities to spot wildlife like rainbow trout and bullfrogs as well as various birds.

You can get kayak rentals at many places in Vancouver, and you can also take thrilling guided tours where, at the right time of year, there are opportunities to kayak with Orcas, or killer whales. Tours like this include camping and your food and are a great way to explore the area as well as having the excitement of getting up close to the giants of the deep.

Fine seafood

Smack in the middle of downtown Vancouver sits Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail bar, an ideal location for the many hotels and accommodations in the area. It’s a popular eaterie both for lunch and dinner and has an equally popular cocktail bar as well as its Urban Patio Garden in which to enjoy pleasant, temperate evenings.

The first thing to strike me was the elegance, indeed opulence of the surroundings. Art deco meets warm mahogany wood to draw you in, and to cocoon you in comfort. A drink in the art deco cocktail bar makes a good start; especially as the evening I went there was live piano music on the elegant baby grand. You can choose to sit at the bar or relax in one of the comfortable club chairs and peruse the menu.

And what a menu! As the establishment’s name flags up, this is a steakhouse with the addition of some very fine seafood indeed. The beef comes from over the Rockies in Alberta. It is dry-aged for 28-days and then carefully seasoned to bring out that classic steakhouse flavor. All the classic steak cuts are here: Bone-in New York Strip, Petit Filet, Porterhouse Steak, New York Strip and Filet Mignon fight for a place on the page with Double-cut Lamb Chops, a Double-cut Pork Chop and Roasted Stuffed Half Chicken. Add to that some fish and seafood choices, such as Blackened Ahi Tuna done Cajun style, Jumbo Lobster Tail and favorite Steak and Lobster, and it’s hard to make a choice.

The Appetizers section is a good length too with choices on the meat side that include Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio and Steak Tartare, and on the fishy side, amongst others, Oyster Rockefeller, Crab Cake, Fried Calamari and Lobster Bisque. There’s also a good choice of salads, including the restaurant’s own Gotham Tossed Green Salad.

You could also choose to go for the Seafood Tower and amazing range of fruits de mer that include Atlantic lobster, king crab and snow crab from Alaska, and grilled scallops. Wash all the food down with a bottle from the fine wine list, order a mouthwatering dessert and the evening’s complete!

Winter playgrounds in Vancouver

Winter playgrounds don’t get much better than Cypress Mountain, just 30 minutes from downtown to the west of Vancouver.  The ski resort was host to the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events for the 2010 Winter Olympics, held in a number of venues in the city, and acts as a magnet for winter sports fans as well as having a host of activities for summer visitors.

But it’s the snow that folks come for, and as a keen skier myself I was able to join the many thousands who flock to the trails to try their hand on the well-kept slopes. Cypress Mountain is ideal for all levels of skiers, with plenty of easy tracks, some more difficult ones and then the ones only for the very experienced.

The resort is split into two areas, the Alpine for downhill skiing and boarding and the Nordic for cross-country. Cypress Mountain is part of the North Shore Mountains and has the largest vertical rise in the area. There are more than 50 runs for downhill skiing and riding, with six chairlifts and a couple of surface lifts to get you to the top. For cross country fans there are over 19 kilometers of well-groomed trails, again aimed at all ranges of experience.

For beginners, or those who want to build up their knowledge and experience further, there are ski schools for downhill and cross country skiing so it’s easy to develop skills, and for those who don’t have their own equipment there are rentals for skis, skate skis and snowshoes together with a limited amount of rentals for over boots and clothing. This is especially handy if you’re only an occasional skier.

Add in a snow tubing park that’s great for parties, a sliding area for the under sixes who can bring their own sled, and opportunities to trek along snowshoe trails, and Cypress Mountain becomes a one-stop shop for winter sports.

It’s also worth checking out the eateries on the mountain. The Alpine area has the Cypress Creek Grill, the Crazy Raven Bar & Grill and the Gold Medal Café, and the Nordic Area has the historic Hollyburn Lodge and the Nordic Café.

Vancouver Pride

Vancouver is, in my opinion, a great city to visit at any time of year. The sights and events in the city are always worth the trip, but even so, the buzz in the city sometimes gets a bad rap in comparison to, say, Toronto. This is certainly not the case when Pride is in town, and whatever your persuasion, the Pride events over the summer can be full of fun.

What’s on for Pride

The highlight of Vancouver Pride is the annual parade, but this is by no means the only thing going on in the city in relation to Pride. On different dates throughout late July and early August, Pride events take place at various venues downtown. Some of these events require tickets, such as the Legacy Awards with its related silent auction. There are also, however, plenty of free events, and whether you happen to be gay or just gay-friendly, the Pride Run and Walk, followed by a picnic in Stanley Park, is a lively event. In 2013, the event will take place on July 27th, and I can hardly think of a better way of spending a sunny summer’s day in Vancouver than with a picnic and a social buzz like the one that’s around at this time. Similarly, the raising of the flag for Pride Week, on the lawn at the City Hall on July 29th, is an open event that is likely to draw a lot of attention.

Although Vancouver is a gay-friendly city at all times of year, Pride Week is the peak, and the Pride Pavilion at the Central Library on Georgia Street provides a natural focus for anyone seeking information on the most up-to-date news concerning the scheduales.

Parties and parade

Pride Weekend is a time that I certainly like to be in the city, to see the full richness of diversity. There are, apparently, more visitors than inhabitants in Vancouver when it comes to Pride. This adds extra flavor to, for example, the Davie Street Party, which has both an all-ages area and a zone especially for ages 19 and upwards. Davie Village then also hosts a fund-raising breakfast to follow up on the party festivities.

The jewel in the crown, however, is the parade, which takes place on the same day as the festival and market. The festival opens on Sunset Beach an hour before the parade and goes on afterwards with music and performances. The parade itself is not to be missed, as it is one of the biggest in the world, and the 2013 parade, on August 4th, will mark the 35th anniversary of Vancouver Pride. The parade starts off on Robson Street and ends up at the festival site on Sunset Beach. The parade is judged, and if, like me, you get a kick out of competition, it can be fun to guess the winner yourself. The parade now has civic status in Vancouver and is a valued part of the city’s calendar, in recognition of the vibrancy of the event at an international level.

Sea Safari

If your idea of fun is a thrilling ride on the ocean wave, then Sewell’s Sea Safari is the ‘must do’ experience on a visit to Vancouver. It’s an adrenaline-rush journey from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver in a 30ft rigid hull inflatable boat, given amazing power by twin Verado Mercury 4-stroke outboard motors, custom designed to reach really high speeds.

Horseshoe Bay is about a half hour drive from Downtown and the adventure starts when you put on a Mustang Integrity suit for comfort and safety. Then it’s into the boat and you can sense the power throbbing under the engine covers as they start up. It’s at that point you realize you’re in for the trip of a lifetime.

From Horseshoe Bay the boat heads up the eastern side of the Howe Sound, past Bowyer Island to the west and then heading for Anvil Island. There a rapid turn takes you down to tiny Christie Island and then Pam Island, where harbor seals can usually be seen together with a bald eagle or two soaring lazily above. From there, the boat races south out into Georgia Sound, turning towards Vancouver and offering stunning view of the city.

During the trip the outstanding natural beauty of the British Columbia coastline emerges from the spray, with steep cliffs tumbling down to the water and the chance to explore caves hollowed out by the sea. One of my favorite moments, apart from spotting seals and other wildlife, was on the return to Horseshoe Bay where there was a chance to see some of the spectacular waterfront houses that line the West Vancouver shore.

It doesn’t matter if the sea is calm or rough, the boats are designed for comfort and safety. You’ll get wet and bounce a around a little, but that’s all part of the fun, and kids just absolutely love it.

As well as the two-hour Sea Safari, there are options to choose other packages, including the safari followed by dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant and an exciting ride back to Vancouver in a seaplane.