Destination: Vancouver

by | Jan. 29, 2010


Over the past century, Vancouver has become a thriving metropolis that has managed to maintain aspects of its wild and rugged past while providing visitors with a tranquil, yet modern perspective. And as the host city of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, thousands of visitors from around world will soon discover all the charm and beauty that Vancouver has to offer.

Though the environs of Vancouver have probably been inhabited for thousands of years, its "modern" history would begin as explorers and fur traders from the east began to move west into the vast wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. In 1827, British fur trader and explorer James McMillan set up a fort on the site and called it Fort Langley, named after a Hudson Bay Company director (Hudson Bay Company had been the first to set up fur trading posts). In 1871, British Columbia, assured by Canada that its entry into the commonwealth would result in the development of a railway system, joined the Confederation.

A little known piece of Church history in the area is that Brigham Young sent a scouting party to Vancouver Island in 1845, and afterwards sent a formal petition to Queen Victoria seeking permission to establish a Mormon colony there. Young's request was ignored by the Queen, and so the first record of a Mormon residing on the island is 1875. Since then, the Church in British Columbia has grown to seven stakes.

From fjords to forests, high-rise hotels to art centers, Vancouver has much to offer its visitors. See for yourself how the past and present have been fused together in this tiny province nestled between a rugged bay and snow-capped mountains.

Outdoor Thrills

False Creek False Creek is a narrow inlet located between the towers of downtown Vancouver, Yaletown, and Granville Island. If you are looking for an outdoor escape without leaving the urban energy of the city core, kayaking on False Creek is an excellent option, with its close-up views of passing yachts and sailboats, as well as fast-paced downtown life. Start your journey at Granville Island, which you can find just under the Granville Street Bridge, across from downtown Vancouver. Most routes are rated "easy" and perfect for beginners. Plan on taking at least three hours.

Whale Watching Southern British Columbia is one of the premier areas in the world for whale watching. For a large part of the year, this involves killer whale sightings. Tour companies only operate during the late spring to early fall.

To whale watch, most visitors tend to go to Victoria, Vancouver Island, where many operators are based. Others can be found in Steveston, a quaint fishing village with plenty of other attractions you'll want to see. There is a considerable amount of regulation being placed on this activity, however. Its popularity is disturbing the natural activity of the whales, and the government is trying to find a way to accommodate this growing tourist industry with the needs of the animals. Be sure to call ahead to find out about availability.

English Bay Depart to the sandy shores of Jericho Beach to explore spectacular English Bay. Just twenty minutes by car from the city center, Jericho Beach offers a front-row seat to some of Vancouver's most impressive scenery -- the downtown skyline, North Shore Mountains, and an open expanse of ocean.

Harbour Centre Tower At the Harbour Centre Tower, you can go up to the Vancouver Lookout to get an unparalleled, 360-degree panoramic view of the Great Vancouver area, the North Shore mountains, and even Vancouver Island on a clear day.

Good Eats Since Vancouver is home to people of many different cultures, dining can be an especially flavorful experience. Depending on your mood, you can visit Chinatown, Little Italy, or Little India for a dish that's sure to please. If you're willing to wait in line, Stepho's on Davie Street offers Greek food with generous portions at a reasonable price. The hummus on homemade pita alone may fill you up!

You may, however, want to splurge a little and enjoy a harbor view. The Boathouse near English Bay has some of the best chowder, while the Five Sails overlooks the harbor near Stanley Park. If you're going to be traveling anytime soon, you might want to visit The Cannery, an excellent seafood restaurant on the Burrard Inlet. This historic landmark, which has excellent views of the harbor and a location removed from crowds, will be closing after the 2010 Winter Olympics are over.

If your budget is tight, fish-and-chips stands abound in Vancouver, and you won't find better fare outside of Great Britain. At many locations, you don't have to settle for the traditional cod. Tempt your taste buds with options like halibut or salmon.

One such "stand" near Granville Island is Go Fish, a quaint, outdoor . . . well, shack, where you can sit and enjoy the harbor view while munching on locally caught and battered fish. Remember that they're closed on Mondays -- to go fishing! If you like your fish fresh, you have a variety of options -- from the Lobster Man on Granville Island to on-the-boat options in Steveston, where you can pick out your own kicking crab or lobster wholesale and have it cooked to order.

Shopping Whether you're interested in touristy trinkets or trendy styles, Vancouver is a shopping mecca. To satisfy the average tourist, there's one place you really need to go: Granville Island. Not only will you find numerous shops featuring original British Columbian artists and boutique-style clothing, but it also boasts a large public market. Since parking can be difficult, arrive early and grab a fresh tart or organic muffin at one of the cafes. Then stroll past stalls selling everything from exotic fruits and locally grown nuts and produce, to handmade purses and herbal medicines. Of course, they also have their own fish market. (Try the candied salmon. You may get hooked!)

The upper-crust head to the Oakridge Centre, just fifteen minutes from downtown and a short drive to the airport. Here you'll find luxury shops with major brands such as MaxMara and Hugo Boss. So enjoy -- or simply window shop if your pocketbook can't handle it.

The Olympic Spirit In February and March of 2010, Vancouver will welcome the world as it hosts the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. While the opening and closing ceremonies, along with events such as speed and figure skating, curling, and hockey, will be hosted in the downtown area, look for outdoor events like downhill skiing and bobsled in the outlying regions of Richmond, Whistler, and Cypress Mountain. And since many of the ski resorts will stay open to the general public, you can experience your own thrills on the slopes.

But sports aren't the only draw. The Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad will provide an explosion of the arts in theatres, galleries, village plazas, and downtown streets. There will be more than six hundred ticketed and free performances and exhibitions in sixty locations in Metro Vancouver and along the Sea-to-Sky corridor, including circus acts, comedians, dancers, musicians, theatre performers, visual artists, and even a unique digital art exhibit. Don't miss this unique chance to be treated to exhibits and performances from many nations.

Four Places You Must See Vancouver boasts a unique blend of history -- ancient, modern, and natural. See for yourself what it has to offer in addition to ideal winter sports venues.

Stanley Park This beautiful 1.5 square mile park was set aside shortly after British Columbia claimed Canadian status on April 6,1886. Being one of the few urban parks to be naturally landscaped (rather than designed by an architect), Stanley Park has a unique beauty. It is located on a majestic peninsula, and you can enjoy the scenery by taking a horse-drawn carriage ride, renting some bikes, or merely stretching your legs on 120 miles of hiking trails.

Gastown Undoubtedly the heart of Vancouver is Gastown, named for an old prospector nicknamed "Gassy" Jack Deighton for his tendency to tell stories. The town maintains the old-world charm on which it was founded, featuring cobbled streets and quaint restaurants and art galleries. Don't miss the old steam clock, which puts on a "show" every hour. Check out the many shops, several of which feature unique Aboriginal works.

Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park Looking for something a little more adventurous to do in Vancouver? You'll get the thrill of a lifetime when you cross over this 450-foot bridge that hangs 230 feet above the Capilano River. The novelty of the bridge has lent itself to the creation of a theme park, which includes a "treetops" adventure; in this attraction, you walk among the thousands of beautiful Douglas Firs surrounding the area, using suspension bridges and platforms. You can then peruse the largest privately owned totem pole exhibit and enjoy a display of arts and crafts while learning more about the heritage of the First Nations people. Visit for ticket prices and hours of operation.

Victoria, Vancouver Island No trip to Vancouver would be complete without taking the short ferry ride to Vancouver Island to visit the city of Victoria. From here, you'll have a chance to meander through the beautiful, world-renowned Buchart Gardens, open daily during the summer. After all that walking makes you famished, you may want to experience Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel tea room. Best if arranged in advance, you can pick and choose from a variety of classic items such as English tea scones, crumpets, and delectable finger sandwiches.

A New Temple The Vancouver British Columbia Temple is the 133rd announced temple of the Church. Nearly completed, the temple's beautiful stained-glass windows, single steeple, and gold-leafed angel Moroni are all in place. An open house will be held between April 9 and April 24, 2010, with a formal dedication taking place on Sunday, May 2, 2010. This will be the seventh temple in Canada.

During a visit to the Lower Mainland in 2006 to examine potential temple sites, President Gordon B. Hinckley declared of what became the temple's location, "Here is where we are going to build the temple." The site was not among the available properties, which had all been found wanting. The 11-acre parcel, just east of 200 Street, was assembled from three smaller parcels, none of which were for sale and one which had only recently sold. But the Church eventually acquired each of them. The land is at the highest elevation in the Township of Langley.

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