Exploring Vancouver

This Canadian city has a thriving gay scene, plus all of the best shops, restaurants, and hotels a tourist could desire. So there’s really just one unanswered question. Why aren’t we living there already?
By Paul Horne for PASSPORT Magazine

Is Vancouver the best city in the world? A lot of people seem to think so. In 2005 it was voted the most livable city in the world by a think tank survey. It's also a Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice for top city to visit in the Americas, and the International Olympic Committee chose it to host the Olympics in 2010. So what makes Vancouver so "livable," and if it's so great, why aren't I living there? This past June I went there to find out.

Vancouver's location as a gateway to the Pacific Rim has helped the city become the busiest seaport in Canada, exporting more cargo than any other port in North America. It's the combination of mountains, ocean, forest, and parklands surrounding the city that makes it not only "livable" for residents, but also a major tourist destination. Every tourist brochure brags that Vancouver is one of the few cities where you can river raft in the morning, snow ski in the afternoon, and still make it back to the clubs at night (who are these overachievers?), but it is actually true.Vancouver also has the largest gay population in Western Canada, and since British Columbia legalized gay marriage in 2003, the area has not surprisingly seen an upswing in gay visitors and residents. More so than other cities I've visited, Vancouver is a city of neighborhoods each with its own distinct character and ethnic mix. People of British origin were historically the largest ethnic group in the city, but today the Chinese are the largest visible ethnic group, and the city has the second largest Chinatown in North America after San Francisco. Gays and lesbians are well integrated throughout the entire city, but the gay community is centered primarily around the West End neighborhood along Davie Street (Davie Village). This center of gay life, heralded by a café-lined lane dotted with rainbow flags and pink trashcans, is also the most popular and populated area of the city. The eclectic neighborhood of beautiful tree-lined streets has a few remaining Edwardian-style houses left among apartment buildings and skyscrapers. In just a few minutes you can walk from Davie down to False Creek to take in the beaches, the snow-capped mountains, and the many fitness enthusiasts walking, running, and skating along the paved seawall that surrounds the city.

Vancouver's thriving lesbian community is located a bit more to the east in the neighborhood around Commercial Drive ("The Drive" to locals). Popular clubs for ladies include Lick, Hershe Bar @ Sonar, and the annual CHICAS event at The Mansion on Davie Street. As an adjunct to the Vancouver Pride Week there is also a Vancouver Dyke March and Festival in early August, and lesbian events throughout the year produced by Flygirl Productions.


Published: 2 Nov 2008 | Last Updated: 1 Apr 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Vancouver

$146-$177
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#1
L'Hermitage
$523-$598
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#2
Fairmont Pacific Rim
$292-$371
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#3
Pan Pacific Vancouver
$351-$389
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#4
Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver

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