Best of Vancouver 2018: Activities & Events

    1 of 5 2 of 5

      Best place to lose yourself in a Tim Burton film

      Vancouver loves its sleek, minimalist cafés, but the recently launched Laurence & Chico Café is offering a different, more surreal take on the traditional caffeine stop—and plenty of Instagram photo ops, to boot. Founded by the minds behind New York City– and Vancouver-based fashion label Laurence & Chico, the shop feels straight out of a scene of Tim Burton’s reimagining of Alice in Wonderland.

      Think images of giant eyeballs and creepy-cool reptiles splashed onto the walls, whimsical holes in the ceiling that reveal a pair of dangling mannequin legs, and restrooms adorned with hundreds of rubber yellow ducks. If you love something enough, you can even take it home: every item—from the fringe-and-pearl-embellished lighting fixtures to the black-porcelain teapots—is for sale.


      Best place to find a Halloween costume

      The Party Bazaar (1296 Station Street) is having a blowout sale like never before. Sadly, that’s because B.C.’s headquarters for Halloween costumes is closing its doors forever on November 4 after four decades in business. The bargains are amazing. The memories for many Vancouverites are indelible. But a new hospital is going in on the other side of the nearby train station, so the site of the store is being redeveloped for an office building. In Vancouver’s real-estate world, fun always takes a back seat to financial gain.


      Best weekend activity you haven’t done yet

      Located on the Capilano River in North Van, the Capilano Salmon Hatchery is a lesser-known hometown attraction. When the normal spawning areas for returning Capilano salmon were cut off by construction of the Cleveland Dam, the hatchery was built to give the salmon the best shot at survival. The visit includes a self-guided tour through the tanks that hold juvenile fish and—if you pick the right time of year—the chance to see thousands of salmon launching themselves up the ladder. A walk north on the other side of the river will take you to a lookout for the dam, and a side trail up the hill heads to a beautiful old-growth tree grove. Best of all, it’s free.


      Best noon-hour food for thought, with a side of killer curry

      Indian Summer Festival’s Tiffin Talks were a brilliant mashup of culture and food. Located at its funky PAUSE pavilion in Vanier Park this past July, with a view out to the mountains and Burrard Inlet, the long-table lunches served up steaming-hot dishes in Indian-style tiffins. Meanwhile, artists, writers, business leaders, architects, and others shared ideas along with their food.


      Janet McDonald

      Best curiosities for your cabinet

      “Oddities, trinkets, & scientific interests” is the store’s motto, and, accordingly, This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven (2244 East Hastings Street)— an eccentric little Hastings-Sunrise emporium—serves up enough to create your own weird mini museum. Think butterflies in resin, mink skulls, and taxidermied mice in bell jars. Set those off with cacti planted in vintage baby doll heads and intricately carved cow skulls. Should you wish to take things further, the store gallery offers everything from taxidermy for beginners to butterfly-pinning workshops.


      Best place to watch a horror movie

      Ever been so absorbed in a horror flick it felt like you were in it? Turns out you can be. Every second Tuesday of the month, the Vancouver Police Museum hosts a series of films in the never-been-renovated old city morgue. Famed for its stack of mortuary drawers, its autopsy suite with two shiny metal tables, and an abandoned laboratory, the spot is terrifying in its authenticity. Forget the drive-in theatre—after a night watching Se7en or The Silence of the Lambs in a location that gruesome, you’ll never sleep without the lights on again.


      Best way to spend $20K in Whistler

      If you find yourself with $20,000 in spare change, why not spend it on an extravagant culinary experience that includes a helicopter ride and ice-cave journey? The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler have teamed up with Headline Mountains Holidays to offer this luxury package for those who have deep pockets. The six-hour trip includes a limo ride, scenic flight, guided ice-cave exploration, private five-course dinner, and Krug champagne.

      This totally affordable price will get you and another guest a serving of caviar inside the Blue Room, which is the ice cave you probably wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Overnight accommodations are not included, but what’s another couple hundred dollars on top of that 20 grand you’ve already spent?


      Best way to avoid getting a concussion when bike riding

      It’s never a good idea to hold anything other than your bicycle handles when you’re cruising down a hill, but sometimes you just have the urge to take out your smartphone to snap a quick photo or video. This is especially true if you happen to be riding through Stanley Park: the city skyline, lush evergreens, and beautiful water views might entice you to grab your phone. But that’s exactly how accidents happen: you forget that your bicycling skills are not superior, and suddenly you lose balance and tumble head-first to the concrete. The best way to avoid all of this is to scrap bike-riding altogether and just take a walk along the seawall.


      March for Science

      Best place to host Vancouver’s next March for Science

      Gwyneth Paltrow’s much lambasted lifestyle brand, Goop, is bringing its annual wellness summit to Vancouver this fall, likely with a lineup of pseudoscientific seminars and—if we’re lucky!—hormone-balancing vaginal eggs in tow. That is to say, the conference’s location at scenic Stanley Park makes an apt site for the 2018 edition of the city’s March for Science protest. Suggested sign ideas: “Keep the steam-cleaning to carpets,” “Invest in research, not $15,000 dildos,” and “Let’s consciously uncouple with this bullshit.”


      Best new festival to listen out for

      Vancouver Podcast Festival
      November 8 to 10

      Experts have chalked it up to everything from screen fatigue to our craving for authentic storytelling. But whatever the reason, podcasts have been surging in popularity. Enter our friends at DOXA, who seized the chance to launch the first ever Vancouver Podcast Festival in November with a program focused on True Crime, True Justice. Think live tapings by podcasters from across North America, plus panel discussions, workshops, and creator meet-and-greets for true fans.

      We’re talking everything from appearances by Rap Gods to hosts and producers from CBC’s popular This Is That, as well as Someone Knows Something, You Must Remember This, On Drugs, and In the Dark. Venues include the Rio Theatre, CBC Vancouver’s Studio 700, and the Vancouver Public Library’s Inspiration Lab.


      Best material for a public artwork

      Artists Helen Reed and Hannah Jickling are using chewing gum for their cool and kid-friendly new art project, QA CHEW’S BUBBLE TROUBLE. It’s the result of the VIVA Award winners’ ongoing residency, Big Rock Candy Mountain, at Queen Alexandra elementary on Vancouver’s East Side. The program has been called everything from a flavour incubator to a taste-making think tank. In it, students worked with different ingredients, colours, and even a food-science expert.

      Jickling explains in an artists’ statement: “The kids learn about processes of production and the materials that comprise goods. Big Rock Candy Mountain doesn’t promote gratuitous candy consumption, but complicates the relationship to sweets as culturally defined objects of desire. We chose gum because it’s a difficult material: it’s sticky, messy, and even banned from public schools.”

      Described as fruity-sweet, the “limited edition gum” will be sold at Western Front gallery (where there will be a complementary exhibit called Mouthfeel this month) and distributed there and elsewhere at Halloween. A sticky business, indeed.


      Best spot to visit when you miss Disneyland

      Nothing really compares to Disney theme-park magic, but if you find yourself missing Mickey’s home, head over to Vancouver’s very own Science World. The educational attraction is currently running a Disney-themed exhibition: The Science Behind Pixar. It features more than 40 interactive displays that showcase the science, technology, engineering, and math behind popular films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. If you’re a Disney fanatic, you’ll see many familiar faces, including Buzz Lightyear, Dory, and Edna Mode, among others.


      Best place to channel your inner Beyoncé or Bruno Mars

      If you’re looking for an alternative to signing up for a gym membership (because you think lifting weights and running on treadmills aren’t stimulating enough), check out RSVP33, a local dance company. It’s open to everyone, including beginners with no dance experience as well as those who have had training. You’ll be swaying your hips and rolling your bodies with a high-energy crowd, learning choreography to throwback songs, the latest pop tunes, and Beyoncé hits. If you feel nervous because you think all eyes are on you, don’t worry—everyone is too busy looking at themselves.


      Florence + the Machine

      Best start-up music fest

      Sure it rained like Tofino in November, but that inconvenience did little to dampen the enthusiasm of those who attended the first edition of SKOOKUM Festival in Stanley Park. The goal of organizers was both simple and ambitious: to bring a major, multiday musical blowout to Vancouverites in an easily accessible locale. Forget having to load up the Hummer and head to Squamish or Pemberton, SKOOKUM was just a bike ride, SkyTrain, or Evo commute away in the middle of a majestic park.

      From art installations to on-site fire pits for warming up, almost every detail seemed meticulously conceived. And, God forbid, you could actually walk around with a craft beer in your hand. As with almost any startup, there were some glitches, a big one being long lineups at the festival’s gourmet-food stalls. But one might argue that was a sign that SKOOKUM was more successful than anyone dreamed, with 18,500 attendees showing up for a Saturday bill headlined by Florence + the Machine, and 17,000 turning up to close out the weekend with a Sunday set by the Killers.

      Add major revelations (hello, St. Vincent and Father John Misty), veteran crowd pleasers (Metric and Bahamas), and a strong showing by veteran local acts (Mother Mother at its oddball best) and you had a festival that looks bound for great things in the future—including, hopefully, weather that doesn’t look like Vancouver in Juneuary.


      Best way to learn about high achievers in Vancouver’s Latin American community

      Latincouver’s executive director, Paola Murillo, often points out that there are more than 125,000 people of Latin American ancestry living in Metro Vancouver, counting students. On November 1, Latincouver will honour the community’s heroes at its fifth annual Inspirational Latin Awards gala. Pay attention to this community. It’s doing lots of great things in the arts, business, sports, academia, and activism.

      One inspirational Latin American immigrant to Vancouver, HIV/AIDS researcher Dr. Julio Montaner, leads a team that developed treatments to turn a death sentence into a chronic medical condition. And if Colombian immigrant and social-justice warrior Diego Cardona gets elected to Vancouver city council on October 20, the city will finally have its first Latin American sitting in the council chamber.


      Best golden-years retirement plan

      Vancouver is consistently ranked one of the most livable cities on the planet, but that doesn’t change the reality that it’s also one of the most unaffordable places in the universe. One way to ensure you won’t be folding up your tent and moving to a Williams Lake trailer park in your golden years is to have kids and steer them into a profession that ensures they’ll have the money to take care of you. Screw aiming low for a career as a doctor or a lawyer—instead, sign up your spawn where the real money is this days: hip-hop. (Did you know that Jay-Z pulled down $76.5 million last year, according to Forbes, with Kendrick Lamar pocketing $58 million?)

      The Hip Hop Drop is a drop-in program in gloriously gritty East Van, running 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays in the old Astorino’s dance hall at 1739 Venables. The weekly event features a free recording studio, mentorship in rapping and freestyling, guidance in the arts of graffiti and breakdancing, and tips for those who’d rather man the wheels of steals. If you’ve got a kid between the ages or 12 and 18, this might be the career jump-start that gets them writing something as immortal as N.W.A’s “Fuck Tha Police”, the Geto Boys’ “Gangsta of Love”, or Rico Nasty’s “Smack a Bitch”. Or, failing that, Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”, which, the last time we checked, was still paying the bills for Robbie Van Winkle.


      Best bargains for book fiends

      Lovers of literature, mysteries, and nonfiction tomes are all going to converge on the Vancouver Public Library central branch later this month for the city’s most glorious book sale. This annual event takes place in the Alice MacKay Room from October 25 to 27, with fiction titles selling for a buck apiece. That’s less than the cost of a coffee in the nearby Blenz.

      Children’s nonfiction and picture books are also only $1 each. Most other items will be on sale for $2.50. And you never know who you might run into at this sale. A few years ago, Straight editor Charlie Smith had a brush with celebrity when he bumped into Nardwuar the Human Serviette. No doubt, the Nard was mining for precious material that he was planning to present in the future to his often-startled interview subjects.



      Best bridge building by a festival artistic director

      There are some outstanding community builders at the helm of various festivals in the Lower Mainland. The Richmond World Festival, for instance, celebrates the region’s diversity through music, art, and food, bringing in performers that appeal to a broad cross-section of the population. It’s a veritable United Nations in Minoru Park every Labour Day weekend. The Indian Summer Festival also stands out for its broad-minded approach, bringing together Indigenous performers with others from minority communities this year for a remarkable intercultural exchange of ideas and music.

      One of the most intriguing efforts at bridge building has been occurring at TaiwanFest in recent years. The key organizer, Charlie Wu, has been curating a Dialogues With Asia series since 2016, which explores the connections between Taiwan and its neighbours. It began by looking at the parallels with Hong Kong—and in particular, both countries’ student movements. The following year, Japan was in the spotlight as TaiwanFest took stock of the long-term impact of being a part of that country from 1895 to 1945.

      This year, the festival focused on the shared heritage of Indigenous communities in Taiwan and the Philippines. TaiwanFest even featured a Pinoy block on Granville Street as part of its celebration For a weekend, two Pacific island nations became the closest of friends in Vancouver.


      Best soon-to-depart executive director of a BIA

      When people think of Vancouver legends, names like Jimmy Pattison or the Sedin twins invariably come to mind. But in Gastown, Leanore Sali has achieved legendary status for her advocacy for the city’s oldest neighbourhood. The long-time executive director of the Gastown Business Improvement Society is moving on after playing a monumental role in the transformation of the area from a dilapidated heritage district into one of the jewels of Vancouver.

      Under her leadership, the society launched a lane-cleaning program, now run by United We Can, that provides employment for marginalized residents. She helped bring back the Gastown Grand Prix, which is overseen by Global Relay, and the always delightful Yule Duel. Choirs from across the city converge on Gastown in early December, re-creating the feel of Victorian England as they sing carols in different blocks. Celebrity judges choose the winner, with all the funds raised going to May’s Place hospice in the Downtown Eastside.

      Through her compassion and her determination to help small merchants succeed, Sali set an impressive example for BIA executive directors across the city. And never once, in all the years that we can recall, did she ever try to bring credit upon herself for her accomplishments.


      Best way to revamp your wardrobe without feeling an ounce of guilt

      In case you haven’t heard, the fast-fashion industry—what with all the pollution and discarded textiles it creates—is not exactly kind to the environment. But First Pick Handmade, a biannual “slow fashion” market championing sustainably crafted threads, is helping residents green up their closets with a selection of locally designed and produced coats, recycled-leather totes, reclaimed-wood jewellery, and more. Who knew shopping could feel—and look—so good?


      Best motorbike history lesson

      Trev Deeley Motorcycles
      1875 Boundary Road

      Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Deeley family opening the first Harley Davidson dealership in Canada. To honour the milestone, Trev Deeley curated an massive, hog-happy exhibit called 100 Years of Motorcycling. Even if you have never climbed on a motorcycle, you will still be impressed by this extensive collection. Styles range from badass beauties right out of Easy Rider to vintage finds right out of Hogan’s Heroes, plus many rare bikes you’ll only find in this exhibition. It’s historical and hardcore, just like East Van. Entry by donation.