Best of Vancouver 2015: Our contributors’ picks

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      Despite the high cost of housing and the occasional SkyTrain breakdown, Vancouver remains the envy of the world. This year, our city ranked third in the U.K.–based Economist’s 2015 Global Liveability Ranking, thanks to our outstanding parks, stunning beaches, clean air, nearby skiing and hiking destinations, low crime rate, and lack of racial or religious strife. No other North American city came ahead of us.

      Another London-based international magazine, Monocle, placed Vancouver seventh on its list of the world’s most livable cities in 2015. Vancouver came first in North America and was one of only two cities on this continent to crack the Top 25.

      Meanwhile, the consulting company Mercer also named Vancouver the most livable North American city this year. According to Mercer, we ranked fifth in the world behind Vienna, Zurich, Auckland, and Munich. So what if Vienna can claim Sigmund Freud as a favourite son. Our city gave birth to the far more likable Scotty on Star Trek, aka James Doohan. That’s not to mention director, actor, and screenwriter Seth Rogen, who became part of the biggest news story in the world late last year when Sony Pictures refused to distribute his satirical comedy The Interview.

      Of course, long-time residents of Vancouver don’t need publications from halfway around the world to shed light on our city’s charms. That’s because for the past 20 years, the Georgia Straight has been doing this through our annual Best of Vancouver issue. It’s the definitive guide to city life, and it offers a wealth of information for newcomers.

      This year, we’ve taken the public’s pulse in 269 categories. The results were compiled from hundreds of thousands of responses to individual questions in our online survey. (People were given an incentive to vote with a contest offering a $1,500 gift certificate from Flight Centre.)

      Among the winners are AnnaLena for Best New Restaurant, Marcus Bowcott’s Trans Am Totem as the best public-art installation over the past 12 months, and Granville Island Brewing’s Lions Winter Ale for Best Locally Brewed Beer. In case you’re wondering, Parallel 49’s Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale came second in this category, followed by Central City’s Red Racer IPA.

      What sets the Straight’s Best of Vancouver issue apart, however, is our writers’ often irreverent choices. You’ll find out about the best urban geyser, the best culinary comeback, and the reason why there’s no longer any need to fear outlaw biker gangs. Click on the seven category boxes at the bottom of this article to peruse those.

      All of this is not to say that Vancouver lacks problems. Parking is still a rip-off in our town. The future of our coastline is in jeopardy if a pipeline expansion brings hundreds of thousands more barrels of oil to Vancouver for export. The cost of housing is driving far too many talented residents out of Vancouver. And this summer’s drought and forest fires demonstrated that we’re not immune to the effects of climate change.

      But these concerns, at least over the short term, pale in comparison to those of the Middle East, where people are being murdered en masse for their religious or political beliefs. In Russia, politicians have passed laws to lock up gays and lesbians, and the judiciary sends punk rockers to the slammer. Over in China, freedom of speech ends as soon as you mention one of the three Ts: Tibet, Tiananmen, and Taiwan.

      Here in Vancouver, on the other hand, we attend film, music, arts, and cultural festivals to learn more about our neighbours. Nobody’s getting killed at VIFF, TaiwanFest, Music Waste, or the Korean Cultural Heritage Festival. It’s a model worth copying.

      This year, to celebrate our 20th Best of Vancouver issue, we’ve partnered with Granville Island Brewing to create a Georgia Straight Best of Vancouver beer, which is being presented to the winners. The bottle features the Straight’s mascot, Mr. Wuxtry, and will be available in limited quantities in 18 private liquor stores. For more on this, check out photojournalist Amanda Siebert’s story here.