For the Georgia Straight’s 20th annual Best of Vancouver issue, our editorial team provides some insight into the irreverent details that make our city great. Here’s our contributors’ picks for Best of Vancouver 2015.
Best natural playground
Kids learn, socialize, and sleep better with lots of play and exercise, so why not let them get to it? Richmond’s Terra Nova Adventure Play Environment (2340 River Road) offers an unmatched playground in a beautiful setting on the banks of the Fraser River estuary. A $1-million West Coast Modern wonderland, the city park was custom-built from B.C. yellow cedar and includes ziplines, swings, slides, a maze, a timber “logjam”, and a rope walkway. There’s even a 10-metre-tall treehouse-style tower with a looping, circular slide. Existing in perfect harmony with its pastoral setting, it’s a vivid reminder of that old Ben Franklin chestnut: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
Best T-shirt slogan that got lost in translation
Printed on a T-shirt displayed in a shop window in Richmond’s Aberdeen Mall: “CHELOSOPHY: VICTORY OR NOTHING We are looking for the bottom part of the town. We talk to many beggars. Our noses inhale attentively the misery.”
Best reason to turn the shower off while you’re lathering up
Metro Vancouver implemented Stage 3 water restrictions this year—which banned lawn-sprinkling, car-washing, and refilling pools and ponds—in response to the drought that hit the North American West Coast hard. Local reservoirs dipped to 50 percent in August. It was a sobering reminder that even though we live in a rain forest, we’re not immune to the unexpected and dramatic climate changes affecting the entire world. However, any water-conservation habits picked up during that dry period are always great to keep going, whether we’re in a drought or not.
Best improvement to bus rides
Not only do those new community shuttle buses have improved floor lighting, overhead handrails, and space-age-looking seats, they also have one of the best things that could have happened to sweaty bus riders in the summer: air conditioning! Some # 99 buses also now have air conditioning. (The trick, however, is to get people to actually heed the signs that instruct them not to open windows unless it’s an emergency.)
Least interesting story behind a most interesting Vancouver street name
It’s Canada backwards, dummies.
Best reason that we no longer need to fear outlaw biker gangs
The Lords of Gastown are permitted to exist.
Best Urban Geyser
Geyser for Hillcrest Park
Who doesn’t love a geyser? You’re just sitting there, minding your own business, when WHOOOOOSH! It’s like a surprise party of primal forces. With their installation Geyser for Hillcrest Park, artists Vanessa Kwan and Erica Stocking have given Vancouver a gusher of its very own. Located on the northeast side of the Hillcrest Centre (4575 Clancy Loranger Way) across from Queen Elizabeth Park, the geyser operates as an integral part of the LEED-certified building’s internal waterworks. When the centre’s cistern runs low, fresh water is pumped in, triggering a four- to six-metre spray. Old Faithful may bogart all the geyser press with its clockwork timetable, but our Hillcrest spout is much more coy, erupting only when the cistern runs low. Keep your eyes peeled during dry times.
Best Vancouver imitation of Rodeo Drive
The stretch of Yukon Street southeast of its intersection with Broadway. On a sunny day, its half-dozen palm trees outside the block’s businesses are just screaming for the addition of a shoplifting celebrity or two to complete the illusion.
Best local park for pretty much everything
Some parks specialize. Vanier is a kite-flyer’s paradise, Ceperley is for picnickers, Queen Elizabeth has great views and a floral garden, and Guelph has plenty of, well, dudes chilling. But if you’re looking for one all-purpose park that covers everything, Confederation Park in Burnaby (250 Willingdon Avenue) is just the ticket. Granted, it’s getting a bit late in the season for its great new water park, but the playground equipment is top-notch and there’s a skateboard bowl, an indoor pool, lawn bowling, tennis and basketball courts, baseball diamonds, and a walled box-lacrosse/roller-hockey rink. However, the real star of the show is the model steam railway. With a number of 1/8-scale trains running at any given time, it’s only $3.50 for a 10-minute, three-kilometre ride over the Burnaby Central Railway’s three-hectare site. All aboard!
Best on-air Straight booster
Drex, on News Talk 980 CKNW, just can’t get enough of the Georgia Straight, and the feeling is mutual. Over the past year on his wonderfully weird evening show, he’s had staff writer Travis Lupick on to discuss weed (naturally), movies editor Adrian Mack to ramble on about some conspiracy bullshit (surprise), and contributor Michael Mann to opine about tweeting a picture of a pregnant, naked she-devil sculpture. (Biggest regret: Mann didn’t ask Drex if the she-devil was a MILF.) Geez, Drex even invited editor Charlie Smith on his show to talk about wine. Keep giving Coast to Coast with George Noory a run for its money, Drex.
Best urban oasis
Queen Elizabeth Park
4600 Cambie Street
During the two to three months a year when Vancouver actually dries out and residents can finally discard their umbrellas, parks and outdoor green spaces reign supreme. Fresh air, soft grass, and some much-needed sunshine? Yes, please. And from where I sit, you can’t get much better than Queen Elizabeth Park when it comes to urban oases. For many, many apartment dwellers, the 52-hectare park is a welcome break from the noise of a rapidly densifying city. And with gardens, recreational facilities, the Bloedel Conservatory, a recently installed seasonal zipline, pitch-and-putt golf, public art, and some primo picnic spots, there’s every reason to experience the park for yourself before the fall doldrums set in.
Best place to become one with the ocean
The next time you are on your way to Jericho Beach, take a detour and head north on Alma past Point Grey Road. Make a right onto Cameron Avenue and take the stairs at the end of the block down to a small trail along the ocean that’s a little more secluded than your regular beach stroll. The bonus: an incredible view of the downtown core and Stanley Park, and a quiet spot to sit and contemplate your place in the world. It’s even more beautiful on a clear night when the tide is high.
Best park to get lost in with your pooch
Everett Crowley Park
At 38.08 hectares, this parcel of land near Kerr Street and Marine Way is the fifth-largest Vancouver park, behind the 400-hectare Stanley Park, the 62-hectare Has-tings Park, the 53-hectare Queen Elizabeth Park, and the 48-hectare Jericho Beach Park. Unlike most big Vancouver parks, however, Everett Crowley is refreshingly devoid of commercial activity. With its extensive trails and wooded areas, it’s easy to disappear with your dog inside this southeast Vancouver gem for hours at a time. If you’re wondering about the name, Everett Crowley was a park commissioner in the 1960s who used to own Avalon Dairy. Now his name is more synonymous with stepping in dog poo, but sometimes that’s the price you have to pay to escape city life.
Most egg-citing dispensary
At Eggs Canna (2303 East Hastings Street) marijuana dispensary, patrons/patients can spend a loonie for a shot at grabbing an egg in an old-school arcade-style claw game. The prize? Some plant-based, combustible organic material inside the egg. It’s not “play till you win”, though!
Best sign that the craft revolution has jumped the shark
The reclaimed-wood sign that’s up at 33 West 8th Avenue on Sunday mornings that reads “Artisan Church”. It’s not some new brewery or hipster general store in Mount Pleasant. It’s an actual pop-up parish in a recording studio, and you can download podcasts of their sermons from www.artisanvancouver.ca/.
Best effort by the cops to delete a tweet
Say one day you posted a video of a friend getting hit in the face with a two-day-old tuna sandwich from Subway. (It’s a long story.) Then say six months later, this friend tweeted a joke during the Stanley Cup Playoffs about looting the London Drugs on Granville. He only has about 400 followers, but a social-media guru working at London Drugs sees the tweet and freaks the fuck out and calls the police. If you’re a member of the Vancouver Police Department’s Integrated Riot Investigation Team, do you tell the London Drugs employee to chill out? No, you send the video poster the following email: “I am hoping you can help me get in touch with your friend…I am assuming from your October 5 2014 Twitter post where he is hit in the face with a two-day-old tuna sub and you state you hang out on Sundays that you are friends and not just twitter followers.” The begging-to-be-tossed-on-Reddit email was forwarded to the friend, and after a brief phone call with the officer, the offending tweet got deleted. Bravo, Vancouver Police Department.
Best illegal garbage dump
Illegal dump sites in Vancouver are a persistent problem, with more than 400 abandoned-garbage complaints made to Vancouver’s 3-1-1 service in the first eight months of 2015 alone. For our money, the most unbelievable of these sites was the northwest corner of Fraser Street and 58th Avenue, which turned into a massive trash pile in late August. With the building occupying the lot scheduled for demolition, fleeing residents and professional litterers alike turned its unassuming parking lot into a temporary garbage dump that included a dozen mattresses, two couches, desks, end tables, electronics, and too many bags of trash to count. Although the City of Vancouver has since cleaned up the spot, there’s sure to be another garbage mecca popping up soon.
Best trick by man’s best friend
They come in all shapes, sizes, and colours, but they have one mission: to give love and comfort to the sick, lonely, and dying. Therapy dogs in Vancouver and across the province visit people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, seniors’ centres, schools, and hospices. First-aid-training provider St. John Ambulance has more than 500 canines registered in its therapy-dog program in B.C. Also, members of the nonprofit Pets and Friends bring their dogs and other pets to hospitals and care facilities in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.
Best way to spend time with dogs and earn money
Langara College offers a program that takes dog-walking to a professional level. Students get a certificate after completing the dog-walker program. They get to learn about handling techniques, animal legislation and bylaws, and how to run a dog-walking business. Sounds like a fun alternative career, especially for dog lovers.
Best reason not to mess with Raffi
When B.C. Premier Christy Clark planned to close the Burrard Bridge for an International Yoga Day event on June 21 that would have seen hordes of yogis downward-dogging it on National Aboriginal Day, children’s entertainer Raffi demonstrated the true extent of his superpowers. He launched the #shunthebridge campaign on social media, joining the voices of numerous other protesters. Among the event sponsors (which included lululemon athletica) was AltaGas, which stirred up controversy. Never underestimate the influence of a man who sings “Baby Beluga”, now that his fans are grown-up.
Best place to let your geek flag fly
One Stop Shop Cards & Games
1069–88 West Pender Street
(International Village Mall)
This spacious spot hosts game nights and offers up a real sense of community to board- and card-game aficionados. A large playing area, helpful and informed employees, lots of brick-and-mortar stock within reasonable reach of warehouse prices, and free tryout games make it a geek mecca. Just don’t take advantage of their friendliness by loading up on games from Amazon and then bringing them downtown and demanding that their staff teach you how to play.
Best expression of the threat faced by renters in a hot housing market
Enrica Orazietti lived for almost 30 years in a Vancouver apartment on Woodland Drive. After the owner sold the 30-unit property, the new landlord gave notices to Orazietti and other tenants to leave because the building was to be renovated. After the place is refurbished, it will rent for more money. For Orazietti, it all comes down to this: “Some stranger comes in and tells you to go, just like that.”
Best proof that social housing in vancouver is whatever the hell Gregor Robertson says it is
Social housing is generally known as a residence that requires government funding to help low-income people to reside there. The City of Vancouver used to have that kind of definition, but not anymore. Now, ever since a 6-4 council vote on March 26, any Vancouver rental housing operated by either a nonprofit or government agency is considered social housing, even if 70 percent of the units are rented out for as much as the market can bear, as long as at least 30 percent are occupied by people who can’t afford market rents.
Best sign that yes, you’re in Vancouver
Every street you visit has: 1) a coffee shop; 2) a sushi shop; 3) a yoga studio; 4) a medical-marijuana dispensary.
Best reminder to city hall about what listening to citizens truly means
In a decision striking down a controversial deal between the City of Vancouver and a developer over a Yaletown condo proposal, a B.C. Supreme Court judge recognized that city staff and “some members of council” would already have been behind certain projects by the time a public hearing was called on them. That’s why, according to Justice Mark McEwan, public hearings should be a “counterweight, and as fair, open and transparent” as possible. As McEwan noted in his decision: “A public hearing is not just an occasion for the public to blow off steam.” The ruling was later overturned by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
Best reason for West Enders to keep a phone handy once St. Paul’s hospital is gone
Vancouver’s downtown core no longer has an ambulance station. At present, paramedics leaving St. Paul’s Hospital on Burrard Street are the ones called to respond to emergencies in the area. However, there is a plan for St. Paul’s to relocate to False Creek Flats. But no need to worry about falling ill while in the West End after the hospital is gone, according to Neil MacConnell, who is in charge of moving the Providence Health Care facility. His suggestion: “The best way to handle an emergency is to dial 911.”