Best of Vancouver 2016: City Life

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      Best place to lock up love

      The city has made it clear: keep all public declarations of love away from the fencing on the Burrard Bridge and near False Creek. Instead, take your love locks to Love in the Rain, a stainless-steel, four-metre-high sculpture by Bruce Voyce recently erected by the park board in Queen Elizabeth Park. Consisting of four genderless, ageless couples, it’s meant to celebrate the union that love brings. There’s even a box for lovers to toss their keys in once they’re finished making it official.


      Best place to find a statue of the Buddha

      Eklectic Finds Home & Garden
      1654 Duranleau Street, Granville Island

      This quaint little shop behind Granville Island’s Net Loft might have more Buddha statues than any store its size outside of Dharamsala, which is home to the Dalai Lama. There are metal Buddhas, wooden Buddhas, and clay Buddhas, but it’s more than just that. There are also Asian and Indian household goods, including wall hangings, to jazz up your little condo or apartment. And it’s all very affordable, too.


      Best place to take a flight without flying

      Yes, a flight-simulation attraction does exist in Vancouver. Promoted as the “ultimate flying ride”, FlyOver Canada at Canada Place takes guests on an eight-minute journey that overflies some of our country’s best-known landmarks. From the boarding zone to the seat buckles, you might feel like you’re actually catching a flight at YVR. Good news—your takeoff will be as smooth as a mountain ski lift. For those who aren’t too keen on travelling by air, this is the best alternative. Did we mention that special effects include wind, mist, and scents of our home and native land? The only thing you’ll ever smell on an actual flight is crappy airplane food or, worse, full diapers.


      Best reason to wish for winter

      Normally, the only people in Vancouver who want to see snow fly are snow-tire dealers. But we’re hoping for a miserable winter in 2016 for a purely selfish reason, namely that the lineups at Earnest Ice Cream, Twisted Ice Cream, Rain or Shine, Bella Gelateria, and Mario’s Gelati will merely be out the door instead of right up the block. This summer was anything but a scorcher, but that didn’t stop gourmet ice cream from deservedly becoming one of Vancouver’s hottest trends.


      Best towing company to start a Twitter war with

      The City of Vancouver has a contract with Busters Towing to tow and impound vehicles from city streets and parks, under Impounding Bylaw 3519. The fun thing is, if you ever get towed, you can tweet your impotent rage to the “unofficial account” of Busters’ customer service @Busters_Towing. “Tweet us your comments both positive and negative about experiences with Busters Towing and we will help” reads the description on the Twitter page. If thou dost protest too much about getting towed, though, that “help” can come in the form of a gleefully mocking response. The taunting tweets sometimes end with the hashtag #busted, as in busted by Busters. Hilarious!


      Rainbow-coloured decals and flags throughout Vancouver indicate a safe space for the LGBT crowd.


      Best sign of an LGBT safe space

      Have you seen rainbow-coloured decals posted in the window of a business or institution? That’s a sign that it’s a safe place for LGBT people to go if they’re in need of assistance or in distress. The Vancouver Police Department launched its Safe Place program in late July, a voluntary program in which participants pledge to allow LGBT people to remain on their premises until police are able to arrive. Want to participate? Check out


      Best link to a prehistoric past

      Sorry, we’re not talking famed Vancouver troglodyte and broadcaster Bruce Allen but the Ginkgo biloba trees that are found all over Vancouver. As a species, the trees date back about 270 million years, which means they were around long before the planet looked like a real-life version of John Hammond’s island in Jurassic Park. To get a look at the living fossils, simply head to Chinatown, where they line the streets and are easily identifiable this time of year thanks to the edible nuts they produce. Just follow your nose, because the nuts not only smell, but smell atrocious. Some of the less flattering comparisons have suggested that the ginkgo’s fruit stinks like puke, dog shit, and, worst of all, the broadcast-radio opinions of Bruce Allen.


      Best place to lose your ex

      Cover up your past with a new tattoo. If it’s time for a fresh start, Vancouver is full of amazing artists. Book an appointment and cover that past; bury it like a bad childhood memory.


      Best jolt of education

      The annual TEDx West Vancouver ED conference takes the TED concept—short speeches by accomplished people—and places the focus purely on learning. Organized by West Vancouver school principal Craig Cantlie, this year’s event will take place at the Kay Meek Centre on Saturday (September 24). Among the speakers will be kindergarten teacher Tracy Cramer, who has also been a long-distance open-water swimmer and 911 dispatcher. Squamish Nation member and award-winning North Vancouver principal Brad Baker is also on the roster. Other educators who will give presentations include the Delta school district’s principal of inquiry and innovation, Brooke Moore, and Okanagan principal and early tech adopter Ian Landy. Former South African president Nelson Mandela once said that education is the most powerful weapon to change the world. But it can only occur if educators are given opportunities to make this happen.


      Best neighbourhood in which to walk around nude

      If you’ve spent enough time getting your summer bod sorted, Yaletown is the obvious choice. Too busy to pick up a hot date but still want the appreciative stares when you take off your shirt? Just wait until nightfall, turn on the light in your apartment, and wait for your neighbours to sit alone in their dark condos, admiring you from a distance.


      Vancouver's English Bay was included in The Guardian's list of top beaches in the world.


      Best English nod to English Bay

      We’ve always loved English Bay. But in February, the Guardian chose it as one of the top 50 beaches in the world, scraping in at No. 47. They called it a “mecca for families and volleyball players” and “a prime spot for watching the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks displays”. Although who knows, maybe they liked something about the name?


      Best underappreciated green space

      Everett Crowley Park
      8200 Kerr Street

      Stanley Park gets all the tourists; Trout Lake (formally known as John Hendry Park) is a haven for East Van dog walkers; and Dude Chilling has the coolest name—which makes Everett Crowley Park easy to overlook. Part of a South Vancouver green strip that also encompasses Fraserview Golf Course and Champlain Heights, Sparwood, and Captain Cook parks, Everett Crowley was developed on the site of a former landfill. Despite that inauspicious beginning, the park is a 38-hectare habitat for birds and other wildlife as well as an urban sanctuary for harried humans, complete with trails, a pond, and lush woodland.


      Best reason why we don’t need a Zombie-Walk event

      Because, thanks to the city’s spatially oblivious, arm-flinging, mumbling pedestrians, it happens every day on the sidewalks of Vancouver.


      Best place to get a Bollywood magazine fix

      Virtually everything is available on the Internet, but sometimes people just want to pick up a glossy mag with full-colour shots of movie stars. But it’s not so easy if you’re a Bollywood fan craving a Shah Rukh Khan fix and you live in downtown Vancouver. Fortunately, the Vancouver Public Library’s South Hill branch on Fraser Street carries one of India’s premier English-language movie mags, Filmfare, as well as a large selection of other Indian publications and subtitled Hindi movies. Shah Rukh, Amitabh, Priyanka, Katrina, Hrithik, Akshay, Salman, and Deepika are only a bus ride away.


      Best homeless blog: Sqwabb

      Stanley Q. Woodvine’s witty and wise blog offers an astonishing view of Vancouver from the street, but it’s not exclusively about homelessness. The Fairview binner writes knowledgeably about everything from the latest high-tech developments to fentanyl to what it’s like living in a parkade with a dead spider nearby. Woodvine also regularly breaks news stories from his daytime perch inside McDonald’s near the corner of West Broadway and Granville. And he takes sensational photos of insects and the Vancouver skyline. Read his posts here and you’ll come away thinking that not all homeless people are just like the rest of us—Woodvine is actually much smarter than almost everyone else. Why won’t the City of Vancouver seek his input when devising policies around homelessness?


      The Vancouver Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence still deserve credit for their good works, which include handing out condoms in bars and raising funds for AIDS VancouverPositive Living B.C., and other organizations.
      Charlie Smith


      Best nondenominational order of queer nuns

      Okay, there’s only one order of nondenominational queer nuns, so there isn’t a lot of competition in this category. But, hey, the Vancouver Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence still deserve credit for their good works, which include handing out condoms in bars and raising funds for AIDS VancouverPositive Living B.C., and other organizations. The sisters’ painted white faces and horned wimples make them instantly recognizable at events across the Lower Mainland. “The sacred white face is an expression of joy,” Rev. Mother Diversity Rains told the Straight during Pride Week. “It provides for the population an indiscernible face that they can feel free talking to.”


      Best place to lose your tramp stamp

      Everyone seems to have a tattoo these days, so there’s bound to be a bad choice in there somewhere. Tattoo removal or cover-up is always an option. Hidden within Monkey King Tattoo on Kingsway is a guy called Scott who will carefully laser away your shame. You may be lucky enough to have a small dog keep you company. When you’re finished, you can look at the amazing authentic Asian-style tattoo art.


      Best new West End spot to remember an LGBT champion

      When Jim Deva was disinherited and asked to leave his Alberta family home for being gay, he came to Vancouver with his partner, Bruce Smith, and founded Little Sister’s Bookstore. His epic battle against Canada Customs, which often seized his book shipments at the border, was a pivotal chapter in Canadian censorship and queer history. Jim Deva Plaza opened in July, paving over Bute Street from Davie Street south to the alleyway. The tree-lined plaza features tables and benches, and a pink megaphone sculpture pays tribute to the freedom of speech for which Deva fought.


      Best place downtown for pedestrians to get one step ahead of cars

      Burrard and Davie intersection

      The walk signals light up three seconds ahead of the traffic lights at the intersection of Burrard and Davie streets, which allows pedestrians to hit the road before cars do. It’s a good thing, due to the width of the four-lane road plus parking and a bike lane. See how fast you can speed across the street—before cars do.


      Best place for a public breakup

      It’s never good. You thought you were solid until a single swipe revealed them with a new Tinder profile. So where do you break the news? Text? Facebook? No, no, no. Starbucks. If there’s a scene, no one will notice. They are conveniently located all over the city. Neutral territory. Order a chai latte and calmly say “It’s over.”


      Vancouver street artist iHeart tackles society's obsession with social media in a way that's both sharp and unsettling.


      Best use of social media by an anonymous individual, group, or entity

      Okay, it’s not as literal as taking down a bunch of KKK members or conducting a series of cyber-protests via Twitter, but Vancouver street artist iHeart’s murals address society’s obsession with social media in a way that’s both sharp and unsettling. The artist’s first piece—a since-effaced image of a boy bawling below three zeros in an Instagram notification bubble—emerged in Stanley Park more than two years ago, and he, she, or they recently returned to install seven more—mostly in and around Mount Pleasant—as part of the Vancouver Mural Festival.


      Best place to get vacation envy

      Wanderlust Travellers’ Store
      1929 West 4th Avenue

      This place has to be my favourite stop for all things vacation. From guidebooks to luggage to obscure power adapters and converters (surely the work of some fiendish madman), it makes me wish I could get away with travelling for a living. Failing that, it’s an excellent place to stock up, whether you’re taking a quick trip down to Disneyland with the kids or a jaunt across the pond to visit medieval castles.


      Best place to spend the better part of this month’s rent

      Pulpfiction Books
      Various locations

      In all honesty, some of us have never been able to visit here without buying at least one book. It’s your basic kid-in-a-candy-store situation, really. With a—to put it very mildly—healthy selection of new and used literary ephemera, it’s way too easy to lose yourself in a veritable orgy of worship of the written word. If you’re looking to trim down your personal library, the store also buys books, with an emphasis on the unusual or obscure.


      Best place to rent a musical instrument

      Turns out that charging money for rental services just isn’t cool anymore. With the launch of the Sun Life Financial Musical Instrument Lending Library, the Vancouver Public Library has made hundreds of musical instruments available for free. At the city’s central library (350 West Georgia Street), anyone with a library card can reserve everything from a xylophone to a djembe or a banjo. Or, if you’re superboring, a violin or guitar. Your choice.


      Best panhandler

      This is a no-brainer, amirite? No? Okay. Let’s play a guessing game. Clue one: he’s often spotted on Granville between Davie and Smithe streets. Clue two: he’s often a little unsteady on his feet. Clue three: friendly neighbourhood restaurants provide him with all the cutlery he could possibly need. That’s right—it’s the guy who plays the spoons. Don’t think it’s a talent? Let’s see you try to perfect those rolling rhythms.


      The rainbow crosswalks in the West End received a fresh coat of paint in time for this summer's Vancouver Pride Parade.


      Best brightening of a rainbow

      Not only did Jim Deva Plaza open up but the West End rainbow crosswalks got a fresh coat of paint. And just in time—they had been getting dirty and worn ever since they were revealed in 2013. There are now three, instead of four, crosswalks at the Davie and Bute intersection because the plaza took over the south end of Bute Street. However, there’s now a deconstructed rainbow splashed across the plaza, which means you can still be walking on sunshine as you stroll through the tribute to one of Vancouver’s LGBT pioneers.


      Best roller-girl traffic director dressed in pink

      As far as we’re aware, there’s only one: Angela “Roller Girl” Dawson. Regularly spotted around the downtown core weaving through cars to help pedestrians keep within the crosswalk lines, Dawson is a polarizing figure. Dedicated to following the laws of traffic, she has been known on more than one occasion to shout abuse at drivers. What’ll happen if the city opens bike lanes on her stomping grounds? We can only imagine.


      Best reason to get moving

      Bitch all you want about bike lanes, which have reshaped the streets of Vancouver in a way not seen since Granville Street was an untouched stand of forest. The reality is that not all of us in the city are comfortable riding along Prior Street during rush hour. For those of us who’d rather not take our lives in our hands every time we get on two wheels, there’s something undeniably wonderful about being able to pedal from Commercial Drive to Stanley Park without worrying about dying. Thanks to the city’s ever-expanding network of bike lanes, one doesn’t have to stress about being doored by a harried soccer mom in a minivan or run off the road by a Howe Street businessman in a Hummer. Not our problem that turning right in a car is mission impossible along Dunsmuir Street between Rogers Arena and Lost Lagoon—all we care about is that it’s clear sailing to the seawall when pedalling away on our vintage Kuwahara. Now, if only someone could do something about the November-to-March monsoons, because as soon as the rain arrives, we’re back in the car. A little less likely, however, to curse Vancouver’s bike lanes—funny how your enemy sometimes becomes a friend.


      Best transit stop to avoid when drunk

      Here’s a little reminder: buses do not run on downtown Granville Street on weekends and holidays. Do not stand for several hours at Granville and Georgia waiting for transit. It will not come. Repeat: it will not come.


      The City of Vancouver officially designated an eight-block stretch of Commercial Drive as Little Italy this summer.
      Italian Day


      Best place to find little Italians

      Little Italy

      The City of Vancouver officially designated an eight-block section of Commercial Drive (north and south of 1st Avenue) as Little Italy. Italian immigrants historically settled in the area, which is part of the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood, and businesses continue to thrive there today, with up to 80 percent being owned by Italian Canadians. But no, the name doesn’t refer to height.


      Best place to see seniors exercising for cash

      The PNE ain’t the PNE without the dozens of senior citizens touting their residential parking spaces within a one-kilometre radius of the fair. While the willingness of these visor-sporting, cardboard-sign waving retirees to make a quick buck is truly commendable, it’s their outstanding cardiovascular strength that’s the real inspo. Hand them a 10 and watch how nimbly they jog, power-walk, and bike ahead of your lazy ass to save you from having to travel an extra five blocks for a bag of those little doughnuts.


      Best sign of a vanishing Vancouver

      Want an early heads-up that the postwar bungalow down the street is headed straight to the landfill? Or that the Craftsman home two blocks over is about to get a featured spot on the page Vancouver Vanishes? Simply watch for the city’s ubiquitous orange plastic fences, designed to make sure that the trees near scheduled-for-demolition houses aren’t damaged when the Dumpster arrives. The last thing anyone wants to see is a perfectly good sapling being harmed when that cute heritage home is coming down for yet another profit-maximizing duplex. Too bad the city can’t come up with a orange plastic fence to protect perfectly good homes that are getting razed daily after being part of the Vancouver landscape for decades. More than 1,000 demolition permits are issued by Vancouver city hall each year, which explains why there are more orange fences from East Van to Dunbar than there are surviving character houses.


      Best place to get bird poop on your head

      Granville Island. With all the pigeons, seagulls, and other birds constantly flying around this tourist hot spot, don’t be surprised if you feel a splatter on your head that will slowly slide down the side of your face. Solution? Wear a hat, or use an umbrella even when it’s not raining.


      Best place to pretend you’re in a scene from Harry Potter

      Little do Vancouverites know there’s a remote room on the third floor of UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre that highly resembles Hogwarts. The walls are lined with rows of portraits of past chancellors, emitting an aura of importance. Students love the European-style wooden tables and chairs, with fancy table lamps for use when the natural light fades. The most popular feature inside the room is the winding staircase that takes you to the fourth floor. Still not convinced? Students across campus have even named it the Harry Potter Room. Even though it’s not open to the public, if you know a UBC student, they could probably take you in for a quick peek.


      Faculty Brewing Co. is one of a handful of microbreweries that joined Vancouver's thriving craft-beer scene this year.
      Amanda Siebert


      Best big boom

      A half-decade ago, Metro Vancouver beer nerds could only gaze wistfully across the border, where their fellow Cascadians were doing things with suds far beyond creating a drinkable lager. Raise a pint glass if you used to dream of a world with easy access to groundbreaking brews like Pyramid Apricot Ale, Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar, and Elysian Space Dust IPA. Flash forward to 2016, and Vancouver’s craft-beer explosion has made the province every bit the equal of Washington state and Portlandia. Now it’s the Americans who are looking across the border, wondering if it’s time to update their passports, if only to get their hands on Parallel 49’s Meyer Lemon Radler, Strange Fellows Blackmail Milk Stout, and Brassneck Brewery’s Raspberry Changeling. No one is saying Vancouver does things better than the fabled beer meccas just down the I-5, but damned if we haven’t grown up quickly to become just as great as the big boys.


      Best place to find raging Donald Trump supporters in Vancouver

      A meeting of the civic party Vancouver First. Don’t believe us? Check out the group’s Twitter feed, @vancouverfirst1. It’s terrifying.


      Best place to get a heart attack when you’re just trying to hike

      Nature lovers and outdoors aficionados may disagree, but the average person who doesn’t regularly run marathons understands that Grouse Grind is just another word (or two) for “death”. If you’re looking for a bit of fresh air and some light exercise, we recommend choosing a different North Shore hike. With its 2.9-kilometre uphill trail, be warned that it’s not unusual for hikers to feel lightheaded or run out of breath when climbing the Grind’s 2,830 steps. (There have been some unfortunate deaths on the hike.) We’re not kidding when we say that you will cry tears of angst and regret during the first few minutes of the hike. But for those active individuals who make it to the top, you’ll feel accomplished when looking down at the glory that is Vancouver. Remember to give yourself a pat on the back before proceeding to the mountaintop café for a celebratory beer.


      Best place to get locked in a room with your claustrophobic friend

      First things first: you actually have to pay to be locked in a room at GUESS HQ in Gastown. But it’s not just any room; it’s an adventure room, complete with movie set–level décor and intricate puzzles, that follows the wildly popular escape-room concept where players have to solve clues and finish a mission before time runs out. We suggest choosing as team members friends who are able to think quickly and aren’t afraid of the dark (even if they may be slightly claustrophobic). Think laser beams, pitch-black crawlspaces, kneepads, and hard-top helmets. Sure, your friend may not be too fond of the tight spaces and shoulder-to-shoulder rubs, but when and where else would you get a chance to be Agent 007 for 45 minutes?