Best of Vancouver 2017: Activities & Events

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      Best new mural on the West Side

      This summer, the outdoor shopping mall and restaurant zone along West 4th Avenue was jazzed up by a shimmering, massive mural. The husband and wife team of Steve and Sandy Pell painted #kitswings on a 12-by–7.5-metre wall on the northwest corner of West 4th and Burrard Street.

      Kitsilano West 4th Avenue Business Association executive director Jane McFadden (photographed above) devised the winged theme, and the artists went from there, taking their inspiration from the bald eagles living near Kits Beach. “I tried, as I was moving out from the centre of the mural out to the almost give it a bit of a seashell shape to celebrate the oceans of Vancouver,” Sandy Pell told the Straight.

      In the morning, as the sun rises in the east, the mural’s metallic paint is at its most reflective, making this the ideal time—for anyone thinking of cycling southbound up the new Burrard Street separated bike lane—to take a selfie and share it on social media. 


      Best illustration that every dog has its day

      Dogs had their day in the summer when the Vancouver park board allowed pet owners to take their four-legged friends onboard the Stanley Park train for free every Sunday from July 16 to September 4. The ride on a replica of a Canadian Pacific Railway engine carries visitors on a two-kilometre journey through the Stanley Park forest.




      Best use of the Cambie Street Bridge

      Nettie Wild and her team of cinematographers brought scores of sockeye salmon back to False Creek this year, but not in the way you might think. No, Wild isn’t responsible for restocking the inlet with fish; she’s the mind behind the cinematic public artwork called Uninterrupted, which tells the story of the sockeye-salmon migration in B.C.’s Adams River.

      Instead of projecting the mind-blowing production onto a flat surface, a keen group of technicians was able to generate the footage in such a way that it could be projected onto the underside of the bridge. The visceral piece of moving art reminds Vancouverites of how vital these fish are to our ecosystems and provides an intimate look at a creature that, unless it’s in the context of sushi, we so rarely consider. Catch Uninterrupted before the last show on Sunday (September 24).


      Best way to get high during the holidays

      During the past Christmas season, the Vancouver park board unveiled a new addition to its holiday attractions. Called Holiday Heights at Bloedel, the event transformed the Bloedel Conservatory and its grounds into a winter destination.

      A key feature was a Ferris wheel on the plaza of the Queen Elizabeth Park conservatory, which—at 152 metres above sea level—is the highest spot in the city. Then–park board chair Sarah Kirby-Yung noted that the Holiday Heights Ferris wheel gives visitors spectacular views of the city and mountains on the North Shore.



      Best program to unveil mysteries of the city

      Doors Open Vancouver is an idea that came out of a task force that looked at ways citizens could deepen their sense of belonging in the city. Started in 2014, the free event creates access to city locations that typically aren’t open to residents during ordinary days. An example is the National Works Yard at 701 National Avenue, which is the engineering facility where street signs are made, among other things.


      Best outdoor area to planewatch while taking a break from shopping

      When the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet opened next to Vancouver International Airport, it was touted to be the next major retail destination in Metro Vancouver. With designer stores carrying marked-down items, shoppers flocked to the scene.

      As time passed, the spouses/partners/significant others/children who accompanied the shoppers noticed that it is located in a great place to view planes that fly directly above the shopping space. Aviation lovers can see everything from jumbo jets to small prop-driven aircraft here.

      It’s common to see bag-carrying people suddenly look up at the sky when jet-engine sounds begin to increase in volume. If the noise gets too loud, just wear some earplugs and continue shopping.


      Amanda Siebert

      Best reason to come to the dark side

      Besides the cookies, of course, it’s gotta be Vancouver’s Ce Soir Noir. Founded in 2013 as a tongue-in-cheek alternative to the very sophisticated—and very Parisian—Dîner en Blanc, the all-black picnic has since taken on a life of its own, attracting thousands to Crab Park with the promise of good ol’ unpretentious and inclusive fun. Plus, there’s no worrying about spilling Merlot all down your crisp white T.


      Best place to buy secondhand anything

      Actually, the Vancouver Flea Market—in that giant red airplane hangar of a building on Terminal Avenue about halfway between Main Street and Clark Drive—has a lot of brand-new stuff for sale as well.

      But if you are looking for used tools, phones, mounted steer horns, giant chessboards, fine bone china, antique jewellery, vinyl records, or brass birdcages, there’s no better place to go on weekends. Hundreds of disparate venders in booths and at tables hawk their wares and, yes, haggle over prices, which is just part of the fun. The sheer variety of goods for sale—often by the same merchant (not all of them specialize)—is also much of the draw.

      Take Dave at Booth 72, for example: where else in town can you get old board games, gory Mexican horror-movie posters, antique books, steamer trunks, ’60s trading cards, and a huge collection of vintage magazines and comics—including near-mint copies of National Lampoon, Mystery Tales, Amazing Stories, Woman’s Weekly, and, discreetly displayed, a huge inventory of historic Playboy mags—in the same couple of square feet?


      Kate Wilson

      Best spot to practise killing White Walkers

      Game of Thrones might not be back on our screens until 2018 at the earliest, which leaves much uncertainty about the advancement of its blue-eyed, undead army. Winter has finally arrived, after all. For those fantasy fiends who want the authentic taste of what it would be like to join Jon Snow’s militia before the big battle, though, Academie Duello (412 West Hastings Street) will be happy to oblige.

      A centre for swordplay and western martial arts (or, more accurately, for teaching Vancouverites how to slash at each other with steel, shields, and poleaxes), the studio is as good for fitness as it is for concentration and strength. The Academie offers a number of programs for all ages, including youth skills, stage combat, boot camps, mounted combat, and archery techniques—and for those who think swordplay is a male-dominated sport, the studio boasts an even split of students from both genders.