Best of Vancouver 2023: And then some

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      Nobody voted on these, but they’re all winners to us.

      Best birth control

      Head over to any playground around 3:30pm on a weekday. Bring a book. Sit within earshot of the slides, the monkey bars, the swings. Resist the urge to put those noise-cancelling headphones on. Try to concentrate. Imagine that din, uninterrupted, for years of your life.

      Best place to avoid existential dread

      Depending on the toxicity of the air, head down the hundreds of steep steps to Wreck Beach whenever you get a bad case of the Uh Ohs. The distance from the city, the freedom from clothes, and the relative quiet (weekday mornings are best) do wonders to quell the ever-looming tide of existential dread. Or, in a pinch, find any place that serves alcohol.

      Best place to photobomb tourists

      Did you know that the cobbled streets of Gastown aren’t exclusive to travellers? They actually let any old Vancouverite hang out by the Old Spaghetti Factory if they so desire. There’s also this astounding steam clock that someone set up for the tourists to gawk at, so if you ever find yourself in the area, be sure to spend 15 or so minutes gazing up at it—you may even end up in the background of some fridge-bound photos.

      Best bike lane that isn’t a bike lane

      Given that Kingsway happens to be Vancouver’s most diagonal boi, it also happens to make for the fastest bike route for anyone southeast of downtown. Just keep an eye out for getting doored.

      Best place to be an Instagram boyfriend

      A city full of would-be Instagram influencers means that it’s also a city full of camera-holding Instagram boyfriends, and the best Instagram boyfriends (or girlfriends, or partners) are the ones who know all the most eye-catching, viral-making spots. Like West 10th Avenue and Alberta Street when the colourful fall leaves hit. Trust us.

      Best place to stand in line for a few hours

      There are ample opportunities to bask, unmoving, under the hot sun within the veritable playground of Playland. What’s even better is that once you’ve finished standing around for a few hours, you’ll get to finish off the excitement with a few minutes of adrenaline. There’s really no better way to spend a Saturday.

      Best place to have a glimmer of hope in this housing market

      Sure, the majority of Vancouver’s real estate is either locked in the grips of property tycoons or priced out of the atmosphere for anyone but the rich and famous, but there is one place where average-income millennials can find a glimmer of hope; the PNE’s Prize Home. All you have to do is win the lottery, and then a detached home fit for a family of four is all yours.

      Best place to start a situationship

      Forget Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge; if you really want to kickstart a messy, uncertain, fiery romance (though romance might be too strong a word—are they ready for that? Have you had the talk yet? You should probably have the talk soon) is at the iconic Roxy. Hit the dance floor, scream your name and Instagram handle into their ear, and watch the sparks fly.

      Best place to have an incredibly disjointed conversation

      Enjoy having a solid, flowing, engaging conversation between three to six people? Wouldn’t it be great if you could do so during an activity that pulls those conversation participants away from the group for, say, short increments every few minutes? Then head on over to Commodore Lanes, where the majority of the conversation will be catching up on what you missed while rolling your fifth gutterball in a row.

      Best place to pretend you’re not an urbanite

      Yes, we all love being our city-dwelling selves, making our way downtown to enjoy a Small Victory croissant or a happy hour bevy on Granville. But if you’re looking to delve into nature (without, you know, actually leaving the city), head to Pacific Spirit. You might even spot a cute dog or three.

      Best time to give up

      It’s hard work to survive in a city that’s rainy nine months of the year, increasingly unaffordable, and soon to be underwater. But the true time to give it all up? When you realize that the Evo you booked—the only one in your corner of the map—is locked in an underground parking garage. Feel free to weep.

      Best writer

      There are plenty of talented copywriters, authors, and journalists (hi) that call this city their home, but this one goes to whoever comes up with Penthouse’s signage. Applause for you.

      Best place to be tall

      No, we’re not talking about dating apps (though the 5’11” fellas know that particular struggle). The best place to have a height advantage is the Commodore Ballroom, with its incredibly even pit area, its eternal general-admission tickets, and a stage that could, in our somewhat shorter opinion, be a little higher off the ground.

      Best circular science building by the water

      We all know it, we all love it, we all went there on elementary school field trips. How can this one even be a contest? Of course the prize for the best circle-shaped, science-focused building in the city would have to go to the HR MacMillan Space Centre… though Science World gets a close second.

      Best meal out of desperation

      Sometimes you’re hungry and there’s only one option—maybe it’s the cafeteria at a hospital, or the on-campus sushi spot during a late-night study grind. But the best starved-and-desperate meal is White Spot on any BC ferry. With a side of vending-machine Hickory Sticks.

      Best place to accidentally get your 10,000 steps in

      You know what’s not boring? Getting lost in the labyrinthian vortex that is Metropolis at Metrotown, where some escalators only go up, you could swear you saw that Rogers store a few turns ago, and the food court is about two kilometres away. Good luck in there.

      Best place to go to forget that sleep is a thing

      Why end a night just because the local bars and clubs stop selling booze? Head over to Gorg-O-Mish, drop $70 (yes, seven-zero) to get in, and watch as late night turns into early morning before you even know it. A haggard stumble down to English Bay to end off the party always makes for a sobering experience.

      Best little moment of kindness

      Getting off the bus at a SkyTrain station and being one “thank you” in a long line of “thank yous” can bring some levity to even the dreariest of morning commutes.

      Best hot dog in the city

      Step aside, Japadog; say sayonara, that one cart at Granville and Robson… The true hottest of dogs in the city can be found down on Wreck Beach at Stormin’ Normans. The guy hauls coolers full of dogs, condiments, and home-grown vegetables down those steps every (sunny) morning. You gotta respect the hustle.

      Best unofficial representative of Vancouver

      If there’s ever a person who can capture the whimsy, woes, and wonder that is living in Vancouver, it’s the @seabusmemes Instagram account.

      Best reason to not worry about being incapable of affording a house

      You all know that the Big One is just gonna level this entire place eventually, right?

      Best apology

      There’s nothing more Vancouver than when you see a line of buses that have floundered to the side of a snowy hill, and instead of showing their routes, their displays simply exhibit a well-meaning “Sorry”.

      Best time to study a menu

      You show up at the patio for drinks and appies. What do you know! They’ve got some pretty good happy hour deals… in about 15 minutes. “What can I get you started with?” the server asks. “We’ll need some time to decide,” you say. Fifteen minutes, to be precise.

      Best place to spot your favourite touring musician

      Actually let’s not totally spoil this for everyone, including hard-core fans of Tyler the Creator, Off!, and Nickleback. Instead let’s just say that when Nardwuar the Human Serviette does his now-famous interviews in Vancouver these days, they don’t tend to be in fancy hotel rooms, backstage green rooms, or a booth at the Tomahawk. Instead, ask yourself this: “What smells gloriously like old-school vinyl and eastside cool?” If you know, you know…

      Best barbecue starter

      As anyone who’s ever seen “The Chicken Roasters” episode of Seinfeld knows, the wood makes it good. That’s another way of saying that, as flashy as that fully pimped-out RH Peterson Fire Magic Echelon Diamond Series barbecue might be, it’s no match for a $149 charcoal-fired Char-Broiler when it comes to flavour-bombing a Windsor Meats rib-eye or Moby Dick-size slab of fresh West Coast sockeye. The best part of cooking with fire is the smoky goodness imparted by wood. Serious barbecuers go through endless amounts of mesquite, hickory, and oak over the course of the season, the problem being bags of chunks tend to run around $20 at hardware stores. That makes Firewood Vancouver the next best thing to the old Kenny Rogers Roasters franchise on Bute Street. The Burnaby-based operation at 7509 Meadow Avenue sells varieties of wood that would made Tootsie Tomanetz weep tears of joy—alder, birch, maple, and straight-from-the-Okanagan cherry and apple. The beauty of Firewood Vancouver? If you’ve ever spent the day smoking a beef brisket or medicine-ball sized pork shoulder, you know you need a lotta wood. So you either rip through a bag or three of store-bought chunks, or grab another piece of maple off the wood pile, pop a cold Red Truck, and crank up “The Gambler”, because—as Kenny Rogers and Kramer both know­—the wood indeed makes it good.

      Best chill place to bar crawl

      There’s no point trying to oversell things—when it comes to palpable energy generated by a mini mass of humanity, Hastings-Sunrise won’t make anyone forget about Main Street in Mount Pleasant, the Drive, or the Granville Entertainment District. And that’s okay, because the area around Hastings and Nanaimo is quietly building a reputation as a low-key-cool place to bar-hop with friends. For years, area imbibers either chose the Brighton or Jackalope’s Neighbourhood Dive as the place to catch up with friends over a drink. Recent spots joining those reliable watering-hole anchors include the Blind Rabbit and new-kid-on-the-block It’s Okay, the former offering elevated cocktails at eastside prices in a onetime Starbucks, the latter capturing the spirit of a classic American tavern at 2481 East Hastings. Don’t forget to pop into the impossibly diner-cool El Roundel halfway during your crawl­—a 9:30pm-to-closing happy hour offers classic cocktails at 1990s prices. The best part of any given night is there are no lineups—great news for everyone except maybe your babysitter, long-suffering partner, or already-on-life-support liver.

      Best place to learn patience

      After your East Village bar crawl has wrapped around 2am, you’re going to need an alcohol sponge. Pre-gentrification ’hood mainstay Church’s Texas Chicken never seems to turn off the lights, which means you can always get something to eat if you’re willing to lurk around the parking lot window. The downside? Um, what exactly are they doing in there after you’ve ordered? On any given drunken Friday there are a couple of bins visibly filled with enough fried chicken to put a lump in Colonel Harland David Sanders’ pants. And yet after you’ve ordered, you’ll often end up standing there for a good 25 minutes waiting for your chicken, which isn’t a problem in the summer but becomes hellish during the monsoons of November. Maybe a secret phrase—“Foghorn Leghorn”, “The stars at night are big and bright”, “I’m fucking wasted”—is required to access the pre-cooked chicken in the bins. Or maybe Church’s has made it a mission to get you to slow down every now and then and smell the fry grease, knowing the wait is totally worth it.

      Best place to kickstart your hibiscus margarita

      Having trouble scraping together the finances for that dream trip to the ruins of Tulum, the sun-drenched shores of Puerto Escondido, or endlessly fascinating Guadalajara? Sometimes you’ve gotta make the fiesta come to you. The brilliance of Mi Tierra Latina on the Drive is that it doesn’t feel like Vancouver, with the in-store music blaring the best of Mexican radio, and the shelves stocked with everything from Charras chipotle tostadas to Abuelita hot chocolate slabs to Savile Biotina shampoo to actual sombreros. Load up on hibiscus flowers or fresh tamarind, infuse your tequila or mezcal, and you’ve got the easy makings of a gorgeously next-level margarita. Got golden memories of fresh chilaquiles with roasted tomatillos at the historic El Cardenal in Mexico? They’re actually surprisingly easy to make from scratch, the key ingredients being crumbled queso fresco and Mexican crema, both found in the refrigerated section of Mia Tierra Latina. Run by four Latin American women in the former East End Food Co-op, the newly minted spot also carries products from Brazil, Columbia, Chile, Venezuela, and El Salvador. And, for those not on the Eastside, Mi Tierra Latina also has stores in the West End, Burnaby, North Shore, and Coquitlam. Don’t forget to pick up a colour-bombed unisex serape to give your cooking and cocktail-making a truly authentic flair.

      Best rain protection that’s not an umbrella

      Because who the hell wants to carry an umbrella around all day, just on the off chance that it starts to pour? Cue the ball cap. It looks good with basically everything; it probably has something cheeky or flirty like “Not Your Type” embroidered on it; and you know what? It protects your face and hair from rainfall. Friends may roll their eyes while you put it on and yell, “LET ME JUST GET MY UMBRELLA OUT” as the skies open, but they’ll be the sorry ones when they’re wetter than a Gastown rat asleep in a puddle.

      Best warning sign

      Sometimes you’re cruising the mean streets of East Van’s Commercial Drive area when it suddenly hits you: “Man, I could really use a bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle 25 Year Old Bourbon” from the liquor store. Before you park the car, remember there are rules when you’re in the ’hood. A big one is knowing where to park your ride so it doesn’t get jacked GTA-style during your mission. The Drive’s ever-beleaguered denizens are there to help out. Understandably tired of people popping into the Commercial Drive liquor store for their NV Rebuli Superiore di Cartizze Brut Prosecco and cold cases of Colt 45, the residents of Grant Street have erected a warning. Look for the white sign—adorned by blood-red abstract art—nailed to the telephone pole just off Commercial. That sign reads, somewhat fancily, “Liquer store”, with “Park there” printed below. An arrow then directs you to the paid parking lot on the other side of the street. All that’s missing is “Or Else” and a cartoon rendering of Trevor Philips holding a tire iron. You’ve been warned.

      Best place to smile at the crows

      Say what you will about the general bird population, but the crow variety deserves our utmost respect. These smart bastards remember human faces and will share information about people they don’t like (seriously), so do yourself a favour and smile at every one you see. Especially if you’re in an alleyway in East Van, near Trout Lake, where they seem to love to congregate (and caw extremely loudly). If you want to avoid being dive-bombed, give them a smile and a wave so that they know you’re chill.

      Best place to gossip (as a treat)

      When listening to Normal Gossip just isn’t enough (or when a story is frankly too juicy not to share), head to the dark and cozy confines of Cantina 189. This secret-ish Gastown spot knows how to make a mean cocktail (especially if you want something booze-forward, which of course you do, because you’re spilling the tea). Try to snag the corner spot, which is delightfully secluded—perfect for hushed conversations about you know who doing you know what.

      Best question that should be on a t-shirt


      Best place to watch Bumble first dates

      Want to watch young love (or at least, young lust—or at the very least, young confusion) in action? Head on over to Mount Pleasant’s ever-hip 33 Acres Brewing (or adjacent 33 Brewing Experiment) and watch some cuties go through the first-date rites of passage: the anxious, “Oh no, did I arrive first?”; the timid but giddy hug hello; the awkward dance about who’s going to pay; and the get-to-know-you conversation (stimulating!). Such delicious covert eavesdropping is best enjoyed alongside 33 Acres of Sunshine or 33 Acres of Darkness, depending on how you feel about love.

      Best place to look at homes you can’t even fathom affording

      You might think the answer is Shaughnessy. Or you might think it’s Kits Point, or perhaps the British Properties. But if you really want to wander through a neighbourhood that will have you thinking, “Wait, people actually live like this?” then get your tiny-apartment-dwelling self to Southlands. Pretend you’re headed to the driving range at McCleery Golf Course and instead wander through this small but stunning community of mega mansions, most of which come equipped with their own horses and stables. You may even spot someone trotting down the road on horseback, which will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the white pickets of Connecticut. Warning: you may find yourself exclaiming, “What a fine estate!” in no time at all.

      Best thing the pandemic gave us

      On the count of three, say it with us now: patios!

      Best life-changing baked good

      You walk into Purebread for the first time and watch people pick out their treats with conviction. Your eyes wander the display, which showcases an overwhelming number of options—brownies, cakes, cookies, tarts, scones, twisty bready things. You are paralyzed by choice, but soon it’s your turn to order. An attendant asks you what you want. You shrug defeatedly. She points to a scone. “What about this? It’s a classic.” You nod. You pay. You settle into a corner seat and pull it out of its little bag: a buckwheat scone with white chocolate and sour cherry, dusted with powdered sugar. You take a bite. Soft but not too soft, sweet but not too sweet, a hint of acidity, a hint of creaminess. You see stars. How did she know it was the exact thing you wanted—nay, needed? How can you ever eat any other dessert ever again? Is this what it feels like to be in love?

      Best hike

      LOL. We’re not hikers, despite what our dating profiles said.

      Best rebirths

      As laundry lists go, it’s an endlessly long and ugly one. Stop and think for a second about the fabled live-music rooms Vancouver has lost over the decades: Richard’s on Richards, the Town Pump, Retinal Circus, the Cave, Oil Can Harry’s, Graceland, Luv-A-Fair, the Brickyard, the Hungry Eye, and the Log Cabin Inn. And that’s just a short list. In cities like Los Angeles you’ve got venues—hello, Whiskey a Go Go—that have been around since the Beatles first invaded America and James Osterberg was still bashing the skins in the Iguanas. In Vancouver, live music clubs seems to serve as temporary place-holders for condo developments. So we can consider ourselves blessed this past year that not one, but two, much-needed spots have reopened their doors to live music. After sitting dormant for a half-decade, a freshly renovated Cobalt returned to action last December, owners proudly announcing the room had been rebuilt from the ground up, including a new dancefloor and 100 per cent less rats and cockroaches. In May, the shuttered 881 Granville Street club formerly known as Venue and the Plaza started welcoming live music fans again as The Pearl; upcoming shows including Portland sludge-metal mavens Red Fang and Stephen McBean’s Pink Mountaintops. Thank you, God: now can you please do something to bring the former Town Pump back from the dead? But don’t worry about the Starfish Room, which really, no one misses.

      Best musical cause worth getting behind

      As a breeding ground, it’s been one of the most historically important music venues in the city. Flashing way back, the Smilin’ Buddha at 109 East Hastings once hosted a young Jimi Hendrix, later operating as a low-rent strip club, and a place for Skid Row denziens to drink to bad cover bands. It was in the late ’70s that the venue transitioned into a truly important landmark. Unwelcome at established clubs, the city’s first wave of great punk rock bands—D.O.A., the Subhumans, Pointed Sticks, Modernettes, Rabid, and the Bludgeoned Pigs found a home at the Buddha. If you were there at the beginning, it’s where you might have also seen future legends like Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys, not to mention U-J3RKS, Dishrags, No Exit, Active Dog, the 45s, A.K.A., and, um, the Social Outcasts. Earlier this month the back half of the Smilin’ Buddha—which exists today as a music and art space known simply as Buddha’s—was damaged after a dumpster fire spread to the building. Efforts are now underway to pay for renovations, through a GoFundMe. Yes, we know that for every person opening their pocketbook, there’s another one claiming that they are the rightful heirs to the Smilin’ Buddha’s legacy. Who’s right, and who’s wrong. As the OG punk rockers who once ruled the place might say, “Who gives a shit?” Work it out people, because if you love Mother Mother, Dan Mangan, ACTORS, or the Pack A.D., you can thank the bands that build the Buddha for creating a D.I.Y. legacy that endures today.

      Best place to kill a hangover

      With so many establishments hawking liquor around here, you’d think there would be more spots offering a recovery from a late night out. While you could go get yourself some IV therapy, those among us who’d prefer not to have anything to do with needles will have a far better time with some cold water therapy over at The Good Sauna. Dipping yourself into an ice bath might not sound like the best time, but it’ll do the trick, believe us.

      Best bike share

      Nothing says “Vancouver tourist” quite like someone atop a Shaw Mobi bike who is dressed for anything but a bike ride, but you’ve got to admit: they can be handy in a pinch. Whether you’re ripping along the seawall or just trying to get across downtown as fast as possible, these bikes might not be as fun as the shared transportation in other cities (looking at you, Lime Scooters), but they get the job done.

      Best way to save some cash

      Who says enjoying media has to be so costly? Sure, a trip to the movies and a large popcorn will cost you what feels like a few thousand dollars these days, but you know what won’t break the bank? Making good use of the completely free libraries scattered throughout the city. Tucking into a good book might not feel quite as exciting as the latest Marvel blockbuster movie, but maybe that’s just because you haven’t found the right tome to dive into.

      Best month in Vancouver

      It’s not just the weather that makes the climactic month of summer the best for the city; it’s also the sheer number of festivals, events, shows, and goings-on that truly make Vancouver shine in August. And okay, yes, hot weather for a city with more than a handful of beaches definitely does tip the scales.

      Best body of water

      If we had to give it up for one particular body of water around Vancouver, we don’t think it comes as any surprise that we’ve gotta give it up for the one, the only, the Strait of Georgia. For incredibly obvious, incredibly biased reasons. Sorry English Bay, sorry-not-sorry Indian Arm (how have we not renamed that yet?).

      Best boozy day trip

      It might only be one SeaBus away, but heading over to the North Shore and bopping around to the various breweries up there just feels like a special trip in and of itself. Plus, we’ll admit, we do get a kick out of the novelty of riding the SeaBus. Sorry to all the commuters who have to do it every day.

      Most chaotic creature

      This one simply has to end as a tie between Canuck the Knife-Wielding Crow and the otter that caused such distress to the koi community at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden back in 2019.

      Best way to get to the North Shore

      Trick category, because in our honest opinion, there isn’t one. Maybe the yet-to-be-built third Vancouver harbour bridge of our dreams. Or some sort of catapult. Or a mini-sub. Or, really, make a concerted effort to never go there, even if you really have to. 

      Best public park to hang out at

      Head into the weirdly winding streets of Shaugnessy just south of 16th and west of Oak Street, and at the very middle of a neighbourhood filled with some of the most ridiculously huge mansions you’ll find in the city, there sits a beautifully-kept public park in the shape of an oval. There are no fields, or playgrounds, or bustling activity. It may feel kind of like you’re not allowed to be there, but you’re totally allowed to be there—no matter what tax bracket you’re in.

      Best proposal spot

      Is there a more perfect proposal spot in the city than the huge engagement rings art piece at Sunset Beach Park? Nothing says, “Will you marry me?” quite like the glaringly in-your-face-ness of presenting an engagement ring directly underneath an artistic interpretation of an engagement ring. It’s like Vancouver’s version of the Disneyland Castle engagement spot.

      Most Vancouver thing that isn’t actually *in* Vancouver

      It might come as a surprise to even the Vancouveriest of Vancouverites that the Vancouver International Airport is not, in fact, located in Vancouver. It’s in Richmond. Richmond International Airport doesn’t ring quite as nicely, to be completely fair.

      Best venue with a view

      Consider this also something of a memorial for the iconic PNE Amphitheatre, which has been hosting shows under sunset skies for nearly 60 years now. This summer marked the last of its current interaction, though 2026 is set to see a newly-constructed venue rise up in its place.

      Best place to suffer

      Forget a treadmill or a stationary bike; there’s a reason why so many exercise enthusiasts take to Stanley Park’s expansive seawall to get their sweat on. Something about the crashing waves, the tall trees, and the ocean breeze really takes the mind off those aching joints. It’s no wonder it’s such a hot spot.

      Best small win

      Sometimes life isn’t going your way. Your job’s a joke, you’re beyond broke, your love life’s DOA (that’s “dead on arrival,” for anyone else who had no idea what that meant). It’s in these trying moments that we all need a win, no matter what size—like when the traffic light changes to yellow the exact moment that you press the “walk” button. A true inspiration that suggests everything might be okay, even on days when it seems like that’s anything but the case.

      Best ballet performance

      Our apologies to all the wonderful ballet studios throughout the city, but we must give this award to the False Creek Ferry Ballet. The way those adorable little boats move through the water in choreographed unison is mesmerizing.

      Best trophy

      There are plenty of accolades that are given out throughout the year to lift up the most deserving in the city (this list included), but we think that the best trophy one can receive is actually found in Burnaby. Specifically at a little pasta joint known as Anton’s, which serves portions so big that if you actually manage to crush a plate in one sitting, you’ll be honoured with a pen that proudly states “I ate the whole thing!”

      Best financially-sound decision

      There’s no bigger pat on the back for being financially savvy quite like popping across the street to Costco’s food court before heading into Rogers Arena for a Canucks game. You’re basically saving $6 on a hot dog, and another $5 on a drink. $1.50 has never gone so far... That is, unless you find your food savings to be the perfect excuse to buy three or four beers at about $12 apeice. Go Canucks Go.

      Best second Halloween

      What’s more fun than getting dressed up with friends, getting drunk, and just having an all around rowdy time at Halloween? Try four months later when you can get dressed up with friends, get drunk, and have an all around rowdy time at BC Place for Rugby 7s.

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