For those afraid of heights, you’ll need to summon nerves just as steely as the materials from which the Capilano Suspension Bridge is constructed in order to cross the breathtaking span. But this 459-foot-long, 230-foot-high trek—during which you cling perilously to the sides as passers-by rock the footpath and hey, you take a selfie or two—is well worth it. Just 20 minutes outside of Vancouver’s city center, you’re surrounded by soaring pine trees, crystal clear waters, snowy mountain peaks and towering totem poles that tell the tale of the Squamish Nation chief for whom the park is named.
The natural wonder of the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Rainforest is unspoiled, despite serving as an attraction since the late 1880s. It’s still as popular today, with modern innovations like seven bridges for Treetops Adventure in which young and old follow the winding paths high above the clouds. Depending on the season, lights hang from evergreens and their twinkle is reflected in trout ponds. The newest lure, Cliffwalk, is not for the faint of heart: Its suspended walkways jut out over Capilano River and reach heights twice as high as the bridge.
HOLY, HARBOR! Vancouver offers splendid food and natural beauty.
Conquering one’s fears upon arrival may take some work, but actually getting there is easy. There are free shuttles from several parts of British Columbia’s largest city, including one just in front of the Fairmont Waterfront, a property that espouses Vancouver’s notoriously green initiatives (like a grass-covered Convention Centre roof just next door that’s visible from the upper levels of the hotel). Besides many of the guest rooms boasting harbor views—including mountaintops and seaplanes gliding into Burrard Inlet—there’s a rooftop herb garden and beehives for the restaurant’s locally sourced cuisine.
There’s plenty of that to be had during a Vancouver Foodie Tour at Granville Island, where chipper guides like Tracy Volb start lunch early with a sample of fish and chips—along with crisp local wines—at 10 am. The tour steers from the history of the market to meet and greets (or, in some cases, meat and greets) with the personalities and producers who comprise a community of farm-to-table enthusiasts. This is a true spot for locals to mingle and sample charcuterie, cheese, breads, coffee and light-as-air honey doughnuts, all in the same hive as boutiques, art galleries and a performing arts theater.
Photo: Joern Rohde
Photo: Jonathan Norton
You’d be hard-pressed to go hungry anywhere in the city, as the West Coast picks up some of the same tradition as the East with Québécois cinq à sept, or 5-to-7 happy hour. It’s a good—and inexpensive—excuse to nosh and nibble your way through some charming eateries like Wildebeest in Victorian-era Gastown. The open-kitchen concept and intimate, candlelit bar are as comforting as the eats, such as BBQ boar belly, skillet cornbread with smoked marrow butter, and savory bone marrow served in a luge for an extra couple of bucks. Oenophiles should put Forage on the bucket list too, as regional vintages are handily detailed on an extensive map of British Columbia.
If you’ve saved enough room and time, fill up on craft brews and street art during an evening Hipster Tour. The brainchild of 20-something brothers Logan and Josh Murdoch and friend Logan Ireland, Toonie Tours include not only an insider’s view into local beer halls, but perspective on the city’s artists with works hidden in plain sight. Josh—who also doubles as an actor in the city that’s called Hollywood of the North—animatedly describes the personalities behind the paintings, in addition to his fledging company’s start, which came giving complimentary tours of Stanley Park. That urban oasis includes hiking and biking trails, beaches, an aquarium and restaurants but is perhaps best enjoyed during summer—snow bunnies will want to head further afield for some postcard-worthy landscapes.
A four-day trip to Vancouver leaves enough time for a day trek to Whistler. Sit back and relax for a couple of hours on a cushy bus as someone else navigates the twisting turns of the Sea to Sky Highway, where there are views of the rugged coastline, glacial peaks and rushing waterfalls. In Whistler Village, even non-skiers can enjoy the powder-packed peaks with shopping, dining for those whose idea of “pizza” and “French fries” is not downhill, and other outdoor activities. Not to be missed? Scandinave Spa, where steam rises from pockets of a cantilevered spruce and cedar forest, and the air is filled with the smell of eucalyptus steam baths and the wood-burning sauna. The circuit also includes cold-plunge pools and relaxation areas like hammocks and community fire pits. The best part of all: Scandinave is silent, so there’s nary a cellphone to be seen and the only chattering is teeth when you hit the frigid water. The thrills don’t end there: No trip to Whistler is complete without a ride on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Snap a triumphant pic in front of the Olympic rings for one of British Columbia’s most stunning backdrops. ◆
—It’s worth the wait for a black cable car on Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak Gondola; glass bottoms were recently added so you can watch skiers, boarders and mountain bikers testing their skills.
—Scandinave Spa has a limited capacity and fills up early on public holidays and weekends—if you’re looking for some R&R, plan this at the beginning of a Whistler excursion.
—British Columbia’s Victorian capital, Victoria, is only reached by long ferry rides or expensive seaplane transfers. The trek pays off, but you have to plan a whole day—or overnight—around this add-on.
Capilano Suspension Bridge and Rainforest, capbridge.com; Fairmont Waterfront, fairmont.com/waterfront-vancouver; Forage, foragevancouver.com; Granville Island, granvilleisland.com; Scandinave Spa, scandinave.com; Toonie Tours, vancouvertoonietours.ca; Wildebeest, wildebeest.ca