23 Ways to Make This Your Best Summer in Vancouver Ever
We've plotted out the ultimate Vancouver summer to-do list, from paddleboard biking (what!?) to horse racing
July 20, 2016
The rain, the endless conversations about real estate, the middling public transit—on a warm summer day in Vancouver they can all feel like such minor inconveniences, entirely reasonable costs of doing business in a city that’s so darn gorgeous. There is no better season than summer in this city and no shortage of ways to take advantage of it. Spoiled for choice? Gripped by a paralyzing case of FOMO? Relax. We’ve done the work of planning your summer for you.
1.) Cool Down Like a Cool Kid
When future anthropologists seek to encapsulate Vancouver in 2016, they’ll note that the city had not one, but two artisan popsicle purveyors who toured the city by bicycle. What will be lost on future generations is just how refreshing the bars from Johnny’s Pops (we dig the Vietnamese coffee flavour) and Nice Pops (basil nectarine, please) are. Find their locales at johnnys-pops.com and nicepopsyvr.com.
2.) Get Culture Shocked
It might be a scorcher outside, but there’s even more heat to be found at the Museum of Anthropology (6393 NW Marine Dr., moa.ubc.ca). Until October 16, it’s hosting the work of Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, one of Canada’s most important and outspoken artists. His solo show exposes the colonialist suppression of First Nations peoples and challenges our understanding of their place in Canadian society. The art is beautiful, the ideas are provocative, and it’ll give you plenty to talk—and think—about after you leave.
3.) Hike for Doughnuts
The Quarry Rock hike in Deep Cove isn’t a secret anymore, but it remains a heavy favourite for good reason. It’s quick—the whole thing takes about 80 minutes round-trip—and it’s easier than the Chief. (Fewer stairs, not nearly as steep—it’s a walk your spry grandmother and small children could do.) To avoid crowds, take the trail from Mt. Seymour. And when you get to Quarry Rock, a sweeping view of Indian Arm is the big payoff. Top the experience off (and replace the calories you just burned) with a decadent piece of fried dough from Honey Doughnuts & Goodies (4373 Gallant Ave., 604-929-4988).
4.) Walk (Okay, Bike) on Water
They’re part bike, part paddle board, and possibly the most Vancouver thing ever invented. Grab a group of friends, head over to Vanier Park, and mount up your own Hydrobike Explorer, a watercraft that allows you to bicycle on water (and reach speeds of up to 15 km/hr). Cruise east through False Creek or west to Kits Beach and beyond.
5.) Take Yourself Out to the Ball Games
Our prediction? This summer you will finally succumb to the joy of an afternoon baseball game. The sun, the beer, and the feeling of throwing peanut shells on the ground will work their magic in one of the world’s (yes, world’s) most charming ballparks. Our Vancouver Canadians (who may very well contain a future Toronto Blue Jay or two) will square off against other teams from the Northwest League. In order to really maximize your experience, be sure to buy seats in the lower-numbered rows of sections 9 and 10. It’ll give you the best odds of both catching a fly ball and heckling the largest number of players possible—all for the princely sum of $14.
6.) Bond with the Bard
All summer long, Bard on the Beach will be serving up a combination that’s tough to beat: a beautiful outdoor setting in Vanier Park, a few glasses of wine, and some classic Shakespeare (and some not-so-classic Shakespeare: this year, The Merry Wives of Windsor is set in 1960s Windsor, Ontario). Pre-order picnics are available but a little pricey, so we prefer to hit the Whole Foods at the top of the hill first to build a killer spread of our own. You’ll be the envy of everyone in Bard Village.
7.) Viva L’Italia
Italian Day may have come and gone, but it’s not too late to experience a taste of la dolce vita here in Vancouver. Rent a ride (Vespa or Piaggio, preferably) from Metro Scooter Rentals (590 Clark Dr., 604-688-3772), wrap yourself in your best silk scarf, and putter around town in style. Drive over to Railtown and have lunch at Ask for Luigi (305 Alexander St., 604-428-2544), then scoot down to Commercial Drive for an espresso at Turk’s Coffee Bar (1276 Commercial Dr., 604-255-5805) and gelato at Dolce Amore (1588 Commercial Dr., 604-258-0006). But be forewarned: you might have so much fun, you’ll want a scooter of your own.
8.) Make a Pilgrimage to Galiano
There are few restaurants in Canada that are attracting more buzz right now than Galiano Island’s Pilgrimme (2806 Montague Rd., 250-539-5392), a cozy and quaint farm-to-table restaurant that serves some of the most singular food in the country. It’s the first stop on the ferry from Tsawwassen ($19.80 as a walk-on) and, as this is truly terroir-driven cuisine, you really should stay the night and soak up the island vibe: you can go luxe (doubles from $249) at Galiano Inn & Spa (134 Madrona Dr., 250-539-3388) near the terminal or keep it real and hitch up island (you’ll get a ride immediately) to the supremely chill Bodega Ridge (120 Manatee Rd., 877-604-2677), with cabins from $275. Don’t be relaxed about reservations, though—you’ll need them well in advance for both the restaurant and the ferry.
9.) Do a D.I.Y. Brewery Tour
Mount Pleasant is filled with craft breweries, and you can hit them all (and burn off a few of the calories you’re consuming along the way) by crafting your own walking tour. Start at 33 Acres (15 W 8th Ave., 604-620-4589) before moving on to Brassneck Brewery (2148 Main St., 604-259-7686) and Main Street Brewing (261 E 7th Ave., 604-336-7711), wrapping up on the Red Truck Beer Company (295 E 1st Ave., 604-682-4733) patio, which has a habit of hosting some great live music. Added bonus: you can now justify all future benders by describing them as “self-guided brewery tours.”
10.) Nerd Out at the Museum
Maybe you grew up collecting baseball cards. Maybe it was Cabbage Patch Kids. Either way, it probably didn’t match the dedication that’s behind the collections on display at the All Together Now exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver, which celebrates all things geeky and includes everything from pinball machines to prosthetics—yes, prosthetics. If the former get you in the mood, find your way to Pub 340’s (340 Cambie St., 604-602-0644) pinball room, which has one of the widest—and most nostalgia-inducing—selections in the city. If you’re more into the prosthetics? Well, you’re on your own there.
11.) Channel Your Chakras
Okay, so the whole yoga-on-the-bridge idea didn’t exactly go over all that well. But you can still partake in some yogic group therapy this summer when the SeaWheeze Sunset Festival rolls into town in August. Yes, there’s a half-marathon attached to it, but it’s the sunset yoga in Stanley Park—just you and a few thousand of your neighbours—and the ensuing concert that’s the real draw. It’s backed by a licensed area and gourmet eats, and the vibe is unambiguously positive—you know, if you’re into that sort of thing.
12.) Do Some Required Reading
A summer isn’t complete unless you knock off a few good books in the process, and there are few more interesting than Fraser Nixon’s Straight to the Head. It’s set in pre-Expo Vancouver and takes you back to a time when real estate speculation wasn’t the only game in town. Our suggestion: bring it, and your beverage of choice, to Habitat Island to fully appreciate just how much things have changed in that part of the city.
13.) Play a Round of Disc Golf
Disc golf is a fun, free way to enjoy our fine parks, and you get the benefits of golf without the cost or dubious sartorial choices. Abbie’s Sports Shop (4774 Main St., 604-874-6910) sells the requisite discs. But remember: calling it “frolf” will dramatically increase the odds of your having one of said discs bounced off the back of your skull. Where to go: Queen Elizabeth Park (4600 Cambie St.), Jericho Hill (4196 W. Fourth Ave.), Quilchena Park (4590 Magnolia St.), and there’s also Grouse Mountain’s 18-hole course, but it’ll cost you $43.95 for an Alpine Experience Ticket (6400 Nancy Greene Way).
14.) Watch the Ponies at Hastings Park
Put on your finest seersucker suit, make yourself a mint julep, and head out to the track to watch some of the best horse racing you’ll see all summer. The B.C. Cup, which is held on August 1, features dozens of bred-in-B.C. horses participating in a day’s worth of races—enough to let you make your share of wagers and drink your share of cocktails.
15.) Get Really High
No, not that kind. Instead, take to the skies—literally—in order to get a new perspective on the city you’ve probably taken for granted. Harbour Air’s tours take off from Coal Harbour and soar above the city and Stanley Park before touching down in front of the Convention Centre, and for airplane enthusiasts—the Twin Otter planes are Canadian legends—the landing alone makes it worth the price of admission, which is $85 for a 10-minute flight, $185 for 35 minutes.
16.) Water Fight!
It’s August, which means it’s hot—obnoxiously, make-you-wish-for-rain hot. And on August 6th, the city’s largest water fight will kick off at 1:00 p.m. at Lumberman’s Arch. Feel free to arm yourself to the teeth—we’d suggest either the Nerf Super Soaker Arctic Shock or the STR 75 Saturator Uzi Water Blaster—but remember that regardless of what you’re packing, the object of the exercise is still to cool off and have fun. Speaking of which, you’ll want to book off a day to head out to Tsawwassen for one last landing at Splashdown Park (4775 Nu Velum Way, 604-943-2251), which is closing at the end of this summer after 33 years in business. Come for the sliding—it’s still pretty stellar, by the way—and stay for the memories of field trips and summers gone by.
17.) Reach for the Top
Knocking off the iconic Black Tusk can be done in one day, but you’ll have to wake up early. The trailhead is at the Rubble Creek parking lot, just off Daisy Lake Road, which is 30 minutes south of Whistler. From there it’s 28 kilometres that move through a typical West Coast forest and past fascinating geological formations before reaching the crumbling volcanic rock whose jagged, tooth-like appearance gives the trail its name. You’ll gain 1,740 metres, so it’s not for the flip-flop crowd, but the reasonably fit can do the return trip in eight to 10 hours. Those who want to break it into more manageable chunks can camp overnight at Garibaldi Lake.
18.) Spend a Night in a Slice of History
It’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, located on an unremarkable stretch of Kingsway. And given the land upon which it sits, it’s something of a miracle that the 2400 Motel is still standing. Its status as a heritage property, one that serves as a visual reminder of how people used to travel—and how Vancouver used to look—has given it some cover from real estate developers, but it probably won’t be around forever. Before it meets the business end of a bulldozer, you should indulge your inner film noir fetish and experience its, uh, charms, by staying a night (starting at $85).
19.) Eat the Richmond Night Market
Even with the crowds, commute, and epic entrance lineup, not visiting one of Richmond’s two Asian night markets this summer is a crime against stomachs. The traffic is painful, so ditch the car and Canada Line-it to the Richmond Night Market (our pick because it’s a short walk from Bridgeport Station and it has more food stalls). Blow past the iPhone cases and keep walking until you see signs like “deep-fried squid,” “dim sum,” and “takoyaki.” This open-air street market has more than 100 food vendors cooking up every kind of meat on sticks, dumplings, and sweets for respectable prices, so the big queue for hurricane potatoes isn’t worth it—instead, try Squid Feast’s deep-fried offerings, any pan-fried pork buns, and The Taiyaki’s sweet custard-filled waffles in the shape of fish (caution: in the first few minutes, these are hot pockets of molten lava). Admission for the RNM is $3.25 and it runs nights, Friday through Sunday, until October.
20.) Get Your Buzz On
Yes, this summer is all about personal gratification and fulfillment, but there are few better ways to achieve both than by giving your time to a worthy cause. And while there are all sorts of human-focused charities out there, it’s worth remembering that humans wouldn’t be able to survive in the first place if it weren’t for bees. Give them some love by volunteering with Hives for Humanity, a local not-for-profit that uses beekeeping as a therapeutic tool to help at-risk populations build self-esteem and community pride. You can chip in by showing up at the Hastings Urban Farm (58 W Hastings St., facebook.com/HastingsUrbanFarm) on a Tuesday or Thursday between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Prepare to get dirty and work up a thirst—one you can quench with a glass of mead at the Storm Crow Tavern (1305 Commercial Dr., 604-566-9669) on The Drive.
21.) Slay the King
There’s something about the taste of eating a piece of salmon you caught yourself that even the freshest fish in the world can’t quite measure up to. But you don’t need to retreat to some quiet mountain lake or wait patiently for hours in a canoe in order to tap into that feeling. Instead, charter a fishing boat for the day with a few like-minded friends and get your line into the water within minutes of leaving downtown. Mid-to-late August is ideal for catching a chinook—also known as king salmon, for reasons that become immediately obvious when you put it in your mouth—since they’re all returning to the Fraser River to spawn. You can expect to bring in one that’s somewhere between 10 and 25 pounds if you’re fishing in the right waters, and if you book with a company like Pacific Angler or the delightfully named Bon Chovy Fishing Charters (where four of you can take in five hours of fishing for $625), you will be. Bragging rights are, of course, included.
22.) Say Hello to Halo-Halo
Meet your new favourite summer indulgence. Halo-halo means “mix-mix” in Tagalog, and it has everything you never knew you needed in a sweet treat: sweet jelly, ice cream, crushed ice, tropical fruit, sweet beans. But while it’s unquestionably a rewarding experience, eating halo-halo can also be a bit of a challenge for the uninitiated. Joie Alvaro Kent, a Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards judge, says that the secret is eating it from the bottom up rather than the top down. “Don’t bring your spoon completely up and out too soon, or you’ll end up with a quarter of your halo-halo on the table,” she says. “As the layers become more combined, make sure that you incorporate the crushed ice and some of the ice cream down into the mixture.” In terms of where to practise your halo-halo eating technique, give Pinpin (6113 Fraser St., 604-322-3086) or Little Ongpin (4093 No 5 Rd., 604-278-4667) a try.
23.) Extreme Makeover—Capital Edition
We’re all for heritage, but let’s be frank—Victoria’s Empress Hotel (721 Government St., 250-384-8111) was showing its age hard. Then came Vancouver’s Nat and Flora Bosa, who’ve plowed a mountain of dough into the ol’ gal, and she looks amazing enough to warrant a trip over. There’s no better vantage point to revel in her makeover than a stool at the just-opened Q Bar (below), all soaring ceilings with a killer view of the Inner Harbour. Van Mag’s Bartender of the Year, Grant Sceney, consulted on the menu, but this is the place for a classic: the hotel’s entry into the cocktail canon, the 1908 (see recipe).