1. Where to Stay
Don’t bother upgrading at the Shangri-La (from $326)—even standard rooms at the ten-month-old hotel come with TV-embedded bathroom mirrors, bedside-controlled drapes, and a $92 hotel credit to use during your stay. We suggest applying it toward the six-course tasting menu downstairs at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s new restaurant, Market ($68; reservations recommended).
Enjoy waterfront views at the year-old Loden Vancouver ($245), a design-conscious boutique property near the upscale Coal Harbour area that offers first-come, first-served free bike rentals and a complimentary London hackney cab to squire you about town.
Get a deal at Moda (from $100), the downtown budget-boutique hotel housed in a restored century-old heritage building. Walk to nearby Robson Street shops and Granville Street clubs, or pick up a bottle of Victoria Gin ($53) from the Viti Wine and Lager Store downstairs; the delicate local spirit is rarely found outside the province.
2. Where to Eat
Eat before 7 p.m. at Lumière to take advantage of the three-course, $60 prix fixe dinner. The restaurant, long a city favorite, was improved this year with menu oversight by Daniel Boulud and a renovation.
Mitigate the wait for Vij’s reimagined Indian food—like lamb lollipops served in a fenugreek cream curry sauce—with complimentary snacks in the lounge.
For a big meal on a budget, the bare-bones Sha-Lin Noodle House (548 W. Broadway; 604-873-1816) slings a wide variety of delicious hand-pulled Northern Chinese noodles fresh out of its glassed-in kitchen. Go with a group and order a little of everything.
3. What to Do
Get your blood pumping months before the athletes arrive. Bundle up and rent a bike from Spokes Bicycles ($19 for a half-day), then head for the six-mile seawall around leafy Stanley Park; when you pass English Bay, look for the city’s landmark Inukshuk, a granite sculpture and Inuit symbol that inspired the Winter Games’ official emblem. Continue around False Creek to glimpse the nearly completed Olympic Village construction. Keep pedaling toward Granville Island, a once-industrial neighborhood where clusters of shops, restaurants, and art galleries now stand. Purchase gourmet snacks like risotto cakes from the Granville Island Public Market, and stop in for a pint at one of the two microbreweries on the small island—Granville Island Brewing on Cartwright Street, or the lesser-known Dockside Brewing Company on Johnston Street—before heading back into Vancouver proper via the Burrard Bridge.
Stroll down Commercial Drive, the 22 blocks just east of downtown with a boho East Village vibe and a multitude of multiethnic shops. Peruse a wide array of handpicked vinyl at High Life World Music, or browse exotic Indonesian furnishings and décor at Blue Terra Home. Score Cheap Monday jeans and dead-stock (unworn) sixties apparel at Mintage Vintage before relaxing with an espresso at Cafe Calabria (No. 1745), an old-school, Italian-owned coffeehouse complete with marble statues of David and Caesar.
Hit all the new nightlife spots in one weekend: Just opened in September, the much-hyped speakeasy-style bar and restaurant the Pourhouse is co-helmed by Vancouver’s top bartender, Jay Jones. Later, let internationally renowned D.J.’s warm you up at the months-old live-music club Venue, then take your party train to the expanded dance floor at Ginger 62, a sultry cocktail lounge redesigned this year where night owls get down with hired burlesque dancers. Beer geeks should sample the 25 draught beers from British Columbia in the Alibi Room.
4. Insider’s Tip
Be among the first wave of visitors to enjoy the Canada Line, a SkyTrain route that has just opened in preparation for the Olympics. Travel between downtown and Vancouver International Airport in just 26 minutes ($3.55). While you’re in town, skip expensive taxis in favor of the well-connected SkyTrain and metro bus system. Save cash and the hassle of exact change (required on buses) by purchasing a FareSaver book of ten passes ($17.97; available at convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Safeway).
5. Oddball Day
Catch the southbound No. 4 bus on Howe St. downtown that runs every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day to the University of British Columbia (approximately 45 minutes), site of the Olympics’ refurbished ice-hockey arena. When you arrive, transfer to the C20 campus shuttle to the UBC Museum of Anthropology ($10), which has recently undergone a $3.5 million renovation. Don’t miss the outdoor houses and ten full-scale totem poles from the indigenous Haida tribes of the region. Afterward, descend the 390 steps behind the museum for a peek at gorgeous cliff-backed Wreck Beach, a prime example of the wild nature in Vancouver’s backyard. Back on the C20, transfer again to the eastbound No. 84 bus and get off at West 4th Avenue and Vine Street, the main intersection of Kitsilano, a Venice Beach–esque enclave boasting spectacular views of the city and North Shore mountains. Have dinner at excellent Japanese tapas joint Hapa Izakaya, then cross the street to battle the growing chill in the air with wine, jazz, and a blazing fireplace at Rossini’s.
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