7 Mandatory Vancouver Experiences for High FolksCraig TakeuchiSeptember 6, 2017
The clothing-optional Wreck Beach is the obvious, more accessible sea-and-sand mecca. Whytecliff Park, perched out in the northwestern suburb of West Vancouver, is much, much farther out there—but those who make the trek are rewarded with arresting seascapes and views of the islands of Howe Sound. With over 15 hectares to traverse, there are a few trails, rugged shorelines, picnic spots, rocky outcroppings, and pebbled beachfronts. Upon low tide, you can walk along a rock-strewn tombolo to the tiny Whyte Island while examining local inhabitants like starfish that call this lush marine sanctuary their home.
The Galley Patio and Grill
At this under-the-radar spot, you can feast upon unobstructed views of the waters and North Shore while chowing down on Jamaican jerk chicken burgers, Baja fish tacos, wild B.C. salmon salad, black bean and roasted squash tostada, local beer, and Canadian wine. It’s “cheap ’n’ cheerful” mode here, with casual patio seating and décor. As remote as it is out at the Jericho Beach Sailing Centre, be warned that the patio does draw a full deck on sunny days. Nonetheless, inside seating is available should Raincouver crash the party.
Outdoor and Indoor Yoga
There’s no shortage of yoga in the birthplace of Lululemon Athletica. Heck, there’s been all forms and variations imaginable here, including paddleboard yoga, aqua yoga, acrobatic yoga, cat yoga, bunny yoga, men’s yoga, and—yup—even beer yoga. While there aren’t any designated cannabis yoga classes, what’s stopping you? When the weather’s behaving, self-directed yogis can soak in the city’s natural setting as they practice anywhere from well-known spots like Kitsilano Beach or Queen Elizabeth Park to West Vancouver’s Ambleside Park or South Vancouver’s Riverfront Park on the banks of the Fraser River. Indoor options include local chain Yyoga (various locations), which offers a spectrum of classes spanning hot yoga and hatha to warm yin and meditation.
As the city’s Asian Canadian population has grown, so have Asian cultural resources and businesses. Case in point: reflexology. While Westerners focus on bodywork for relaxation, Chinese massage traditions zero in on the feet, and any number of Chinese-run massage centres offer foot massage that will send the cannabis-enhanced on a mythic journey of emotional sensation. Although the interiors at some Big Feet locations are bare-bones, their rates are almost half of those at Western spas. For nicely appointed décor, check out Toe to Soul Relax Lounge (three locations). Newbies may find the experience ticklish or awkward but the experience can be quite sensational, even soleful. (Groan. I’m sorry.)
The Rio Theatre
Commercial Drive is antithetical to its namesake, as its unique array of independent shops and eateries anchor a politically progressive, culturally diverse, queer-friendly neighbourhood. After an afternoon of browsing there, peace out at the Rio Theatre, just off the Drive. As one of the city’s last single-screen movie theatres, it serves up an eclectic array of films from cult hits and second-run flicks, and also hosts live events: burlesque, comedians, variety shows, musical acts, and lots more. Most importantly, the concession stand offers beer, wine, and grilled cheese sandwiches.
International Village Mall
Vancouver has a wealth of surefire choices for sensory stimulation, from Science World and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre to the Richmond Night Market and the Pacific National Exhibition. But if you wanna go the David Lynchian route, head directly to International Village. Straddling Gastown and Chinatown, this itchy dreamscape of a mall offers an off-kilter, semi-awkward mix of hip draws, vacant storefronts, and quirky shops. For visual stimulation, there’s Japanese dollar store Yokoyaya 123 and nerd haven One Stop Shop Cards and Games. For tactile fun, there’s Catfe, an appointment-only café featuring cats up for adoption. Feeling munchy? Eateries vary from the casual, paleo Caveman Café to the sleek, new Black Lounge, or there’s the second-floor, Asian-oriented food court, with everything from Thai and Sri Lankan food to bubble tea. Wanna chill? The third-floor multiplex screens everything: blockbusters, arty fare, foreign flicks (Filipino romances, anyone?). It’s almost always empty, which gives you plenty of room to do your own thing.
Pacific Spirit Park
The majestic, internationally acclaimed Stanley Park gets all the glory and deservedly so. Alas, it’s a tourist magnet. To do as the Romans do, try Pacific Spirit Park, a 874-hectare nature preserve that separates the University of British Columbia at Point Grey from the rest of the city’s West Side. Here, you can immerse yourself in “forest bathing,” as the Japanese call it, as you trundle along the 73 kilometres of hiking trails and bog boardwalks enveloped by sprawling woods. With only occasional dog-walking residents, joggers, or horse-and-riders passing by, it’s a prime setting for communing with nature. Bonus: the park includes the aforementioned clothing-optional Wreck Beach.