an insider's guide to Vancouver
 
 
 
Welcome! Take some time out from the conference to explore one of the most breathtaking, diverse, and fascinating cities on the continent. What follows is a short list of picks made by the local crew to help our Folk Alliance guests enjoy some of the best of Vancouver.
 

Getting Oriented & Getting Around

Vancouver occupies a peninsula that reaches westward into the Strait of Georgia, bordered on the north by Burrard Inlet and on the south by the Fraser River. If you’re facing the mountains you’re facing north. The downtown, Yaletown, the West End and Stanley Park cover a smaller peninsula that juts northward into the inlet, with False Creek at its southern edge.
The Hyatt is downtown on Burrard Street between the major streets Georgia and Hastings. If you walk in either direction on Burrard you will come to waterfront.
Just north of the hotel (out the front doors, turn left) is Burrard Skytrain Station. Taking an eastbound Skytrain to Broadway Station is the fastest way to get to Commercial Drive for The BIG Night on The Drive. Other stops of note include Main Street and Metrotown (named for the adjacent mega-mall). Westbound from Burrard is Waterfront Station, where you can catch the Seabus across Burrard Inlet to the North Shore. The Skystrain, Seabus and some buses have full disabled access. The cost is $1.75 within Vancouver. A variety of buses stop at Burrard Station. Transit info: 953-3333
There’s also a water taxi service between downtown/West End and Granville Island/False Creek. False Creek Ferries: 684-7781
Check the Yellow Pages for downtown bike rentals. There are bike routes all across the city. Bicycle Hotline: 871-6070 (9-5pm)
All of the places listed below are accessible on foot or by public transit unless otherwise noted.
Pick up a copy of the free entertainment weekly The Georgia Straight www.straight.com for full listings of restaurants and what’s on around town. You can also call the Arts Hotline 684-ARTS.

Neighbourhoods

Within walking distance of the hotel:
The West End: high-rises bordered by beaches, loads of eateries, large gay community

Stanley Park: spectacular, the glory of the city and a definite must SEE

Yaletown: reclaimed inner city warehouse district now full of trendy people and places

Gastown: lovely older buildings, tons of tourists, good pubs and restaurants, bordering on the poorest neighbourhood in Canada, The Downtown Eastside
 
Outside of downtown:
Commercial Drive: the funkiest area in Vancouver, groovy restaurants and shopping galore, home of the Big Night on The Drive
Chinatown: bustling open-air produce markets, Chinese bakeries, traditional medicine stores, plenty of restaurants and home to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden (578 Carroll, 689-7133) the first authentic Chinese formal garden to be created outside of China
Punjabi Market:: (49th & Main) sari shops, Indian foods and jewelry, all you can eat Indian buffets
Kitsilano: once the hippie heartland, now home to the upwardly mobile

Outings

The Waterfront: If you really want to get a feel for Vancouver, do what the folks who live here do: go for a walk along the water. Join the Seawall a few blocks from the Hyatt at Canada Place. You can walk all the way around Stanley Park, or rent a bike or roller-blades at Denman Street near the Georgia Street entrance to the park. Weather permitting, you’ll have some of the finest views of the North Shore Mountains and the Gulf Islands to the west.

In Stanley Park is the Vancouver Aquarium, which has some truly amazing collections of aquatic life from the West Coast and beyond. Guaranteed to clear your head after a full day of schmoozing!

One of the best places to unwind is only a couple of minutes from the hotel. The co-ed YWCA (895-5800) at 535 Hornby Street has a wonderful oxygenated pool (low chlorine), whirlpool, steamroom, exercise machines and weight rooms. It’s $11 to drop in and worth every penny.
 
Get a local to take you on the going-over-every-bridge-tour - they can make it up if they've never taken it themselves.
 
In Queen Elizabeth Park (Cambie & 33rd) go to the top of Little Mountain day or night to see the expanse of the city and surroundings. Yes, that's a reservoir under your feet!

Jericho Beach Park (4th Ave. and Wallace), on the city’s West Side, is the site of the annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival. This is great location for a stroll and the park provides a unique, almost sci-fi, view of downtown Vancouver. From here you get a clear perspective of where we sit. Ocean, mountains, city, bridges, parks; this spot offers spectacular views of it all.

Granville Island is worth a trip. It's another terrible example of government interference in the marketplace, transforming a down-at-the heels industrial area in the heart of the city into a lively centre for theatre, artists' studios, a wonderful food market, pubs, an art school and more. To get the full experience, take a water taxi from downtown.
 
You absolutely must go to The Museum of Anthropology (822-3825) at the University of British Columbia. There will be a quiz before you can go through security at the airport! They have the finest collection of West Coast First Nations’ artifacts in the world. Plan to spend a few hours with some of the finest contemporary and ancient art you will lay eyes on. UBC is about a half-hour drive from downtown, longer by bus.
 
If you think cross-country skiing is about covering ground over wide open spaces, try the trails at Cypress Mountain (419-7669) a 25 minute drive from downtown. Call for directions. There’s also downhill skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing at Cypress, and at Grouse Mountain (984-0661) and Mount Seymour  (718-7771).
 
BC has become somewhat legendary in recent years for the quality of its um, agricultural excellence. Do not be surprised if you see more "illegal smiles" than you are used to at home, or if you find yourself sniffing a certain fragrance in the wind. For a closer look at these denizens and their behaviours, check out the Blunt Brothers Cafe at 317 West Hastings or the Amsterdam just around the corner. The local committee assumes no responsibility for your encounters with overly-trained puppies at the airport.
 
La Casa Gelato (1033 Venables) We know its February but…La Casa has more flavours of ice cream then Ben & Jerry could even imagine.  Ask for free tastes!

Food

Our town is a food-lover’s paradise. For variety and price, this city’s restaurants are tough to beat. What follows are some Vancouver specialties, and a few of our faves. Check The Georgia Straight for more complete listings.
 
One of Vancouver's best traditions is getting friends together and going for dim sum. Like a Chinese version of tapas, dim sum is served from morning to mid-afternoon. Carts laden with a variety of tasty dishes come rolling by and you pick what you want. Many of these mouth-watering dainties are meat-based, some fish or vegetable, and the fun of going in a group is that you can sample lots. The Pink Pearl (1132 East Hastings 253-4316) is one of the city’s top end dim sum palaces, about a 10-minute cab ride from the hotel. Plenty more can be found all through Chinatown.
 
Sushi: For aficionados of this ultra-fine way to satisfy daily protein requirements: welcome to heaven. There's a huge selection of places, from tiny budget storefronts to all-you-can-eat buffets to some of the world's great sushi artists, and all in Canadian dollars. What's not to love? Many locals rate Tojo's (202-777 West Broadway 872-8050) as sushi nirvana.
 
Indian Food: Some of us believe the cuisine of the sub-continent is the finest on earth. Here’s three of the many wonderful South Asian restaurants around the city:
Del-Hi Darbar (2120 Main 877-7733) superb South Indian, great dosas and chai
Akbar's Own (1905 West Broadway 736-8180) tasty and mildly spiced Kashmiri food
Vij's (1480 West 11th Ave. 736-6664) award-winning "fusion" South Asian cuisine

Commercial Drive:
We’d like to encourage all our pals from out of town to come down to The Drive for dinner as a prelude to the Big Night. Lots of us live around this 'hood and we want to show it off. Here’s a few of the several dozen eateries along Commercial:
Bouzyos Greek Taverna (1815 Commercial 254-2533) friendly atmosphere and fabulous Greek food, specializing in seafood
Café Deux Soleil (2096 Commercial 254-1195) cheap veggie food, micro-brews and local art on the walls
The Clove Café &Record Bar (2054 Commercial 255-5550) great inexpensive Punjabi food with hip tunes
Havana (1212 Commercial 253-9181) Cuban cigars and the best people-watching on the Drive
The Mekong (1414 Commercial 253-7088) cozy spot serving subtly flavoured, fresh, perfectly cooked veggies, tofu, meat and rice–Vietnamese comfort food. The coffee with condensed milk is sure to perk you up!
Spumante’s Café (1736 Commercial 253-8899) has unpretentious yet elegant Italian fine food served by hard-working waitresses
The Szechuan ChongQing (2808 Commercial 254-7434) has the tastiest Szechuan Chinese fare in the city. Bright and busy with big round tables and an aquarium full of things alive which could soon be on your plate.
Waazubee Café (1622 Commercial 253-5299) hip and trendy with a fine menu and great decor
Commercial Drive retains a strong Italian presence from its days as Vancouver's "Little Italy", seen in many restaurants, grocery shops, bakeries and cafés. The Drive is "Coffee Central"! Two of the best coffee bars are:
Calabria: (1745 Commercial) a Drive institution, with over-the-top Italian statuary and friendly staff
Continental Coffee (2nd & Commercial) Anita and her sons continue the business her father started in his garage, roasting coffee in 45 gallon drums

Elsewhere on the Eastside:
Hon's Wun-Tun House (268 Keefer, 280 Keefer, 288 East Pender) a Vancouver institution. Always busy and noisy, but the food is cheap, delicious and nourishing.
The Reef (4172 Main Street 874-5375) fine Jamaican food, has nice décor and excellent service
Bo Kong Vegetarian Restaurant (3068 Main Street 876-3088) great meat-free Chinese
On Lok Restaurant & Wun Tun House (2010 (EAST) Hastings 253-3856) cheap and good Chinese food, open late

Downtown:
Liliget Feast House (1724 Davie 681-7044) for First Nations cuisine
Irish Heather (217 Carrall Street 688-9779). Gourmet Irish food, live music, excellent beer
Templeton (1087 Granville) updated menu in a 1930’s diner
Hon's Wun-Tun House (1339 Robson 685-0871) see above
Tsunami Sushi (1025 Robson, upstairs 687-8744) fresh, moderately-priced sushi in Vancouver's only "floating" sushi bar.
Westside:

The Naam (2724 West 4th Ave. 738-7151) Vancouver's oldest and best vegetarian restaurant, good prices, great food, relaxed service, open 24 hours
Sophie's Cosmic Cafe (2095 West 4th 732-6810) Wild ‘50’s/‘60’s décor, great brunches, frequent lineups
 

Other Stuff

Brew-pubs:
Steamworks Brewing Company (375 Water Street). Great views and beer

Yaletown Brewing Company (1111 Mainland) Lively brewhouse

Granville Island Hotel (1253 Johnson, east end of Granville Island) Fine beers, a bit upmarket
 
Good spots to hear music include the Railway Club, The Wise Hall, The Vancouver East Cultural Centre, The Yale and The Silvertone Tavern. Check The Georgia Straight for listings.
If you’re sick of music, why not catch a flick? Check the movie listings for The Fifth Avenue, The Vancouver East Cinema, The Ridge, The Pacific Cinemateque and The Blinding Light.
 
Record Stores:
Highlife (1317 Commercial 251-6964) world music specialists, esp. African and Cuban
Black Swan (3209 Broadway 734-2828) great store for jazz, blues, and folk
Virgin Megastore (788 Burrard 669-2289) large selection of folk and world music downstairs
A&B Sound (556 Seymour 687-5837) low prices on electronic goods and CDs
 
Music Stores:
Rufus' Guitar Shop (2621 Alma 222-1717) repairs, great deals on new and used instruments
Not Just Another Music Store (2415 Granville 733-6526) loads of guitars, cool vintage amps display
Long & McQuade (2301 Granville 734-4886) p.a. rentals, instruments and recording equipment
Ward Music (412 West Hastings 682-5288) sheet music specialists, new and used instruments (now owned by L&Mc)
Tom Lee Music (929 Granville 685-8471) "music megastore"