“Great Canadian Weekends” feature customized itineraries of the nation’s finest destinations prepared by Vacay.ca, the Concierge to Canada. Travellers looking to get the most out of their stay will want to follow these tips and ideas from our travel experts. The series continues with a look at how to spend a Green Weekend in eco-friendly Vancouver.
Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — British Columbia’s largest city is in the midst of one of its finest summers on record. During one stretch, there were more than 30 consecutive days without rain and temperatures stayed warmer than 25 Celsius degrees (77 Fahrenheit) for much of the summer. That means Vancouverites have been able to do what they like to do the most: Indulge in the city’s public spaces, outdoor activities, and splendid natural beauty.
Visitors can join in with an eco-focused weekend in this metropolis where Greenpeace was founded and where David Suzuki was raised. A Great, Green Canadian Weekend in Vancouver begins with a stay at a hotel designed with the environment in mind.
DAY 1 IN GREEN VANCOUVER
FRIDAY, 4 PM, CHECK-IN, LODEN HOTEL
Location: 1177 Melville Street
Distance from the Airport: You’re an eco-conscious traveller, so you’re getting here by train, not cab. One great thing about getting into and around Vancouver — and a big boon for its downtown hotels — is the Canada Line, which was constructed through funding for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The train delivers riders to downtown in about 20 minutes and at a cost of $5 for a one-way ride. To reach the Loden, guests take the Canada Line train to the last north-bound stop, Waterfront Station, and then transfer for free to a westbound Skytrain that goes one stop to Burrard Station. From there, it is less than two blocks to the hotel, which is west of the station.
Loden Hotel Reservations: 1-877-225-6336 (toll free)
What you should know: The Loden bills itself as a leader in eco-tourism and it’s no mere marketing pitch. The hotel, whose namesake is a shade of green, offers environmentally friendly design and decor, as well as several earthy experiences for guests to enjoy. They include complimentary use of Loden bicycles to help you see the city, as well as yoga classes, self-guided walking tours and for hardcore fitness enthusiasts the opportunity to have a running concierge join you on a morning jog around Stanley Park or elsewhere. When you want to take it easy, you can indulge in automobile travel, using the hotel’s free chauffer-driven city car, with the look of a traditional English cab. The Loden car shuttles passengers through the downtown area, a small radius that covers Gastown, Yaletown, Stanley Park, and English Bay. One thing visitors will enjoy about the Loden is its spacious rooms. They feature comfortable beds, lots of storage, large bathrooms with tubs and separate stand-up showers, and his-and-her sinks. It’s a pleasant hotel on a quiet street, three blocks south of the esteemed Vancouver Seawall and a 10-minute walk to Stanley Park. The Loden is a convenient hotel with lots to offer, especially for the visitor who wants to stay green.
Cost: Room rates for summer and early fall start at $329 for a weekend night.
Bonus News: The Loden was recently named the No. 9 best hotel in Canada by U.S. News & World Report magazine.
FRIDAY, 6:30 PM, DINNER AT C
Location: 1600 Howe Street
Distance from Loden Hotel: 2.2 kilometres (20-minute walk or five-minute drive)
What you should know: Vancouver is full of outstanding restaurants and although C hasn’t been featured in Vacay.ca and hasn’t been ranked among the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada, it is notable for its progressive conservation efforts. Under its outstanding former chef Robert Clark, C was the first restaurant to adopt the groundbreaking Ocean Wise initiatives developed by the Vancouver Aquarium. A passionate proponent of the seafood program that promotes the sustainable, ethical use of fish and aquatic products, Clark moved on last year but his replacement, Lee Humphries, has maintained the standards. The food at C is very good and tourists will enjoy the location on the south side of the seawall, overlooking False Creek, where you will often see excellent sunsets. C is a romantic restaurant and the cuisine is consistently wonderful.
Menu price range: Main dinner courses range from $22-$39; a five-course tasting menu featuring Hawkshaw salmon (the most sustainably caught fish in British Columbia) currently costs $65; a nine-course chef’s menu costs $95; a tempting six-course Caviar Tasting Menu costs $155 per person.
You must order: Roasted Halibut, served with smoked octopus, asparagus, oyster mushrooms, and potatoes ($29).
FRIDAY, 9:30 PM, SUNSET ON ENGLISH BAY
Distance from C: One kilometre (10-minute walk)
What you should know: Become a bump on a log like the rest of the crowd who gather nightly during the summer and early fall for this most timeless and spectacular of shows. Watching the sunset over English Bay is one of the rites of summer in this city. It’s free, it’s magnificent, and it’s as environmentally conscious an activity as you will ever find.
Tip: Keep an eye out for skunks, but remember the only skunky smell you’re likely to encounter is from the large amount of marijuana that is smoked in the city, especially on English Bay at night.
Fun fact: Blue Rodeo‘s Greg Keelor wrote the song “English Bay” from a bedroom in the Sylvia Hotel, which overlooks the waterway.
DAY 2 IN GREEN VANCOUVER
SATURDAY, 9 AM, CYCLE THE SEAWALL AND EXPLORE STANLEY PARK
What you should know: Grab a complimentary cruiser bike from the Loden and head down to the seawall, travelling west to Stanley Park, where you can visit the Vancouver Aquarium ($30 per adult), the nine century-old totem poles that are the province’s most-visited attraction, the Rose Garden, and Prospect Point, which offers a beautiful view of the communities of North and West Vancouver and the Lion’s Gate Bridge. The seawall itself is flat and easy to navigate. Athletic cyclists often train on the steep roadways of the park that have automobile traffic.
Stops to make: Besides the Aquarium, which is a must, you should take a break and relax on Third Beach, my favourite beach in Vancouver because it’s often less crowded than English Bay and Kitsilano Beach, which is across the water from the park.
SATURDAY, 12:30 PM, LUNCH, FIND A FAVOURITE FOOD TRUCK
Top choices: Tacofino, Vij’s Railway, and Fresh Local Wild are excellent. Tacofino and Vij’s Railway both ranked in the top five of the inaugural Vacay.ca Top Food Trucks in Canada List for 2013.
Location: The food trucks move about the city, so you’ll need to check the location on their Twitter accounts or mobile apps. One of Tacofino’s two trucks is often near English Bay, while Vij’s Railway is likely to be found in the downtown core, closer to the Loden Hotel.
What you should know: Vancouver has taken to the food-truck craze with more fervour than any other city in Canada. The reason is likely because of leadership from the city, which enlisted Vancouver’s leading chefs, including Vikram Vij, to create an approval process for the trucks. While a mobile restaurant may seem counter-intuitive to the idea of a green weekend, food trucks actually offer energy savings over a brick-and-mortar restaurant and they are often stationed within the city core, limiting the amount of carbon dioxide they emit into the air.
SATURDAY, 1:30 PM, TOUR GRANVILLE ISLAND
Cycling distance from Stanley Park: Three kilometres (15 minutes, or eight minutes to the Aquabus ferry at False Creek; the puddle-hopping boat rides costs $3.25 for a one-way trek from False Creek).
What you need to know: Granville Island is arguably Canada’s leading farmers’ market. As far as markets go, though, it is pricey. Items you will find that are worth your money are unique gifts, many of them made sustainably by artisans and eco-conscious food suppliers. Outside the market, you’ll discover numerous clothing stores and boutique retailers, including a blown-glass artist who uses recycled material and offers studio classes.
Quick fact: Granville Island isn’t an island but a small peninsula beneath the Granville Bridge that includes an elementary school, floating homes, and one of the Top 24 Brewpubs in Canada, the Dockside Brewery, located in the Granville Island Hotel.
SATURDAY, 6:30 PM, DINNER AT BLUE WATER CAFE
Location: 1095 Hamilton Street
Distance from Loden Hotel: Two kilometres (15-minute walk)
What you should know: Like C, this venerable restaurant operated by the Toptable Group (Araxi in Whistler, West) is committed to using sustainable seafood. Blue Water features entrees with an Italian touch as well as a wonderful sushi bar. It’s seafood towers are famous in Yaletown and range in price from $28-$128.
Menu price range: Main courses range from $24.50-$43.50
You must order: The Assorted Sashimi Platter ($34) features 14 melt-in-your-mouth pieces of delicious fish. Also, if it’s in season, don’t pass on the halibut.
Vacay.ca Top Restaurants in Canada Rank: No. 75 (2013), No. 42 (2012)
DAY 3 IN GREEN VANCOUVER
SUNDAY, 11 AM, SPEND THE AFTERNOON AT GROUSE MOUNTAIN
Location: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver
Distance from Loden Hotel: 12 kilometres (25 minutes by public transit)
Getting there: Walk five minutes to Canada Place and take the free Grouse Mountain shuttle, with departures each day on the half hour from 9 am-5:30 pm during the summer. You can also take the Seabus ferry ($2.75 one way) from Waterfront Station and travel across Coal Harbour to North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay market. From there, you can transfer to the No. 236 bus that travels to the mountain.
Getting to the top: Most tourists will take the gondola up 1,100 metres (3,700 feet) to the peak, where stunning vistas of the city await. The round-trip fare is $39.95 per adult. But those who want a fitness challenge can climb the Grouse Grind, which makes a StairMaster seem like a flat treadmill. There are 2,830 steps to the top and an elevation gain of 853 metres (2,800 feet). “Doing the Grind” is a routine hike for many of Vancouver’s fittest residents. If you do it, come prepared in fitness gear, and bring water and a towel. It will take about an hour to reach the peak, where you will receive a ticket for a free ride down the gondola. More than 100,000 people hike the 2.9-kilometre (1.8-mile) trail annually.
Once at the top: Grouse has many activities to participate in, including hikes that are less onerous than the Grind. There is also a Birds of Prey show that kids will enjoy, as well as a tiny zoo with bears, ziplining tours, a theatre, and small museum that explains the area’s rich aboriginal heritage. A recent eco-friendly addition is the world’s only glass viewing pod attached to a wind turbine. There is casual and fine dining available, although the prices are over-inflated for tourists. The sightseeing is special and you will want to linger here for a couple of hours at least.
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