In Vancouver, Plenty of Treats on Halloween Weekend


HowlOver Canada and its spooky fun creep over the FlyOver Canada space during the holiday weekend. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for

A year after the grimmest of Halloweens, when the pandemic scared away trick-or-treating and costume parties, the holiday is making a comeback in 2021. It’s not full-on revelry to be sure, but if parents in the Vancouver area want to give kids a plentiful Halloween to make up for the doldrums of 2020, there are more than enough lively activities and historic, if not spooky, businesses to spin a web that will tickle and charm the imagination.

With a sunny weekend in the forecast, a staycation in downtown is sure to tempt many families to hunt for fun — and treats. 


A scary-looking rockfish is among the species lurking in the waters of the Vancouver Aquarium, an entertaining and appropriate place to take kids at Halloween. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for

VANCOUVER AQUARIUM: The go-to, all-ages destination in the city is the Vancouver Aquarium, where creatures from the deep are a year-round attraction. Rather than be frightened, children will be fascinated by the species they see and the knowledge they acquire. The aquarium, located amid the towering forest of Stanley Park, has an education component at its core and, in recent years, has dedicated itself to the rehabilitation of animals, highlighted by the release of five harbour seal pups into the wild earlier this month.


The Vancouver Aquarium has a Halloween-themed maze on its lower level for kids to weave through. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for

Seals, otters, sea lions, and penguins are on view on the exterior while a giant sea turtle and wall of jellyfish are among the stars on the inside. The subterranean level includes displays of giant frogs and freakishly tiny amphibians. For Halloween, there’s a tiny maze decorated with scarecrows and pumpkins for kids to meander through.

HOWLOVER CANADA: The hugely popular and beautifully conceived FlyOver Canada experience gets into the Halloween spirit with a special theme for the season. The regular FlyOver Canada program features a very gentle, nine-minute roller-coaster-style ride that dips, swings, and rumbles you across a theatre, enthralling viewers with Canada’s coast-to-coast landscape. Newfoundland’s icebergs, the majestic Rockies, and the vineyards of British Columbia are seen from a bird’s-eye view as you gaze down while harnessed in the kind of sturdy seat you would expect to find in Disney World.  


FlyOver Canada is masquerading as HowlOver Canada for Halloween. The award-winning amusement ride adds some spirited elements to the experience in October. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for

For Halloween, a garish holding room leads into the theatre where an animated witch and her oddball friends pop in and out of the cinematic sequences, and then get the spotlight all to their own with a party scene toward the end.

Created by Alberta-based Pursuit Adventures, FlyOver Canada (or HowlOver Canada in October) is a gradual way to enter kids into theme park rides. There are some parts that could scare smaller children (the ride has a couple of brief dips that will remind stomachs of a descending coaster), but the visuals are so stunning that they could be distracted through any moments of alarm or discomfort.

There is a 102-centimetre (40-inch) height limit required for safety reasons, meaning most children three years and younger are not likely to be eligible to enter. The experience is located at Canada Place at the Vancouver Convention Centre’s East Building.

VANCOUVER STAYCATION HOTEL: Since its inception, the Holiday Inn brand has focused on families. Not surprising then that the Holiday Inn Vancouver Downtown is a reasonably priced and dependable option for a short stay in the city. The hotel features a pool and a hallmark of the brand: free breakfast for kids 11 years old and younger.


Located close to Granville Street and Yaletown, the Holiday Inn Vancouver Downtown is a multi-purpose hotel that is rebounding from the pandemic. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for

It includes an attractive restaurant, which is only open until 11 a.m. during the pandemic, and lobby, and 245 rooms spread through three attached buildings. Centrally located, the hotel is a 20-minute walk south of the convention centre and waterfront, and is closer to the trendy Yaletown district and the beaches and seawall along False Creek.

The hotel has relied on Canadian travellers since March 2020, when COVID-19 began to ravage the tourism industry. General manager Kris Szylowski says, “With the restrictions in place, 90% of what we ended up seeing was all domestic. There were people from Ontario and Quebec who had never been west of their province and they came here for the first time.”


The Holiday Inn Vancouver Downtown hotel includes eight king bedroom suites within its property at Howe and Helmcken streets. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for

With U.S. borders remaining closed to Canadians until November 8 and with the cost of pre-flight COVID-19 tests inhibiting international travel, Canadians are expected to continue to choose getaways within their own country. Halloween weekend figures to be among the busiest for overnight stays in Vancouver during the past 18 months.

WHERE TO DINE: Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House isn’t haunted or spooky. It doesn’t have a Halloween-themed menu or decorative eyeballs swimming in your cocktail. But it does have a few things that make it a good choice for a late October dinner. For starters, the ambience is reminiscent of a lively New York or Boston steakhouse. Wait staff are dressed in smart black-and-white uniforms, the dark wooden walls and tables feel antique enough to have hosted Dracula, and the decor — a marlin hanging from the ceiling, a circular bar, a neon “Oyster Bar & Grill” sign — invite you into a space where you expect there to be a story. In this case, the legend has to do with the restaurant’s namesake.


Joe Fortes has been a go-to spot for oysters and steaks since it debuted in downtown Vancouver in the mid-1990s. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for

Born in Trinidad, Joe Fortes was the first lifeguard in Vancouver’s history and one of its most notable Black figures. His grave site in Mountain View Cemetery — considered one of the most haunted places in Vancouver — is a regular stop on ghost tours in the city. The best reason to come to the restaurant that bears his name? That would be the food. It’s delicious and crowd-pleasing, one of those rare fine-dining places in Vancouver where kids will feel at home and parents can splurge on sophisticated plates like miso-marinated sablefish and filet mignon. Halloween treats that certainly do the trick for the hungry.

‘Imagine Picasso’ Debuts at Convention Centre


“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” is among the masterpieces that receive a high-tech rendering at the “Imagine Picasso” exhibition in Vancouver. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for

The other big attraction in Vancouver on Halloween weekend is the debut of the stunning immersive exhibition featuring the artwork of Pablo Picasso. Scheduled to run until January 8, 2022, “Imagine Picasso” incorporates 216 of Picasso’s finest pieces into a visual delight that does what the artist had for so much of his career: Create thought-provoking, eye-catching images that you struggle to look away from.

Developed using Image Totale technology, the main hall of the exhibition at the Vancouver Convention Centre features multiple massive, oddly shaped screens that are constantly revolving with images. Several pieces, including famed “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, are shown across the multitude of screens, and the floor, cropped into pyramids, trapezoids, or squares, seemingly building layers and textures onto the originals.

"Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" is among the masterpieces that receive a high-tech rendering at the "Imagine Picasso" exhibition in Vancouver. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for

Floor-to-ceiling digital displays of artwork keep attendees mesmerized while classical music adds to the immersive feel of the “Imagine Picasso” experience. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for

The exhibition follows on the heels of a similar one devoted to Vincent Van Gogh. The work of Picasso, though, feels better suited to the mayhem of digital innovation. As he did with his art, there seems to be a considered chaos to the disjointed imagery created by the Image Totale program. In that sense, it feels like a natural progression to the Picasso oeuvre.

Adrian is the editor of and He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.

Leave a Reply