THE COMPLETE LGBT GUIDE TO VANCOUVER
In January of 2011, gaytravel .com sent North Americaâ€™s â€‰first Gay Travel Guru, Nick Vivion , to Vancouver to report back on this LGBT oasis. This guide chronicles his travels and all the best in gay and lesbian travel that VanCity has to offer! 4
o (gay) canada! I am surrounded by gays, and I’ve only been in Vancouver for 2 hours! I’m sitting with my boyfriend Kevin at Glowbal in Vancouver’s trendy Yaletown district. We’ve just dropped our bags at the Opus Hotel, a popular boutique hotel that came highly recommended among friends. Brunch is the name of the game, and the gays reign supreme no matter what country. Even so, I was surprised to see so much gay in such a concentrated space: A big group of Canuck gays at 10 o’clock, Dutch gays in tight jeans at my 9 o’clock and a gaggle o’ gays just arriving. “Do we have a reso?,” questions one black-clad gentlemen to another, over his shoulder. There’s no answer as they swoosh inside, where I hope they discovered whether or not they had a reservation. I shot Kevin a look, and we both started laughing. A reso? Thank you, Canada, for giving me something to laugh about mere hours upon arrival. As a resident of Seattle, I do have ample opportunities to come to this metropolitan city only hours away from my home. Each time, I enjoy reveling in the Canada vs. America brawl, the silliness that us neighbors engage in regularly. - Nick Vivion, Gay Travel Guru
I am surrounded by gays, and I’ve only been in Vancouver for 2 hours!
vancity: lgbt style Vancouver is nestled in the folds of the magnificent North Shore Mountains, sitting on the edge of a wondrous natural playground. This setting is just one of many reasons why Vancouver is ranked one of the most livable cities in the world and most recently ranked by Mercer as having the 4th highest quality of living on the whole planet. Wowzers! The vibe is decidedly laid-back, with a healthy dose of cosmopolitan mixed into the river of outdoors that flows through the city’s population. On any given sunny Sunday, it seems as if the entire city is outside. We were bestowed one such day on our first full day in VanCity, which we seized and took a bike ride around the sea wall at Stanley Park. The sidewalk was packed with bikers, walkers, joggers, and, yes, even rollerbladers. Baby carriages were causing traffic jams, as dogs sniffed rears and frolicked gleefully in the large meadows of the park. On stunning days such as this one, it’s obvious how Vancouver trumps most cities in ease and love of life. Stanley Park is the centerpiece of the city, the ace-in-the-hole when it comes to those quality of life evaluations. At a touch over 1,000 acres, Stanley Park is 10% bigger than New York’s Central Park and has nearly 120 miles of trails and roads crisscrossing the park, serving 8 million visitors annually. There’s a statue in the park dedicated to its namesake, Governor General Lord Stanley, who was ecstatic about the park’s dedication in 1888: Lord Stanley throws his arms to the heavens, as though embracing within them the whole one thousand acres of primeval forest, and dedicated it to the use and enjoyment of all colours, creeds and customs, for all time. I name thee, Stanley Park! I can attest personally that all customs are alive and well in Vancouver – especially the kind that involve the eyes-only up/down so familiar in the discourse of the modern gay. Vancouver is not the gayest city on Earth, but like any contemporary metropolitan area, the city attracts a fair share of the LGBT persuasion. Davie Street is the arterial cutting through the heart of Davie Village, the gay-leaning neighborhood. There are a handful of bars that have maintained their popularity throughout time eternal. Like Numbers, which has been around forever. Oasis is a sweeping
“ultra lounge” that boasts over 200 different martinis on their drink list. The PumpJack is a no-frills bar for the leather/Levi crowd, while the jocks are drawn to Score on Davie. Two of the cooler new spots are 1181, an intimate modern spot recently voted Best Bar in Vancouver, and Five Sixty, an alternaclub on Seymour that bills itself as half-club, half-gallery, and spins some serious beats at the weekend. Historic Gastown is trending, steadily becoming Vancouver’s Meatpacking District: the go-to spot for heritage cocktails by the city’s best bartenders, delectable farm cuisine and intimate, innovative restaurants doing interesting things. Take a spin around the extensive cocktail selection at l’Abattoir, and you will find historical gems like the Boulevardier alongside contemporary creations such as the eponymous Slaughterhouse: a Cognac-based beverage delicately mixed with orange oils, aromatic bitters and a soft chartreuse mist. Finally, over in Yaletown, a kicking pop-up restaurant has been installed at the Opus Hotel. It’s called One Hundred Days, and you guessed it, it’s a temporary concept intended to last only one hundred days. Those days have come and gone, and you’ll see why if you make it to Vancouver before it’s gone: The concept is bare-bones and urban industrial, with graffiti art by local street artist Vince Dumoulin evolving regularly as he creativity dictates. This place is happening, packed all day and well into the wee hours. Liam Neeson was a mere foot away from me on the night we visited, and the line beyond the velvet rope was simmering to get in. Vancouver is more about the “everything else” than the “just gay.” This is not a gay party city, it’s a come-as-you-are, get-your-butt-in-gear, and get going kinda city. The mighty surroundings encourage a laid-back yet contemporaneous lifestyle that made me ask more than once: When can I live here?!?! - Nick Vivion, Gay Travel Guru
inside the eye of the wind The silence is perhaps the creepiest thing about standing inside the world’s only elevator-accessible wind turbine. Well that, and the fact that I can look down to the snowy ground below me through a half-centimeter gap in between the shaft and the pod. The silence is unusual, as the day is particularly lacking in wind. The gap is perfectly safe, our guide Scott assures me. The reason for the gap, he says, is because the pod is actually hanging from the turbine above us. All of a sudden, a jarring sound pierces the relative quiet. Whiiirrrrr, goes the motor above us. We begin to shift, the whole pod, along with the blades. The computer is orienting the three 125-foot blades for optimum wind exposure, and we’re going along for the ride. It’s exhilarating! I laugh as I see an iPod connected to the eyePOD™’s internal speakers: If only Steve Jobs could see me now! I laugh even more as the music choice skews heavily gay: Britney Spears segues into a remix of ATC’s “Around the World.” I’m a fierce proponent of all things renewable. As a passionate traveler, I am constantly guilty aware of the fossils fueling my journey. I offset my emissions, but this is a temporary solution. We must find something more sustainable, and it has to happen fast or us travel addicts are facing a quick and sudden withdrawal.
The Eye of the Wind gives both avid greenies and the lay folk an inside perspective on renewable energy, allowing visitors to face the future of energy from the inside out! The giant blades rotate ever so slightly as I peer intently above me at the center point where the massive chunks of steel come together. I will for more wind, so I can see what it looks like to be behind enormous whooshing energy
wizards. The silence is perhaps the creepiest thing Alas, there is nothing, so I focus my attention to the staggering spectacle of nature laid out before me. It was a clear day, and I peered right down into my homeland around Seattle and colossal Mt. Rainier alongside its brethren, Mt. Garibalidi and Mt. Baker. Directly to the north is the remainder of the North Shore Mountains, with Whistler nestled beyond. Vancouver is, of course, quite the sight from this perspective. Stanly Park’s size is easily digested, nearly the same size as the rest of downtown Vancouver. High above the ridgeline, snowboarders slide by like ants on snow. Boats move lazily on the Strait of Georgia.
We must find something more sustainable , and it has to happen fast. Eye of the Wind is the highest point around, and I’d love to visit at different times of the day – for example at sunset during the summertime, or when a soft mist is rolling around Vancouver. There is such diversity of perspective from this vantage point, with everything changing hourly. The Eye of the Wind is a prescient way to simultaneously reduce your power bill and carbon footprint while creating an added revenue stream and value add for visitors. The Mountain has already patented the eyePOD, and is in talks to bring their invention to locations around the world, making this the beginning of a new kind of green tourism. Kudos to Grouse Mountain for creating environmentally sustainable tourism and succeeding. - Nick Vivion, Gay Travel Guru
van city: where to play gaytravel interviewed gay local and the owner of the Nelson House Bed and Breakfast, David Ritchie about why gays and lesbians flock to Vancouver each year.
Pub(1011 Davie). You can also dine, dance & drag at the Oasis Lounge (1240 Thurlow St. at Davie) and the Junction (1138 Davie). The J Lounge (1216 Bute st., off of Davie) has quirky local entertainers and edgy comedy nights.
GT: What makes Vancouver such a great LGBT destination?
Our regular GLBT venues are generally quite mixed by gender and sub-scene. For information on the many one-off specialty parties, be sure to ask me and the rest of the Nelson House staff. Our famous GLBT bookstore, Little Sisters (1238 Davie) is also a great community hub.
David: Vancouver is a young city with the looks and bravado to take on the world. The city just turned 125 and has already hosted a Gay Games, a World's Fair and the recent Winter Olympics. The LGBT traveler will tap into that excitement and probably stand in awe of the cosmopolitan mix of people who live the West Coast Lifestyle with a Canadian flavor. Vancouver is a rare combination - a modern city with flair and function surrounded by the natural beauty of snow-capped mountains, evergreen forests, clean ocean air and fit, friendly locals! GT: What are some hotspots gay and lesbian travelers should check out when they are in the city?
GT: Why did you decide to go into the hospitality business? Is there a need for more gay O & O hotels and B & Bs? David: Once upon a time, I had a long career in the Canadian Foreign Service. Let's face it, that profession had me travelling the world in some style and regularly dealing with a great variety of people , many of them very smart and interesting. When I met my husband, I was convinced it was time to settle in one place but somehow, not give up the perks of travel and people.
I knew of B & Bs from Europe, P'Town & Key West and admired the fact that I could be my own boss, fix up and live in a big, 1907 house and invite other travellers to my door-step. Fortunately, I have never had a regret. Hospitality is an occupation in which gays excel. If you look at many "straight" hotels and bed and breakIndoors, the club scene is still centered on Davie fasts, there is a gay owner or manager behind St. and nearby downtown locations. Hot, hot, the scenes. To own & operate a "gay B & B" is a hot right now are various GLBT nights at Five-Sixty flexible formula that should be a great fit for an (560 Seymour St) which features 4 floors, 4 bars & ambitious person. These days, it's not so much 3 rooms of fun. about how big your rainbow flag is, but about delivering a fine product and memorable expeCelebrities (1022 Davie) has offered a huge, rience to our very well-travelled GLBT commuglittering dance-floor since back in the sevennity. They expect a lot. To deliver that, it has to ties. Likewise, Numbers (1042 Davie) has been start with your own self-esteem and sensibility. a great cruise-bar on three levels, forever. The young cocktail set squeezes into the chic little "1181" (1181 Davie). The older set sits down for a beer and conversation at the Fountainhead David: Because of our great outdoors, travelers should be sure to explore the trails of Stanley Park and the amazing, clothing-optional Wreck Beach. A lot of fun can be had underneath the 700-year old cedars.
Celebrities Night Club is a Vancouver nightlife landmark and has been a dance club as far back as 1910.
1181 Davie Street, 604-687-3991 www.tightlounge.com Anyone with an open mind is welcome at this mixed gay/straight bar,
1022 Davie Street, 604-681-6180 www.celebritiesnightclub.com Dance the night away at Vancouver’s largest lgbt nightclub.
1042 Davie Street, 604-685-4077 www.numbers.ca Get your top forty on and enjoy DJ’s, karaoke, bands and dancing.
west end There are three major streets in the West End, each seven blocks long: Denman Street, a strip dominated by a huge range of mid-priced restaurants, unique shops and a popular second-run movie theatre; Davie Street, with its busy shops, Bohemian coffee bars and wide range of gay nightlife venues; and Robson Street, offering Starbucks outlets, boutique chain stores and trendy designer shops. For a blast from the area’s past, check out Barclay Heritage Square, a unique park-like site of nine historic homes with period landscaping.
THE OASIS PUB 1240 Thurlow Street, 604-685-1724 www.oasisondavie.com This isn’t only one of the hottest Gay spot in the city; it‘s the city’s only piano bar. PUMP JACK PUB 1167 Davie Street, 604-685-3417 www.pumpjackpub.com This laid-back LGBT venue offers a variety of events, shows, and specialty nights.
dining LA BRETAGNE 795 Jervis Street, 604-688-5989 Savory or sweet; breakfast, lunch or dinner; this place serves you whatever and whenever your taste buds desire. MARIAS’S TAVERNA 1037 Denman Street, 604-681-8500 mariastaverna.ca Delicious Greek food in a warm, inviting atmosphere
THE MILL MARINE BISTRO 1199 West Cordova Street, 04-687-6455 www.millbistro.ca Munchies, drinks, and a priceless view of the harbour is a hard combination to beat. SAMURAI JAPANESE RESTAURANT 1108 Davie Street, 604-609-0078 www.samuraisushi.ca Get large portions and the fresh sushi just a short walk from the beach. THAI AWAY HOME 1206 Davie Street, 604-682-8424 www.thaiaway.com Eat in, take out, or make at home- this Thai food is affordable and tasty.
shopping AGENT PROVOCATEUR 1020 Alberni Street, 604-688-2712 www.agentprovocateur.com This sexy lingerie boutique is sure to spice up your Vancouver stay. ARITZIA 1110 Robson Street, 604-684-3251 aritzia.com A hot spot for the latest clothes and accessories. LITTLE SISTER’S BOOK AND ART EMPORIUM 1238 Davie Street, 604-669-1753 www.littlesistersbookstore.com Get your book, art, and gift fix at this prideful LGBT oasis of goods. TEN THOUSAND VILLAGES 929 Denman Street, 604-683-0929 www.tenthousandvillages.ca Sales at this co-op style home decor store benefits those in need overseas.
commercial drive A confluence of countercultures makes Commercial Drive, or “The Drive,” the place to go for an urban experience of the young and hip Vancouver crowd. Formerly known as “Little Italy,” this diverse neighbourhood is home to students, writers, artists and other bohemians. Lots of different restaurants offering every kind of cuisine imaginable make this a great place to grab an authentic ethnic meal.
BUKOWSKI’S BAR AND BISTRO 1447 Commerical Drive, 604-253-2777 This venue’s great food, live music, and spoken work is a combination that can’t be beat.
BANSHEE CLOTHING 1566 Commercial Drive, 604-254-7240 Clothes, accessories, arts and crafts, giftswhat more could anyone ask for in one store?
THE CHARLATAN 1447 Commercial Drive, 604-253-2777 www.thecharlatanpub.com A great pub location for food, drink, and the best people watching in town.
BAREFOOT CONTESSA BOUTIQUE 1928 Commercial Drive, 604-255-9035 This quirky shop offers one of a kind clothing and accessory pieces sure to brighten your shopping experience.
THE DIVINO WINE BAR 1590 Commercial Drive, 604-258-0005 www.divinovancouver.com Get your drink on at this top of the line wine bar- complete with a full menu.
DUTCH GIRL CHOCOLATES 1002 Commercial Drive, 604-251-3221 This chocolate shop is great for buying gifts for loved ones back home, or just indulging yourself.
THE LIBRA ROOM 1608 Commercial Drive, 604-255-3787 www.libraroom.com Live music and a hip vibe put- and keepthis lounge on the map.
IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES 1832 Commercial Drive, 604-253-6727 www.funandgames.ca The perfect place to stock up on toys and gifts for the young at heart.
THE WISE 1882 Adanac Street, 604-254-5858 www.wisehall.ca This performance art and music venue provides LGBT-friendly night-life.
JUICY LUCY’S JUICE BAR 1420 Commercial Drive, 604-254-6101 Fuel up on your shopping day with a refreshing smoothie or juice.
PINK ELEPHANT CLOTHING COMPANY 1748 Commercial Drive, 604-568-0741 Expand the size of your wardrobe while maintaining the size of your wallet at this top of the line thrift store.
HAVANA 1212 Commercial Drive, 604-253-9119 www.havanarestaurant.ca Enjoy a night on the town at this restaurant, gallery, and theater sure to impress. PIZZA GARDEN 1024 Commercial Drive, 604-569-0448 An excellent pizza-by-the-slice food joint brings a classic to Canada.
RIOT CLOTHING 1395 Commercial Drive, 604-254-5073 www.riotinbc.ca Men and women’s clothing is offered at this funky go-to shopping stop.
chinatown Vancouverâ€™s Chinatown is third largest in North America, behind only San Francisco and New York. A meandering walk will take you past vibrant shops with ducks hanging in the windows, people animated in negotiations over squirming crabs, and heaping piles of dried fish, spices. Millennium Gate welcomes visitors to at the western edge of Chinatown, incorporating both Eastern and Western flourishes to signify looking both to the past and the future. Walking past the Gate and into the heart of Chinatown, be sure to stop by the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden on the right. Surrounded by high-rises, the Garden is a compact sanctuary in the city, manicured to perfection. The on-site structures are authentic, being the first true classical Chinese gardens every built outside of China.
granville Granville Island is actually a man-made peninsula just across the waters of False Creek from Vancouverâ€™s Yaletown district. The island takes itâ€™s name from the bridge that runs directly overheard, which in turn takes its name from the original name for the city of Vancouver There are two ferry companies, the colorful Aquabus and False Creek Ferries, operating cute little boats from various points along False Creek. Once on Granville Island, there is much to explore. Locals mix amongst visitors to purchase fresh vegetables, chocolate, pastries, fish, sausage, meats and a veritable cornucopia of treats from the environs. A large indoor public market houses these vendors, facilitating the all-weather activity of grazing bite-to-bite.
grouse mtn .
Stanley Park is what pushes Vancouver into a regular spot on lists of the world’s best cities. This 1,000 acre urban park is 10% larger than Central Park and boosts the quality of living into the stratosphere by hosting over 8 million visitors yearly.
Grouse Mountain is one of three massive congregations of rock that line Vancouver, also known as the North Shore Mountains. No matter the season, Grouse has outfitted their slice of the clouds with activities for all skill levels.
On gorgeous days, Stanley Park’s seawalls, trails and venues will be packed with people enjoying the weather, as if not a soul remained inside. The popularity of Stanley Park, as well as the health-conscious population, indicate just how seriously Vancouverites take their nature-infused lifestyle. Vancouverites can be seen walking, jogging, running, biking, blading, talking, pushing strollers, chasing dogs, and playing sports throughout the park.
In the summertime, guests are whisked to the peak on a chairlift and rewarded with expansive views of Vancouver, Mt. Baker and beyond. There are also all-ages lumberjack shows, eco-walks and wildlife presentations. The Grouse Grind, nicknamed Mother Nature’s StairMaster, challenges the fit to race up the mountain from the base rather than take the Skyride gondola up. Hikers race against the clock, and can compete for the season’s best time.
vancouver art gallery 750 Hornby Street, 604-662-4700 www.vanartgallery.bc.ca A world-class art encounter waits at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Located in a stunning, turn-of-the century heritage building in the heart of downtown Vancouver; the Gallery showcases 4 floors of inspirational art pleasures including Canada’s largest collection of beloved artist Emily Carr’s work, to ever-changing world-class exhibitions.
vancouver aquarium Stanley Park,604-659-3400 www.vanaqua.org The Vancouver Aquarium is home to over 70,000 fascinating creatures including majestic beluga whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, curious sea otters, harbour seals and steller sea lions!
vancouver lookout 555 Hastings Street, 604.689.0421 www.vancouverlookout.com The Vancouver Lookout bills itself as “Vancouver’s best first stop,” orienting visitor to an unfamiliar city with complete 360-degree views. The glass elevator whisks you 190 feet above the city, into a heated, enclosed deck with panoramic windows. It’s pricey, but this is the best view available in the city.
capilano bridge 3735 Capilano Road , 604.985.7474 www.capbridge.com One of Vancouver’s most iconic and thrilling sites, Capilano Suspension Bridge is breathtakingly suspended 450 feet across and 230 feet above Capilano River. But crossing the bridge isn’t the only excitement you can expect. Located 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver, Capilano Suspension Bridge is open year-round (except Christmas).
central park Boundary between Burnaby and Vancouver Vancouver’s Central Park is a great way to get outdoors while still in the city. Right on the border of Vancouver and Burnaby, central park gets best of both worlds. Central park is one of the oldest parks in the city, and is lined with beautiful trails that will take you back to nature.
vandusen garden 5251 Oak Street, 604-878-9274 www.vandusengarden.org A living museum of plant collections from around the world, this spectacular 55-acre botanical garden is beautiful in every season. Highlights: Spring - Rhododendron and Laburnum Walks, ornamental cherry trees; Summer - Perennial and Water Lily Gardens; Autumn - brilliant autumn colour display; Winter - witchhazels, viburnum.
gay-friendly hotels opus hotel 322 Davie Street, 604-642-6787 www.opushotel.com The Opus Hotel is consistently ranked one of the top hotels in the world by the well-traveled Conde Nast Traveler and wellheeled Fortune Magazine. With 96 rooms, this boutique hotel consistently rates as a favorite stay of gay travelers from all over.
shangri-la 1128 W Georgia St, 604.689.1120 www.shangri-la.com The illustrious Shangri-La brand chose the mountain-ringed Vancouver for its first foray into North America. The most unique thing about this Shangri-La is not how effortlessly executed the brandâ€™s Asian appeal is but the size of the hotel: Itâ€™s like your own personal palace!
fairmont pacific 1038 Canada Pl, 604-695-5300 www.opushotel.com The new Fairmont Pacific Rim is an ultra-upscale waterfront hotel promising an unforgettable experience. Its modern design, which celebrates the best of Asia and the West Coast,.
metropolitan 645 Howe Street, 604-687-1122 www.metropolitan.com Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver - a luxury Vancouver hotel set against a serene mountain backdrop. The hotel’s convenient downtown Vancouver location is surrounded by all the pleasures and excitement that one of Canada’s finest cities has to offer.
nelson house b&b
manor guest house
ramada inn & suites
977 Broughton Street, 604-684-9793 www.downtownbedandbreakfast.com
1906 Haro Street, 604-685-5367 www.buchanhotel.com
hotel le soleil 567 Hornby Street, 604.632-3000 www.hotellesoleil.com Hotel Le Soleil differentiates itself with a unique mixture of stylish sophistication and old world elegance. Featuring 119 luxury boutique lodging accommodations and located in the heart of downtown Vancouver’s financial, shopping and business districts and tourist attractions.
1154 Gilford Street, 604-681-9321 www.sylviahotel.com
345 West 13th Avenue, 604-876-8494 www.manorguesthouse.com
coast plaza 1763 Comox St, 604-688-7711 www.coasthotels.com The Coast Plaza Hotel & Suites is located in Vancouvers colourful and cosmopolitan West End, near the world-famous Stanley Park and the beaches of English Bay. Only steps from Davie Street, the heart of the LGBTQ community.
2030 Barclay Street, 604-689-4807 www.rosellensuites.com
1221 Granville Street, 604-685-1111 www.ramadavancouver.com