A Definitive Gay Guide to Vancouver, B.C.
As one of the earliest countries in modern times to recognize same-sex marriage, Canada has long been considered one of the greatest destinations for LGBT travelers, and Vancouver, in the province of British Columbia, is a shining example of a city that has successfully incorporated its LGBT residents, culture, and history into its larger identity. This coastal metropolis boasts the largest LGBT population in western Canada and hosts several annual LGBT-focused events. including the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, nearby Whistler’s Winter Pride gay ski weekend, and the city’s own terrific Gay Pride Parade and Festival – taking place this year on Sunday, August 3. Whether you’re looking to travel somewhere over the Canadian rainbow this Pride season or going to British Columbia for any other reason, here are a few must-hit locations on your north by northwest adventure.
EAT: A Taste of Vancouver
Vancouver is known around the globe for world-class cuisine that owes as much of its reputation to the city’s coastal location as its diverse population, rich mix of cultures, and superstar chefs who have come to call the city home. From fine dining to hometown cooking, the following scrumptious stops offer a taste of Vancouver’s award-winning food culture.
THE PARKER: A recent addition to Vancouver’s culinary scene, The Parker opened in 2012 to rave reviews and features an ever-evolving, completely vegetarian menu. This sustainable restaurant also prides itself on being one of the most environmentally conscientious in all of Canada by producing almost zero waste. Imagination and service are chief goals of owner Steve Da Cruz, who works the floor and creates the restaurant’s unique bar offerings himself, while Top Chef Canada’s Curtis Luk is masterminds the menu and leads the kitchen. (237 Union St., more info)
COMPAGNOLO ROMA: Italian-food lovers with a craving for authenticity will want to stop by Compagnolo Roma for an unforgettable meal. Located in the heart of Vancouver’s old Italian district, this award-winning restaurant serves dishes inspired by Roman cuisine and uses fresh, locally grown ingredients. Scrumptious signature Italian favorites, seasonal dishes, and unique cuisine experiences can all be found here, and guests are not only welcomed with a warm smile, they are treated like family. (2297 E Hastings St., more info)
CHAMBER RESTAURANT: Described on its website as “an unpretentious fling with fine dining,” Chamber serves Belgian fare with a twist. Decadent dishes and sophisticated cocktails are served up alongside the city’s longest list of Belgian brews in a cozy dining room perfect for libations and laughs with a group of friends or a romantic dinner date for two. (562 Beatty St., more info)
WORLD'S BEST FOOD TRUCK TOUR: Don’t underestimate these mobile meal makers – Vancouver’s gourmet food truck scene is bursting with deliciousness. Several masters of the culinary arts have migrated to the city to join Vancouver’s gourmet wheeled revolution, and the best way to experience the range of dishes being served throughout the streets is by taking this guided educational walking excursion through the heart of the city with Vancouver Foodie Tours. Whether you’re savoring Soho Road’s tandoori chicken naan kebab, terimayo hot dogs at Vancouver’s famous Japanese-style hot dog stand Japadog, or French gourmet sandwiches at Ze Bite, the World’s Best Food Truck Tour is sure to please your palate. (more info)
RAINCITY GRILL: Boasting a scenic view of the city’s English Bay, Raincity Grill is a pioneer in the concept of the “100-Mile Tasting Menu,” composed entirely of locally sourced food. Each dish is a work of art in both presentation and flavor, made even more special with the knowledge that the restaurant’s trademark “100-Mile” menu constantly evolves to reflect the best of the area’s local waters and backyards. A passion for true culinary artistry is apparent in every bite, making Raincity Grill a must for any Vancouver visitor. (1193 Denman St., more info)
SLEEP: The Great Indoors
Vancouver offers a range of hotels and resorts throughout the city that are sure to please even the most particular traveler. Vacationers would be hard-pressed to discover an establishment that wasn’t LGBT-friendly, and many hotels in the city actively seek out gay travelers by offering LGBT-specific packages and often partner with the Canadian LGBT community by sponsoring events and donating to LGBT charities. Here are a few options that provide substance, style, and that home-away-from-home feeling.
OPUS: Located at the edge of Vancouver’s gay district, this boutique hotel offers a choice of six uniquely styled rooms to fit a range of personalities, each stocked with amenities perfect for tech junkies such as complimentary Wi-Fi, in-room iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone available to accompany guests as they explore the city. The Forbes four-star-rated hotel is a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, offers LGBT booking packages donating 10 percent to the Vancouver Pride Society, and is the sponsor of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. (322 Davie St., more info)
THE BURRARD: This self-described “retro-licious” property combines iconic influences of the past with modern design touches culminating in a sleek new style. The hotel’s recent renovation came complete with new rooms outfitted with a cool new design palette, all-new bedding and upholstery, designer fixtures, a new courtyard, and a cool new attitude. In-room amenities include free high-speed wireless Internet, free Brooklyn Cruiser bike rentals, HDTVs with free premium and movie channels, and Nespresso coffee machines. The Burrard also offers a “We’ve Got Pride Every Day of the Year” package for LGBT travelers. (1100 Burrard St., more info)
LODEN: With contemporary decor inspired by the surrounding mountains and waterways, the Loden offers luxurious living on the hem of Coal Harbour. The 14-story boutique urban hotel boasts 77 lush guest rooms, the finest range of amenities any traveler could desire, and the gracious Tableau Restaurant – which has a French-inspired menu that fuses the classic culinary flavors of Paris with fresh Wet Coast ingredients – located next to the hotel’s dashing lobby. Featuring striking views of both the city and the North Shore Mountains through the floor-to-ceiling guest room windows, the Loden is the perfect balance of scenic beauty and urban style. (1177 Melville St., more info)