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Canada’s Summer of Sport city guides: Vancouver.

As the sporting world limbers up, our series of city guides for international travellers starts on BC’s West Coast.

28 January 2015
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Suggested tweet: New series: Canada’s Summer of Sport city guides starts with Vancouver http://ow.ly/CWdSn #explorecanada

In 2015, the sporting world will head to Canada. Toronto hosts the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games and FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 action plays out at six cities across the nation. Wait, there’s more: Rogers Cup tennis, F1 Grand Prix in Montréal, RBC Canadian Open golf, Major League Baseball, Canadian Football League and Major League Soccer are all set to excite throughout the sunniest months.

To help visitors make the most of Canada’s Summer of Sport, we’re running a series of short and occasionally irreverent city guides for the seven host destinations for the World Cup and PanAm Games.

Up now: Vancouver, BC.

Age:129 years

Appearance:The City of Glass sparkles in summer—but if you’re staring at the buildings, you’re looking in the wrong direction. The azure Pacific Ocean, misty evergreens and white-capped mountains are Vancouver’s true beauty marks.

Vancouver in five words: Outdoorsy, green, hip, leisurely and wet

Is it easy to get around? Legacies from Expo 86 and the 2010 Olympic Winter Games bestowed Vancouver with the SkyTrain mass-transit system, which quickly connects surrounding communities (and the international airport) to downtown. To live like a local, though, ride the bike lanes that carve through central Vancouver, for pedal-powered access to everywhere you want to go.

What’s the city’s hidden gem? Since Stanley Park is the city’s crown jewel, it makes sense the hidden gem is within: Beaver Lake. Though the park sees eight million annual visitors, only an intrepid fraction will trek into its woodlands and uncover this Zen-like water body.

Where can you catch the sporting action live?The dramatic prong-spiked behemoth that dominates False Creek’s skyline with nightly light shows isn’t left over from a utopian sci-fi film set. It’s beautiful BC Place—one of the Women’s World Cup venues, including the final match itself. The retractable roof lets the West Coast sun flood in.

Are there fun bars and pubs to watch the games from, too? Red Card Sports Bar + Eatery is a boisterous Vancouver standard, while G Sports Bar & Grill impresses with 24 HD TVs (and both showcase prominent projection screens). For soccer fans in particular, any pub on Commercial Drive is molto buona—this neighbourhood’s Italian heritage is exceptionally vibrant during FIFA events.

Enough about sport—where are the hot spots to eat and drink in the city?Sushi is a local staple and pho is a favourite—or break from these standards to try Gastown restaurants such as Tuc Craft Kitchen and Wildebeest for a hipster farm-to-table scene. Afterwards, craft beer beckons at nearby Brassneck Brewery, Main Street Brewing Company, Parallel 49 Brewing Company and Steel Toad Brewpub & Dining Hall.

Some visitors like to shop ‘til they drop—where should they go?Classics include downtown’s Robson Street, where Canadian retail giants like Aritzia, Lululemon and Roots stay open until 10 pm. Kitsilano’s West 4th Avenue lures locals to its 240-plus shops and eateries while the many merchants of Granville Street—whether downtown, Granville Island or South Granville—bring crowds of eager shoppers. But don’t miss trendy destinations such as Main Street, where unique boutiques sell one-of-a-kind wares, or West Broadway’s “Gore-Tex Alley,” the outdoors-store district.

What’s the nightlife like?Two words: Granville Street. Located within walking distance of BC Place, weekend nights see this street’s entertainment district closed to car traffic to accommodate all the revellers.

Life isn’t just fun and games—where can visitors feed their minds? Before you scream your lungs out at a game, immerse in serenity at the neoclassical grand dame that is the Vancouver Art Gallery. Permanent exhibits include the works of Emily Carr, while upcoming exhibits could be anything from antiques to avant-garde. Pop into the adjacent Bill Reid Gallery to view inspiring aboriginal artwork.

One of Canada’s attractions is its amazing nature—what are some nearby outdoor delights? Now you’re speaking Vancouver’s language. A stroll around Stanley Park’s Seawall is lovely, if obvious. Hike the Grouse Grind? Good choice—if you’re a fitness buff. For natural vistas that’ll bring a tear to your eye (and accessible trails that won’t actually incite crying) try Squamish’s Sea to Sky Gondola—a newly built tram that gives visitors an 885-vertical-metre jump-start into alpine hikes once reserved for mountaineers.

Make local friends in Vancouver: Tell us how beautiful our city is. We hear it all the time, but it’s never enough.

Make local foes in Vancouver: Complain about the rain. We like the rain. (That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.)

Looking for more visual inspiration from Vancouver and British Columbia? Browse our Brand Canada Library for thousands of images and videos from all over Canada.

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