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Best of Vancouver 2019: City Life

Best way to keep a Dude Chilling

Cast him in bronze. Michael Dennis’s cedar sculpture Reclining Figure became such a popular fixture in Guelph Park that people changed the greenspace’s name. When the public artwork started to rot a few years back and disappeared from Dude Chilling Park, Vancouverites started to worry. But they just needed to chill: the Dude had been sent to Denman Island, where Dennis was preparing the wood original to be cast in bronze. Now the newly installed metal replica at Brunswick Street and 8th Avenue weighs 500 pounds—sturdy, but with the same laid-back vibe.

Best way to discover Stanley Park

We love Stanley Park. Located on the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Coast Salish First Nations, Vancouver’s jewel represents so much Indigenous history and tradition. Locals and visitors can learn about the park’s significance—past and present—to Indigenous peoples through the Talking Trees experience offered by Talaysay Tours. Married couple Candace and Larry Campo (who are of the Shíshálh and Squamish nations, respectively) and her brother, Jon Campo (Shíshálh), founded the company to educate and inspire people by sharing their culture. During the serene rain-or-shine stroll through Stanley Park, guides might talk about spiritual practices, medicinal uses of plants, traditional foods (such as salal berries and licorice fern), mythology, lore, and more. Talaysay also offers tours in other parts of the region, all centred on story, spiritual perspectives, and respect for the land.

Best reimagining of an iconic look

Attention, Main Street fixie jockeys: the ’80s Radio Shack clerk mustache- and retro-glasses combo has now officially replaced the hipster beard, moth-eaten sweater, and ironic trucker hat. See you at the Narrow Lounge—and don’t forget to lock up your bike.

Best place to stargaze

As a major motion-picture destination, Vancouver has come a million light-years from when the filming of 1975’s Russian Roulette was the cultural event of the century. (Ask your grandparents about George Segal doing battle with Soviet assassins on the iconic roof of the Hotel Vancouver.) After a recessionary rough patch a few years back, Lotusland has once again overtaken Toronto for the title of Hollywood North. According to Internet Movie Data Base data gathered and compiled by industry insurance giant GoCompare, we’re now the 14th-most-popular spot in the world for shooting movies and TV shows. The place where you’re most likely to see a star in action as the cameras roll? That would ne the UBC campus, which has been used for everything from X-Men 2 to Fifty Shades of Grey. GoCompare lists UBC as the ninth-most-popular filming location on Earth, outranked only by the likes of Venice Beach, Central Park, and Times Square. Suck on that, Hogtown.

Best signs of life in Strathcona

Until recently, no one would have described the stretch of East Hastings Street from, say, the 600 to 900 blocks as “lively”. Situated between the hustle (of entirely the wrong kind) of the Downtown Eastside and the bustle (of the commercial kind) of Hastings Sunrise, this particular strip of Strathcona has long been something of a dead zone. With new residential buildings and an influx of fledgling businesses, however, the area is due for a renaissance. Signs of life include the recent opening of VV Tapas Lounge, a low-key spot with an impressive by-the-glass wine list. At 957 East Hastings, VV is located in Strathcona Village—an unmistakable housing development that looks like a stack of red and orange shipping containers. Java lovers now have choices beyond gas-station swill, with the verdant and cozy Garden (868 East Hastings) almost directly across from newcomer Prototype Coffee (883 East Hastings), where they roast their own beans. Meanwhile, Strathcona Beer Company (895 East Hastings) is fast becoming a Yeast Van institution, while the comparatively venerable Heatley (696 East Hastings) is the go-to for lovers of live music and also boasts an early mural by local art-world star Ola Volo behind the bar. The strip is poised to get a lot more life thanks to the proposed Ray-Cam Renew project, which would see the construction of a brand-new community centre, a health clinic, childcare facilities, cultural spaces including a media lab and a theatre, mixed housing, and a retail promenade along the south side of the 900 block.

Weirdest use for hair while on transit

If you thought clipping nails on the bus or SkyTrain was weird, a Georgia Straight staffer witnessed a woman riding a TransLink bus pull a hair off her head and use it as dental floss. That makes us worry about what she used for toothpaste. Yeesh.

Best proof Vancouverites have their own rules when it comes to driving

Vancouverites have a bad reputation for not knowing how to drive. But maybe it’s because we’re simply inventive and edgy drivers? After all, trundling your car down the outdoor stairway at the Sheraton Wall Centre in downtown Vancouver, as a driver did in July, is dangerously original, as is driving along a pedestrian path at Sunset Beach, as one driver did in August. Then again, maybe that kind of creativity is best left at home.

Best case for mudflaps

Every late spring, the seawall between Science World and Granville Island is a bustling breeding ground for Canada geese, with the small armies of impossibly cute goslings a major attraction for tourists, amateur photographers, and nitwits who fancy themselves the second coming of Steve Irwin. Then, as spring turns to summer, said goslings sprout up and start turning the False Creek seawall into an endless carpet of bird shit. We’re talking a goose-log adorned minefield that rivals the famously dog-dung smeared streets of Paris. Wearing white Chuck Taylors for an evening stroll is a recipe for tears. Riding the seawall behind a cyclist with no rear fender, meanwhile, can leave you looking like you just finished a motocross race. The reason for the mess? That would be the fact that geese crap an average of once every seven minutes, which means you can either wait things out until the November rains arrive or do your cycling on 2nd Avenue.

Best way to pretend you’re British

There are few things more quintessentially British than a ride around London on one of the city’s iconic double-decker buses. The AEC Routemaster bus became a symbol of U.K. progress after it first appeared on London streets in 1956. Today, however, it’s harder to catch a ride on a red Routemaster than one might think. The model was withdrawn from regular service in 2005 and only continues to operate in London on one route that’s marked with a heritage designation. But more than 60 years after double-decker buses arrived in London, Vancouver residents can soon enjoy the charm of a double-decker bus ride. TransLink piloted a couple of its own blue double-decker buses in 2017 and subsequently ordered 32 of the vehicles. They’re expected to hit Lower Mainland streets before the end of 2019. Grab a bowler hat and a cup of tea and climb onboard.

Best use of a drone

The proliferation of recreational unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has led to plenty of situations in which drones are nothing more than a nuisance. In recent years, the flying video cameras have been spotted peeking into downtown Vancouver apartments. Their surprisingly loud buzz has also become a common irritant for backcountry hikers on B.C. mountain trails. And in July 2018, the B.C. government actually had to ask people to refrain from flying drones near wildfires: while more than half a dozen major blazes burned across southern B.C. that month, drone hobbyists interfered with authorities’ attempts to contain the flames. Drones are proving to be a pain. But this past summer, London Drugs did something with a drone that could benefit remote settlements around the world. On August 19, the Vancouver-based pharmacy chain partnered with InDro Robotics and Canada Post to use an unmanned aerial vehicle to transport an Epi pen and the overdose-reversal drug naloxone from Duncan, B.C., to the Country Grocer on Salt Spring Island. The 27.4-kilometre drive from Duncan to Salt Spring takes more than an hour by car and even longer than that if you don’t time your arrival at the ferry just right. The London Drugs drone made its six-kilometre flight in just 11 minutes.

Best argument against flushing disposable wipes

Wipes are convenient. They’re used for personal hygiene, baby care, facial cleaning, and other scrubbing purposes. Many are labelled “flushable”, but Linda Parkinson, a manager with the liquid-waste services of the Metro Vancouver Regional District, says don’t do it. That’s because it costs the region at least $100,000 a year to unclog regional waste pump stations of these materials. Yes, $100K! Metro Vancouver also spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace equipment damaged by the material.

Henri Robideau

Best way to keep art afloat

The Blue Cabin Floating Artist Residency

At the Plaza of Nations Aquabus/False Creek Ferries dock

The Blue Cabin sailed into Vancouver this summer, and what a journey it had getting there. Built in 1932, the funky structure with the red shutters was off Cates Park in North Vancouver, first as a home to maritime labourers and families, and then, from the late ’60s, as the studio for Vancouver artists Al Neil and Carole Itter. Slated for demolition in 2014, it has been rescued to become home to the Blue Cabin Floating Artist Residency, a dream realized by grunt gallery, Other Sights for Artists’ Projects, and Creative Cultural Collaborations. They saw it as a chance to counter the loss of artists and their work to the real-estate crisis; giving artists the space and time for live/work residencies has become almost out of reach here. The project is finally launching this month, with open houses, talks, and workshops. The first program is Skeins: Weaving on the Foreshore, featuring weavers from the three local First Nations—Debra Sparrow (Musqueam), Janice George and Buddy Joseph (Squamish), and Angela George (Squamish/ Tsleil-Waututh)—plus a residency by Australian Indigenous artist and activist Vicki Couzens.

Most bromantic urinals

While men tend to zip in and out of washrooms, here’s one waste-removal configuration that will challenge even the speediest of males. In the basement washroom at East Vancouver’s Heritage Hall, a pair of urinals, which are angled toward each other, force users to stare each other in the eyes as they relieve themselves. It’s featured in the book 111 Places in Vancouver That You Must Not Miss, by Dave Doroghy and Graeme Menzies. According to a September 22 story by CBC News, the twin urinal has been there since the building opened as a post office in 1916 and was designed by Scottish plumber John Shanks. It’s certainly one place where men are bound to get pissed off.

Best recovery from pier pressure

A severe windstorm on December 20, 2018, battered the White Rock Pier, causing boats to smash into it and a portion of it to break off, stranding a man who had to be rescued by helicopter. With repair costs estimated at $14 million, the City of White Rock managed to rebuild the pier (with funds that included donations and $1 million from the B.C. government) and officially reopened “Canada’s longest pier” on September 21.

Best place to take a quick snooze outside of your home

Not all of us have the luxury of being able to catch some quick ZZZs at work (we’re looking at you, fancy tech startups with the fancy nap pods.) But if your office is anywhere near Kitsilano’s new Casper Sleep Shop (2294 West 4th Avenue), you can book a nap in one of its miniature houses decked out with mattresses, pillows, and whimsical décor. You may find yourself in such a deep slumber on its ultracozy mattresses that you either miss the alarm to get back to work or end up walking out with one of themattresses in a box. We take no responsibility for either outcome.

Best neighbourhood in which to trick-or-treat

They say big houses in well-to-do suburban areas give out the best candy: full-size Kit Kat and Coffee Crisp bars, no less. However, after many years of roaming through various neighbourhoods to scout out the best places to trick-or-treat, we’ve determined that East Van is the most magical place to knock on random people’s doors for sugary loot on Halloween. The spooky spirit is felt in waves as you walk through the kid-infested streets, often coming face to face with ghosts, witches, zombies, and the latest Marvel character. In Grandview-Woodland and Hastings-Sunrise, some residents go all out with the haunted décor: mummified skulls, fog machines, animatronics, perfectly carved pumpkins, and neon-hued lights that flicker as you walk up steps to utter the three golden words. We hear that West Side kids sometimes get dropped off for a couple hours just to experience the fun on October 31.

Best rainbow rebound

Vancouver may have unveiled Canada’s first rainbow crosswalks back in 2013, and many Lower Mainland municipalities may have followed suit, but it remains a controversial topic. A case in point was when Chilliwack city council voted against installing an LGBT–inclusive rainbow crosswalk on September 3, with only one councillor in favour. It was deemed too political and divisive. But on September 17, the Chilliwack Board of Education debated the idea of painting a rainbow crosswalk in its parking lot. After a heated debate, the motion was narrowly passed in a 4-3 vote. Accordingly, there will be sunshine through the rain after all.

Best rainbow resilience

Ladner United Church raised a rainbow flag to participate in the United Church of Canada’s inaugural Pride Sunday on June 2. But the next day, staff found the flag had been vandalized with black spray paint. The church ordered a replacement and also allowed attendees to write inclusive and supportive messages on the marred flag to “change the narrative” from hate to love. But that’s not all. Delta mayor George V. Harvie ordered the rainbow flag to be raised at City Hall for the first time, with the Delta Police Department and Delta firefighters in attendance. Delta police also included a rainbow flag on their social media. Not stopping there, the Delta School District raised two rainbow flags, one at the school board office and another at an education centre. Unfortunately, Ladner United Church’s replacement flag was also vandalized. In response, Delta Secondary School students covered the steps and sidewalk with rainbow colours and messages of inclusion. Sometimes it takes a village to raise a rainbow.

Best rainbow resistance

Surrey RCMP raised the rainbow flag on June 24 at its detachment, and the social-conservative group Culture Guard showed up to protest the event. But the flag remained aloft as Surrey RCMP honoured LGBT Pride and commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, which led to the LGBT rights movement in North America.

Best rainbow money

Canadian bills may be colourful, but a Canadian coin has outdone them. On April 23, the Royal Canadian Mint released a limited-mintage $1 coin that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. The coin features the work of none other than Vancouver artist Joe Average, whose career has been devoted to supporting LGBT and HIV communities. The Royal Canadian Mint released three million Equality coins, while a special collector’s edition in pure silver with the design in full colour was also made available in limited mintage for $49.95.

Charlie Smith

Best mural to keep memories of the past alive

In an alley east of Quebec Street between East 10th Avenue and East Broadway stands a stunning new depiction of the historic bonds between local First Nations and the city’s South Asian community. On the rear of a federal building that used to be named after a racist former Vancouver MP, artists Alicia Point, Cyler Sparrow-Point, and Keerat Kaur painted a magnificent mural representing how local First Nations delivered provisions to more than 350 South Asians kept aboard the Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s harbour for two months in 1914. The MP, Harry Stevens, and local immigration officials ensured that these passengers could not set foot in Canada, citing discriminatory continuous-journey legislation crafted to keep South Asians from moving here. Eventually, authorities ordered the ship to return to India, where 18 of the passengers were shot by British troops following an uprising in what is now West Bengal.

Best way to feel like you’re inside an anime

If you grew up watching Ja

Best place to find rats

B.C. SPCA

1205 East 7th Avenue

The easy answer is, in no particular order, the alleys of the Downtown Eastside, any fruit tree in East Van, or a steaming bowl of soup at the dearly departed Crab Park Chowdery. But as sure as Pamela Anderson earmarks a large portion of her Baywatch residuals for PETA, it’s important to remember that one person’s pest is another’s pet. And like every pet, sometimes rats end up not being wanted. Although most folks head to the B.C. SPCA for dogs. cats, and miniature donkeys, there’s also a healthy population of rats available for adoption. We’re not talking the wild brown rats that make grown men stand on chairs and shriek when they chew their way into a house, but instead fancy rats bred to be pets. Rats have a deserved reputation as great companions that are not only curious and clean but also smart and social. Currently listed for adoption in Vancouver on the B.C. SPCA website are a variety of the often-maligned rodents, including Calliope, Claire, Emmi, Erata, and—most awesomely monikered of all—Mel. Don’t dare think about rechristening any of them Ricky, Ratso, or Ratatouille.

Best way to get a pet on the cheap

Want a pet but don’t have a lot of money to buy one? How about mice? That’s right. The City of Vancouver sells gerbils, hamsters, mice, and rats for $5 each. You can visit the city’s animal shelter at 1280 Raymur Avenue. If small rodents aren’t your thing, perhaps you’d like a small bird? Budgies and finches are $10 each.

Best new home for a war memorial

It’s a fitting location for a Vancouver memorial commemorating the Battle of Britain, which was fought in the skies against Nazi Germany. On January 28, the park board approved a plan to move the Air Force Garden of Remembrance from its location in Stanley Park to Queen Elizabeth Park, which is the highest point in the city. As park planner Emily Dunlop wrote in a report to the board, the transfer will put the memorial “closest to the sky”.

Best evidence that this city is home to some first-rate twits

In January this year, the Vancouver park board revealed that up to 50 young trees at the Langara Golf Course had been destroyed by vandals. The culprits sawed off the tops of sequoia, West Coast cedar, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, and alder trees. Earlier that month, eight trees were damaged at Spanish Banks, with their tops also cut. Some losers just need to get a life.

Best argument to define affordable housing

The City of Vancouver is subsidizing, with taxpayers’ money, private developments that supposedly offer “affordable” rents. What is considered affordable? As one example, the city’s 2018 guidelines state that $1,496 a month for a studio on the East Side of Vancouver is affordable. But as Coun. Adriane Carr pointed out in a motion, for a household to afford $1,496—which is just the starting rent at the time that council holds a public hearing on the rezoning proposal for a project—it has to have an annual income of $59,840. This is to meet the affordability threshold of housing expense as 30 percent income. The trouble is, as Carr noted, half of the households in the city earn less than $50,000 per year. They’re shit out of luck.

Best place to get stuffed

This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven

2244 East Hastings Street

This emporium of oddities teaches you taxidermy with how-to classes that include all the tools and materials you’ll need for dissecting, stuffing, and—best of all—posing your first animal. Our hands-down favourite recent offering: a beginners’ class in making a kinky mouse couple piece that reimagines a Fifty Shades of Grey fantasy with tiny, ecstatic rodents (November 17). You can also turn your deceased critter into a serial killer for Halloween (October 27). The less squeamish can check out the butterfly-pinning classes—just the thing for your Victorian curio cabinet.

Best Vancouver-made alternative to soggy sneakers

Vessifootwear.ca

It took three folks faced with the endless drizzles and puddles of Vancouver to come up with waterproof sneakers. The added bonus is that Vessi’s sleek and stylish kicks don’t just keep socks dry but breathe and are good to the Earth. The shoes are all vegan, and the trio has developed a machine-knitting process that they say cuts each pair’s manufacturing energy consumption by 600 percent.

Best city gift to boaters in False Creek

Swimming is not allowed in False Creek, which is heavily polluted with sewer overflows, storm water, and sewage from boats. But progress is being made on this front. On February 13, Vancouver city council voted to extend free sewage pump-out service for boaters in False Creek, allocating $75,000 for the program this year. The service was piloted in 2017 and renewed in 2018. Last year, 561 boats were serviced, with more than 48,000 litres of sewage collected. That’s a hell of a lot of poo.

Best embodiment of Vancouver in a single retail store that isn’t actually in Vancouver

Throw Aritzia, Saje, and any one of Vancouver’s dispensaries into a blender and you’ll get Burb: a Port Coquitlam cannabis store coated in muted hues of beige and taupe that stocks a minimalist line of casual wear alongside a curated selection of high-quality strains and artful smoking accessories. Throw in a rack of spandex and an artisan coffee bar and we’ll reach peak Vancouver.

Best local celebrity you probably wouldn’t recognize on the street

You’d be forgiven for not knowing Mimi Choi’s name. You’d also be forgiven if you happened to be one of her one-million-plus Instagram followers but failed to recognize her on the street. The locally based makeup artist works mostly behind the scenes, after all, and her trippy illusionist work means she’s often pictured online with her face disguised as a scaly fish, a black hole, or some other surreal, “how did she do that?” imagery. However, Choi was thrust into the spotlight this year when she was hired to paint a set of campy-creepy eyes on actor Ezra Miller for the Met Gala in May. Miller revealed his seven-eye look on the pink carpet in New York City by removing a mask, stealing the show, and ensuring that Choi would become a household name among makeup artists and makeup-artistry enthusiasts around the globe.

Best glass-bottomed swimming pool

Imagine what it must be like to look down 19 floors to the ground while swimming laps. That’s the reality for residents of the ARC Vancouver at the corner of Expo Boulevard and Nelson Street, thanks to a glass-bottomed pool that’s 11.6 metres long and 2.75 metres wide. Created by Walter Francl Architects and Glotman Simpson Engineers, it’s visible to anyone crossing the Cambie Bridge but only open to those who can afford to shell out well over a million for a condo. This pool is definitely not recommended for those with acrophobia.

Best proof that Vancouver’s pride and joy isn’t Seth Rogen after all

Sure, actor and comedian Seth Rogen may have won the hearts (and ears) of Vancouverites when he narrated TransLink public-service announcements last year. But the recent disappearance of a certain knife-wielding bird reveals Vancouver’s true pride and joy: Canuck the Crow. The fearless bird—who was banded by a federal registry and is known to frequent East Van—made headlines when he was reported missing in early September. Anonymous donors have even offered $10,000 for information leading to his safe return, but he has yet to be found.

Best place to pamper your pup

We’re shopping more ethically and sustainably than ever before, so isn’t it time those efforts extended to products for our four-legged pals? That’s the thinking behind Good Boy Collective, a local online pet-supply store that opened a bricks-and-mortar spot on Main Street in May. The shop carries responsibly (and, in some cases, locally) made furnishings, treats, clothes, and accessories for cats and dogs. The products are design-forward, to boot: think chic ceramic bowls, minimalist basswood beds, and adorable doughnut-shaped chew toys.

Best fruit-inspired place to refresh your face

Vancouver has no shortage of facial spots, but few are as quick and efficient as Fig (2050 West 4th Avenue). The newish Kitsilano facial bar has customers in and out within 30 minutes, during which they’re enclosed in a womb-like pod to have 95-percent-pure oxygen blown onto their face. (Sessions focused on exfoliation and lifting and toning are also available.) You’ll want to linger after your appointment: Fig’s fig-inspired interiors (picture a palette of soothing green hues and an all-pink powder room that gives a nod to the fruit’s flesh) offer an ideal place to decompress.

Best solution for keeping clothing donation bins

Following a number of deaths of people trapped inside clothing-donation bins across the Lower Mainland in the past few years, the City of Vancouver could have simply banned these containers. That would have meant depriving charities and nonprofits of money they earn from clothing (and other) donations. It would also mean more unwanted clothes going to the landfill. The city chose to amend the bylaw regulating the bins, requiring operators to submit an engineer’s certification that the box is safe.

Tammy Kwan

Best nearby getaway that doesn’t require air or boat travel

It’s enticing to book a staycation in Victoria or hop on a quick flight to Tofino, but people can forget that car travel is often the best way to explore nearby destinations. If you’re not keen on long road trips, a quick visit to Sandpiper Resort in Harrison Mills should do the trick. Although it’s located on a historic golf course, guests who travel there will enjoy its amenities even if they aren’t golfers. Accommodations range from rooms at its colonial inn (Rowena’s Inn on the River) to rustic cabins to newly built luxury cabins. Tuck into some hearty dishes at the Clubhouse Restaurant, watch wildlife at the eagle gazebo, or drive another 20 minutes to Harrison Hot Springs for a stroll through the village. Relaxing and rejuvenating is the key selling point here, and at the end of your trip, you’ll be surprised that the drive back home is only around 90 minutes.

Best argument for better bike storerooms in apartment buildings

Only a third of bicycle-owning, apartment-dwelling households use the bike-storage facilities at their building. According to a report to Metro Vancouver’s regional planning committee, there are many reasons for this. They are not confident that the storage is secure. They don’t feel safe going there. It’s crowded. In short, more developers and building owners need to give the same care and attention to the design of bike storage as they would to car parking spaces. But if they’re all cruising around in a Mercedes, they probably don’t give a hell of a lot of thought to how the hapless tenants are dealing with their two-wheelers.

Best place to feel like a kid again

Granville Island can be overcrowded at times—it is a top tourist destination in Vancouver, after all. But when you’re in the mood to escape reality and enjoy some fun and games, don’t be afraid to brave the masses and head down to its Kids Market, home to several toy emporiums, a magic shop, bumper cars, and even virtual-reality rides. You’ll need several hours to explore everything here. But its hidden gem is the Circuit Circus arcade, where you can easily spend more than a couple bucks on everything from Skee-Ball to basketball to a pirate shooting game to Whac-A-Mole. Many of the arcade games give out tickets that can be redeemed at the prize counter. Redeeming 400 tickets for a bouncy ball and some cheap candy won’t feel like anything special, but the fact that you were able to feel like a kid again, even for just a short while, will be satisfying.

Best reason to close down the city

Snow.

Best proof Vancouver won’t survive a major earthquake if it can’t even survive this

Snow.

Biggest annual fear of Vancouverites

Snow.

Weather most hoped for to clear away the snow

Rain.

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