Pamela’s Vancouver

Pamela Olmstead has wanderlust in her heart. “I love to travel and see new places, and because Vancouver is my hometown, it’s always the one I’m running away from,” she says. “But every time I leave and return home, I fall in love with this city [all over again].”

When she’s not exploring the world, she works with several travel groups focused on welcoming newcomers to British Columbia’s largest city. When she’s not on the clock, she busies herself studying biology and blogging about her favorite Vancouver haunts and goings on for Spotted by Locals.

“The world should heart my city because it has everything—beaches and mountains, nightlife, and an amazing food scene, not to mention stunning sunsets and a pretty skyline,” she says. Read on for a few more reasons to love Vancouver.

Vancouver Is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them to is under the Granville Street Bridge on Granville Island. The island used to be an industrial area, but now the warehouses and factories have become galleries, studios, and artisan food shops. Visit the public market to grab something to eat, be entertained by street performers, and take in the great view of Vancouver over False Creek.

Early autumn is the best time to visit my city because most of the tourists have left and the weather is still nice enough to sit outside in the evening.

You can see my city best from the top of Queen Elizabeth Park. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the North Shore Mountains.

Locals know to skip the Capilano Suspension Bridge and check out the bridge in Lynn Canyon Park instead. It’s closer to the city and, unlike the Capilano, it’s free!

Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. The gallery sells Northwest Coast and Inuit artwork, textiles, jewelry, and glass, and is located right in Vancouver’s historic Gastown district, one of the oldest parts of the city.

In the past, notable people like academic and environmental activist David Suzuki, and actors Seth Rogan and Ryan Reynolds have called my city home. Side note: Vancouver is known as “Hollywood North” because so many movies are filmed here, so it’s not uncommon to spot celebrities around town.

My city’s best museum is the Beaty Biodiversity Museum because it has more than two million plant and animal specimens to see and it does a great job of promoting sustainability. Located on the beautiful University of British Columbia campus, the museum is worth visiting just to see the gigantic blue whale skeleton in the lobby!

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that Vancouver is known as the “car-sharing capital of the world.” You can drive a tiny Smart car to the beach or take all your friends to the mountain in a full-size sedan with bike racks.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is at the beach. With so many beaches to choose from, there’s something for everyone! You can play volleyball at Kitsilano, hang out at beach bars near English Bay, or go topless at Wreck Beach, the largest nude beach in North America!

My city really knows how to celebrate fireworks because we’ve hosted the Honda Celebration of Light, the largest offshore fireworks competition in the world, for more than 25 years. It’s the high point of summer in Vancouver.

You can tell someone is from my city if they love hiking and stand-up paddle boarding almost as much as craft beer and artisanal donuts.

For a fancy night out, I head out to Miku in Coal Harbour for amazing aburi-style (lightly charred) sushi and sashimi.

Just outside my city, you can visit the southern Gulf Islands in the Salish Sea, where you can spot otters, seals, and even whales close to shore. Ferries depart daily from Tsawwassen. Tip: Renting a small cabin by the water is a great way to spend a weekend outside the city.

My city is known for being rainy, but really the weather is great—with mild winters and not-too-hot summers. Besides, the rainy season is the best time of year for museums, theater, and food festivals.

The best outdoor market in my city is the Trout Lake Farmers Market. I love coming early in the morning to grab a coffee and the freshest produce.

Tuc Craft Kitchen is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Lucy’s Eastside Diner is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Scout Magazine and Spotted by Locals.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I pick up a shawarma from Noor Convenience and bike to CRAB Park for a picnic by the water.

To escape the crowds, I walk the trails in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. It’s cool and quiet, and there are so many trails to choose from. You can do anything from a short walk to a cross-country workout.

The dish that represents my city best is smoked salmon candied with maple syrup, and local craft beer is my city’s signature drink. Sample them both at the historic Steveston fishing village just south of Vancouver.

The Railway Club is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out the tiki bar at the Waldorf Hotel.

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The 420 Rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should check out the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. There are events and performances all over the city. Tip: Take a walk or bike ride through neighborhoods with the most cherry trees.

In the summer you should take a day trip out to Belcarra Regional Park to rent a kayak and paddle up Indian Arm.

In the fall you should celebrate Halloween by riding the Ghost Train at Stanley Park or visiting the haunted houses at the Pacific National Exhibition during Fright Night.

In the winter you should take the gondola up Grouse Mountain and go snowshoeing. At the top, a stunning view of the city and mountains awaits, along with a cup of hot chocolate to warm you up.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Vancouver Aquarium. You can spend an entire day there learning about local aquatic flora and fauna and watching trainers engage with the animals.

The best book about my city is JPod by Douglas Coupland because it perfectly captures the lifestyle of young, tech professionals living in Vancouver. It’s very clever and touches on some important aspects of the city, such as its multiculturalism, affluence, and role as a port city.

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