VANCOUVER, B.C. “Rocky, heel!” the Prada-clad, stiletto-heeled,
20-something scolds her miniature Maltese. Shoppers saunter by with
Urban Fare grocery bags. Perhaps filled with $100, one-ounce tins
of white truffle powder? Or the store’s square watermelons,
ergonomically designed to fit in your fridge?
Down the block in the South Beach-inspired Opus Bar, a
Saturday-afternoon jazz trio croons for trendy urbanites, who sip
bellinis while lounging on low-to-the-ground, egg-shaped foam
stools and orange leather couches. Later, they might drop by
Brandi’s, the upscale strip club where heartthrob actor Ben Affleck
reportedly dallied, provoking uber-diva Jennifer Lopez to break off
the “Bennifer” engagement.
And you thought Vancouver was just a nice, wholesome, Canadian
Yes, there are the parks and beaches and forested walking trails
for which Vancouver is famous. But in the past few years, a new
wave of creative modernism has surged over the city. Vancouver now
has a flirty side to compete with all those fresh outdoor spaces.
It’s grown into a true, world-class, sophisticated metropolis
rightly named the second “top city in the Americas” by Conde Nast
Traveler in 2003.
After all, this is the place that beat out Salzburg to host the
2010 Olympics. That’s home to Drs. Jean and Alastair Carruthers who
pioneered the cosmetic use of Botox to battle wrinkles, and host
city for last month’s conference by the American Society for
Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, where doctors learned the new lunch-hour
“featherlift” facelift that promises to be the next big thing in
plastic surgery (plastic surgery junkets, anyone?). Vancouver is
more than just a pre- or post-Alaska cruise stay. About 65 percent
of Alaska cruise passengers spend at least one night in Vancouver,
but their most common complaint is “Why didn’t my travel agent tell
me about this place!” Most Alaska-bound cruisers lament that they
wish they could have spent more time in the city.
If that weren’t enough, the strength of the U.S. currency
against the Canadian dollar makes Vancouver the perfect place to
holiday, shop and play.
Intrigued? Let’s take a peek at Vancouver today, which we feel
rightfully earns the honor of being the hippest city you or your
clients have probably never visited.
Perhaps no neighborhood epitomizes Vancouver’s modish
renaissance better than the former warehouse district of Yaletown.
At the eastern edge of downtown, renovated brick buildings house
cutting-edge stores, high-rise condos, movie production studios,
dot-com offices and happening restaurants.
For this year’s must-have accessory, a visit to the Yaletown
Mini auto dealership tops the list of every hipster. Fashionistas
head to Global Atomic Designs for the newest footwear and latest
designer jeans. Foodies revel in Urban Fare, the unique “food
destination” selling a wide array of specialty items Americans from
Seattle drive up to Vancouver just to buy the $100 (that’s in
Canadian; it’s about $73 U.S.) loaves of bread flown in from
After dark, Yaletown’s bar and bistro scene comes alive. On a
recent Saturday night visit, the Glowball Grill & Satay Bar was
packed with the young and the beautiful. Infused cocktails are
poured in the sultry AfterGlow lounge at back, while the open
kitchen sizzles with delicately sautéed tiger prawns, tequila
rubbed lamb, robust veal chops and the like. By the time you read
this, Coast, an imaginative new loft-style seafood restaurant by
the same owners will be open expect the same buzz.
On the other side of the bridge from the downtown core lies
South Granville. Chic boutiques, contemporary art galleries,
gourmet grocery stores and top restaurants line this tony, 10-block
enclave. If the woman in line in front of your client at Meinhardt
Fine Foods looks like Goldie Hawn, it probably is Goldie lives
around the corner in a Shaughnessy mansion with partner Kurt
Then there’s nearby Granville Island. Actually a mini-peninsula,
the corrugated-metal sheds of this former industrial site have been
recycled into a thriving public market surrounded by artists’
studios, shops, theaters and coffee bars. You can pick up
everything from hand-carved stone sculptures from Zimbabwe to
24-karat gold, diamond-studded toe rings to local Salt Spring
Island brie for snacking in your hotel room.
All that shopping, clubbing and sightseeing can get tiring.
What’s a gal (or guy) to do? Visit a spa, of course.
Yaletown’s squeaky-clean Skoah Spa is almost anti-spa in its
lemon-hued modernist design and lack of “whale” music (soft jazz is
played instead). Catering to the under-40 crowd, it specializes in
deep cleansing and exfoliating facials, with the added touch of
mini-massages. With the “facialiscious” facial, you get a foot
massage while enjoying the minty tingle of an exfoliating AHA
Men are the focus at the new Absolute Spa at the Fairmont Hotel
Vancouver. Canada’s first-ever spa catering to men, it features
pedicure chairs equipped with video games and computers for
checking on sports scores, stock prices and e-mails. There’s also a
barber chair for a “five o’clock buster hot towel shave.” Other
testosterone-focused spa treatments include back waxes (ouch!),
eyebrow grooming and deep-tissue sports massage.
Vancouver has a vibrant arts community. More than 30
professional theater groups and 18 dance companies thrive in the
city, and many productions lean to the left of mainstream. Take
last month’s new version of “Carmina Burana” by Ballet British
Columbia an erotic ballet-cantata with a 100-voice choir and
62-piece orchestra. Some of the most interesting performances take
to the stage in renovated firehalls and churches, converted
warehouses, the restored 1927 Orpheum Theatre and even outside. No
one can resist “Bard on the Beach,” a series of Shakespearean plays
wonderfully performed each summer in a huge tent in a waterfront
park against a backdrop of mountains, sea and sky.
Then there’s the Vancouver International Jazz Festival each
June. Rated “the hippest jazz festival in the world,” it showcases
1,700 international and local jazz greats over a 10-day period at
concert halls, parks and stages throughout the city.
And let’s not forget April’s visit by the Dalai Lama. The exiled
Tibetan leader, along with retired South African Archbishop Desmond
Tutu, wowed a crowd of 13,000 at the Pacific Coliseum, where they
spoke on universal responsibility.
Mick Jagger once praised Vancouver as the best strip-club city
in the world. The classiest show takes place at Brandi’s. Everyone
from Courtney Love to Shaquille O’Neal and the L.A. Lakers have
hung out here. But the trendy nightclub really hit the news when
Ben Affleck, engaged to J.Lo at the time, made the acquaintance of
one of Brandi’s lovely ladies.
On weekends, downtown nightclubs and bars pulse with life well
into the wee hours. Closing times were recently extended to 4
To shake off your hangover, party animals can go skinny-dipping
at Wreck Beach. Protected by cliffs and accessed by the “Thousand
Steps” trail, the nude beach is ignored by authorities.
Ah, Vancouver. Party place, palate pleaser, shopping mecca,
bun-sunning beach town. What city is hipper than that?
|HIP HAUTE HOTELS|
Perhaps Vancouver’s hottest hotel. The 97 minimalist-chic rooms
come in five wild color schemes, from irreverent lime to cranberry
red. A big hit is its “lifestyle concierge” program, where you can
choose between five fictional guides to Vancouver “Susan,” a
fashion analyst and pop-culture junkie, recommends Kits Beach for
“the shirtless men playing volleyball.” Opus is also home to the
delicious French brasserie Elixir. With a transparent glass wall
separating the men’s and ladies’ washrooms, it’s the place to “see
and be seen.” Rates from $165 until Oct. 31, then $115 Nov. 1 to
April 30, 2005. 10 percent commission. 866-642-6787
It’s Miami’s South Beach meets Vancouver’s forested Stanley
Park. Think ultra-groovy furnishings in apple green and persimmon,
street-priced honor bars stocked with glow-in-the-dark yo-yos and
foot-long Tootsie Rolls, and a complimentary glass of B.C. wine
served at the end of the day. Rates from $250 until Oct. 15, then
$210 Oct. 16 to April 30, 2005. 10 percent commission. 800-663-1815
Built in Feng Shui style, the 197 contemporary guestrooms sport
Italian bed linens and Frette bathrobes. Direct dial from your room
connects you to Holt Renfrew’s personal shopping salon for a
private store consultation. The Met’s Diva restaurant offers
exquisite dining, and its Senses bakery has heavenly chocolates.
Rates from $180 until Sept. 30, then $145 Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2004.
10 percent commission. 800-667-2300 www.metropolitan.com
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
The hotel may be traditional, but Mavis, the hotel dog, is
pretty cool. Book your walk through Guest Services, and you’ll be
given a “puppy pack” with water, scooper and bags, and healthy
snacks for your canine outing. Canada’s first men’s spa, run by
Absolute Spa, also just opened here. Rates vary but start at about
$150. 10 percent commission. 800-257-7544 www.fairmont.com
The Wedgewood Hotel
This exclusive boutique hotel with 83 rooms was voted “Top Hotel
for Value in the World” and “Best City Hotel in Canada” for 2004 by
Travel & Leisure. The general manager, an ex-Tour de France
cyclist, takes guests on guided bicycle tours of the city. Freshly
baked cookies at turndown replenish the calories burned. Summer
rates start at $244, then drop to $184 in winter. 10 percent
commission. 800-663-0666 www.wedgewoodhotel.com All rates quoted
are in U.S. dollars.
British Columbia’s booming film and television industry is worth
more than $1 billion a year, and most is spent in the Vancouver
The city is so popular with U.S. filmmakers that it’s been
nicknamed Hollywood North, and the celebrity glossies are filled
with references to Vancouver these days. If you doubt that,
consider that celebrity gossip mag The National Enquirer just
opened a Vancouver bureau.
The upcoming movie “Catwoman,” starring Halle Berry and Sharon
Stone, was just filmed here. A couple of years ago, “The Sixth Day”
was shot in Vancouver starring Hollywood A-lister and
now-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. And you might remember
that the TV series “The X-Files” was also shot in Vancouver. Movies
currently being filmed include “Chaos” (with Wesley Snipes) and
“Edison” (with Justin Timberlake, Morgan Freeman and Kevin
For star gazing, CinCin’s restaurant on Robson Street is a great
bet it’s a perennial fave of the celebrity crowd. Had your clients
popped by last month, they might have spotted Timberlake and his
sweetie Cameron Diaz, Elisha Cuthbert of “24,” Selma Blair and
husband Ahmet Zappa or Diane Lane noshing in the Italian
The Blue Water Café is another busy haunt; Neve Campbell and
Robin Tunney were there in April, to name just two.