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One of the most breathtakingly beautiful cities on the planet, Vancouver is the pride of the Pacific Rim, and for good reason..
With over a quarter of Metropolitan Vancouver's 2.4 person population living here, the City of Vancouver itself enjoys a concentrated, diverse population. Over 52% of its residents speak a first language other than English - testament to the area's popularity as an international destination.
The Canadian Pacific Railway had a large influence upon the city's growth, as it was on the main route from London to the Far East. By the early Twentieth Century, Vancouver had become a destination point on the worldwide circuit know as the Grand Tour. Not surprisingly, the entertainment and dining industries flourished as the city strove to entertain its steadily-growing roster of international guests.
Entertainment is still a large part of the cultural infrastructure of Vancouver. The city boasts a wide variety of events and festivals including the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Vancouver International Jazz Festival and the Vancouver Children's Festival. But by far, the most unique are the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival and the Symphony of Fire. Bard on the Beach has been performing Shakespeare's famous plays in tents on the shores of Vanier Park for over two decades. The Symphony of Fire competition is one of the city's most popular events as music-accompanied fireworks light up the night skies over English Bay in a jaw-dropping display of sound and colour.
Another favourite is Theatre Under the Stars, an institution that has been a part of Vancouver for almost 100 years. Weather- permitting, this company performs shows at the outdoor Malkin Bowl in beautiful Stanley Park. But there's more to the amazing one-thousand acre city park that attracts close to 9 million visitors annually. Highlights include an 8.8 kilometer sea wall, 200 kilometers of trails, restaurants, cafes and a large zoo and aquarium.
Heading into the city, you'll find yourself in the West End, a neighbourhood that encompasses the blocks east as far as Burrard Street. Known for its trendy shops and cafes, high-rise condominiums, diverse community and liberal attitude, the picturesque Davie Street Village is the highlight of this neighbourhood with the California-like English Bay coming a close second. Adjacent is the newer development of Coal Harbour, a distinct, stylish community between West Pender Street and the waterfront.
On the south shore of the city is False Creek, the narrow body of water that separates downtown from the suburban West Side of the city and the huge campus of the University of British Columbia. Just off shore sits Granville Island, a tiny isle accessible by bridge or boat - home to bars, restaurants a public market... even a theatre! Nowhere will you find a more stunning view of the Vancouver cityscape nor a more charming way to spend a day or evening.
Heading further into False Creek is one of the most peculiar structures in the entire city: Science World, an interactive, hands-on museum build within a massive geodesic dome (not unlike Disneyworld's Epcot Centre in Orlando). Still confused? Just look for what appears to be a massive silver golf ball on the shoreline.
BC Place Stadium is another recognizable landmark. This 60,000-seat stadium is home to Vancouver's very own Canadian Football League team, the BC Lions but also acts as a venue for visiting mega-shows such as AC/DC and The Rolling Stones. This monster structure also shares postal codes with General Motors Place, home to the city's most-beloved team, the National Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks. And when the 20,000-seat 'Garage' (as it has been coined), isn't packed with hockey fans, it's also serving as a venue for world-class musical events such as Ozzy, Oasis and The Police.
Does shopping sound more appealing than head-banging? Hit Robson Street, Vancouver's answer to Rodeo Drive. With a dizzying assortment of designer outlets and stylish boutiques, there's no better place to put the credit card through its paces! But shopping does make one quite hungry...
Stroll down to Yaletown. This once-debilitated warehouse district has undergone similar re-gentrification to that of New York's Meat-Packing District or London's Canary Wharf. Now, an uber-trendy urban neighbourhood, this sexy corner of the city is a maze of brewpubs, bistros and cafes with a peppering of townhouses just to remind you that some people are lucky enough to actually live here.
By contrast, Gastown is one of the oldest parts of the city. Tucked into its northeast corner, this historic neighbourhood brings old and new Vancouver together in a cobbled street collision of restaurants, bars, interior furnishings boutiques and bohemian culture - a unique enclave where dot-com companies share the strip with art galleries, music studios and film school, and even a restored steam-powered clock.
They say Vancouver is unlike any other city on earth. They're right.