Adding to the growing list of countries that are opening the door to travelers – including Americans – Canada is rolling out the welcome mat up North. From a reborn wilderness refuge on Vancouver Island by way of Australia, to new restaurants and activities in the city, we give you the perfect weekend in Vancouver and a great reason to head east and check in on Toronto, as well, just don’t forget the lakes and Rockies along the way.
Above: Kayaking at Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge
One thing seems universally synonymous when looking at metropolitan West Coast cities to visit, everybody loves Vancouver. From the welcoming locals to the pristine parks, museums and safe historic walking areas teeming with bars and cafes, it’s the perfect getaway for a romantic couple, family with kids, elderly tourists and true foodies.
One of the top areas for exploring Yaletown and Georgetown is the OPUS Hotel (reopening on Sept 1st.) Not only is it conveniently located near the Sky Train stop from the airport, Waterfront and Gastown, it’s a prime spot for taking a walk past blocks of top bars, cafes, restaurants and shops just outside the modern glass doors. This hotel has actually been named one of the ‘top five trendiest hotels in the world’ as well as one of the ‘best for business.’
The primarily black and white post-modern signature suites with touches of bright pink and silver are spacious enough to be an apartment with a fully fitted living room, bar area, dual fireplace, desk area and two bathrooms – one includes a giant soaking tub, and a terrace off the bedroom.
Perks include the complementary house Jaguar that will take you to nearby restaurants and attractions on a first-come basis. But for the first meal in town, you might want to stay put since they have a new restaurant and bar, Capo & the Spritz focusing on the Aperitivo culture of Italy and pizza by Chef Lucais Syme using a 36-hour fermented sourdough. The Opus team has also just opened a new boutique hotel in Richmond, Hotel Versante if you want to extend your stay in another chic property closer to the airport.
Above: OPUS Signature Suite
Other Neighborhood Activities and Tours
When you do tear yourself away from the neighboring pastimes, such as arts and crafts focused Granville Island, the Public Market and new restaurant Alimentaria Mexican, take a walk or carriage ride around Stanley Park. You can jump off and take pictures by the totem poles, test your balance at the nearby suspension bridge or just stop and smell the rose garden while you check out the local artists.
Continue your city tour to the cobblestone streets of Gastown past the British pubs to Chinatown and a stroll through the Lilly-pad laden and tranquil Chinese Gardens – a true oasis in the middle of the city. And, for a cocktail to wind-down after a day on your feet, head to the Top of Vancouver (555 Hastings Street). While it sounds touristy, and yes, crowds are waiting in line to take an elevator up over 500 feet above the city, if you go to the revolving restaurant first you will bypass the crowds and relax with a drink or snack while viewing the entire city which takes about an hour for one full rotation. This is a quiet place to perch before heading out for a night on the town.
For something a little more adventurous, a new family friendly activity on Cypress Mountain opened over the summer. The Eagle Coaster travels over 1700 metres with 279 meters of vertical drop down the mountainside, but it is suitable for all ages and physical capabilities.
Above: Granville Island Public Market
New Dining and Award-Winning Favorite
One place that should be on your list is the historic Hotel Georgia’s Hawksworth restaurant (801 West Georgia Street.) This is still one of the most celebrated restaurants in the city and after you try Chef David Hawksworth’s tasting menu you will most likely jump on the bandwagon. A serious of tasteful and understated glamorous rooms lead from a cocktail-lounge, to an expansive glass wine cellar and a giant picture window overlooking the Vancouver Art Gallery and an abstract art room featuring a work by Damien Hirst. Try to order a tasting menu with wine pairings that might include the sublime English pea agnolotti with lemon ricotta and chili or the signature duck breast and confit crepe with brown butter jus.
As for new restaurants, BLND TGER Dumplings on East Georgia Street just opened in July and Loula’s, is an authentic Greek restaurant located in the heart of Commercial Drive. Miantiao is a unique fusion of Italian and Chinese culinary techniques and cultural traditions that opened inside the newly reopened Shangri-La hotel this summer.
Launching during the pandemic, The BC Adventure Company is a private tour company with a mission to provide guests with incomparable multi-sensory BC urban/wilderness or water-based, culinary infused experiences that are fun, authentic and that leave you rejuvenated with unforgettable memories and perhaps a new perspective. Think a seaplane adventure that leads to a picnic deep in the woods with wine tasting.
Above: Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge, Vancouver Island
Wilderness Lodge Escape
Accessible only by seaplane or boat, Vancouver Island’s remote yet luxury outpost, Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge, has just reopened following a major overhaul and revamp. Set among the conifer forests, the lodge is a place for those who might like to attempt adventure with animal wildlife, but not sacrifice on creature comforts.
As part of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, Baillie Lodges’, upgrades included a full renovation of the iconic property’s 25 luxury tents with views of Clayoquot Sound for a more contemporary look and feel, while specially commissioned furnishings (including King beds) from local designers will create a real sense of place. Meanwhile, a refreshed itinerary of wilderness adventures will also be introduced, including a series of signature experiences to be included in the rate.
Renowned for its range of exhilarating adventures from horse-riding, whale and bear-spotting to canyoning and scenic helicopter flights as well as spa treatments and daily yoga, the new-look Clayoquot features an itinerary of signature experiences to showcase the natural highlights of Vancouver Island and align it with the all-inclusive nature of the existing Baillie Lodges properties.
Executive Chef Asher Blackford, formerly of sister property Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, has taken the helm in the kitchen which has a sustainable, local produce and wine focus. In the works for 2022 is a significant refurbishment to the Cookhouse Restaurant, bar and central guest facilities, as well as a makeover for the Healing Grounds Spa.
Above: Fairmont Banff Springs Kids at the Castle
The Rockies and Heading East
Of course, Fairmont is synonymous with Canadian travel and they have dozens of the most highly rated and historic properties from Montreal, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth to family-friendly The Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, Quebec to name a few.
In Toronto, the Fairmont Royal York has been a fixture for 90 years and is the perfect place to staycation and dine in the city with the recently reopened CLOCKWORK Terrace. There is also a newly renovated Fairmont Gold room that includes luxury accommodations in expansive suites, an aromatherapy shower experience with Skinjay, in-room breakfast and evening canapes. They also have a private health club on-site with TechnoGym equipment and a state-of-art lap pool to burn off the indulgences.
The city that never sleeps is back.