Sure, most of us have been there before, but there are a slew of reasons to return, and not just because the dollar is strong and the shopping is good. Plenty of new things exist while you wait for the next show.
It’s hard to run out of things to do in Vancouver. If you’ve got one weekend, put these sites at the top of your itinerary.
Dubbed “the best collection of weird things in drawers,” the Beaty Biodiversity Museum is a natural history museum that’s anything but boring. There’s a whale skeleton dangling from the ceiling, a drawer filled with plants that can kill you with a single touch (safely ensconced behind glass), and a February celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday complete with an evolution-themed cake competition. And lots of other cool stuff. In drawers. 2212 Main Mall on the University of BC campus
If you can see only one thing when you’re in Canada, see the entire country in this 20-minute simulated helicopter flight over our neighbor to the north. The surround-style screen not only gives you the sense of flight, but it also has a few fun special effects, including the smell of trees when you fly over a forest and mist as you cross Niagara Falls. Goofy, yes, but great fun. Downtown at Canada Place
Not getting enough adrenaline from a 450-foot-long rocking wooden bridge suspended over a river 230 feet below? Try the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park’s newest addition, Cliffwalk, a walkway along the side of a cliff with seven suspension bridges that jut out 100 feet over the river, including one bridge with a surface made of glass. You probably didn’t want to know that there are only 16 places where the entire span is attached to the rock. In North Vancouver. Drive or take a free shuttle from downtown.
The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre is currently featuring the exhibit “Open Hearts, Closed Doors,” about the experience of the 1,123 Jewish orphans who came to Canada, from their time in the displaced person camps to the efforts to settle them in a new country. The exhibit runs February 15 to June 30. 50–950 W 41st Ave., inside the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver
The Vancouver Jewish Museum may not have a building filled with exhibits, but it does have Harry Hammer, a native who was born on Vancouver’s East Side and now conducts walking tours of the city’s original Jewish neighborhood around Gastown and Strathcona. Hammer’s Sunday-afternoon tours (by appointment in sunny months) are filled with tales of peddlers with unusual horseradish growing methods; a rabbi who did triple duty as a butcher, a mohel, and judge; as well as a synagogue-turned-apartment building where some say they can still hear people davening. The Jewish Museum also offers occasional tours of the newly refurbished Jewish section of Mountain View Cemetery. Reservations required. Meets at 700 E Pender St.
The annual Chutzpah! Festival launches this year on February 18.
Considering how close Vancouver, BC, is to Seattle, it doesn’t take a lot of chutzpah to make the two-plus hour trek there. If you’re feeling a little reticent to leave the country, however, it may be helpful to know you can find a little chutzpah when you get there — thanks to a winter festival with the same name.
The three-week-long event was originally called the Lisa Nemetz International Jewish Performing Arts Festival, but Chutzpah! Festival is so much easier to remember. And the name seems to better capture the idea behind this annual performing arts event many of us have never heard of. As organizers see it, the mission of Chutzpah! is to introduce Vancouver to what they consider some of the world’s most thought-provoking performers and productions and to provide them with a platform that will allow them to grow.
The 16th edition of the fest, which runs from February 18 to March 13, features top-notch performances centering on Jewish themes. Musical performances, for example, include Odessa/Havana, a jazz band that explores the Jewish-Cuban connection, and Mexico City’s rock/funk/jazz/world music band Klezmerson. Theatrical offerings include A Very Narrow Bridge, about a trial to obtain a gett (a Jewish divorce), as well as stand-up comedy performances by Canadian Jon Steinberg and New Yorker Jessica Kerson. The festival is also known for its dance series.
Most shows are at the Norman & Anette Rothstein Theatre, 950 W 41st Ave. at Oak Street. Learn more at chutzpahfestival.com.
Vancouver sees much traffic from Seattle-based kosher meat lovers, who lack a restaurant of their own. But there’s so much more. Like the beergarita.
Chinatown’s hot new 104–seat eatery emphasizes homegrown food and handcrafted cocktails, including gin and tonics. 185 Keefer St.
It’s not just Vancouver’s best kosher deli -— it’s also the city’s only kosher deli. Salami, pastrami, corned beef: it’s the food of our forefathers. 575 Oak St.
Because man cannot live on deli alone. You might not call it a pilgrimage exactly, but this upscale eatery is the only place within a thousand miles to get kosher meat in a full-service restaurant. Vegan dishes also available. 1967 W Broadway
A Lebanese restaurant where the focus is on fresh, local, and organic. It’s not kosher, but there are plenty of vegetarian options and great falafel. 207 W Hastings, Gastown, and three other locations
Take It to the Streets
The food truck scene is thriving with inexpensive options for every meal including breakfast at Yolks, lunch at Mom’s Grilled Cheese, and dinner at Tacofino. Or check out the Vancouver Street Food app on iTunes.
Vancouver is a city filled with great bars, bartenders, distilleries, and spirits, but the big news on the quaffing front these days is the resurgent interest in craft brewing. Although there are plenty of great brewpubs, if you’ve worked up a thirst after touring the neighborhood you may want to visit Steamworks Brewing Company, home to the city’s only steam-powered brewery, for a pale ale or a beer cocktail like a beergarita or a brewer’s lemonade. The menu isn’t bad, either. 375 Water St., Gastown
Vancouver’s large and diverse community means it has lots of synagogue and service options. Here’s a sampling.
The robust Reform congregation has been making the news for its support and fundraising for Syrian refugees. 7190 Oak St., 604-266-7190
Vancouver’s oldest synagogue is Modern Orthodox, holds services every day, and has a mikvah. Shabbat morning services are followed by acclaimed cholent. 3476 Oak St., 604-736-7607
The Sephardic congregation follows the customs of its Iraqi founders and boasts a diverse congregation from around the world. 3231 Heather St., 604-872-4222
The Conservative, egalitarian synagogue boasts over 700 families and holds daily and Shabbat services. 989 W 28th Ave., 604-731-4161