If your clients are flying to western Canada, help them make the most of its biggest city, says Katie McGonagle
Vancouver’s got a lot to boast about, combining the best of city living with adventures in the great outdoors.
It’s got all the museums, historic buildings and landmarks you’d expect, as well as sandy beaches, rugged mountains and acres of open space just a stone’s throw away. And with Virgin Atlantic’s new service to Vancouver starting next week, there are more flight options than ever.
WHERE TO STAY
Save: Clients who prefer to save on rooms and splash on shopping can head to the recently renovated Sandman Hotel or the Rosedale on Robson, both just a few blocks from shopaholics’ paradise, Robson Street. Sports fans will love them too as they’re also near BC Place, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics and Sports Hall of Fame.
For the best nightlife, Kuoni suggests the Comfort Inn Downtown Vancouver, which offers exclusive VIP entrance to the hottest spots in town including The Roxy Cabaret and The Cellar Nightclub, while nearby Century-Plaza Hotel & Spa has its own comedy club.
If your clients are more interested in sunset strolls by the water, try the Best Western Downtown Vancouver, just a short walk from beautiful False Creek.
Spend: The Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver might have mid-range prices but clients will feel like royalty with its complimentary downtown limo service, while boutique property L’Hermitage will add a touch of luxury to your clients’ trip.
The views over Burrard Inlet make the Marriott Pinnacle the mid-range selection for Virgin Holidays, while Canadian Affair highlights the spacious rooms of The Sutton Place Hotel.
Splurge: The Fairmont Pacific Rim is the top luxury choice for operators such as Kuoni, Tailor Made Travel and Bridge & Wickers, who single out its 24-hour health club and spa, gourmet cuisine and cocktails, which can be enjoyed to the gentle sound of jazz. Travel 2 and Inghams opt for its stablemate, the Fairmont Waterfront.
Opus Hotel, “one of the coolest hotels in the city” according to Canadian Affair, offers extra touches such as an iPad 2 in every room and discounts at restaurants and shops around Vancouver.
WHAT TO DO
City sights: First on your clients’ list should be the 1,000-acre Stanley Park. Hire a bike and ride along the seawall around the perimeter of the park, admire the totem poles at Brockton Point, which depict art from British Columbia’s First Nations, or pop into Vancouver Aquarium, the largest in the country. Queen Elizabeth Park is a good alternative for clients exploring south Vancouver.
Shopaholics can head to historic Gastown for boutique stores and quaint cobbled streets, to Robson Street or Metropolis mall for more mainstream retail, or to Yaletown for eclectic one-offs. Squeeze in a trip to Chinatown for tasty Cantonese cuisine or on Fridays, the Chinatown night market. The famous trolley tour is a great way to fit in all these sights (£24 adults, £13 children with Do Something Different).
Don’t miss Granville Island, formerly the industrial quarter and now home to a lively mix of craft shops, quirky art galleries, and restaurants. Guests can even while away an afternoon with a visit to the island’s brewery or a tour around the food market with a local chef.
Getting out: For spectacular views, cross to the north shore to Capilano Suspension Bridge, where those with a head for heights can try the new Cliffwalk (Do Something Different offers a city tour with cliffwalk, £62/£37). Grouse Mountain also offers amazing cityscapes as well as the chance to see wild black bears.
Take the cable car or hike to the summit and visit grizzly bears in the wildlife sanctuary, take a heli-tour or enjoy the amazing sights from a viewing pod in a working wind turbine. Thomas Cook Signature has an afternoon North Shore Tour from £103/£74. Inghams also offers a free 20-minute flight tour worth £75 with amazing views over the city and mountains.
If clients have time, Vancouver Island is a perfect day trip. Culture vultures will love Victoria, capital of British Columbia. Suggest a visit to the parliament buildings and the native art at the Royal British Columbia Museum, then a gentle stroll through Butchart Gardens.
There are great opportunities for wildlife-watchers too. Kuoni’s interim market manager for Canada, Derren Joseph, says: “Stray from the quaint streets of Victoria to one of Canada’s most accessible wildernesses.
Vancouver Island offers magnificent coastal scenery, a rugged hinterland, endless outdoor pursuits including some sublime fishing, and spectacular wildlife-spotting opportunities.” Look out for orcas, humpbacks and grey whales, best seen between May and November.
The majestic Rocky Mountains are a popular choice for their range of activities and jaw-dropping views. A ride on the Rocky Mountaineer train allows them to enjoy the scenery on the journey, and one-way and circular routes to Whistler, Jasper, Banff, Calgary and other key locations are available.
If clients prefer to go at their own pace, suggest a self-drive. Virgin Holidays’ Great Parks of the West route takes in Banff, Jasper and the historic 100 Mile House.
Wine lovers should head towards the Okanagan, Canada’s best wine region, where clients can tour vineyards or enjoy tastings at the region’s many wineries as well as taking in the stunning shoreline of Shuswap Lake and Wells Gray National Park.
Don’t dismiss Vancouver Island as a fantastic final destination. Although you can see a snapshot on a day trip, a self-drive or escorted tour such as Prestige Holidays’ Pacific Rim Whales and Bears Tour will give guests the chance to see the city as well as going whale watching and visiting surfers’ paradise Tofino where they might catch a glimpse of a grizzly.
Vancouver is also the embarkation point for Alaska cruises; Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises are just a handful of those offering itineraries from the city.
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