Vancouver, Canada is one of the world’s most picturesque cities. Beautiful seascapes, a sparkling and modern downtown, a cosmopolitan, multicultural population, a vibrant cultural scene and dozens upon dozens of outdoor activities to engage those lucky enough to pay a visit. It is on a very short list of ‘must visit’ cities (keeping company with places like New York, Paris, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Beijing, San Francisco, Boston and London, among others) for those intrepid travelers who like to experience the most dynamic and iconic population centers in the world.
For those who prefer to fly domestically, you can pick up a National Rental Car in Seattle, which is an easy highway drive of about 160 miles. (However crossing the border to Canada can take an hour or more.) Or you can fly directly to the Vancouver airport itself, which is not even ten miles from the city. Either choice works, and prepare to be delighted and inspired upon arrival.
Before we take a quick glance at the golf, and an even more cursory look at the amazing, eclectic dining options, the first order of business is to recommend a visit to Stanley Park. Named after Lord Stanley (he of the ubiquitous Stanley Cup, the ‘Holy Grail’ chased by all NHL players,) this nearly one thousand acre park is one of North America’s most magnificent green spaces. Walk it, bike it, tread upon its infamous Seawall, but do not visit Vancouver without gamboling about its vast, open spaces.
Speaking of open spaces, be sure to visit Furry Creek Golf and Country Club, located between Vancouver and Whistler Mountain, which is one of North America’s most iconic ski mountains. From the first tee, with its striking 165-foot plunge towards the tranquil waters of Howe Sound and the glacier-capped mountains in the distance, this is no run-of-the-mill public track. It may top out at little more than 6,000 yards in length, but this tiny dazzler caught the eye of Hollywood. The Adam Sandler golf-themed smash “Happy Gilmore” was partially filmed on site. In fact, the ninth hole is where Sandler had his infamous fight with TV’s Bob Barker. This is undoubtedly one of the most scenic landscapes in golf.
When it debuted in 1998, Northlands won a Best New Course award from Golf Digest. That initial acclaim has lasted, as the course provides a well-thought-out mix of challenges and vistas for various levels of play. The keyword is playability, it’s just a fun course to walk and smack the ball, with tree-lined fairways that take advantage of the location at the base of Mt. Seymour. Be sure to bring an extra sleeve of ammo, as water is omnipresent on the inward nine, with the environmentally sensitive Thomas Creek influencing play on three of the final four holes.
Fraserview is another fine choice, often touted as one of the best public golf courses in western Canada. It’s partly due to its majestic rolling greens and partly for its scenic location overlooking the Fraser River. Hidden away by a mature urban forest peppered with old growth trees, this Thomas McBroom design is a traditional, parkland style golf course. It has some notable elevation changes, spacious fairways, and looks and feels ‘old school.’
The lyrically named Langara Golf Course is another excellent ‘muni,’ a traditional, walker-friendly layout that dates back to 1926, when it was originally commissioned by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Its petite, at just a shade over 6,200 yards, but the contoured, tree-lined fairways put a premium on ball striking. Otherwise it makes for a long day, despite the delightful walk, punching back into play from amidst the hardwoods.
Picking a few notable eateries in Vancouver is like judging the Miss Universe Contest. There’s no shortage of excellent choices, and one really cannot go wrong. It’s something of a fool’s errand, as there are hundreds of viable options. It’s akin to picking just a couple or three places to eat in New York or New Orleans.
We’ll offer three choices, from entirely different categories. The Jam Café YVR is a hip breakfast-and-lunch spot, with lines typically out the door. But the fried chicken and biscuits? The green eggs and ham? (Made with spinach and pesto.) Both are well worth the 30-or-45 minute wait time.
The Blue Water Café is as appealing as its name. Amazing sashimi, fresh oysters, their infamous seafood tower and Dungeness crab salad are highlights on a menu with many. Finally, for Francophiles, Le Crocodile is a must-try. Formal, white linen, with a disciplined and highly knowledgeable wait staff, they feature traditional French cuisine like frog legs, escargot in pastry, and a delectable assortment of seafood, duck and lamb dishes.