On Feb. 12, 100,000 people are expected to descend on Vancouver’s downtown core for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Games. The West Coast’s young, laid-back metropolis, set between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountains, has always been praised for its natural beauty. And with the makeover it received in preparation for its global debut — including an improved airport and expanded transit system — it is also a city that is easily accessible to out-of-towners.
Where to stay: The Four Seasons hotel downtown is a popular option for business travellers. The hotel boasts indoor access to the new high-speed Canada Line, which runs from the airport and ends at Canada Place on the waterfront. And if your country wins a gold medal, bring your passport for a free cocktail at Yew, which, in contrast to many hotel restaurants, has a critically acclaimed menu and raw bar where shellfish are served.
For a more boutique option, the Opus Hotel is located in the trendy Yaletown area kitty-corner to one of the new Canada Line stations. Sometimes called Vancouver’s SoHo, the former warehouse district has become an upscale residential area with fine dining and hip martini lounges.
Where to dine: Miku, located next to the newly expanded Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre, is the first Aburi-style sushi restaurant in North America. This Japanese culinary technique combines light searing and savoury French sauces. “It’s really authentic Japanese cuisine,” says Nicholas Gandossi, the general manager of Opus Hotel, who spent a couple of years in Japan. He recommends ordering from their extensive sake menu, which includes locally brewed sake from Granville Island. The newly opened restaurant is ideal for client entertaining, but expect a lineup at lunchtime.
Miku Restaurant: 2 — 1055 West Hastings St., (604) 568-3900; mikurestaurant.com
Where to unwind: Dubbed the spa to the stars, Absolute has several locations, including one at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel, where you can get a jet-lag recovery body wrap. Some treatments cater to men, such as the professional sports foot-care treatment and the “Gentleman’s facial.”
Absolute Spa: Fairmont Hotel, Vancouver Airport, 3111 Grant McConachie Way, (604) 684-2772; absolutespa.com
What not to miss: Adjacent to the Canada Line Station in Yaletown, in David Lam Park, there will be a LiveCity site with coverage of the Games broadcast on jumbo screens, and nightly concerts with no admission charge. Also, take a walk, jog, or bike ride on the seawall around Stanley Park. “It’s a beautiful way to see the city, even when it’s raining,” says Gandossi. “Although it never rains in Vancouver — as you know.”
The mini guide: What you really need to know about Vancouver
What to pack
City of Glass: Douglas Coupland’s Vancouver, $24.95
Skookum: Historic trading word meaning ‘good’ or ‘strong’
Triple ‘O’: Legendary burger sauce
East Coast: Geographically challenged local name for Ontario
Studio at the Opus Hotel: $329
Feng-shui cocktail at Yew: $9
Lunch of seasonal dishes chosen by Miku’s chef: $20
Men’s facial at Absolute Spa: $125