Rocketing from the cool waters of the Georgia Strait are the glass towers of downtown Vancouver, which shine through the northwest’s mist like proud gemstones.
It is clear why Nestpick listed Vancouver in the top 20 of LGBTQ cities—this is one where docked sailboats fly rainbow flags in the marina, where same-sex couples hold hands casually on the street, and an active Pride festival ends at a beach called Sunset. While the population of the greater area skims just below 2.5 million, the city boasts a proportionately large queer scene, specifically on the West End’s Davie Street, but it seems nearly everywhere is queer-friendly in Vancouver.
This is a city defined by its Pacific Northwest location. As a result, citizens take advantage in the forms of hiking, canoeing, skiing, surfing, kayaking, and commuting everywhere by bike on its cyclist-friendly streets. Dubbed by some as the Hollywood of Canada for its prominence as both a filming location and creative hub, the question is, what kind of character will you play in your own Vancouver story?
5 p.m. — Sunset Paddle
In true PNW fashion, let’s get you out on the water ASAP. Ecomarine Paddlesports Centres has been operating for 38 years and is a top choice for half and full day kayak tours.
Choose your own adventure: rent a stand up paddleboard or a kayak and take it for a self guided spin off of Granville Island, or join the sunset kayak tour and learn about Vancouver, the region’s First Nations’ history, and the local ecology — on top of a stunning rose-hued sunset on the water. When the moon is full, the company offers night excursions for a truly unique experience.
8 p.m. — Big Yums
This popular city favorite is the perfect welcoming meal to Vancouver. With two locations, one in lively Yaletown and one in trendy Gastown, you can’t go wrong. MeeT is an all vegan restaurant that attracts young, hip gourmands looking for something delicious and environmentally sound. While the joint is known for their veggie burgers, they also shine in their creative bowls—highly recommended: “The Big Yum” made up of yams, kale, beets, and other veggies on a bed of brown rice, glazed generously with tahini sauce.
9 p.m. — Local Flavors
Juniper is best known for their innovative cocktails with a true PNW twist, led by mixologist Max Barrowman who blends First Nations and Spanish flavors into critically acclaimed drinks. Taste their signature cocktail, the Juniper G&T, a distinguished drink with juniper berries and sprigs from British Columbia’s interior. The space’s vibrant atmosphere is perfect for a nightcap, or the commencement of a night out on the town.
8 a.m. — Cycle the Seawall
Hanging on the northwest end of downtown Vancouver like a beautiful, oversized green earring is the stunning Stanley Park, a National Historic Site of Canada. In it, there are 200-foot-tall Sitka spruce and red cedar, blue herons, lagoons, totems, beaches, and swimming pools. There are many ways to experience the 998-acre park, but the most thorough is by bike. Rent a comfy cruiser from Spokes Bicycle Rentals. Follow the sea wall’s bike lane counterclockwise and circumnavigate the entire park in under two hours, with plenty of stops.
11 a.m. — Granville Market Breakfast
Take one of the city’s charming water taxis, False Creek Ferries or the rainbow painted Aquabus to Granville Island, a historic industrial area turned arts and shopping district. Granville’s Public Market is a sought after destination for foodies after fresh and hard to find produce, like mangosteen, and vendors selling delicious delicacies. Deciding what to eat from the busy market is the hardest part- bagels, crepes, dumplings, or why not ice cream for brunch?
2 p.m. — Radical Reading
Run collectively for 40 years, our favorite queer-friendly bookstore Spartacus Books advertises itself as “the go-to resource for anti-capitalist, political books not found in big-box bookstores.” Visitors are free to hang out, log onto the wifi, and peruse the store’s extensive collection of original zines, fiction and non-fiction, niche magazines, and hundreds more “explosive titles.”
5 p.m. — Gastown
This buzzing historic neighborhood (founded in 1867) contains 40 of the city’s hippest local storefronts and many charming, cobblestoned streets. Find more high fashion masculine lewks at NEIGHBOUR on Water Street, and more high fashion feminine looques at One of a Few. Also housed in the district (besides delicious afternoon pick-me-up coffees at Revolver) is the flagship store of Vancouver- based lifestyle brand Herschel Supply Co.
8 p.m. — Ramen Noms
Haven’t had the chance to try the popular chain restaurant Jinya yet? Here’s your chance. The lines outside downtown Vancouver’s Jinya Ramen Bar can be heavy. But, the ramen broth is always cooked to perfection—it is well worth the wait. Having been to two other Jinyas across the continent, I have to say, Vancouver’s was the best. Who knows why? Located in Yaletown, this hotspot is always popping off. Be sure to try the spicy creamy vegan, a favorite even for those who aren’t vegan.
Finally, time to hit the town. Vancouver’s queerest neighborhood is centered around Davie Street between Burrard and Jervis. Popular favorites include 1181, XYYVR, and Pumpjacks. Vancouver’s last lesbian bar closed in 2006, but pop-up parties are constantly organized by Fly Girl Productions. More rotating queer events can be found at WhatsOnQueerBC. For queer-friendly techno and house after-hours parties, look into the privately-owned warehouse, Open Studios in East Vancouver.
10 a.m. — Museum of Anthropology
Located on the University of British Columbia campus 30 minutes from downtown, The Museum of Anthropology is a must for the culture seeking traveler. Here, not only are there totems, sculpture, art, and artifacts from the Northwest Coast First Nations like the Coast Salish, Nisga’a, Haida, Gitxan, and Kwakwaka’wakw peoples, but also artifacts from diverse cultures around the world. Currently on exhibition alongside the hundreds of thousands of ethnographic and archaeological artifacts is the poignant and brave “Arts of Resistance: Politics and the Past in Latin America” running until September 30.
12 p.m. — Wreck Beach
This well-known beach padding the shores of Pacific Spirit Regional Park is one of our favorite clothing-optional beaches and is said to be North America’s largest. A brief hike through the regional park from the University of British Columbia leads you to the wild beach. Come prepared with snacks and water and follow trail 7 for queerer, cruiser places, or go to the more popular section of the beach off of trail 6.
The DOUGLAS is one of Vancouver’s newest hotels is part of the much buzzed about Parq Vancouver complex. This Marriott-owned boutique hotel occupies a handsome tower of Parq Vancouver and each one of the property’s 178 rooms (and 10 suites) resemble a cozy, modern-lux cabin interior sitting amidst a stunning Douglas Fir stand, the local tree of the hotel’s namesake. High environmental standards, attentive service, and its location in Yaletown make this a top choice stay. Rooms from $212-492 USD (seasonal) and up.
The West End Guesthouse is an incredibly charming 7-room Vancouver bed and breakfast. Gay-owned, this intimate Victorian guest house is the perfect home away from home. Its location on the lively (and queer-centric) West End of town near Davie street make it an ideal stay for those looking to explore the action of queer Vancouver, while still having a quiet, calming environment to relax in. Rooms from $153 USD and up.
Samesun Backpacker Lodges is a well-reviewed and friendly accommodation for the budget traveler. The property hosts both dorm beds as well as private rooms and is a short 8-minute walk to the action on Davie Street. Beds from $40 USD and up.
Images via Getty and Miles W. Griffis