When it comes to winter travel destinations, places like Aspen, Park City, and Tahoe tend to be top of mind—at least if you live in the lower 48. Yet, there’s a neighboring town to the north (only a 2.5-hour drive from Seattle) that’s known, not only for snowfall and skiing, but for being the third most-livable city in the world—Vancouver. For a long time, the British Columbia seaport’s been one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to overlooked and underrated travel destinations…but that’s all changing.
The British Columbia seaport’s been one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to overlooked and underrated travel destinations.
Part of what helps Vancouverites live their best lives is a *serious* love a plants (squee!) and nature—the city’s aiming to be the world’s greenest by 2020, BTW. And the way it’s going—expansive living green roof gardens, tens of thousands of bees making honey for food and beverages (like at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel), mandatory compost laws, and bike paths snaking around epic vistas—there’s little doubt they’ll accomplish that goal.
It’s worth a trip for the forest bathing opportunities alone, IMO. But if you think Vancouver is pretty when it’s lush, try it—and its hundreds of hiking trails—dusted with powder. Right in the city, the Stanley Park seawall is a picturesque place to jog or stroll, catching epic silhouettes of distant mountains across the water (and don’t miss sunset there, which happens, refreshingly, after 6 p.m. even in the dead of winter) and totems from First Nations bands.
On the North Shore, the home of freestyle biking, there are far more trails. And the surroundings offer not only snowboarding and skiing opportunities, but urban kayaking around False Creek and standup paddleboarding from Kitsilano Beach.
On the mindfulness tip, there’s plenty to get into: Think membership clubs for meditation (such as House of Moment nestled downtown) and some 1,500 yoga classes held weekly. And it’s actually the birthplace of Lululemon, which has a massive, 4,500-square-foot flagship where the brand tests new innovations (because “I have enough leggings” said no one, ever). A plethora of spas around town serve up the typical pampering treatments from Ayurveda to herbal poultice massage to floating, as well as shamanic energy work featuring local ingredients the likes of seaweed to cedar steam.
Lastly, locals may be so incredibly nice because they’re well fed (zero hangry issues here!). Vancouver is where the 100-Mile Diet phenomenon (where two Vancouverites set out to eat foods sourced within that distance for one year) was started, which clearly means there are a lot of delicious local ingredients to choose from—not to mention some of the best sushi in North America. Diners can feel even better about eating their fish since menus are marked with the sustainability sourced Ocean Wise symbol.
Plant-based eating is on the rise, too, and is done beautifully at places like Meet, Kokomo, and The Acorn. Juice bars are aplenty, naturally, and it’s relatively easy to find vegan coffee and donuts ice cream—Virtuous Pie is the can’t-miss for that—as well as outrageous plant-based pizzas. (Almond ricotta with truffle oil, anyone?) Because let’s face it, there’s nothing more appealing in wintertime than a little comfort food.