The XXI Olympic Winter Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games will play out in Vancouver, British Columbia and the neighbouring alpine resort of Whistler.
Tens of thousands of spectators will flock to Canada’s beautiful West Coast while millions more will watch on televisions around the country and the world. But as March draws to a close, the Olympic crowds will disperse. The mountains will begin to lose their snow. Vancouver’s rain will be gradually replaced by warm, sunny weather. But for many, this anticlimax is only the beginning of a whole new world of possibilities as Vancouver and Whistler welcome summer.
Of course, the Winter Games will leave one particularly indelible impression: the permanent structures and facilities that this global event necessitated. Catching the Skytrain will forever be easier thanks to the massive brand new Granville Street Terminus. UBC’s students and visitors will enjoy fantastic use from the new Thunderbird Arena, a 7,200-seater designed for both recreational activities and high-performance training and similarly, Vancouver Olympic Centre will become a multi-purpose recreation hub. Even Whistler will keep its new world-class Sliding Centre. Yet even without these lavish legacies, Vancouver and Whistler both have summers attractions that are the envy of the entire country. Let’s begin in the city…
Vancouver is known for its temperate summer and the choices of popular beaches are testament to just how much Vancouverites enjoy closing their umbrellas for a few months. And since this is a coastal city, many of the most famed strips of sand are only minutes away from everything else. One of the most popular (and most remote in the area) is Wreck Beach. Locate in Pacific Spirit Regional Park on the University Endowment Lands near the University of British Columbia, it is considered one of the most acclaimed clothing-optional beaches on the planet. Approximately 6.5 kilometres long, Wreck faces the Strait of Georgia and provides all the peace, privacy and tranquility you could ask for a city this size. But throwing, the swim trunks back on and heading toward the city will reveal a whole different scene. Jericho Beach just west of the trendy neighbourhood of Kitsilano, is the feature of Jericho Beach Park, a grassy expanse with a pond that’s ideal for picnicking. The view from the beach itself is as colourful as it is glorious, the peaks of the North Shore soaring up in the background with the multi-coloured sails of the boats at the Jericho Sailing Centre in the foreground. East along the same coast, you’ll find yourself on the popular Kitsilano Beach. Facing out onto the Burrard Inlet, this favourite summer destination offers more than just staggering views of Vancouver’s city skyline. It’s also home to Canada’s longest saltwater outdoor pool and has areas ideal for barbequing, beach volleyball and of course, loads of sunbathing. Perhaps the most impressive Vancouver beach is English Bay Beach in the heart of downtown’s West End. Rimmed with shops, cafes and even palm trees, this sandy destination hosts many summer events, including the crowd-favourite Symphony of Fire. Which brings us to Vancouver’s unique summer events schedule…
Symphony of Fire, or the HSBC Celebration of Light as the Vancouver leg of the competition is called, is an international fireworks competition that lights up Vancouver’s midsummer skies with impressive pyrotechnic displays from Canada, the USA and China. And with the multicoloured explosions choreographed to music that’s simulcast on local radio, it’s by far one of the most moving and memorable events you’ll encounter in this already beautiful city. For a little al-fresco Broadway, experience the Theatre Under the Stars, a longstanding local theatre company that produces exceptional popular shows in Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl. From Grease to Jesus Christ Superstar, you haven’t seen musical theatre until you’ve seen it outside on a hot summer night! For those who fancy themselves theatre snobs, why not bend the rules and enjoy the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival? For over 2 decades Vancouver’s Vanier Park has been home to two tents that hold nearly 800 seats, entertaining guests with the Bard’s greatest plays from June to September. The Mainstage Tent provides quite an astonishing view as it is open-ended, offering jaw-dropping mountain views behind the players while the Douglas Campbell Tent features Shakespeare’s lesser-known works.
Vancouver’s shopping is amazing year round, but it’s so much better when you don’t have to balance an umbrella with your bags. Spend a summer afternoon strolling past the boutiques of the famous Robson Street. Find your favourite designers at Holt Renfrew in Pacific Centre. Just across the bridge you can roam the galleries and markets of Granville Island in idyllic False Creek. Are you a serious power-shopper? Only 15 minutes away by Skytrain, Burnaby’s Metropolis at Metrotown is Canada’s second largest shopping mall with over 500 shops.
Whistler is no less appealing after the snow recedes to the glaciers. Come the warm weather, the patios of its European-style pedestrian village come to life as the 100-plus restaurants, bars and nightclubs take advantage of the hot mountain weather. And while numerous summer activities exist in the region from hiking to ATV-ing to fishing, it’s the biking that attracts the most visitors. Just check out the line-ups at the Whistler Village Gondola as eager pedal pushers wait to tackle the mountain bike park with its 200 kilometres of lift-serviced, gravity fed descending trails. Check out the Bikercross Course, featuring banked corners, doubles and table tops, plus the Skills Centres with their 3 levels of obstacles and challenges. For a real taste of pro cycling, the Kokanee Crankworx competition in August sees some of the world’s best mountain bikers compete for everything from speed to big air – and there’s loads of live-music and parties that comes with the package.
Whistler’s also known for its top-notch golf courses – some of the most picturesque and masterfully-designed in British Columbia. Chateau Whistler Golf Club is famous for its regionally-specific designs while the very challenging Whistler Golf Club is Arnold Palmer’s first Canadian design. Jack Nicklaus has also left his mark with the par-71 Nicklaus North Golf Course. Slightly further afield, Big Sky Golf and Country Club features a 7,001 yard Robert Cupp-designed course and Furry Creek Golf Club boasts windswept views on the beautifully rugged Howe Sound coast.
Yes, the Winter Olympic Games are going to make the winter of 2010 an amazing spectacle – but no more amazing than any summer in Vancouver and Whistler! Come check us out after the podium has been pushed aside and the blossoms have begun blooming.
You won’t be disappointed.