A Definitive Gay Guide to Vancouver, B.C.

By Jase Peeples
Originally published: Out Traveler 5/15/14

As one of the earliest countries in modern times to recognize same-sex marriage, Canada has long been considered one of the greatest destinations for LGBT travelers, and Vancouver, in the province of British Columbia, is a shining example of a city that has successfully incorporated its LGBT residents, culture, and history into its larger identity. This coastal metropolis boasts the largest LGBT population in western Canada and hosts several annual LGBT-focused events. including the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, nearby Whistler’s Winter Pride gay ski weekend, and the city’s own terrific Gay Pride Parade and Festival – taking place this year on Sunday, August 3. Whether you’re looking to travel somewhere over the Canadian rainbow this Pride season or going to British Columbia for any other reason, here are a few must-hit locations on your north by northwest adventure.

EAT: A Taste of Vancouver

Vancouver is known around the globe for world-class cuisine that owes as much of its reputation to the city’s coastal location as its diverse population, rich mix of cultures, and superstar chefs who have come to call the city home. From fine dining to hometown cooking, the following scrumptious stops offer a taste of Vancouver’s award-winning food culture.

THE PARKER: A recent addition to Vancouver’s culinary scene, The Parker opened in 2012 to rave reviews and features an ever-evolving, completely vegetarian menu. Located at 237 Union Street, this sustainable restaurant also prides itself on being one of the most environmentally conscientious in all of Canada by producing almost zero waste. Imagination and service are chief goals of owner Steve Da Cruz, who works the floor and creates the restaurant’s unique bar offerings himself, while Top Chef Canada’s Curtis Luk is masterminds the menu and leads the kitchen.

CAMPAGNOLO ROMA: Italian-food lovers with a craving for authenticity will want to stop by Campagnolo Roma for an unforgettable meal. Located in the heart of Vancouver’s old Italian district, this award-winning restaurant serves dishes inspired by Roman cuisine and uses fresh, locally grown ingredients. Scrumptious signature Italian favorites, seasonal dishes, and unique cuisine experiences can all be found here, and guests are not only welcomed with a warm smile, they are treated like family. (2297 E Hastings St., more info)

CHAMBAR RESTAURANT: Described on its website as “an unpretentious fling with fine dining,” Chambar serves Belgian fare with a twist. Decadent dishes and sophisticated cocktails are served up alongside the city’s longest list of Belgian brews in a cozy dining room perfect for libations and laughs with a group of friends or a romantic dinner date for two. (562 Beatty St., more info)

WORLD’S BEST FOOD TRUCK TOUR: Don’t underestimate these mobile meal makers – Vancouver’s gourmet food truck scene is bursting with deliciousness. Several masters of the culinary arts have migrated to the city to join Vancouver’s gourmet wheeled revolution, and the best way to experience the range of dishes being served throughout the streets is by taking this guided educational walking excursion through the heart of the city with Vancouver Foodie Tours. Whether you’re savoring Soho Road’s tandoori chicken naan kebab, terimayo hot dogs at Vancouver’s famous Japanese-style hot dog stand Japadog, or French gourmet sandwiches at Ze Bite, the World’s Best Food Truck Tour is sure to please your palate. (more info)

RAINCITY GRILL: Boasting a scenic view of the city’s English Bay, Raincity Grill is a pioneer in the concept of the “100-Mile Tasting Menu,” composed entirely of locally sourced food. Each dish is a work of art in both presentation and flavor, made even more special with the knowledge that the restaurant’s trademark “100-Mile” menu constantly evolves to reflect the best of the area’s local waters and backyards. A passion for true culinary artistry is apparent in every bite, making Raincity Grill a must for any Vancouver visitor.

SLEEP: The Great Indoors

Vancouver offers a range of hotels and resorts throughout the city that are sure to please even the most particular traveler. Vacationers would be hard-pressed to discover an establishment that wasn’t LGBT-friendly, and many hotels in the city actively seek out gay travelers by offering LGBT-specific packages and often partner with the Canadian LGBT community by sponsoring events and donating to LGBT charities. Here are a few options that provide substance, style, and that home-away-from-home feeling.

OPUS: Located at the edge of Vancouver’s gay district, this boutique hotel offers a choice of six uniquely styled rooms to fit a range of personalities, each stocked with amenities perfect for tech junkies such as complimentary Wi-Fi, in-room iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone available to accompany guests as they explore the city. The Forbes four-star-rated hotel is a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, offers LGBT booking packages donating 10 percent to the Vancouver Pride Society, and is the sponsor of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. (322 Davie St., more info)

THE BURRARD: This self-described “retro-licious” property combines iconic influences of the past with modern design touches culminating in a sleek new style. The hotel’s recent renovation came complete with new rooms outfitted with a cool new design palette, all-new bedding and upholstery, designer fixtures, a new courtyard, and a cool new attitude. In-room amenities include free high-speed wireless Internet, free Brooklyn Cruiser bike rentals, HDTVs with free premium and movie channels, and Nespresso coffee machines. The Burrard also offers a “We’ve Got Pride Every Day of the Year” package for LGBT travelers. (1100 Burrard St., more info)

LODEN: With contemporary decor inspired by the surrounding mountains and waterways, the Loden offers luxurious living on the hem of Coal Harbour. The 14-story boutique urban hotel boasts 77 lush guest rooms, the finest range of amenities any traveler could desire, and the gracious Tableau Restaurant – which has a French-inspired menu that fuses the classic culinary flavors of Paris with fresh Wet Coast ingredients – located next to the hotel’s dashing lobby. Featuring striking views of both the city and the North Shore Mountains through the floor-to-ceiling guest room windows, the Loden is the perfect balance of scenic beauty and urban style. (1177 Melville St., more info)

EXPERIENCE: Adventure Awaits

From exploring the city’s diverse neighborhoods to adventurous outdoor activities, Vancouver has something suitable for personalities from every shade of the rainbow. Here are just a few of the choices that should be high on your list.

EXPLORE DAVIE VILLAGE: Davie Village, located in the heart of Vancouver’s West End neighborhood, is home to Western Canada’s largest LGBT population. LGBT travelers will feel right at home crossing the neighborhood’s rainbow-colored crosswalks, dining at any of the area’s diverse array of restaurants, or enjoying an evening out at any one of the numerous bars and dance clubs generously sprinkled throughout Davie Village.

CAMPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE PARK:Vancouver’s oldest attraction, the Capilano Suspension Bridge was built in 1889 and hangs 230 feet above the Capilano River. Enjoy breathtaking canyon views as you walk the length of the 450-foot swaying bridge. The park is also home to additional engineering marvels including the Cliffwalk, a series of suspended walkways jutting out from a granite cliff face above the Capilano River, and the Treetops Adventure, a network of seven suspension bridges high in the treetops of the rainforest. (3735 Capilano Road, more info)

SEWELL’S MARINA: Soak up the spectacular sights of Vancouver’s ocean playground with a Sea Safari at Sewell’s Marina. Available April through October each year, the two-hour Eco-Tour will have you racing across the water alongside steep cliffs on a high-speed 30-foot rigid-hull inflatable boat as you view Vancouver’s world-famous coastal scenery and watch wildlife at play, including harbor seals, whales, majestic bald eagles, and more. (6409 Bay St., more info)

GRANVILLE ISLAND: The Granville Island Market, the best-known public market in British Columbia, houses a diverse array of vendors, with butchers, bakers, fishmongers, cheese specialists, chocolatiers, artists, and more. The island is also home to the Granville Island Brewing Company (an ideal destination for sampling some of the finest ales of Vancouver), fine dining restaurants, unique shops, the Arts Club Theatre, and many other attractions.  (more info)

CYCLE CITY TOURS: Ride through 35 years of Vancouver’s LGBT history with Cycle City Tours’ Pride Tour. This guided two-hour six- to eight–kilometer ride will take you to iconic locations where defining moments in the city’s LGBT history took place, reveal the LGBT influence of Vancouver architecture, and recount the evolution of Pride throughout the city. (1798 West Georgia St., more info)

PLAY: Get Into the Groove

From stylish lounges that specialize in sophisticated cocktails and bars with easygoing atmospheres to energetic dance clubs and more, Vancouver’s sizzling gay nightlife overs many different options to help you get into the groove.

CELEBRITIES: Vancouver’s premier gay dance club, Celebrities, is the crown jewel of nightlife in Davie Village. Featuring a newly renovated sleek and modern interior, a spacious dance floor with an impressive over-the-top light show that constantly surges above, and friendly, attentive staff, this club is the perfect destination for those seeking an energetic night out on the town. (1022 Davie St., more info)

THE JUNCTION: Whether you’re watching a hilarious drag show, enjoying a sexy striptease, or just spending a low-key afternoon on the front patio as you enjoy daily drink specials and a few tasty appetizers from the kitchen, the Junction is a must-hit stop for any trip over the Canadian rainbow. (1138 Davie St., more info)

KILLJOY COCKTAIL LOUNGE: Indulge in elaborate liquid concoctions at the Killjoy Cocktail Lounge, Vancouver’s largest gin bar.  The mixed club’s eclectic and raw decor, including a completely deconstructed piano at the entrance and unusual neon-accented light installations, creates an intimate and cozy atmosphere that perfectly complements the unique selection of cocktails and the handsome bartenders who serve them. You can also dance the evening away on the nightclub’s basement dance floor or lounge in comfort at one of Killjoy’s stylish VIP tables. (1120 Hamilton St., more info)

OASIS: A bold tapas menu, innovative cocktails, and a heated and covered garden patio are just a few of this second-story ultra-lounge’s calling cards. Located in the heart of Davie Village overlooking Davie Street, Oasis features exciting nightly events and a fun, sexy atmosphere, making it one of Vancouver’s top gay nightlife destinations. (1240 Thurlow St., more info)

NUMBERS: A Vancouver landmark, Numbers is the oldest gay bar in the city, having opened its doors more than three decades ago. The multilevel space remains one of the most popular gay nightlife spots in Davie Village, with karaoke available seven days a week in the special “FunBox” room. A full dance floor, pool tables, and multiple video screens located throughout the bar ensure that this location has something to offer everyone. (1042 Davie St., more info)

For more information on gay Vancouver, check out Tourism Vancouver’s website.