Perhaps owing to its West Coast vibe and multicultural and tolerant population, Vancouver, in Canada's British Columbia province, is an enviably habitable city that seemingly has more in common with Seattle--a short two hours' drive--than the next large Canadian city, Calgary, 11 hours away and past some serious mountain ranges.
Since Vancouver is geographically confined on a peninsula, its urban sprawl is kept in check. In Yaletown, the city rises up in eco-friendly glass towers ("EcoDensity" is a planning initiative that aims to reduce the city's carbon footprint by encouraging walking and biking and using new efficient materials and systems in buildings). In historic cobble-paved Gastown, 19th-century buildings, now home to locavore restaurants, wine bars, and pubs, are impeccably maintained. Gastown's smart, award-winning Boneta (Boneta.ca) features a fresh, vibrant menu and a slick open kitchen, and nearby Salt Tasting Room (SaltTastingRoom.com) offers local charcuterie and regional wines in a cellar-like communal dining environment.
Residents are a diverse and gregarious mix, ready to offer directions or suggestions on a place to get a bite. In this Pacific Rim port city, a quarter of the populace speaks Chinese as a first language, and generally everyone gets along amicably. Gays are found throughout the city but make up a sizable percentage of the residents of Commercial Drive (TheDrive.ca), a lesbian-popular neighborhood of organic cafes and consignment shops, and the West End, where one can find Davie Village, a concentration of bars, pubs, and clubs like 19-and-over dance hall Celebrities (CelebritiesNightclub.com), leather and Levi's bar Pumpjack (PumpjackPub.com), and frenetic yet friendly Club 816 (Club816.com).
The city has an unparalleled combination of metropolitan bustle and gorgeous vistas; an urban transaction can almost be set on pause with a moment's glance at the striking mountain peaks or gorgeous harbor views, including from the balconies at the stylish, comfortable Westin Grand (WestinGrandVancouver.com), walking distance from Granville Entertainment District (bars and clubs, mostly straight) and Davie Village.
Gay men aren't confined to meeting one another in bars or online. With its temperate climate and laid-back attitude, Vancouver is a prime city for outdoor cruising--and straight residents don't seem to mind. Wreck Beach (WreckBeach.org), a clothing-optional spot just west of downtown, features a gay-popular section as well as an area full of adults, families, and students--gay and straight--basking in the sun during summer months. Nude merchants walk the beach, selling everything from trinkets to sandwiches to beer to pot brownies. No hang-ups here. And while nongay residents don't mind what gays do behind closed doors (er, tall trees?) many do take interest in the city's annual gay-pride events in August.
For sports enthusiasts, WinterPride (GayWhistler.com), the gay ski week in nearby Whistler, 78 miles from Vancouver and the site of many of the 2010 Olympic venues, takes place January 30 to February 6, 2011, and features skiing, snowboarding, apres-ski tea dances, and culinary events for gay men and lesbians.
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