by Simone Lovell
Few places in the world live up to the phrase “you can have it all,” and Vancouver, British Columbia is that rare exception. It’s hard to believe that this gem of a city, with its temperate climate, is actually surrounded by snow-covered slopes dipping into beautiful marinas below.
Vancouver is one of the few places in the world where it’s possible to ski in the morning and sail in the afternoon.
As a proud resident of Vancouver as well as a fitness enthusiast who hosts fitness adventures for locals, I am always searching for fun and active wellness things to do in and around town. It’s no secret that Vancouver offers some of the best outdoor experiences and adventures in the world. And, as any local will tell you, Vancouver is a sophisticated city of connoisseurs of both fitness play and relaxation.
So, just to reinforce TripAdvisor’s 2014 Travellers’ Choice Award – naming Vancouver the top destination to visit in Canada – here are some of my favorite haunts for wellness-minded visitors with an active sense of adventure.
Where to Stay:
An elegant property set in the heart of Vancouver’s thriving and cosmopolitan downtown, the Wedgewood Hotel has been a well-kept secret to visitors of Vancouver since it opened in 1984. While the secret is definitely out, the elegance, charm and commitment to service remain. The Wedgewood Health Club includes state-of-the-art fitness technology, a Eucalyptus Steam Room and a new luxurious relaxation room. The health club overlooks Robson Square, and the hotel’s lovely 2,000-square foot garden terrace, a jewel in the heart of the city center.
Where to Eat:
Farmer’s Apprentice, in the Kitsilano neighborhood, has been named one of the leading restaurants in Vancouver for two consecutive years by the judges at Top Restaurants in Canada. For health-conscious diners, it’s also a delight because of its vegetarian cuisine. Chef Dave Gunawan works his seasonal menu around organic and local ingredients. Don’t miss the octopus dish when it’s on the menu. It’s delectable.
Created by a culinary team with experience at Michelin-starred restaurants in Denmark and New York City, Acorn delivers artistry on the plate with its locally-sourced cuisine that features a range of raw, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Acorn is situated along Main Street, an edgy, hip Vancouver neighborhood. I highly recommend the Peas + Carrots – an inventive dish that shows off Acorn’s culinary panache. It’s a match for gluten-free, raw and vegan diners, and features coconut cashew dumplings and carrot foam, a nice micro-gastronomic touch.
How to Stay Active:
It isn’t a question of “will you be able to find something active to do in this fit-focused city?” It’s more “so how much can you fit in?”
For starters, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain each offer great hikes in summer and great ski hills during the winter, with both downhill and cross-country options available as well as snowshoe trails.
While it’s best known for shopping year-round, Robson Square also offers a below street level ice rink during the winter months. Indoor rock climbing walls can be found at various locations throughout the city including Cliffhanger Climber Gyms located near Olympic Village.
And, you are always more than welcome to join in on any of our Eat Pray Love Fitness “sweat-cations” if they happen to line up with your stay here and you need a fresh cross-training reboot to sweat it out.
Where to Spa:
Vancouver has so many great spas offering tranquility served with refreshments such as cucumber water and herbal tea. My favorite is Spa Utopia. Their two locations – one downtown and the other in North Vancouver – include inspiring views of Vancouver’s waterfront or snow-capped mountains to enjoy as you relax.
Another excellent spa is Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Surrounded by city and ocean views, the spacious spa offers nine treatment areas, including a couples’ suite with a deep Japanese Zen tub. There’s also a Nail Spa, three lounges, a full fitness center and a spa terrace overlooking the downtown core. Be sure to try their Van Active Body treatment, which is perfect for recovering from the Grouse Grind – the local name for the staircase-like trail up the face of Grouse Mountain.
Where to Shop:
Shopping in Vancouver is eclectic and depends on the neighborhood you choose to peruse. For chic boutiques, keep your eyes peeled in Gastown, Kitsilano, Granville Island and Yaletown and our famous Robson Street, located near the famous Vancouver Art Gallery.
Not sure where to start your “retail therapy” excursion or need help developing your style? Vancouverite Michelle Addison can help. Michelle has dressed a wide range of inspiring women, from stay-at-home moms to business professionals to celebrities, particularly as a personal stylist at Nordstroms. And, she often handpicks garments from her front row seat at New York Fashion Week. You can check her out at michelleaddison.com
One Thing Not To Miss:
Hiking Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains will take your breath away. These mountains are “hikeable” year-round, even if it’s raining. Just be sure to pack a light raincoat. You may actually find that you don’t even get wet as the trees form a perfect canopy and help protect hikers from the rain.
Insider’s Tip: I recommend Quarry Rock in Deep Cove – a two-hour round trip, moderate in intensity and with a gorgeous view of Deep Cove’s Harbour from the summit.
A Vancouver resident, Simone Lovell is a fitness instructor and owner of Vancouver-based Eat Play Love Fitness, offering fitness “sweat-cations” in B.C.