Vancouver is known the world over for its breathtaking scenery and wildlife, as well as being one of the most liveable cities in the world. Even if you can’t be a permanent resident, however, we think these experiences will not only make you feel like a local, but ensure you’ll have stories to boast about to anyone who’ll listen.
Polar Bear Swim
New Year in Vancouver starts with a bang with the Polar Bear Swim on January 1st. Since 1920, Vancouverites have been plunging into 6-degree centigrade, Pacific water in the middle of winter, with a record of 2,128 participants in 2000. But if a freezing cold early morning dip isn’t quite your thing, you can stay warm on the beach and enjoy the array of costumes, atmosphere and the impressive 100-yard Peter Pantaages Memorial Swim race in honour of the event’s founder.
2099 Beach Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V6G 3E2, http://vancouver.ca/parks/events/polarbear. Annually, January 1, 2:30pm.
When we’re in a mood to don our spurs and ten-gallon hats, we make for the Cloverdale Rodeo, a cowboy cavalcade of bareback, bronco and bull riding every May. The rodeo has been running for over 100 years now and is a tradition that includes agricultural showcase and all the fun and entertainment of a country fair. If you’ve ever wanted to buck a bronco in the Canadian wilderness, this is the place for it.
6050A 176th Street, Surrey, BC, V3S 4E7, +1 604 576 9461, www.cloverdalerodeo.com. Annually in May.
Grouse Mountain Lumberjack Show
This unique program is a tribute to the legendary British Columbia lumberjacks, featuring the arts of axe throwing, log rolling, tree climbing, pole climbing and other outrageous stunts, all done by actual lumberjacks. Set atop the impressive Grouse Mountain, we love to savour the views and finish the day with dinner at the wonderful five-star restaurant, The Observatory which specialises in delectable locally-sourced and sustainable produce.
Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, BC, V7R 4K9, +1 604 980 9311 www.grousemountain.com/lumberjack-show. Showtimes: May bank holiday weekend, October bank holiday weekend.
Grizzly Bear Breakfast
We’re not sure if getting up close and personal with a grizzly is on everyone’s list of things to do, but Tide Rip Grizzly Tours, which operate throughout the year, give you the change to view Vancouver’s big black bears as they forage for their favourite nibbles on the shoreline. During the summer months of July and August, salmon are running the river mouth, and seeing bears chasing the fish around in the low tide pools was a true highlight for us. Viewing the bears from the safety and comfort of big, flat bottom viewing boats allows you to get up close enough to see these great mountain beasts in all their glory.
Tide Rip Grizzly Tours, Telegraph Cove, BC, V0N 3J0, +1 250 339 5320, www.tiderip.com.
Kayak with Killer Whales
We love this fabulous Kayaking with Killer Whales tour, which gives you the chance to glide along in your sleek non-obtrusive kayak and stop and watch for any wildlife and enjoy the majestic scenery of northern Vancouver Island. A two-day trip, where you stay overnight in a campsite whilst sleeping under the stars, includes a trip to the Killer Whale resort, where you poke around in the tidal shallows always on alert for the killer whale “˜blow’ which tells you you’re sharing waters with the world’s greatest killer.
North Island Kayak, Telegraph Cove, BC, V0N 3J0, +1 250 928 3114, www.kayakbc.ca.
Virgin Atlantic operate seasonal flights to Vancouver from London Heathrow, with our summer service starting on 14th May 2013.