Check any poll of the best cities in North America, and you'll see Vancouver near the top of the list. The only places that beat it are Victoria and, sometimes, San Francisco.
The biggest city in British Columbia, Vancouver is famed for letting its residents go from working in high-rise office buildings all day to paddling kayaks, skiing, mountain biking, or doing pretty much any other outdoor activity before sunset.
The city is the art and culture capital of the province as well. There's plenty of theater and good museums, and during the annual film festival you see people lined up around the block waiting to get in to flicks you've never heard of. There's live music somewhere every night of the week plus all the advantages of a university town.
Then there's the wild. Stanley Park is one of the biggest municipal parks anywhere. Get off a trail here, and you'll forget that you're in the middle of a city of more than two million residents. Twenty minutes from downtown can put you in the deep forest.
Vancouver is also Canada's melting pot. When Hong Kong emptied out before the Communists took over, about half the people who fled ended up here. There are huge sections where almost nobody speaks English; a recent survey determined that 50 percent of people in the lower mainland - Vancouver and its environs - were born outside Canada. But there's not just a Chinese influence. Walk down Commercial Drive, and within a block you'll have a choice of restaurants serving ethnic cuisine from Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Thailand, and Jamaica.
And that's just the start. There's a little something for everybody here, and this is the most detailed guide you will find to the city and its surroundings.
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