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Business Travel Guide: Vancouver, Canada

by Kasey Wilson



Vancouver's calling card has always been its outdoor spirit. The 2010 Winter Olympics have left the city with an expanded waterfront convention complex — among the best in the world — hot new hotels, big-name restaurants and an efficient rapid transit line from the airport to the central business district. While British Columbia's economy has relied on the rich endowment of forestry, fishing, mining (including oil and gas) and energy, the software development and film production industries have also found their niche. Chances are, you saw Vancouver on TV or in the movies and didn't know it. Add tourism to the mix, the third-largest money-maker after wood/paper, and you have a robust economy.

Vancouver, encircled by mountains and seas, is one of the busiest ports on this side of the Pacific and is only surpassed by Los Angeles. The city boasts spectacular scenery, the mildest climate in Canada and a compact downtown core ideal for business travelers. Vancouver's first-class hotel rooms are steps from diverse restaurants and upscale shopping. Asian tycoons, film industry moguls and throngs of conventioneers are regularly enchanted by the cleanliness and civility of the city of a half-million in a metropolitan area of 2.2 million.

Facts to Know Before You Go

Currency: Canadian Dollar

The Canadian dollar is pegged to its U.S. counterpart and has traded at par much of this year. The U.S. dollar is accepted at most places. The Canadian dollar itself is no longer paper; it's a large gold-colored coin nicknamed the "loonie" because it features the Spotted Loon, a beloved aquatic bird of northern lakes. A distinctive two-tone $2 coin, larger and heavier than the $1 coin, goes by the nickname "toonie" because it rhymes with loonie. Debit and credit cards can be used in virtually all retail shops, restaurants and fast-food eateries in Metro Vancouver. But if you need cash, you can use your Visa Debit Card and get Canadian dollars at the abundant automated teller machines found all across the city.

Transportation

The modern and spacious Vancouver International Airport is located nine miles south of downtown on Sea Island. The Canada Line (www.translink.ca), an automated rail-based rapid transit built for the Olympics, began service in 2009. Taxis, limousines and buses are available curbside in front of the terminals to take you anywhere in the city. A cab to downtown costs about $40.

Newspapers

The Vancouver Sun, the city's main English-language daily, is published Monday through Saturday mornings in print and is updated constantly online. The Province is a tabloid with an emphasis on sports and entertainment. Business in Vancouver is the city's weekly business tabloid — and an excellent resource. BCBusiness, published monthly, provides behind-the-scenes coverage chronicling major deals and putting faces to the players. Canada's national newspaper is the well-respected The Globe and Mail, printed daily except Sunday. The city also has three daily Chinese-language newspapers: Sing Tao, Ming Pao and the World Journal, each offering news to Vancouver's large Chinese population.

Where to Stay
 
A guest room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver
There isn't a more convenient home base for traveling business people than this luxurious hotel if you're attending an event at the Vancouver Convention Centre. It's across the street, but there's also an underground entrance from the hotel. The modern, 377-room high-rise hotel opened in 2010 and features spectacular views of the North Shore mountains in the background and Stanley Park and Coal Harbour in the foreground. Amenities include a business and fitness center, the Willow Stream spa and an outdoor terrace with Jacuzzis and a rooftop pool. Relax with the Pan-Asian cuisine at ORU bistro or sip some cappuccino at Giovane Italian deli café. Rooms include LCD TVs in bathrooms and Bose sound systems. In case you didn't pack one, an umbrella is waiting for you.

A brightly colored, retro-inspired room at Opus Vancouver Hotel
Situated in the heart of stylish Yaletown and across the street from the rapid transit station is this flamboyant boutique hotel. Opus features 96 guest rooms in vibrant colours, with spa-style bathrooms. Upon booking, guests choose red rooms dubbed "Modern & Minimalistic" with strong masculine lines throughout, or green rooms — "Artful & Eclectic" showcasing funky décor. A popular location for visiting music, film and TV producers and stars, the business center features iMac workstations. Yaletown is the city's hub of creative and new media industries by day, with fashionable clothing and furniture boutiques. By night, the lobby lounge and the area's hip restaurants, bars and nightclubs draw a well-put-together crowd.

Rosewood Hotel Georgia
801 West Georgia St.
604-682-5566
www.rosewoodhotelgeorgia.com
An elegant guest room at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver
The renovated Hotel Georgia has been part of the Vancouver scene since its completion in 1927; Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Jayne Mansfield and Prince Charles are some of the luminaries who have bedded down here. It reopened in July 2011 with its famed Spanish Ballroom, a spa, gym and an Olympic-sized pool among its many features. The refurbished hotel has been reduced to 155 rooms but retains both elegance and old-world charm with chandeliers and brass railings. Conveniently situated across from the Vancouver Art Gallery, it is just a couple of blocks from the city's most important streets for business (Burrard), shopping (Robson) and entertainment (Granville). Hawksworth, named for its popular local chef, is a must for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Rooms contain flat-screen HD TVs with satellite channels, DVD/CD players and docking stations.

Shangri-La Vancouver
1128 Georgia St. West
604-689-1120
www.shangri-la.com
A guest room at the Shangri-La Vancouver
The Shangri-La is Vancouver's tallest and most dramatic landmark building. As the first North American outpost for the Hong Kong-based chain, the hotel's interiors are sumptuous and opulent. The Asian service for which they are branded includes discreet underground or private in-room check-in, and a welcome pot of steaming tea. Amid sophisticated, Zen-like décor, each of the 119 rooms offers a spacious workspace, complimentary high-speed Internet access, complimentary telephone calls, and 24-hour room service. Secretarial services and meeting rooms are also available. Start the day with a Chinese breakfast, end it with a movie screening in the hotel's 42-seat theater, a visit to Chi, the spa, or dinner at Market by Jean-Georges.

Terminal City Tower Hotel
837 Hastings St.
604-681-4121; 888-253-8777
www.tctowerhotel.com
A comfortable room at the Terminal City Tower Hotel in Vancouver
This boutique property at the Terminal City Club (a private business club) offers a sanctuary in the heart of Vancouver's bustling business center. Each of the 60 guest rooms and suites is tastefully decorated and many offer outstanding views. All have flat-screen TVs and Internet access. The extensive club facilities available to guests include one of the city's best fitness centers, squash courts, swimming pool, historic billiards room, library (with Wi-Fi) and private restaurants.



Where to Dine

Cactus Club Café
Bentall 5
588 Burrard St.
604-682-0933
www.cactusclubcafe.com

Pacific Northwest/
Contemporary
14/20

$$$$$

Cactus Club Café Vancouver

Canada's first Iron Chef, Rob Feenie, stepped into the role of "Food Concept Architect" a few years ago at the restaurant/bar chain Cactus Club and has wooed the well-dressed, well-coiffed business crowds with his RF signature high-end dishes served at reasonable prices. (They once graced the menus of Lumière and Feenie's, but at double the price). There are fourteen establishments throughout the Lower Mainland, with the Bentall 5 location in the financial district attracting businessmen and women for extended lunches. The casual fine dining menu includes Feenie's fare: sake-maple-marinated sablefish, tuna tataki with yuzu vinaigrette, butternut squash ravioli with prawns, bbq duck clubhouse, short rib sandwich with caramelized onion and Emmental cheese on toasted sourdough, and rocket salad with panko- and parmesan-breaded chicken tossed in lemon caper sauce.


Earls Downtown
905 Hornby St.
604-682-6700
www.earls.ca

Contemporary
13/20

$$$$$


Earls Downtown in Vancouver offers great ambience in a cool setting
If you want to get down to business at lunch or dinner over a half-pound burger made with premium Canadian Angus beef, drop into Earls on Hornby Street. Generous portions, exclusive microbrews, and a wine list that focuses on hot producers and regional strengths make Earls a rare breed among upscale chains. Each pearl in this restaurant empire emphasizes high-quality, fresh only, seasonal ingredients, whether on pizzas (from the open-to-view wood oven), in pasta, or with burgers. It's fast food and it isn't — menu highlights include the grilled prawn tacos, Jeera chicken curry, braised hickory ribs and seafood linguini. Servers are young, bright and attractive. Bring the whole gang if you need to schedule a working lunch and head for the Hornby Street location where there's an upstairs loft that comfortably seats sixteen to twenty. It's available at lunch and from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. to midnight with a minimum of fifteen guests.

Hawksworth Restaurant
801 West Georgia St.
604-673-7000
www.hawksworthrestaurant.com

 


The stylish bar at Hawksworth Restaurant in Vancouver
David Hawksworth's namesake restaurant in the iconic Rosewood Hotel Georgia is the perfect destination for the post-deal dinner. It exudes a pleasing sense of sophistication in four distinct dining areas that overlook the Vancouver Art Gallery: an intimate bar with vintage leather banquettes; the glamorous, 1940s art-deco Pearl room with a dramatic chandelier; the casual and relaxed Art Room and the York, a private space on the second level inspired by its 1920s heritage. David Hawksworth and his brigade deliver farm-to-table cooking at breakfast, lunch and dinner with imagination and make sure everybody gets their money's worth with compelling dishes like tomato gazpacho with lobster, bacon-wrapped elk loin, spring salmon poached in olive oil, or for sharing — a duo of dry-aged rib-eye or Moroccan-spiced squab. Terry Threlfall, previously a sommelier from London's acclaimed Chez Bruce, has a discerning nose and a refreshing lack of pretension and his personal pride is evident in the user-friendly local and international wine list.

Italian Kitchen
1037 Alberni St.
604-687-2858
www.theitaliankitchen.ca

Italian
14/20
$$$$$

The dining room of Italian Kitchen in Vancouver
This two-story Italian restaurant situated on a prime piece of downtown real estate is a vibrant spot for a business lunch or dinner. On the ground floor, there's an open kitchen and a 60-foot white marble bar named "D.O.C." The upstairs lounge features a second bar and a 50-seat dining room. Chef Stephen Clark deftly combines the flavors and influences of Italy's regions to put together a family-style feast. His antipasto platter resonates with the freshness and simplicity of crispy fried calamari, prosciutto-wrapped jumbo prawns, eggplant Parmigiana, spicy Kobe meatballs, osso buco croquettes, polenta bolognese and a caprese salad that shines when heirloom tomatoes are in season. Crisp pizza crusts with savory toppings emerge from the imported gas-fired brick oven. The meat platter includes grilled ribeye, chicken Parmagiana, veal piccata, fried Brussels sprouts and polenta bolognese. Classic pastas include a choice of rigatoni pomodoro, tagliatelle funghi, hand-rolled gnocchi, linguini carbonara, spaghetti bolognese and a daily risotto. The cellar is stocked with solid Italian vintages and new- and old-world offerings, and enthusiastic service adds to the dining pleasure.

Tojo's
1133 W. Broadway Ave.
604-872-8050
www.tojos.com

Sushi/Japanese
16/20

$$$$$


The open kitchen at Tojo's in Vancouver
Indulge your yen for Japanese food and close the deal at Tojo's. Hidekazu Tojo has developed a passionate following with the city's sushi snobs for his surgically precise innovations. This location features an impressive soaring room with a bustling yet relaxed atmosphere which is most apt for his sushi performances. If you're a duo, sit at the 15-seat bar and let Tojo-san dazzle your palate with his omakase. Among the best selections are Tojo tuna and "special beef" (thinly sliced beef wrapped around asparagus and shrimp). Tojo also created the "BC roll" (barbecued salmon skin, green onions, cucumber and daikon) now found in almost every Japanese restaurant in Vancouver. Everyday specials are first-rate. Don't miss pine mushroom soup in the fall, steamed monkfish liver served from October to May, and scallops and sautéed halibut cheeks with shiitake mushrooms in the spring. The wine list needs some attention, but maybe that's why cold Masukagami saké is hot at Tojo's.

Off the Clock

Granville Island
www.granvilleisland.com

Boats in port at Granville Island in VancouverWhether you're seeking a glass of sake or 5,000 tons of foundation-ready cement, Granville Island is the place to go. Originally called "Industrial Island," it was once an assortment of factories and warehouses. This changed in the mid-1970s when two local visionaries decided the mudflat had development potential. The federal government also got on board with the idea and those warehouses haven't been the same since. Out went the bolts, anvils and boilers, and in came the art supplies, organic fruit and vegetables, artisanal bakeries and flame-juggling buskers. Canada's first sake winery, Artisan SakeMaker Studio, can be found tucked between a goldsmith and a potter. Stop in to sample the three handcrafted sakes, labeled as Osake: Junmai Nama; Junmai Nama Genshu; Junmai Nama Nigorit or the Junmai sparkling sake. What developed is possibly the most successful urban redevelopment in North America, and has drawn international attention from planners globally.

The Grouse Grind
6400 Nancy Greene Way
North Vancouver
604-984-0661
www.grousemountain.com

Grouse Mountain is located just outside VancouverTake your colleagues on a hike or go on an after-hours adventure and head for the Grouse Grind, the city's sweatiest see-and-be-seen hiking strip. Each year, approximately 100,000 enthusiasts scramble up the rocky 1.8-mile incline from the foot of Grouse to the beer and nachos nirvana of Altitudes Bistro. The Grouse Grind is particularly popular on summer evenings when the Skyride parking lot fills by 5:30 pm. Within an hour, 400-plus are normally cruising the trail. But don't join the flock if you're not ready for a workout. It's not called the Grind for nothing. We recommend sensible shoes and at least one water bottle for the trek; one and a half hours is the average hiking time. Those in a rush should know the record: 26 minutes, 19 seconds. It's free to hike, but if you don't want to schlep back down, spend $5 and climb aboard the gondola for the return trip down the hill. The trail is closed all winter and for parts of spring and fall, but Grouse's Skyride leaves every 15 minutes to the Peak Chalet, a fine spot for a meal or a drink with a priceless view of the city.

Rodney's Oyster House
1228 Hamilton St.
604-609-0080
www.rodneysoysterhouse.com

Unwind with local professionals and grab a stool at this nautical-themed oyster bar located in a restored century-old Yaletown warehouse. Locals start with a dozen each of Pacific Northwest and East Coasters, followed by restorative bowls of creamy, booze-laden chowder or oyster stew served with thickly-sliced sourdough. Crab cakes, steamed mussels and clams, local Dungeness crab, and plump Atlantic lobsters (and yes, sirloin) round out the menu. There are a few tables upstairs, but the bar is where the action, and the fun, happens. Beer, wine and the signature Caesar cocktail are the beverages of choice.

Stanley Park Seawall
www.city.vancouver.bc.ca

The Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver is popular with joggers and cyclistsLeave negotiations and business attire behind and head for one of the city's most beloved parks. It's a rite of passage in Vancouver to walk, run or cycle around the 6.5-mile seawall in Stanley Park. Watch seaplanes taking off and landing in Burrard Inlet, stop and smell the rose gardens, brace yourself for the Nine O'clock Gun, shout out at Hallelujah Point and gulp great breaths of cedar-scented air while trying not to disturb nesting Canada geese around Lost Lagoon. To escape the crowds, venture off the pavement onto easy hiking and walking trails inside the park's core. Many bike-rental shops are found near the Georgia/Denman Street entrance to Stanley Park if cycling is your passion or pastime.


Check out our 72-Hour Trip to Vancouver
Going to British Columbia? Check our Guide



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* Granville Island image by Flying Penguin of Pacific Spirit Photography; Grouse Mountain image by Chris Stubbs; Stanley Park image by Michael Rogers

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