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North Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver’s Next Hot Neighborhood Offers Fun Inside and Out

From New York City’s Hudson Yards to Georgetown in Seattle, industrial zones are all the rage in American urban renewal design. The Shipyards District in North Vancouver (aka The North Shore or North Van) may offer the best example of this metamorphosis, with a landmark yellow crane as huge as North Vancouver’s potential to become Vancouver’s latest hotspot. It wasn’t so long ago the SeaBus passenger ferry left Lower Lonsdale Quay full of downtown-bound revelers in the evening and returned empty. These days, the 15-minute sailing has plenty of northbound passengers coming to North Van for its long-famous outdoor recreation, to discover new restaurants and experience the excellent pedestrian-friendly shopping scene.

Northshore vancouver bc Cliffwalk cliff walk credit courtesy Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Cliffwalk at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (photo courtesy of Capilano Suspension Bridge Park)

Get Out and Go

You first see the lights sparkling in the sky as you enter Delta some 15 miles south of Vancouver. There they dangle, a mysterious chandelier above the North Shore Mountains. A seasoned eye recognizes these jewels as the Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour ski areas blazing above North Vancouver, to the delight of night skiers. But it isn’t only winter when these alpine institutions glisten. Head up anytime to find miles of hiking trails and, in the case of Grouse, one of the best sunset perches on the planet. Grouse is also home to Eye of the Wind, a 20-story, 360-degree viewing pod attached to the windmill that powers the resort. Try your wings at paragliding, cruise down a zip line or hop up on the roof for a very special ride up the Super Skyride. Like Grouse Mountain up the road, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park keeps adding new experiences to justify return visits. The latest is the Cliffwalk, a cantilevered, arcing walkway around the rockface above the Capilano River Gorge. Numerous free trails traverse North Vancouver, including a gentle stroll through Capilano River Regional Park north of the attraction. The waterfront Spirit Trail is a fully accessible bike, hike and in-line skate path that courses from Horseshoe Bay some 27 miles south to Deep Cove.

Croissants at Lift Breakfast Bakery in North Vancouver, British Columbia
Croissants at Lift Breakfast Bakery in North Vancouver, British Columbia (photo courtesy of Lift Breakfast Bakery)

Food, Flavors And Featherbeds

American visitors who decided to save by staying in the more affordable North Vancouver when the 105-room Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier first opened in 2010 could feel a little flummoxed when pressed to find local dining after a day on Grouse Mountain or downtown across Vancouver Harbour. What a difference a decade makes. The Pinnacle was followed by Seaside Hotel, the North Shore’s first true luxury boutique property comprised of 71 mostly oceanfront rooms and suites. Unlike 10 years ago, the Lower Lonsdale culinary scene is ready to entice Seaside guests to stay local for meals, too. The Gull Bar & Kitchen is a former watering hole for longshoremen that relaunched in 2018 after a reality show-level makeover. Pull tabs have been replaced by pork belly BLTs for lunch and roasted leg of duck confit with festival squash, radicchio and duck stroganoff sauce for dinner, but the rectangular room and commodious bar still teem with conversation most nights. Around the corner, Lower Lonsdale Avenue lights up with one independent restaurant after another. The Burgoo Bistro brought its modern comfort food cachet across the water from its popular downtown locations. Gusto Di Quattro and the neighboring Anatoli Souvlaki nail Italian and Greek, while a block away Fishworks puts out a seafood paella that can stand up to any menu star in the Pacific Northwest. As far as breakfast goes: Lift Breakfast Bakery, hands — and feet — down. Diverse restaurants are grand, but breweries fuel a neighborhood’s renaissance in Cascadia. Green Leaf Brewing, Beere Brewing Co., Streetcar Brewing and House of Funk Brewing have taken advantage of city code changes that encourage startup establishments to flourish (remember to plan a safe ride home if you enjoy some hoppy brews). This easing of formerly strict residential standards has also converted sidewalks to resto terraces throughout Lower Lonsdale.

Northshore vancouver bc Friday night market credit Vision Event Photography
North Vancouver’s Friday Night Market (photo by Vision Event Photography)

Friday Nights And Festivals

The Shipyards were responsible for over one-third of Canada’s “Victory Ships” produced during World War II. Though naval ships and super ferries are no longer fabricated here, you can still see massive vessels being overhauled in the adjacent dry dock. The Shipyards at the Waterfront celebrates the working heritage of the North Shore with several permanent exhibits. The harborfront also hosts many events including the hugely popular Friday Night Market, which runs from the first weekend in May to late September. The Night Market is really more of a festival with live music, more than three dozen food trucks, vendors and artisan crafts, plus a full-on farmers market next door at the Lonsdale Quay Market. Like its breweries and distilleries, the North Shore keeps adding festivals at a rapid rate. Pride at the Pier celebrates LGBT diversity in July. The Caribbean Days Festival adds island rhythms to the mix the last weekend in July, and the entire district throws a massive party during the Shipyards Festival in September.

–Written by Crai Bower

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.

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