With fewer than 400 days before hosting the 2010 winter Olympics, Vancouver is starting to reap the rewards of new hotels, restaurants and nightclubs.
The city's glassy skyline of residential towers and banking headquarters looks like a booming metropolis on one of the world's most picturesque bays. But on the ground, Vancouver maintains its small-town flavor of gas-lamp neighborhoods, indoor malls and coffeehouses where everyone is on a first-name basis.
Getting to Vancouver
Vancouver is a mix of Hong Kong and San Francisco, offering an Eastern-influenced city of high-rise architecture with the muted charm and renegade spirit of the Wild West. There is no bad time to visit Vancouver, although winters tend to be wet and gray with seasonal storms dumping on the local mountains leading to Whistler. Spring and summer are the busiest seasons as a gateway for Alaska-bound cruise ships and adventure recreations to the nearby harbor islands and mountains. U.S. travelers are required to present a valid passport upon entry.
Check-in downtown Vancouver
Vancouver's hotel market is sizzling. It wasn't long ago that we arrived to the glitzy skyline eager to check in to the city's Four Seasons Hotel during a winter ski break. We arrived to a dark concrete valet and escalator area attached to the city's main shopping mall. The high-rise building, enveloped in tinted bay windows, was accessed via a lobby decorated in hundreds of thematic Christmas trees for an annual charity event. Luckily, the lobby was recently updated with the all-new YEW restaurant and bar, but guest rooms are still quintessentially Victorian with cherry furnishings and floral-print curtains.