Vancouver is hosting the big ‘ole Olympics this February 12-28. It is actually the biggest city to ever host the Winter Olympics, so you can be sure there’s going to be a lot going on. Here’s a taste of what to do while you’re visiting Vancouver and how to connect with and discover local secrets. If you’re not coming to Vancouver, this could be the magical ways you can experience a very intimate and local Olympics experience through the eyes of a bunch of dedicated and internet-vocal Vancouver locals.
You need to be prepared for a few things:
- Vancouver is going to be a 24/7 party
- It can rain (a whole lot) in February
- You really have no idea what to expect, and neither do the locals
Not everyone in Vancouver is so excited to have the Olympics, mainly because of the IOC’s and VANOC’s shenanigans. However, you can’t resist the remarkable stories to come from athletic inspired achievements. You also won’t be able to resist seeing a stunning and photogenic Vancouver — hopefully you will give back, with your time and money, to the people and businesses that make this world-class city thrive.
Pick up some local newspapers and weeklies and have a look at Georgia Straight (one of the best weeklies in Vancouver) Best of Vancouver for ideas where to eat, hang, and do. Check out some Google Maps of certain celebrities’ favourite spots in the city. Drink Vancouver’s delicious tap water, and find fountains around the city using this map. Read Vancouver authors, subscribe to some Vancouver bloggers, Twitterers, photographers, videographers, and designers. Vancouver is a social media savvy city, and they are beautifully eloquent. Read about what’s going directly from the people (contact me if I’ve missed you!).
Vancouver doesn’t just have top sushi, ramen, and pho. Try elsewhere on Yelp etc. for other local favourites, including ‘Gourmand’ Gastown. Or crowd source some ideas, Mitch Joel style. And please try to avoid McDonald’s, unless you’re trying to track down athletes at the McDonald’s next to the athlete’s village, bound to be full of athletes seeking familiar (though likely performance un-enhancing) fares. For available water fountains around town, check out this great mashup map.
True North Media House, or TNMH, @tnmh, or #tnmh, is likely to be an exciting Olympics source to follow. They’ll (we’ll) be organizing many planned and impromptu meetups, photowalks, parties, and events around town. They’re both local, knowledgeable semi-pro journalists, bloggers, photographers, but also an extension to anyone visiting Vancouver who wants to be part of the future of Olympics coverage through citizen journalism.
We at NorthGeek have assembled three key Twitter lists to follow:
- @NorthGeek/van2010: a great collection of Olympics-interested Twitterers worth following
- @NorthGeek/tnmh: True North Media House fellas
- @NorthGeek/olympic-athletes: Olympics athletes
ESCAPE IN THE CITY
Some of the best things to do in Vancouver aren’t in Vancouver. Escape the downtown core for some breathtaking adventures:
- Head up to Grouse Mountain, home of the NBC armchair commentators and 24 hour a day skiing and skating. And it’s just 15 minutes from downtown.
- Will anyone be up skiing on Mt Seymour? It’s beautiful up there and you might have some peace and quiet on the slopes.
- Museum of Anthropology out at University of British Columbia
- Explore Stanley Park, adjacent to the downtown core, by rental bike or foot, along its myriad of trials, hidden gems, and surrounding paved seawall
- Take a day trip to Bowen Island or the Sunshine Coast
- Hop in a seaplane for a tour the mountain-meet-ocean city: Harbour Air, West Coast Air, Saltspring Air
GET THE BLOOD PUMPING
Run the False Creek Seawall, UBC Endowment Lands, Stanley Park Seawall, or any of the many green spaces around the city. Hop in the 50m pool at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre. Enjoy Yoga like pretty much every other Vancouverite. Y Yoga is having a great promo during the Olympics: free yoga classes for all!
There are many ways to avoid data roaming on your cell phone. Consider picking up a prepaid SIM card (if your phone is of the unlocked GSM variety) from a company you don’t see sponsoring the Games: Fido, Rogers, or Telus. Sure, Bell and Virgin Mobile (which they own) are fine, but I think enough people will be drawn by their ‘official carrier’ status.
Vancouver also has tons of free WiFi hotspots. Check out this map for hotpots. Pretty much every coffee shop in Vancouver has it. Also some friendly (or unknowing) residents have unlocked access points, often with the names ‘default,’ ‘netgear,’ ‘linksys,’ etc. so just stick those to auto connect and thank someone! The Vancouver City Libraries also all have free WiFi. Sign up online or in person to get an access code. Or pick up an application for your smartphone that keeps track of WiFi hotspots (JiWire for the iPhone, etc).
Vancouver has an excellent network of public transportation and walkable routes. And the Olympics sure are going to try to keep you from driving. Check out the Skytrain (connecting with East Vancouver and further east), Canada Line (to the airport and Richmond), the temporary Olympic Line light-rail along False Creek South between Granville Island and the Athlete’s Village, and the False Creek ferry tugboats. Here’s a great link with transportation info.
Leave Vancouver with some souvenirs of the city: art, photography, clothes, beer, and wine from locals. Check out small galleries around town and local artists. Pick up some stunning city photographs from Picture Listen. If you can’t find what you want, hire a local photographer and do your own shoot. Buy locally brewed beer and BC wine. Check out all the great clothing lines (in Gastown and small boutiques scattered along Robson). If you’re going with the big retailers, try the big Canadian vendors pushed out of the Olympics like Roots or Lululemon. Check out the Canamade market, promoting locally produced goods.
HOMELESS IN VANCOUVER
Unfortunately, homelessness is a major problem in Vancouver and has been at the center of many arguments against hosting the Olympics here and spending the dollars required for the Games. If you’re visiting Vancouver this February, do consider helping someone out, with some change or some food.
BEST WAY TO SPEND YOUR MONEY ON OLYMPICS
Even better than supporting the Olympics through merchandise and tickets, considering supporting your countries’ athletes. In Canada, you can donate directly to CAN Fund, or have your eye on independent funds like B2ten which will be on the rise as long as Canadian athletes continue not receiving the support they need from the government (or as provided in other countries).