“Whistler, British Columbia, Canada with side trips to Vancouver and Victoria, Any tips?”

When I was in Canada on assignment for Essence Magazine a few years ago, I discovered some resources, tips and side trip ideas from locals and wanted to share them with you.  Below you will find info on Whistler, Vancouver and Victoria. Canada’s proximity and prices make it attractive to Americans, not only for leisure travel, but also for business and medical travel as well. Canadian costs for labor, computers, electronics, jewelry, cars, furs, elective surgery and/or sports equipment are all considerably cheaper than in the U.S. So you might want to consider planning your spending accordingly.

Vancouver is a spectacular cosmopolitan seaport town nestled between sea and mountains in British Columbia’s southwest corner. Open spaces and parks abound-the largest, Stanley Park, encompasses 1,000 acres of woodlands, gardens and trails. Vancouver’s natural beauty is matched by its cultural richness. Consider a visit to Granville Island, home to a thriving artist colony with working studios, commercial galleries, quaint shops and a raucous and bountiful public market. Check out Vancouver’s Chinatown, the second largest in North America. Wander through Gastown, Vancouver’s historic center, with its numerous cafes, boutiques and antique shops. And if high-fashion shopping is your thing, Robson is the street to beat. If you are in the mood for some yummy soul food, consider checking out Big Al’s Cajan Cuisine (604 258 0100) or Nice and Spicy Reggae CafÈ (604 877 0189). Two wonderful restaurants I visited are Rain City Grill (they specialize in local wines and traditional Canadian foods) and Maurya Indian Cuisine. (604 742 0622) (FYI – Vancouver’s over 30,000 Black Canadians host the “Caribbean Days,” a major annual event held the last weekend of July.)

Victoria It’s a delightful ninety-minute ferry ride (15 minute plane ride) to Victoria, a vintage European style city located on Vancouver Island. The magnificent Buchart Gardens alone are worth the journey. After a leisurely stroll through the garden, with its million plus flowers, awesome landscape designs, and fountains and fireworks set to music, take some tea at the fabled Empress Hotel overlooking Victoria’s gorgeous harbor. Time your trip right and you can watch the whales. For an authentic Canadian “first nations” experience, consider a ? day tour of neighboring community of T’Souke where you can check out cultural presentations on carving, legends and food preparation as well as visit local artisans and partake in a cedar-stick salmon BBQ on the beach. (www.islandadventuretours.com)

Whistler – That sea to ski ride from Vancouver to Whistler is one of my favorite drives.  The scenery is phenomenal.

Below are a few listing for the snow skiing enthusiast who visit Whistler in the winter. (the area code is 604)

 MECCA MASSAGE is a professional mobile massage company, they will go to your suite and soothe those sore muscles with either a classic, sports, shiatsu or deep tissue massage, reflexology or hot stone therapy. They also offer pre-natal or couples/groups massages. (902-4477) VIDA WELLNESS SPA, located in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler which opened on October 22, 2002. The Vida Wellness Spa utilizes a holistic approach that blends the ancient Indian principles of Ayurveda together with modern health and healing practices. Consider pampering your sore muscles at their new state of the art facility, which has a wide variety of massages, facials and body wraps. (938-2086) WHISTLER LASER CENTER provides convenient personalized skin treatments in a comfortable confidential setting. Botox (group discounts), restylene/perlene, photo rejuvenation, smoothbeam, micorabrasion, laser hair removal. Drop in for free consultation, Whistler Village across from the Body Shop) www.whistlerlasercenter.com. Dr. William McGillviray (905 1500) CANADIAN SNOWMOBILES offer a wicked tour/fondue dinner at the Crystal Hut on Blackcomb mountain, at night, so you can go up on a single snowmobile or as a group in a snow-cat, and enjoy a nice meal plus a fantastic experience. This has to be one of my favorite things to do, the perspective from up top at night is simply magical. (938-1616) COUGAR MOUNTAIN can set you up to snowshoeing, which is also a super fun thing to do. They say if you can walk, you can snowshoe! Great exercise and beautiful scenery. (1 888 297 222) BLACKCOMB SLEIGH RIDES guarantees you a good time for all ages. Scenic views, hot chocolate in a typical mountain cabin, great fun. (932-8484) FANATYK CO will take care of all your ski and boots needs, they are considered by locals to be the best boot-fitters in town, and a great shop to visit. (938-1616)
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