Ride the rails to the best of the West
Eat your way through an ?international culinary hot spot
The other Vancouver is easier to get to than you think, courtesy of the Amtrak Cascades, which steams out of Portland every day at 2:50 p.m. With no lengthy stopovers, you’ll make the run to the border, along the pristine Puget Sound waters, in about eight hours. It’ll be close to 11 p.m. when you arrive at the Vancouver depot. Fortunately, it’s only a 10-minute cab ride to many of Vancouver’s best downtown eating and drinking spots, which stay open—and serving—until 3 a.m.
An enormous cluster of gleaming skyscrapers ringed by the northern Cascades and expansive bay (part of the Salish Sea), Vancouver is not only one of the most beautiful cities on the West Coast but also one of the most edible. Thanks to the province’s lax immigration laws, thousands of newcomers, largely from Asia (20 percent of Vancouver’s inhabitants are of Chinese ancestry), have settled here since the 1990s, giving Vancouver’s culinary scene a truly international flavor. And October is the ideal time to eat your way through this maritime majesty—just after the height of the summer tourist season but before the rain begins. The best part? Vancouver’s foodie hot spots are all easily accessible by foot. (The blocks are much longer than Portland’s, though, so you’ll want to pack a sturdy pair of walking shoes.)
Start your gastro-adventure by checking in to the 17-story Fairmont Waterfront perched high above Coal Harbour, and then make the short walk down Cordova Street to the city’s oldest section, Gastown. This 125-year-old neighborhood houses one of the world’s only steam-powered clocks—it blows its whistle every 15 minutes—and has served as an epicenter for imbibing, at places like the six-tap Pourhouse, since the Great Depression.
For a more sophisticated experience, squeeze into the always-buzzing Bao Bei in Chinatown. This cozy brasserie serves plates of Chinese-inspired beef tartare and Manila clams in ginger sauce; just show up before the hunger pangs hit, because they don’t take reservations. Or check out the burgeoning and heavily Asian-influenced food-cart scene scattered throughout downtown, where Cartel Taco churns out its famous bulgogi tacos. Also not to be missed: the Japa Dog stand, a purveyor of thick brats piled high with Japanese condiments like seaweed, edamame, and grated radishes. Eat your grub on the go, or head over to Stanley Park for a picnic in the 1,000-acre urban forest. By the time you’ve finished exploring the 14 miles of crisscrossing walking paths, dotted by lakeside benches and ocean scenes, you’ll have worked up an appetite for your next course. —Martin Patail
Pre-dinner cocktails don’t get much better than at Boneta, where acclaimed bar manager Simon Kaulbeck mixes up classics and originals in a sleek Gastown space. Nearby, at L’Abattoir, chef Lee Cooper serves French-inspired fare from a converted slaughterhouse.
Newly renovated in July, the luxury Rosewood Hotel Georgia (from $217) has welcomed everyone from Elvis to Katharine Hepburn. For smaller, more modern surroundings, check in to the boutique Opus Hotel (from $222) in Yaletown.
Hop aboard a shuttle at one of several downtown pickup locations for a vertigo-inducing skyride up to Grouse Mountain to get a bird’s-eye view of the city.