Dine Out Vancouver is the widely known Vancouver restaurant festival. But there's also a version in the BC capital, and it runs now until March 9. Dine Around Town Victoria follows a similar format to dining festivals throughout North America -- where restaurants offer fixed-price, three-course menus.
Victoria eateries have curated $20, $30, $40, and $50 menus for Dine Around Town. And there are also corresponding hotel deals starting at $69.
Visitors and locals will find some excellent options among the restaurants, including the Bengal Lounge at the Fairmont Empress, Zambri's in the Atrium Building, and Blue Crab Seafood House (which is serving up lobster and crab on its $50 menu).
More About Victoria
- Things to Do in Victoria
- Where to Eat in Victoria
- Review: Victoria's Ghostly Walks
- Haunted Places in Victoria
More on Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is a favorite road trip destination for many reasons. The scenery, the food, the fresh air all add to the appeal of an island getaway. But gas prices are usually cheaper on the island (often 10 cents/liter or more), which helps those traveling on a budget.
Uncrowded roads, rugged scenery, and plenty of wildlife all add in to the appeal of great Vancouver Island destinations like Sooke, Tofino, and Victoria. And for Vancouverites, the island is an easy distance to visit in a weekend.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park is a free public park next door to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which charges an admission fee. Is this a spot to trim your travel budget? Or to skip the free attraction and pay the admission charge?
I've written about both the garden (5 stars) and the park (3 stars). And while each person will have their own preference, I find that it's the guided tour that makes the Classical Chinese Garden worth the admission fee. Especially if you have even a moderate interest in gardens or architecture.
More About Chinatown:
If you want to get an idea of how big a deal Chinese New Year is in Vancouver, consider this: there are more public events to celebrate the Lunar New Year than the calendar new year (Jan. 1).
Community performances at shopping malls, flower shows, and lion dances are just some of those events. But my favorite is the noisy and colorful Chinese New Year Parade that takes place in Vancouver's historic Chinatown.
The parade is different every year because costumes reflect the current Chinese Zodiac. Expect to see ponies galore in 2014, as the lunar calendar moves into the Year of the Horse. The parade happens in Chinatown this Sunday, Feb 2, 2014, starting at 11 a.m.
Vancouver's Dine Out Festival grows every year -- both in number of restaurants offering interesting fixed-price menus and in associated events.
This year is no exception, and I'm very intrigued looking through the list of events, performances, tours, and social outings.
A few that look particularly appealing to me include:
- Food tours: If you ever start your meal with a photo, then the Food-tography culinary photography tour will appeal as it explores both the looks and tastes of various dishes. For a more traditional food tour, discover the eclectic dining scene of Main Street with Off the Eaten Track.
- Street Food Pod: More than a dozen Vancouver food trucks gather outside the Vancouver Art Gallery to serve up delicious eats street-side. Food carts are generally spread out through the city, so it's rare to find so many in one place.
- Performances: Dinner theater is an entertainment classic though it can be a little kitschy. But the Dine Out performances make food and art a modern affair. Performances range from Shakespearean works to jazz shows.
- Snowshoe Fondue: There's a one-night-only cheese fondue and snowshoe event on Grouse Mountain. The menu sounds delicious, and the winter trek in snowshoes will surely work up an appetite.
- High Tea: British Columbia has adopted Afternoon Tea traditions from England, but this after-work event features something a littler stronger: tea-infused cocktails. It's hosted by the Urban Tea Merchant.
- Secret Supper Soirée: Order up a little mystery with your dinner as you hop aboard a bus and head to an unrevealed location for a multi-course meal and wine tastings.
More Vancouver Dining:
The hotel deals in particular are of interest to travelers. While good deals are not uncommon in this less-busy season (January-February), snagging a downtown hotel for less than $80 is a true bargain.
Hotels participating in Dine Out Vancouver this year include a broad range of options, and are split into three pricing categories ($78, $108, and $138).
Some of my personal favorites include the historic rooms at The Sylvia Hotel on lovely English Bay, the awesomely located Granville Island Hotel, and the art-filled Listel Hotel. And the $138 rate at Opus Hotel is a fantastic deal for one of Vancouver's most stylish properties.
Here are more of my favorite hotel picks at each price range:
- Coast Plaza Hotel & Suites
- Georgian Court Hotel
- Granville Island Hotel
- The Listel Hotel
- Rosellen Suites at Stanley Park
- Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel
There are cold water Polar Bear Swims around the world, but one of the world's longest-running is right here in Vancouver. The city's Polar Bear Swim dates back to 1920, when Peter Pantages organized the first event for the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club. To kick off 2014, Vancouver chalks up its 94th year.
Thousands gather each year on January 1 at English Bay Beach to take a New Year's Day dip. There is an impressive mix of supporters and swimmers, many dressed in costume.
I've never taken the plunge, but I can guarantee that it is a chilly one. Though the ocean temperatures in Vancouver don't reach freezing, the average is about 6°C (43°F) at this time of year with lows down to 3°C (38°F) and highs of 9°C (48°F). Either way, it's cold.
To participate or watch, simply head down to English Bay January 1 by 2:3o p.m. and register as a club member (free). Even if you miss the grand rush of swimmers at 2:30 p.m., latecomers and those heading in for a second dip continue to sprint into (and then quickly out of) English Bay until close to sunset.
What money, cards, or travelers cheques should you bring to Vancouver and Canada?
The answer does depend on your own payment preferences, but I find using a debit card with Canadian ATMs is the easiest way to access cash while on vacation in Vancouver. You can also pay with credit cards, or get local currency at an exchange bureau.
For more, here's more on where to find ATMs and exchange currency in Vancouver.
There's nothing more Canadian than skating outdoors. And, in recent years, there's been a surge of free, public, outdoor ice-skating rinks in BC.
The lovely downtown Vancouver rink at Robson Square re-opened for the 2010 Olympics (and has been a local favorite every winter since), and 2011 welcomed a free ice-skating rink in Whistler. I've skated on and enjoyed both immensely. If you bring your own skates, it's free. Otherwise, rentals are available on-site.
While you can't beat free, there is also a huge pond-style rink at Grouse Mountain and the spirit is much more Christmas-y, with Santa's workshop and real reindeer.
For more details, see a full list of where to go outdoor ice-skating in Vancouver and Whistler.
Go to see the Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge just before dusk, and then stay as the daylight fades and holiday lights brighten the chilly night. I visited the suspension bridge on a day with a light dusting of snow, so everything looked especially festive.
New this year, the park has decorated a giant Douglas fir tree, and it's laying claim to the title of world's largest living Christmas tree.
The holiday attraction is open until the New Year. There are lights throughout the park, including along the Treetops Adventure pathways and platforms, around the small trout pond, and on the canyon walls by the Cliff Walk. Allow at least two hours for a visit -- one hour to walk the bridge, Cliff Walk, and Treetops before dark, and another hour to go through again to see the lights illuminate the night.
Canyon Lights Details:
Address: 3735 Capilano Rd.
Dates: Nov. 30, 2013 to Jan. 4, 2014, closed Dec. 25
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., with holiday lights and activities after 4 p.m.
Admission: $65 family rate (2 adults, 2 children)
More Holiday Activities: