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Granville's Greatest Hits

Even though the bustling Public Market  makes a fine destination in itself, Granville Island offers much more. To really get a feel for this neighborhood, stroll along the side streets and explore the alleys and lanes away from the main entrance. Check out the recommended attractions below:

  • Railspur Alley's artist studios are perfect for browsing; stop in at Alarte Silk in the Alley Gallery (1369 Railspur Alley; tel. 778/370-4304) to see some of the beautifully hand-painted wearable silk art; check out the wares at Artisan Sake (1339 Railspur Alley; tel. 604/685-7253), Canada's first boutique premium sake winery; or pause at the Agro Café (1363 Railspur Alley; tel. 604/669-0724) for a latte.
  • Art exhibits in the North Building at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design (1399 Johnston St.; tel. 604/844-3800; www.ecuad.ca) showcase the works of the institute's grads and students. You may be looking at the next Andy Warhol at the Media and Concourse Galleries while the Charles H. Scott Gallery shows exhibits of international work.
  • In summer, check the Carousel Theatre (tel. 604/685-6217; www.carouseltheatre.ca) schedule for free outdoor Shakespearean plays by a cast of teen actors or see what's playing at the Arts Club Theatre (tel. 604/687-1644; www.artsclub.com), Performance Works (tel. 604/687-3020; www.performanceworks.ca), or the Waterfront Theatre (tel. 604/685-1731; www.waterfronttheatre.ca).
  • Paddle off into the sunset by renting a kayak from one of the marinas on the west side of the island. Beginners can take lessons or head out on a guided tour. Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre (tel. 604/689-7575; www.ecomarine.com) has everything to get you started. A 3-hour kayak lesson teaches you the basic strokes. Or explore the waters of False Creek and English Bay on a 2 1/2-hour tour with a guide. Experienced paddlers can rent single or double kayaks as well as standup paddleboards.
  • Granville Island is one big playground. On a rainy day, duck into the Kids Market to check out toys, kites, clothes, art supplies, and an indoor play area. On warm days, the water park is the place to be.

Historic Landmarks & Attractions

The Burnaby Village Museum (6501 Deer Lake Ave., Burnaby; tel. 604/293-6501; www.burnabyvillagemuseum.ca), is a 4-hectare (10-acre) re-creation of the town as it might have appeared in the 1920s. You can walk along boardwalk streets among costumed townspeople, shop in a general store, ride a vintage carousel, peek into an authentic one-room schoolhouse, and visit a vintage ice-cream parlor that's been in the same location since the turn of the 20th century. At Christmastime, the whole village is aglow in lights and Victorian decorations. Admission fees -- waived in 2011 to celebrate the museum's 40th anniversary -- are C$12 for adults; C$9 for seniors, students, and children 13 to 18; C$6 for children 6 to 12; and free for children 5 and under. From May to early September, it's open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 4:30pm; October 28 through October 30 ("Haunted Village") from 6 to 9pm; last weekend in November through mid-December noon to 4:30pm; and mid-December through January 1 ("Holiday Village") from noon to 8pm. It's closed December 24 and 25. From the Metrotown SkyTrain Station, take bus no. 144 SFU to Deer Lake.

The Fort Langley National Historic Site (23433 Mavis Ave., Fort Langley; tel. 604/513-4777; www.pc.gc.ca/fortlangley) is the birthplace of British Columbia. In 1827, the Hudson's Bay Company established this settlement to supply its provincial posts. Costumed craftspeople demonstrate blacksmithing, coopering, and woodworking, bringing this landmark back to life. It's open year-round; daily from 9am to 6pm in July and August, 10am to 5pm the rest of the year. Admission is C$7.80 adults, C$6.55 seniors, C$3.90 children 6 to 16, and free for children 5 and under; a family pass is C$20. To get there, take the SkyTrain to Surrey Central Station and transfer to bus nos. 501, 502, or 320 to Langley Centre, and then pick up the C62 Walnut Grove to 6 Ave. and Glover Rd. Note: The main street of Fort Langley Village, Glover Road, is packed with antiques shops, a bookstore, and cafes, and it's only a 2-minute stroll away.

Outlying Attractions: The Riches of Richmond

If you arrive in Vancouver by plane, you’ll actually be landing in the city of Richmond. It’s just too bad that the airport is all that many visitors—and, indeed, locals—ever see of this fascinating community.

Richmond is by way of being Vancouver’s new Chinatown. Some of the residents moved here from the old Chinatown in downtown Vancouver, but the population really exploded in the mid-to-late 1990s, around the time of the transfer of Hong Kong’s sovereignty back to China, when thousands of wealthy, well-educated Chinese immigrated to Canada. Today, 50 percent of Richmond’s population identifies as Chinese, although there is also a sizable population of Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, and South Asians as well.

If you visit the heart of Richmond, the so-called Golden Village, you’ll feel like you landed in a pocket of Hong Kong without paying for airfare. It’s modern, sophisticated, and high-tech, with several malls that cater specifically to Asian customers, including Aberdeen Centre, Yaohan Centre, and Parker Place. (Even more exciting for fashionistas is the new McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Mall, www.mcarthurglen.com, set to open in Spring 2015 near the airport.)

The shopping is fun, but an even better reason to visit is the food: Richmond is said to have the best Chinese food in the world, a result of the felicitous combination of top-notch Chinese chefs and the exceptional local ingredients they get to work with. The Chinese call the food “clean.” It’s also delicious, whether you’re enjoying the lunch of nibbles known as dim sum, a 10-course Cantonese banquet, the delectable Shanghai soup dumplings called xiao long bao, spicy Szechuan dan-dan noodles, a sizzling hot pot, the quirky English-Chinese fusion of the Hong Kong cafes, or simply a bowl of mild, comforting congee.

On the other hand, if you prefer traditional, English-style fare, you can head to the historic fishing village of Steveston and enjoy a pint and a basket of crispy halibut and chips on a sunny patio along the marina. This is still one of Canada’s busiest fishing ports—at the turn of the 20th century, it was the busiest in the world—and it’s great fun to watch the boats chugging in and out of the harbor, and the customers lining up for salmon, crab, halibut, or spot prawns in season. The village itself is quaint and cute and fun to explore. Be sure to check out the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site (12138 4th Ave., Richmond; tel. 604/664-9009; www.gulfofgeorgiacannery.com). It’s the last remaining cannery of the dozens that once lined this coast, where Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, and First Nations lived and worked together preparing herring and salmon for a hungry marketplace.

Fishing has always been a big industry here, and so is farming—even today, more than a third of Richmond is farmland. A great place to explore the past and future of farming is at Terra Nova Rural Park (www.richmond.ca), where several community-minded farming projects are underway, as well as an ongoing restoration of a historic farm and orchard. You can reach it via the easy, flat dyke pathway that circles most of Richmond. The trail is just one of the many parks, gardens, and green spaces in what is nicknamed the “Garden City.”

For more information, Tourism Richmond (tel. 604/821-5474; www.tourismrichmond.com) has an excellent dining guide to the best restaurants, as well as a comprehensive visitor’s guide to all the community’s many attractions.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.