Affectionately nicknamed Van City, Vancouver—Canada's Pacific Northwest jewel—has just put away the summertime gear in time to usher in fall with oodles of other delights. Take in activities both indoor and out, and—diets be damned—decadent confections, too. Read on for the five best reasons to go to Vancouver in autumn.
Tuck Into Pastries, Chocolates & Coffee
Set within an industrial building that doubles as a prep kitchen for Vancouver's new wave of food trucks, the two-year-old Beta 5 creates innovative confections like ruby dust-finished, chocolate-covered, freeze-dried strawberries; fruit-infused caramels; and decadent cream puffs. German chocolatier/pastry chef Thomas Haas, meanwhile, with namesake cafés located in both Kitsilano and North Vancouver, is beloved for his macaroons, chocolates, and double-baked almond croissants. Speaking of croissants, the pain au chocolat at café/patisserie Beaucoup Bakery & Café—opened in 2012 by Paris-trained pastry chef Jackie Ellis—is dangerously delicious. The buttery Kouigin-amann and peanut butter sandwich cookies are equally scrumptious, while coffee libations, utilizing beans from Vancouver roaster/coffee shop 49th Parallel, are on par with Europe's finest.
Opened in 2013 by Chef Eleanor Chow, the Gastown district's open-kitchen Cadeaux Bakery brings contemporary twists to both European and American classics, like the Bacon Croissant Twist, White Chocolate Orange cookies, and the must-try London Fog Cake (vanilla cake with Earl Grey milk chocolate ganache, white chocolate mousse, and Chantilly cream). For some local Asian fusion, try the dark chocolate truffles at Granville Island's Artisan Sake Maker, made with sake kasu, the fermented rice mash left following sake pressing—slightly chewy with notes of black cherry flavor, you may just get hooked!
Fuel Up in Gastown
After a few years of high-speed, indie boutique-fueled gentrification, the historic Gastown district has officially up-and-come. "It's the new Yaletown," one local quipped, while in August, director Tim Burton used the cobblestone-lined 'hood as a film location for his upcoming film Big Eyes. Grab a coffee at Revolver, deemed by many local java aficionados as Vancouver's best, and a spring onion-and-dill scone at Cadeaux Bakery. For lunch, try savory sushi at Sea Monstr Sushi, or the amazing salsa verde-smeared porchetta sandwich at Meat & Bread. Cartems Donuterie started as a pop-up, yet its delicious donuts, like the chili-blessed Mexican Mole, have made it a permanent fixture. For handcrafted cocktails and tasty bites, Clough Club and Guilt & Co. are musts—the latter boasts one of the best Red Velvet cakes you're likely to try.
Make Way for the Market
This is a serious foodie city, and Granville Island's Public Market marks ground zero for chefs and consumers alike. Just across the way, Edible Canada serves as both a farm-to-table restaurant and shopping emporium for Canadian-made artisanal edibles (Beta 5 chocolates, SIP Rosemary-Lime soda, and more). If you're feeling indulgent, try their Little Duckers, duck fat-fried donut holes topped with double-smoked bacon, salted caramel, and chocolate sauce. The Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel's giovane market opened this past July, and is sort of like a compact, Canadian take on NYC's Eataly, stocked with local artisanal goods, prepared foods (the truffled egg salad sandwich is insanely tasty), and exclusive lines of Italian olive oil you won't find anywhere else in North America.
Be a VanCulture Vulture
At the Vancouver Art Gallery, Korean-born artist Kim Sooja receives her first career retrospective, "KIMSOOJA Unfolding," through January 26, 2014. The VAG shop is worth a visit in itself, with loads of Canadian-made crafts and an impressive art book selection. A green stop on the international fashion circuit, the seventh edition of Eco Fashion Week (this year's event just wrapped up on October 10) spotlights work by sustainability minded designers. Collections and runway shows include both local and international labels—like Vancouver's Nicole Bridger, Evan Ducharme, and Kenneth Wyse—plus, seminars, a "Thrift Chic Challenge," and plenty of parties and receptions. Too highbrow for your tastes? Through November 3, The Virtual Stage's interactive, bloody theater experience, "The Zombie Syndrome," will have you dodging hungry flesh-eaters and using your smartphone in pursuit of a cure.
Try a Flyby
Outdoorsy types flock to nearby Whistler and its namesake mountain all year round for skiing, hiking, and more. Located 10 miles from Whistler Village, zip line company Superfly now offers six side-by-side zip lines between Cougar and Rainbow mountains. Two, suspended over 600 feet above the rain forest floor, reach speeds of up to 62 miles per hour: trips last three hours and depart every 30 minutes. Or, try Vancouver's newest attraction, FlyOver Canada, which opened in June. In the same vein as Disneyland's ride Soarin' Over California, this eight-minute flight simulation affords visitors the sensation of gliding, legs dangling, over Canada's big cities and natural wonders.Photo Credits: Tuck Into Pastry, Chocolates, and Coffee: Courtesy of Cadeaux Bakery Inc.; Fuel Up in Gastown: Courtesy of Cartems Donuterie; Make Way for the Market: Courtesy of Deymos Photo/Shutterstock; Be A VanCulture Vulture: Deymos | Dreamstime.com; Try A Flyby: Courtesy of Superfly Ziplines