Vancouver: Places to Explore

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Granville Island

The creative redevelopment of this former industrial wasteland vies with Stanley Park as the city's top attraction. An active cement works remains at its heart and is oddly complemented with a thriving diversity of artist studios, performing arts spaces, an indoor food market, specialty shops, and a jammed-to-the-gills marina. There's not a chain store or designer label in sight.

In the early 20th century False Creek was dredged for better access to the sawmills that lined the shore, and the sludge was heaped onto a sandbar that grew large enough to house much-needed industrial and logging-equipment plants. Although business thrived in the 1920s, most fell into derelict status by the '60s. In the early '70s, though, the federal government came up with a creative plan to redevelop the island with a public market, marine activities, and artisans' studios. The refurbished Granville Island opened to the public in 1979 and was an immediate hit with locals and visitors alike.

Explore Granville Island at your leisure but try to plan your expedition over a meal, since the market is an excellent place for lunch, snacks, and shopping. The buildings behind the market are as diverse as the island's main attractions and house all sorts of crafts shops. The waterside boardwalk behind the Arts Club and around the Creekhouse building will bring you to Ocean Art Works, an open-sided longhouse-style structure where you can watch First Nations artists at work. Be sure to visit the free contemporary galleries beside the covered walkway to Sea Village, one of the few houseboat communities in Vancouver. Other nooks and alleys to note are Ron Basford Park, a natural amphitheater for outdoor performances, and Railspur Alley, home to about a dozen studios and galleries that produce everything from jewelry to leather work and sake. Granville Island is also a venue for Vancouver's many performing arts festivals—and a great place to catch top-quality street entertainment at any time.

Though the 35-acre island is now technically a peninsula, connected years ago by landfill to the south shore of False Creek, it still feels like an island with its own distinct character.

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