SIGGRAPH 2011: Explore Vancouver beyond convention center walls

Posted By Jessie Nagel on July 11, 2011 08:43 am | Permalink
With the SIGGRAPH show coming to Vancouver next month, I was asked to share tips about my hometown so industry pros could get an idea of where to go and how to get around during the show.

I grew up in Vancouver and travel there with frequency to see my family. It's a vibrant and exciting city, with unprecedented water access and jutting green glass skyscrapers set against majestic mountains. Vancouver is a leader in the farm-to-table foodie movement, and the influence of many cultures can be seen, heard and eaten in Canada's third largest city.

Walking, biking and public transit are the best ways to see "the city by the sea." In fact, the Skytrain Canada line is the easiest way from the airport to downtown. In approximately 30 minutes you can go from YVR to Waterfront Station, just a few blocks from the Convention Center where SIGGRAPH is being held.

The Vancouver Convention Center is a departure from the typical boxy meeting place, with a six-acre living roof that houses thousands of indigenous plants and recovers rainwater for irrigation. Exiting the building, visitors can walk along the water to Coal Harbor and eventually Stanley Park, 1,000 acres of parkland that also houses the Aquarium, Rose Gardens, thousands of evergreen trees and more.  

To the east of the Convention Center is Gastown - the oldest neighborhood in downtown Vancouver that is both annoyingly touristy and relevant to locals and visitors. Restaurants and bars worth checking out include: Boneta, Salt, L'Abattoir, Pourhouse, & Six Acres. Check out for more information on the neighborhood.

When I was a young punk, Gastown was the destination for music venues (some legit, some underground) and thrift (read: vintage), many such destinations have disappeared into the storied personal histories of a few souls. Speaking of operating on the fringes, the edge of Gastown includes the Downtown Eastside, an impoverished area where drugs and crime are at their highest here so if you want to roam into Chinatown - to go to the Sun Yat Sen Gardens ( or the hip and delicious Bao Bei ( - be streetwise.  There are gems to find on this side of town, but don't be surprised by the drug and other illicit offers.

If you prefer sand to solicitations, English Bay and Kitsilano (Kits) beaches ( offer a respite from urban frenzy without leaving the city. A recent visit found the beach-stand fish & chips best left to the romance and nostalgia of memory.  To satisfy the urge for battered seafood Go Fish (1505 West 1st Avenue) by the docks near Granville Island is a modest stand with fresh, seasonal offerings including fish & chips.  It is massively busy so be prepared to wait. If you are feeling impatient, nearby Granville Island Public Market ( offers food stands galore, including prepared hot food, baked goods, produce and other delights. Hands down, it's one of my favorite places in the city. Granville Island is accessible from downtown via False Creek Ferry service ( The ride itself is a good To-Do, offering great views of the city. False Creek Ferries can even do longer tours, including one at sunset (Advance booking required).  And so, with reference to the setting sun I leave you....but not for long. Next up: arts and culture (and a little shopping) in Vancouver a.k.a Terminal City.

Jessie Nagel is a PR vet specializing in our industry. Her company is Hype (