Vancouver Gay Guide and Photo Gallery

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    Davie Street Village, the heart of Vancouver's gay district

    photo by Andrew Collins

    The host of the most recent Winter Olympics and one of the most dramatically situated cities in the world, Vancouver ranks among Canada's top gay destinations, especially its bustling Davie Village and funky Commercial Drive - two areas popular with the GLBT set. This gleaming, contemporary city with a smart food scene, hip shopping, and some of the country's best museums is also perfect for outdoorsy types, with everything from pristine beaches to majestic ski areas. Here's a gallery of top sights around the city, from raucous gay discos to leafy parks.

    Vancouver's West End, specifically Davie Street Village, is the anchor of the city's gay scene. The main thoroughfare, Davie Street (from about Granville to Jervis streets) is lined with gay-friendly businesses, including the vast majority of Vancouver's GLBT nightspots (1181 Lounge, Oasis Lounge, Score, Fountainhead Pub, The Junction, Pumpjack Pub, Numbers, and Celebrities among them). You'll also find several gay-friendly B&Bs on the side streets nearby.

    This centrally located neighborhood is close to much of import in Vancouver - walk a bit north and you hit English Bay and Sunset Beach, a short stroll east leads to Robson Street and the downtown business district, and it's an easy walk south to find hip Yaletown. And just across the Granville Bridge from the Davie Street area, you can wander around famous Granville Island and explore the attractive Kitsalano neighborhood.

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    Kitsilano Beach Park at sunset, overlooking Georgia Strait

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Fringing the north edge of Vancouver's lively Kitsilano neighborhood, which is just across from the Davie Street gay neighborhood via the Burrard Street Bridge, Kitsilano Beach Park (Arbutus St. and McNicoll Ave., 604-873-7000) is a beautiful spot to admire the Georgia Strait in the distance, and Stanley Park, English Bay, and the downtown skyline just to the north. At the park you'll also find a heated outdoor pool, tennis and basketball courts, and the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre. At one end of the park, you'll also find the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

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    Little Sister's Book & Art Emporium, the city's GLBT bookstore on Davie Street

    photo by Andrew Collins

    One of the most successful and influential GLBT bookstores in North America, Little Sister's (1238 Davie St., 604-669-1753) has been a fixture of Davie Village since 1983. It functions as a de facto LGBT community resource center and meeting place in Vancouver, as well as stocking an extensive selection of gay and lesbian literature and periodicals, sex toys and vibrators, condoms and lube, porn and erotica, Pride items (rainbow flags, jewelry, cards), and underwear, T-shirts, and club wear and gear. The store if staffed by a friendly, helpful team of women and men, and it's a nicely laid-out, well-lighted, and centrally located spot.

    As pleasant as the physical store is, Little Sister's has remained successful in part because of its success as an online store. The company has several sections on its website, including an adult store, a Pride store, a gay video store, and an event tickets center.

    The Little Sister's legal battle, which eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2000, concerned efforts by Canadian Customs to censor and ban books and magazines that customs officers deemed "obscene" at the Canadian border.

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    Blue Horizon Hotel, on Robson Street in downtown Vancouver

    photo by Andrew Collins

    The Blue Horizon Hotel is a reliable, gay-friendly lodging option on bustling Robson Street. See the Vancouver Gay-Friendly Hotels Guide for a full review.

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    Numbers Cabaret, a long-running gay club on Davie Street in the West End

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Numbers gay cabaret (1042 Davie St., 604-685-4077) - a narrow, multi-level space in the heart of the West End's Davie Street GLBT village - opened more than 30 decades ago and has remained fairly popular ever since. The crowd here skews more 35-and-older than other popular gay clubs in town (such as nearby Celebrities). Odd for a bar specializing in cabaret and karaoke, Numbers is quite cruisy, too - especially later in the evening. Probably something to do with the dim lighting and ample nooks well-suited to conversation. The staff here is consistently friendly and outgoing.

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    False Creek inlet, looking north toward Yaletown

    photo by Andrew Collins

    A view from False Creek of the gleaming new condo and apartment towers that dominate the skyline over Vancouver's trendy Yaletown neighborhood. As its name suggests, False Creek is actually an inlet from English Bay (here's an aerial view and map)- it dead-ends to the east of Yaletown near BC Place Stadium and is crisscrossed from several major bridges into downtown Vancouver: Cambie Street Bridge, Granville Street Bridge, and Burrard Street Bridge. It separates Yaletown and the West End from Granville Island.

    The easiest and most scenic way to traverse False Creek is via one of the handy and inexpensive Aquabux Ferries, which run from Yaletown's Davie Street (at the marina) to Granville Island. The cheery little boats (you can see one on the left side of this photo) are easy to spot, with their rainbow-color hulls. And no, the color scheme is not a declaration of GLBT Pride, but you will see plenty of "family" using the Aquabus to get around town - other stops include the southern foot of Hornby Street, Science World, Plaza of Nations/Edgewater Casino, and some others.

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    Womyns' Ware, a women-owned erotic and sex shop on Commercial Drive

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Since 1995, the terrific, women-owned sex shop and erotica boutique Womyns' Ware (896 Commercial Dr., 888-996-9273) has been acting as Vancouver's "celebration and empowerment of women's sexuality", as this well-stocked store in the city's funky Commercial Drive area proclaims. Highly popular with both lesbians and straight women, Womyns' Ware really caters to anybody interested in learning about and shopping for toys, erotica, lingerie, lubes, safer-sex supplies, books, and anything else related to intimacy. You'll find everything and anything here that brings out the joy of sexuality - harnesses and bondage gear, butt vibrators and anal beads, nipple clamps, vaginal-health supplies, massage oils. The supply is extensive, and you can also order online or by phone. The staff at Womyns' Ware is smart, approachable, and helpful - they make it very easy to figure out what it is you're truly looking for, and, for that matter, how to use it. Even if you have a mere passing interest in the toys and joys of sexual exploration, drop by this impressive store - it's really a Vancouver icon. Also check out the store's downloadable (as a pdf) Sex Toy Guide.

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    SkyTrain, Vancouver's light-rail system (Stadium-Chinatown station)

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Launched in 1985 just in time for Vancouver's 1986 Expo, the SkyTrain light-rail is one of North America's fastest and most efficient public transit systems. Currently the automated trains (there are no drivers) run along three lines. The most recent is the Canada Line, which connects the Vancouver International Airport with downtown to the north, and Richmond to the South. From the downtown Waterfront stop, you can also further the journey by Seabus to Lonsdale's Quay in North Vancouver.

    This is an affordable and clean system, and an excellent way to get from the airport to downtown - the ride along the Canada Line takes 26 minutes and costs $3.75 for adults, with service running from about 5 am until nearly 1 am. This line was completed shortly before the 2010 Olympics, and the line also has downtown stops at Waterfront (by the cruise-ship pier) and Yaletown-Roundhouse (which is the better stop if you're staying around Yaletown or along Davie Street in the Gay Village. Additionally, the Millennium and Expo lines run east-west and are a convenient way to get from downtown (use the Burrard, Granville, or Stadium-Chinatown stations) to the hip alternative neighborhood of Commercial Drive.

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    Celebrities gay nightclub, on Davie Street in the West End's Gay Village

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Celebrities (1022 Davie St., 604-681-6180) is mainstay of Vancouver's Gay Village on Davie Street - it's been around for years, and it's the largest and arguably most popular gay and lesbian dance club in British Columbia. Celebrities has a big central dance floor and a balcony encircling the space, which makes this a nice choice whether you like to dance all night or merely watch everybody. Saturdays are hugely popular, and Tuesday's dance parties also rake in pretty sizable crowds for a weeknight. The club is closed Sunday and Monday, and on Friday and Saturday nights, things don't usually get busy until quite late (midnight or so).

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    Capilano Suspension Bridge, in a rainforest park in North Vancouver

    photo by Andrew Collins

    One of the area's most celebrated and visited attractions, Capilano Suspension Bridge (3735 Capilano Rd., North Vancouver, 604-985-7474) is actually the most famous part of an entire 27-acre nature park and First Nations cultural center in North Vancouver, about a 15- to 20-minute drive north of downtown. The bridge itself, built originally in 1889 and stretching 450 feet across the Capilano River gorge, is definitely a must - just go slowly if you're nervous about heights, as the river roars 230 feet below.

    You'll find several other things to see and do within this rainforest park, however. The First Nations Cultural Center traces the heritage of B.C.'s indigenous Kia'palano people - you can watch artisans working in traditional crafts throughout the day, and also learn from the series of totem poles set throughout the park, depicting Kia'palano stories. Guided nature tours discuss the flora and fauna of B.C.'s coastal rainforests, or you can explore the on your own; signage explains what you're seeing. Once you walk across the bridge, be sure to spend time amid the Treetops Adventure, a series of suspension walkways connecting the canopies of Douglas fir trees throughout the park - some of these bridges are 100 feet above the forest floor.

    Other attractions include a trading post, which - even by the standards of typical gift shops - carries an impressive inventory of Canadian crafts, artwork, books, nature-themed gifts, and souvenirs. And three eateries offer everything from casual snacks to, at the seasonal (spring through fall) Bridge House Restaurant, sophisticated lunches.

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    Melriches Coffeehouse, a favorite cafe with GLBT community on Davie Street

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Davie Street's definitive gay java joint, Melriches Coffeehouse (1244 Davie St., 604-689-5282) is a bright and comfy spot to sip espressos and lattes, munch on breakfast croissants, sandwiches, and sweets throughout the day, and watch the West End world go by. The popular cafe is right next to the famed GLBT bookstore, Little Sister's, and close many other gay-friendly businesses in the neighborhood.

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    Chambar, a stylish Beglian restaurant with a cooking school and cafe

    photo by Andrew Collins

    On an otherwise quiet street near the Stadium SkyTrain station, Chambar (562 Beatty St., 604-879-7119) is the star attraction of what's actually a mini-empire of wonderful Vancouver foodie attractions. Chambar itself is a sophisticated Belgian restaurant turning out superb, creatively rendered treats like spiced veal cheeks with pine-nut and arugula canneloni, moules frites Congolaise style with tomato-coconut cream and smoked chili, and pan-roasted sablefish with chickpea and zucchini charmoula, olive-mint-parsley salad, and sumac-lemon vinaigrette. But there's also the adjacent Dirty Apron cooking school and cookery shop and the Cafe Medina breakfast-lunch spot (there's also brunch on weekends) serving similarly fantastic food.

    As you can probably sense from the menu examples cited above, Chambar isn't serving your usual old-world Belgian cuisine. This is a modern take on Belgian food, with plenty of influences Africa and other parts of the world (many with ties to Belgium's checkered Colonial past). There's also a memorable list of distinctive cocktails, an extensive selection of Belgian beers (Tripels, Trappistes, Lambics, and so on), and one of the more enticing dessert selections in Vancouver - the milk-chocolate and lavender pot de creme with dark-chocolate praline-filled biscuits and orange-scented tuile is rather amazing.

    Chambar is intimate and extremely popular, so it's prudent to book well ahead - the crowd tends toward the see-and-be-seen set, so you might dress a little for this one, too (not formally, just in smart threads).

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    Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver, on Howe Street in the city center

    photo by Andrew Collins

    A room view of the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver - see the Vancouver Gay-Friendly Hotels Guide for a detailed review of this terrific downtown property.

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    Oasis Lounge, a gay bar and restaurant on Davie Street in the West End

    photo by Andrew Collins

    A slick, smartly decorated gay lounge and restaurant, Oasis Lounge (1240 Thurlow St., 604-685-1724) occupies a second-floor space in the middle of the city's Gay Village. Different music themes are featured certain evenings, from Top 40 House Remixes to Electronica and Trance. Sundays are well known for festive parties that take place on the bar's garden patio (fear not if it's cold or rainy - this space is both covered and heated). As gay bars go, Oasis exceeds expectations in the restaurant, which serves nicely crafted Northwest regional cuisine - Okanagan goat cheese (part of a good-size cheese plate), tempura salmon fritters, lobster ravioli, and the like. This is a great spot to bring a date or a group of friends, especially for late-afternoon or early-evening cocktails, or pre-clubbing drinks or dinner. The owners also run the popular gay-themed sports bar, Score, just up the street.

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    Bump N Grind Cafe, a hip coffeehouse on Commercial Drive

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Commercial Drive's long-running Bump N Grind Cafe (916 Commercial Dr., 604-569-3362) captures the alternative, bohemian vibe of this east side Vancouver neighborhood - it's generally packed with a mix of artists, students, lesbians and gays, and local hipsters throughout the day (it closes at 6 pm each evening). The baristas here know what their doing, doling out perfect espressos, macchiatos, lattes, and fine organic coffees from the high-tech Clover brewing system.

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    Alibi Room, an inviting Gastown tavern specializing in artisan beers

    photo by Andrew Collins

    The Alibi Room's (157 Alexander St., 604-623-3383) slightly off-the-beaten-path location and setting inside a vintage brick building with high windows, hardwood floors, and both individual and communal wooden tables are a big part of its charm. This welcoming, eclectic spot near the rail tracks and industrial port on the edge of Gastown is a relaxed, contemporary space - really a 21st-century take on the old-world neighborhood tavern concept. At the Alibi you'll find one of Vancouver's best selections of beer on tap, plus interesting bottled ciders and beers from all over the world (but emphasis is on Pacific Northwest). If you're a fan of fine-crafted, artisan beers, you shouldn't miss this place, which also has an extensive list of B.C. wines, a fun cocktail list, and terrific gastro-pub-inspired food (Canadian cheese plates, mushroom-hazelnut pate with truffle oil, Chinatown noodle bowls, barbecue pork-belly sandwiches).

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    Go Fish seafood shack, at False Creek Fisherman's Wharf in Kitsilano

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Part of the gay-popular Bin restaurant group in Vancouver (they also run the outstanding Bin 941 and Bin 942 tapas eateries), Go Fish (1540 W. 1st Ave., 604-730-5040) is an unassuming but quite trendy seafood shack at Fisherman's Wharf in Kitsilano, overlooking False Creek. Specialties include fish-and-chips (cod, salmon, or halibut) with a Granville Island beer batter, fish tacos with chipotle crema, oyster po-boys, char-grilled rare albacore sandwiches (the tuna is topped with a sweet-chile ponzu glaze and served with wasabi mayo), and the daily-changing mix of grilled seafood dusted with a house-made seasoning.

    This is a take-out spot - you order at the window and pick up your food when it's ready. You can dine at one of the handful of tables just outside the restaurant. It's smack between the Granville and Burrard bridges, overlooking one of the city's largest marinas - an apt spot to enjoy some of the tastiest and freshest seafood and shellfish in the city. It's close to Granville Market, too. Keep in mind that Go Fish is open only from 11:30 until dusk (and closed Monday) - it's best to call first to check how late they'll be staying open.

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    The Junction, a gay neighborhood bar in the West End

    photo by Andrew Collins

    A laid-back and relaxed neighborhood bar along uber-gay Davie Street in Vancouver's West End, the Junction (1138 Davie St., 604-669-2013) is more of a pub and casual restaurant (think burgers, pizza, and light tavern fare) on weekdays and a full-fledged (if compact) gay dance club on weekends. Patrons also play darts, shoot pool, watch campy videos and gay-popular TV shows, and mingle on the festive patio. As with Fountainhead and Oasis, two other inviting gay bars on Davie Street, this is a fine spot to hang out with friends or meet new ones.

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    Topdrawers Men's Apparel, a gay-trendy underwear shop in the West End

    photo by Andrew Collins

    In the West End but with a new location on Davie Street (the photo here is of the former location on Denman Street), Topdrawers Men's Apparel (809 Davie St., 604-684-4861) is Vancouver's definitive gay underwear and swimwear shop. The long-established, well-stocked shop carries an astounding selection of briefs, boxers, jocks, g-strings, long underwear, swimsuits, and accessories by a who's who of trendy brands: Andrew Christian, Energie, Diesel, Bumgear, Speedo, N2N Bodywear, Jocko, Clever, Rufskin, Superstein, Undertoys, Pikante, Mundo Unico, G Storm, Ginch Gonch - even good ol' CK. Topdrawers also does an extensive mail-order business.

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    Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre, by the downtown waterfront

    photo by Andrew Collins

    The city's official visitor information organization, Tourism Vancouver has an information center (200 Burrard St., 604-683-2000) across from the convention center and near the cruise port; it's staffed with helpful employees and stocked with maps, pamphlets, and brochures about the city and surrounding region. It's also worth checking out Tourism Vancouver's webpage on GLBT travel, which is also a font of helpful information.

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    Pumpjack Pub, a gay leather-bear-neighborhood bar on Davie Street

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Pumpjack (1167 Davie St., 604-685-3417) is not your daddy's gay leather bar - okay, it's not even quite right to call this a leather bar, in the strictest or most traditional sense. But this attractive, high-ceilinged bar with tall windows overlooking Davie Street does have the best-attended leather parties and competitions in the city. It's also just a relaxed neighborhood cruise bar with unpretentious bartenders, a patio, pool tables and large-screen TVs, and good daily drink specials. Except for when there are leather-oriented events (like "Black Saturday parties" the final Saturday of each month), there's no dress code - guys here just tend to dress down and maintain a fairly butch and often bearish look.

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    Coast seafood restaurant and O-Lounge, on Alberni Street

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Having moved in 2009 from its smaller digs in Yaletown, Coast Restaurant (1054 Alberni St., 604-685-5010) and its adjacent cocktail bar - the white-hot O-Lounge - now occupy a prime setting on a central downtown block steps from Robson Street shopping and many of the city's leading hotels. Coast is unquestionably a restaurant for scene-makers and local bon vivants - the soaring bi-level space with sleek central raw bar attracts social butterflies from all walks of life. But the kitchen also serves super-fresh, innovative seafood - much of it sourced regionally. Coast books up fast, especially on weekends, so book well ahead if possible.

    The menu notes the provenance of many items - scallops from Qualicum Beach, ruby trout raised in Sooke on Vancouver Island, Pacific cod "rod-and-reel caught by Willie Davies off Odysseus - you half expect the fisherman to serve you your dinner at this place. Some fins and gills from farther-flung destination also appear on the impressively varied and extensive menu: European sea bass caught off the Azores, mahimahi from the Kona Star fishing boat in Maui.

    You can go the traditional route here with a starter and main. The crab cakes here are sensational (almost completely without filler - just sweet, flaky Dungeness crab), as is buttermilk-battered calamari with smoked-garlic aioli (here's a few of some of the better starter dishes, including the calamari). But you could also make a nice feast of smaller plates, especially if you're with a few friends: yellowtail hamachi, flatbread topped with smoked salmon and creme fraiche, smoked local fish chowder, and so on. A couple of different raw and mixed-grill seafood platters are also offered.

    For a bird's-eye view of the room, opt for a seat upstairs and enjoy the people-watching (the photo here is from just such a seat). Downstairs is a more casual area that's as popular for cocktails and champagne as for noshing.

    Coast is part of the leading group of cleverly themed, high-caliber Vancouver restaurants, Glowbal, which also operates Glowbal Grill, Trattoria, Society, and a few other stylish, gay-popular eateries.

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    Blenz Coffeehouse, on Davie Street in the West End

    photo by Andrew Collins

    One of the more gay-popular cafes in the West End, Blenz is part of a regional chain of coffeehouses with many branches in Vancouver and quite a few others throughout British Columbia. The branch at 1203 Davie Street is a good spot for people-watching and grabbing perfectly brewed espresso drinks throughout the day and evening. Teas, hot chocolate, and protein shakes are also served.

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    Score on Davie, a gay-friendly sports pub and restaurant on Davie Street

    photo by Andrew Collins

    As much as any bar in the Davie Street Gay Village, Score (1262 Davie St., 604-632-1646) manages to walk a credible line between festive gay bar and all-are-welcome sports bar, while at the same time earning solid marks as a great choice for casual dining (from weekend brunch to late-night snacking). With an attractive interior of warm lighting and comfy booth seating as well as a nice patio on Davie Street, Score is a perfect setting for conversation, watching games on TV, and hanging out with a mixed bunch. It's obviously less of a pick-up spot than some of the other bars and clubs on Davie Street, and that's exactly it's appeal among regulars. Still, you can meet some very attractive lesbians and gay guys at this lively haunt.

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    English Bay Beach Park, in the West End, and popular as a gay beach

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Vancouver has a couple of beaches with a strong gay following, two that are right in the West End (close to the Davie Street Gay Village) - Sunset Beach and, pictured here, English Bay Beach (aka First Beach). Another option, over near the Univ. of British Columbia within the boundary of Pacific Spirit Regional Park, is the quite famous and rather hard to reach Wreck Beach - this is a clothing-optional stretch of sand that has a predominantly gay section (found to the left as you approach).

    Again, the West End beaches do not permit nudity and really aren't all that cruisy, at least in an explicit sense - although from English Bay Beach you can walk north along the Stanley Park Seawall and you'll eventually reach a wooded area near the Second Beach outdoor pool. English Bay Beach is located along Beach Avenue, right around the intersection with Davie Street. This is a stunning spot to watch the boats out on the Strait of Georgia - ideally, grab a light to-go meal from one of the many restaurants along nearby Denman Street (it's a hotbed of ethnic eateries), or an iced latte from the gay-popular coffeehouse, Delany's.

    From English Bay Beach, you can easily stroll along the seawall into Stanley Park. You could follow Beach Avenue south several blocks to reach the other notable (and very gay-popular) beach in the West End, Sunset Beach Park, which is right where Jervis and Bute streets intersect with Beach Avenue. Right by this beach, you'll also find another facility that's well-frequented by local gays and lesbians, the Vancouver Aquatic Centre - home to an Olympic-size natatorium.

    If you decide to explore the gay section of Wreck Beach, keep in mind that a little effort is required both to reach and find this secluded stretch of sand where nudity is permitted - even encouraged. It's part of 763-hectare Pacific Spirit Regional Park, and you can access from the Wreck Beach Trail Loop, accessed from the Welcome totem pole at the UBC Museum of Anthropology - here's a good map of the area and how to reach it, along with parking directions.

    It's the more southerly section (to your left, as you hike down to the beach) that has the main gay following - basically, the area south of the North Arm Breakwater, and accessed via the rather steep trail (it has stairs) marked as Trail No. 7. Another good resource on this entire park is the Wreck Beach Preservation Society.

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    1181 Lounge, a swanky gay cocktail bar on Davie Street

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Davie Street, in Vancouver's uber-gay West End, received a great boost when the swish 1181 Lounge (1181 Davie St., 604-687-3991) opened, marking a departure from the somewhat predictable gay clubs that have long inhabitied the neighborhood. 1181 is a narrow, sleek space with cushy seating up front and in back, and a tight stand-and-model area alongside the central bar, which is famous for its creative martinis and sophisticated cocktails and also has an excellent list of wines by the glass (one of the best you'll ever find at a GLBT bar). It's Vancouver's most stylish gay hangout, but actually quite welcoming and popular with everybody on the sexual-orientation spectrum.

    Here's an exterior view of 1181 Lounge.

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    F212 Steam Sauna, a popular gay bathhouse in the West End on Davie Street

    photo by Andrew Collins

    F212 Steam is one of the two gay saunas in Vancouver, plus one other in the suburb of New Westminster. For more details about this venue in the West End, check out the Vancouver Gay Bathhouse and Sex Club Guide.

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    Commercial Drive, the city's most lesbian-identified neighborhood

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Developed historically as a logging skid road, Commercial Drive has developed steadily over the years into one of Vancouver's most diverse and distinctive - as well as most lesbian-identified - neighborhoods. Located about 5 km east of downtown and the West End, the north-south road cuts through the heart of what's technically the Grandview-Woodland neighborhood, but the stretch from about Venables Street south to East Broadway is referred to by most locals as simply "The Drive."

    Along here you'll find dozens of generally affordable, one-of-a-kind vintage clothiers, home-furnishings shops, cafes and coffeehouses, ethnic restaurants and food stores, cocktail bars, and various dry-goods stores. It's also home to one of Canada's most beloved queer sex shops, Womyns' Ware, and each August during Vancouver Gay Pride, the Drive is host to the city's annual Dyke March. Although many lesbians live and work around the area, Commercial Drive is more generally - and increasingly - popular with alternative-minded and progressive students and 20-somethings, gay and straight.

    From the upper end of downtown (Gastown or the Robson Street area), it's easiest to get here by driving east on Hastings Street. From the West End or Kitsilano, head south to Broadway and follow it east.

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    Fountainhead Pub, a casual gay bar and eatery on Davie Street in the West End

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Although drawing a predominantly gay crowd, the Fountainhead (1025 Davie St., 604-687-2222) is one West End pub and restaurant that tends to draw a great variety of patrons - gay, lesbian, straight...whatever. The vibe is always quite welcoming and friendly, and the scene very conducive to chatting, playing darts, dining on quite tasty pub fare, or relaxing under a heating lamp on the patio. The Fountainhead tends to be most popular after work and earlier in the evening, but you'll usually find a crowd here till closing.

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    Delany's on Denman, a cool coffeehouse near English Bay in the West End

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Another of the handful of West End coffeehouses with especially strong gay followings, Delany's (1105 Denman St., 604-662-3344) has been a fixture on Denman Street, near the foot of Davie Street and just steps from the beautiful beach at English Bay, for many years. It's a perfect stop for a latte, cappuccino, or tea before sauntering over to the beach, or on up to Stanley Park. The cafe itself is rather intimate, if a bit cramped at times, but the staff is friendly and processes orders quickly.

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    Diva at the Met, a contemporary Northwest restaurant at the Metropolitan Hotel

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Tucked discreetly off the lobby of the elegantly understated (and very gay-friendly) Metropolitan Hotel, just a couple of blocks north of bustling Robson street, Diva at the Met (645 Howe St., 604-602-7788) has earned a serious reputation as one of the city's best Pacific Northwest restaurants, and certainly one of the best dining options at any of the city's hotels. Chef Quang Dang oversees the dining at this light, contemporary space with an open kitchen, which turns out first-rate breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. There's also a lighter late-night menu with cheese and salumi selections (pictured here, along with one of Diva's bountiful salads) and smaller plates.

    The menu here changes seasonally - highlights from past dinners have included slow-cooked beef short-rib ravioli with spring morels and long-pepper syrup; Vancouver Island scallops with spring onion spaetzle and hazelnut essence; goat cheese cannelloni with salt-baked beets and a rosemary-verjus brown-butter vinaigrette; and cinnamon-smoked duck breast with sunchokes, fava beans, and Okanagan cherry jus. There's also a vast wine cellar and plenty of varietals available by the glass, and an impressive dessert list that has featured dark chocolate-and-almond bars with espresso pot de creme and caramel ice cream, and lemongrass-vanilla creme brulee with berry salad.

    Breakfasts here are terrific - worth experiencing even if you're not staying at the hotel. The Diva eggs benny (served over toasted cornbread with crisp polenta) and pan perdu French toast with dulce de leche, sauteed bananas, and toasted pecans are both exceptional.

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    Aquabus Ferries, which connect West End and Yaletown to Granville Island

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Vancouver's Aquabus Ferries are the easiest way to get back and forth across False Creek inlet, which divides the West End/Davie Village area and Yaletown from Granville Island, Kitsilano, Broadway, and the South Granville Street areas of the city. These rainbow-color boats dart about False Creek throughout the day, and rides cost from $3 to $6, depending on how far you're going. The ride from Yaletown to Granville Island costs $4 (the image shown here is an Aquabus passing beneath the Granville Street Bridge, en route from Yaletown to Granville Island). Other stops include Edgewater Casino, foot of Hornby Street (West End, close to the gay district along Davie Street), and Science World (by Olympic Village).

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    Pacific Centre Vancouver, downtown's largest shopping mall

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Spanning three downtown blocks and containing some 200 stores, the Pacific Centre (550 W. Georgia St., 604-688-7235) is one of Vancouver's most popular shopping destinations. The multilevel mall contains three major department stores (Holt Renfrew, The Bay, and Sears), plus a fairly typical mix of North American mid- and upscale chains: Apple, Coach, BCBG Max Azria, Bose, Club Monaco, Ermenegildo Zegna, Guess, H&M, Mexx, Sephora, Skechers, and so on. The center is attached to the elegant Four Seasons Vancouver.

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    BC Place, major music and pro sports venue, near Yaletown on False Creek

    photo by Andrew Collins

    One of the most prominent landmarks you'll see as you enter downtown Vancouver from Cambie Street Bridge or Hwy. 99A (Main St.), BC Place Vancouver (777 Pacific St.) is known for being the largest stadium in the world with a roof supported entirely by air - it's basically inflated. However, a new retractable roof is being installed in 2011. This huge arena just south of Vancouver Public Library is between Yaletown and Gastown, and it's a major venue during the 2010 Winter Olympics as well as hosting professional sports teams, like the Canadian Football League's BC Lions and, starting in 2011, a new Major Leagues Soccer team. The facility also hosts huge music concerts - it has a seating capacity of nearly 60,000. The stadium overlooks False Creek inlet.

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    Treetops Adventure canopy tour, at Capilano Suspension Bridge park

    photo by Andrew Collins

    One of the newer and most interesting attractions within the park at Capilano Suspension Bridge, the Treetops Adventure comprises trail of elevation suspension bridges that wend through the rainforest's canopy of Douglas Fir trees.

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    Cafe Luxy, an Italian restaurant on Davie Street in the West End

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Cafe Luxy (1235 Davie St., 604-669-5899) is one of the most LGBT-popular restaurants in Vancouver - this dishy and fun restaurant serves prodigious portions of traditional Italian food: penne with four cheese, Caesar salads, garlic prawns, and so on. Prices are reasonable, and the staff friendly and helpful. Luxy is also open for breakfast and brunch. It's set along bustling Davie Street, in the heart of the city's Gay Village.

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    West End skyline, viewed from Kitsilano Beach Park

    photo by Andrew Collins

    A view of Vancouver's West End skyline from the north side of Kitsilano Beach Park. This is an excellent spot for a sunset stroll or a picnic.

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    Steamworks, a Vancouver branch of the popular gay bathhouse chain, near Gastown

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Steamworks Vancouver (123 W. Pender St., 604-974-0602) is one of two popular gay saunas in the city center - this one is located fairly close to Gastown, a 15-minute walk from the West End. Check out the Vancouver Gay Bathhouse and Sex Club Guide for more about this venue and other cruise-y places around the city.

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    Lotus Hotel, home to Lick lesbian bar (closed)

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Note: Lick Vancouver in the Lotus Hotel has closed.

    It's in a somewhat down-at-the-heels location on the edge of both Chinatown and Gastown, just a few blocks northeast of downtown, but the Lotus Hotel (455 Abbott St.) is worth checking out for some of the best dancing in the city as well as Vancouver's only true lesbian bar, Lick (open Thursdays through Sundays). Lick is one of three venues here, including the street-level Honey Lounge (with live music some nights) and basement-level Lotus Sounds Lounge. The variety of venues makes this very fun, whatever your taste. Although Lick draws a predominantly lesbian crowd, it's very welcoming toward all, and in the other venues you'll always discern a something of a queer vibe, both male and female - the whole place is much more about dancing and listening to great music (from rock to soul to electronic) than attitude, cruising, or carousing.

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    Odyssey Nightclub Vancouver (closed)

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Odyssey closed in 2010 after many years serving the community.

    A block off of Davie Street in the West End's gay village, the rambling Odyssey Nightclub (1251 Howe St., 604-689-5256) is generally the most popular gay dance club in the city. Its attributes are many - a large patio and a bi-level bar and dance floor, over which rise lighted glass showers on pedestals, in which very cute go-go boys gyrate into the wee hours. The club is open nightly with popular theme nights including Tuesday (for FreQueency's drag shows), Thursday (best time to see the shower dancers), and Friday for the club's circuit-style parties. Cover charges are also the steepest among Vancouver gay bars ($10 on weekends), but for the best dancing and people-watching, this is place to invest your time and money. The crowd is mostly under 35, and generally with a fairly good mix of women and men.

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    Priape boutique (closed)

    photo by Andrew Collins

    Note: Priape has closed.

    The Vancouver outpost of Canada's most famous chain of gay sex, porn, toy, and leather shops, Priape (1148 Davie St.) is right in the heart of Davie Street's Gay Village and stocks a huge inventory of erotica and toys. You can stock up on lube, condoms, and supplies, browse racks of adult books, magazine, and DVDs, shop for sexy briefs, jocks, and underwear, and pick up hot gear for hitting Davie Street's gay clubs and bars. There are also Priape shops in Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary, and the store does a ton of online mail-order business.