Vancouver: From ski slopes to gay bars in under 40 minutes

Your LGBT guide to Vancouver – a beautiful gay-friendly city with adventure, bears, and escape

Aerial views of Vancouver, with the mountains that go snow white during winter | Photo: Tourism Vancouver/ Barbershop Films

It’s fairly unique to be just 40 minutes away from a vibrant city life – to a stunning Ski resort with views over the city. Especially one with as many LGBTI bars and attractions as Vancouver has.

Sat on the west coast in British Columbia, Canada – Vancouver is surrounded by mountains.

So beautiful, its best known as the popular location for blockbusters like Fifty Shades of Grey and Fantastic Four.

But, it’s also a city with a thriving LGBTI scene; From twink haven Junction, bear playground Pumpjack and LBQ events Hershe.

This year the city is also embracing 2018 as it’s year of queer, to mark 40 years of pride in Vancouver.

So even if you just have 24 hours to stop over in the city, like GSN had, before you head off to other areas of British Columbia, The Yukon or  even over the border to Seattle – this is what you must see:

Drag queen parades with onlooking crowd at Vancouver Pride 2012 | Photo: Tourism Vancouver / Michael Song

Stanley Park

This city park boasts a stunning landscape everywhere you go.

But if you have the time, you must get lost among the historic and beautiful 50 meters high Douglas Firs in the city park.

If you want to find a queer angle for your exploration, take the Talaysay Talking Trees tour.

Not only will you get to see the park in its full glory, on our tour, First Nations guide Cadence Campo told stories about the trees, wildlife and the First Nation’s harmonious ways of living.

Stanley Park Totem Pole | Photo: Tourism Vancouver/ Nelson Mouellic

Make sure to ask for the story of the two warring tribes whose leaders young leaders fell in love and brought peace, after hundreds of years of fighting.

Of course, like all countries, the First Nations has an up and down relationship to LGBTI rights.

Many Tribes view love as something that happens between two-spirits, rather than any related to gender binaries, but this is far from ubiquitous.

Nonetheless, the First Nations culture is about embracing otherness and celebrating it. Something that will feed your sense of queer belonging whilst in Vancouver.

Or if you ask anyone in town what to do with just one afternoon in the city? Hire some bikes and ride around the coastal edge of this stunning park.

The cycle path follows the seawall around Stanley Park | Photo: Tourism Vancouver/ Clayton Perry

Capilano Suspension Bridge

It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions, and if you combine it with a trip up Grouse mountain, it makes for a fantastic addition to a whistlestop tour of Vancouver.

First built in 1888, the bridge spans 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) over the Capilano Canyon, with the Capilano River running below.

One of the busiest Instagram hotspots in the city, the views are stunning.

If you make it over the bridge, which gets a tad wobbly when busy, you’ll find a quaint park with treetop walks. Visit at night and you’ll find a romantically lit up set of paths to get lost in.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Grouse Mountain

Whether you head up the mountain to hit the slopes, or just to catch the breathtaking views – no trip to Vancouver is complete without making it to Grouse.

Depending on the time of year, if the Ski slopes aren’t in operation you can chase adventure on zip lines, paragliding or just grab a drink at the bar.

But if you are really looking for a high altitude thrill? Try catch the ‘world famous’ Lumberjack Show complete with their crew of champion ax-wielding performers.

For some cute aggression, go see the celebrity status bears in the Grizzly Wildlife Refuge, Coola, and Grinder.

We checked that notorious app while we were at the top of the mountain, Grinder the grizzly isn’t available for hookups. Shame. – Grouse Mountain

Your guide to everything LGBTI in Vancouver

With just 24 hours in Vancouver, GSN didn’t have time to hit all the bars. But fortunately our Concierge at The DOUGLAS, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, Robert Mackie told us the best bars to go to.

‘My favorite is XY Bar. It has a beautiful décor, great stage setup with plenty of seating and standing room to view entertainment.’

Drag act Misty Meadows enjoying the garden at XY Bar before ‘Moist Mondays’ | Photo: @XYyvr Instagram

MacKie says its the best place to go for a drag show, or to hit up the ‘twink’ scene:

‘The shows are wide and varied, plus the staff and regulars provide a great sense of community.

But you can also soak up drag at The Junction, also the best place to go if you want to dance. The local advice is to go early to get your stamp and then come back later to skip the queues.

For more drag, you can try the monthly event Man Up which has both drag queens and kings.

Celebrities is another popular spot to find ‘many budding gay twinks at.’

The Bear Bar bar in town is The Pumpjack. Its leather and fur crowd has been growing so much the bar’s popularity has led to a recent expansion at the venue.

Revelers at Pumpjack’s Apocalypse night | Photo: Pumpjack Pub Facebook

Davie Street is the local ‘gayborhood‘ but LBQ visitors may enjoy Commercial Drive

Much like Davie Street is a hub for gay culture, Commercial Drive, also known as ‘Little Italy’ – is known as a hub for lesbian culture.

Though there is no dedicated venue for LBQ women, MacKie suggests to keep an eye out for Hershe Bar. Its a special queer women event held on long weekends at the Red Room bar in Gastown. There is also an all-women play party called Babe Bang.

You’ll also find Vancouver Arts & Leisure, known locally as VAL, is the most inclusive bar in the city with a wide range of music and shows.

But if you have time for just one LGBTI bar in Vancouver, MacKie suggest you head to the Fountain Head pub. Unlike many club orientated LGBTI venues, it has good food, drinks, a pool table and a beautiful patio space for summer relaxation.

The Fountain Head Pub | Photo: Instagram @thefountainheadpub

As well as bars Davie Street also has plenty of queer culture and places to eat.

Head to Little Sisters for books, videos, magazines and sex apparel. And if you’re in town and need help, Qmunity is a center any Queer individual, local or not, can go to. They have free support, information, free medical testing or specialized support groups and events.

If you have time, the Jim Deva Plaza with Rainbow crosswalks at the intersection is a great selfie spot. Many of the cities LGBTI community events are held here.

Jim Deva Plaza | Photo: Instagram @rebekkakristin

Go to the beach

Not only can Vancouver get you from Ski slope to gay bar in 40 minutes, it also has many beaches. Many, which are attached to the Davie Village ‘gaybourhood.’

They are a great spot to relax, eat, drink and take in the sights of the ocean and Stanley Park.

And if you’re looking for a full body tan head to Wreck Beach. Located next to the University of British Columbia, its the only nude beach in Vancouver.

Though popular and open to all, there is a section of this beach where the local queer community gathers. You can’t miss it.

Wreck Beach | Photo: Instagram @giantfloatie

Brunch

An important stop in any queer travels – particularly if you’re traveling with your gaggle.

We hit up the divine menu at Honey Salt Vancouver, which is on the Parq complex.

It’s just by the river and perfect to head off for a post-brunch walk or if you’re not too full river taxi ride down to Stanley Park or one of the local beaches.

Better yet, if you’re staying overnight on the complex after a fab night out of Davie street, you can order the amazing food to your room.

Or you can always over order on the maple pancakes to your room in the DOUGLAS

Is Vancouver safe for LGBTI people?

Raphael Dipasupil is also a concierge at the DOUGLAS and finds it a great city for LGBTI people:

‘It is super friendly. I feel very comfortable being openly affectionate with friends and lovers in the downtown area.

‘However, we do have suburbs within the Greater Metro Vancouver Area that are similar to the Midwest/Southern States. The culture there, including how LGBTI and people of color are perceived, is not as good.’

Mackie agrees: ‘Partners can normally walk hand in hand in safety, especially in the Davie Village.

‘But even though we are in a very liberal city and time in history, there are still scenarios today where I will have a second thought before choosing to hold my partner’s hand – things are not perfect yet.’

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