Photo: Tourism BC/Dannielle Hayes
Smart travelers know, and history has shown, that the best time to visit an Olympic host city is often after the Games. Why? Because host cities tend to overbuild in anticipation for a flood of tourism—but once the Games are over, they become virtual ghost towns. And that's when savvy travelers can find great deals and have the city to themselves.
Spending a day in Granville Island is a must for tourists and locals alike. Part of downtown Vancouver, this lively "island"—it's really more of a peninsula—boasts a public market, a renowned farmers' market, nightclubs, art galleries and studios and the notable Granville Island Brewing Company. Definitely stop by Muffin Granny, a bakery stand that serves outstanding crepes and scones. Then just sit back, relax and enjoy the people-watching.
Commercial Drive is Vancouver's Italian neighborhood, which is packed with ethnic restaurants, independent theaters and even an Italian motorcycle club, with one-of-a-kind bikes often parked in front of Calabria Cafe.
Kitsalano, aka "Kits," is another popular neighborhood on Vancouver's west side, about a 15-minute bus ride from downtown. Try skimboarding in the natural tide pools of Spanish Banks and check out the Vancouver Maritime Museum , which covers Canada's rich maritime history.
The Vancouver area boasts a rich Asian-Canadian population, best experienced in Richmond's Aberdeen Centre shopping mall, where you can find everything from a fantastic and affordable Asian food court to tea and herb shops to cutting-edge fashion.
The Vancouver Art Gallery features world-class exhibits and is definitely worth a visit. Along with traditional photography, prints and paintings, the gallery also has a public art space in downtown Vancouver and is showcasing an open-air video exhibition on the facade facing Robson Street.
More offbeat art galleries abound, so carve out some time to wander through the many art spaces scattered downtown, along Granville Street and in East Vancouver. One favorite is Equinox Gallery , which features modern and contemporary art and offers a good balance of international and local artists.