I recently hosted a trip to Vancouver and Whistler for a group of five UK and European media, each journalist specialised in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions industries. We flew with Air Canada who offers a direct service to Vancouver from Heathrow and a number of other European capitals.
This was my first trip to Canada’s west coast and I was delighted to be staying at The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for the first few days. One of three Fairmont hotels in the city, it is located in the heart of downtown. The iconic property is truly stunning and has a history of hosting royalty and Hollywood A-Listers. Known to some as the ‘Grand Lady’ and to others as ‘Castle in the City’, the historic hotel oozes charm, sophistication and style.
After a relaxed afternoon enjoying the hotel’s leisure facilities, we met at Notch8 Restaurant and Bar which is located in the lobby of The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and combines new- and old-world charm with a splashy style reminiscent of the era of grand railway hotels. The elegant menu features classic cocktails and timeless dishes, inviting patrons to linger and watch the world go by.
The next morning the group were treated to a delicious breakfast aboard a luxury Yacht moored in Vancouver Harbour. The view from the Pacific Yacht Charter vessel was truly spectacular and in the full light of day it made us appreciate just how beautiful the city is. But it was the helicopter flight later that day that really blew me away. The SKY Helicopter tour provided a unique perspective above Vancouver and the remarkable scenery that surrounds it. From this height it was clear that the city is conveniently compact but each neighbourhood has its own unique architecture and distinctive offering.
During our visit to Vancouver we were able to check out the city’s world-class Aquarium as well the impressive Vancouver Convention Centre. But my favourite activity was a city walking tour provided by the company TourByLocals. It was a great opportunity to soak up the city’s super cool and very welcoming culture. Boutique shops, artisan markets, family run restaurants and talented street performers; downtown Vancouver really is a melting pot of cultures and peoples that did not fail to impress the whole group.
The drive north from Vancouver to Whistler only took an hour and a half. We stayed at the ornate Fairmont Chateau Whistler, which is nestled at the base of Blackcomb Mountain and offers modern luxury in a tranquil setting. The resort town is famous for its skiing and the 2010 Olympics, but we discovered it offers so much more than just winter sport!
Whistler has a population of just 10,000 but welcomes some two millions visitors a year. With two majestic mountains, a vibrant base village, epic skiing and snowboarding, four championship golf courses, world-class shopping, restaurants and bars, hiking trails, spas and arguably the best mountain bike park in the world, it’s easy to see why the town is so popular.
One of my favourite activities in Whistler was zip lining at Cougar Mountain. A company called Super Fly use a unique system that allows two guests to ride side-by-side, each on their own cable during an incredibly scenic experience. In what can only be described as a like flying, all of us overcame our initial fear and simply went for it, it’s is a must for any itinerary.
With our feet firmly back on the ground we visited the nearby Audian Art Musuem. The impressive contemporary building is Whistler’s newest cultural hot spot and houses a permanent collection of artworks from British Columbia and hosts exhibitions from leading museums from around the world. I particularly enjoyed the First Nations collection as well as the pieces by the post-war painter Jack Shadbolt; in my view his ‘Butterfly Transformation Theme’ oil painting is exceptional.
Sadly our trip was only for a few days but it had certainly provided a flavour for the great culture, shopping, dining and outdoor activities on offer in western Canada. It is also clear that British Columbia has a superb range of venues suitable for exhibitions and conferences of all genres and sizes.