Summer Highlights - Welcome to a sizzling British Columbia
by Judi Lees
Fragrant, spring days, followed by dazzling, warm, summer ones, herald a season of celebration in British Columbia. The western province, particularly in Vancouver and Vancouver Island, offers a banquet of new attractions and special events. From innovative museums to resplendent garden festivities, from intriguing wilderness excursions to new, luxury resorts, it promises to be a sizzling warm-weather season in BC.
Sit under the mammoth blue-and-yellow Grand Chapiteau at Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver to experience one of Canada’s most renowned and best-loved presentations. CIRQUE DU SOLEIL has returned to Vancouver for the second time in a year because of the overwhelming audience response. Until June 13, audiences will thrill to QUIDAM. Pronounced ‘key-dam’, it is a Latin word for an anonymous passer-by, someone living lost amid the crowd. As always, CIRQUE DU SOLEIL will fascinate with a glamorous presentation of breathtaking aerial contortions, colorful clowns, amazing, ongoing antics all set to stimulating music. It is not to be missed.
Elsewhere in Vancouver, the buzz on the streets is about two new attractions -- what’s going on under the busy routes of Gastown as well as what is happening in North Vancouver treetops.
Located underground and opening June 1 is Storyeum: A Magical Mystery Tour. On an enchanting, ‘virtual’ journey that entails live performances and storytelling visitors relive British Columbia’s past. Once transported by elevator, guests move back through time, strolling a salmon stream, into an ancient forest, stop at a Long House, board a tall ship and there are visits to a gold rush village and a rail road town. It’s a little like moving from one dramatic movie set to another. (www.storyeum.com)
Meanwhile at Capilano Suspension Bridge there is action in the evergreens. The new Treetops Adventure sees non-vertigo sufferers venture along 200 metres of walkway strung throughout the trees for an eagle’s eye view of this verdant green space. Visitors have always flocked here to cross the wood-and-cable bridge that hangs 70 metres above a rushing river and steep canyon. Now, the multi-functional park that also boasts totem poles, interpretative walks, gift store and restaurant, adds this swaying walk amid lofty evergreens as well as the new ‘Cliffhanger Walk’ that borders the canyon’s edge. (www.capbridge.com)
Vancouver visitors now have the option of an easy day or weekend excursion to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Harbour Lynx is a high-speed, comfy, passenger ferry, that takes 80 minutes for the harbour-to-harbour trip. You arrive at the prettied up waterfront in Nanaimo and everything from fine restaurants, galleries, antique shops, historic points, and museum are close-by. There are six departures daily. (www.harbourlynx.com)
On southern Vancouver Island, Victoria is always a must-visit with its heritage sites, gorgeous Inner Harbour setting – an easy stroll to many attractions -- and magnificent gardens. The Royal British Columbia Museum is always a much-talked-about attraction and this summer will be no different. Eternal Egypt : Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum runs from July 10-October 31. This much-lauded museum that relates the history of BC in a dramatic and lively way, is the only venue in the Pacific Northwest to host this priceless exhibit consisting of 144 Egyptian masterworks that span 3,000 years. (www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca)
New on the harbour scene – opened May 1, 2004, is the Victoria Marriott Hotel. Mere steps away from Victoria’s Inner Harbour attractions, one of the lovely perks of the 236-room, luxury hotel is a rooftop, concierge lounge. Spectacular views along with a health club, indoor pool, restaurant, bar and meeting space for 5,000 people, make the Marriott a welcome addition to Victoria’s hotel scene. (www.victoriamarriott.com)
This year holds special meaning for one of Vancouver Island’s premier attractions: Butchart Gardens, the 22-hectare bloom-adorned, beauty spot just north of the city, is 100 years old. Celebrations include whimsical topiary creatures that will adorn the garden from May 21 on, two nine-metre-high Totem Poles are being carved on site by aboriginal artists and will be raised in September. Fireworks are held each Saturday evening and guests who come to stroll the luxuriant gardens that include a fragrant rose garden, Japanese and Italian gardens and the favourite of many, the Sunken Garden, can have tea and enjoy a special exhibit of archival photos and stories. It is fitting that a new variety of tulip was christened ‘Jennie Butchart’ in honour of the imaginative gardener who started it all. Butchart Gardens are open daily; there are two restaurants, coffee shop and a seed and gift shop. (www.butchartgardens.com)
Bloom-lovers visiting the Island should keep in mind that it boasts a bounty of efflorescence. Nineteen gardens have joined forces—‘The Gardens of Vancouver Island’ -- to showcase some of the best. Don’t miss Milner Gardens and Woodland in Qualicum Beach. It is 28 hectares of Douglas fir woodland and luscious gardens (over 500 Rhododendrons) sweeping around a seaside estate that has a nice touch of history. (www.vancouverislandgardens.com)