When visitors touch down in this skyscraper city on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, they might feel like they’ve been here before.
That’s because Vancouver has stood in for almost every other destination – in movies and TV productions. From Seattle and San Francisco to Mumbai, Hong Kong and New York: Vancouver has pretended to be them all. It’s taken a supporting role in Deadpool, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the Fifty Shades franchise and dozens of TV productions including Supernatural and Riverdale. No wonder the streets feel so familiar.
‘You get the full package when you come to British Columbia,’ says Prem Gill, chief executive of Creative BC, a development agency that houses the province’s film commission and scouts locations for upcoming productions. The film and television industry contributes some C$2 billion (more than HK$11.5 billion) a year to the local economy.
‘We have an incredible diversity of locations – from desert and mountains to the city,’ says Gill. ‘Vancouver has a talent base of more than 40,000 people who work in the industry.’ Plus there’s the convenience of being a short hop from LA – and in the same time zone.
Hollywood North’s love affair with the camera began three decades ago when MacGyver and The X-Files filmed here. Now, downtown Vancouver has eight purpose-built studios, 2.5 million square feet of available soundstage space and 100 stages for motion picture production. Add in a world-class visual effects and animation industry (Vancouverites have been responsible for the visual trickery seen in everything from Life of Pi to The Lego Batman Movie) and some tempting tax breaks and you’ll see why locals are used to rubbing shoulders with celebrities or dodging film crews across the city.
And those celebrities still have to eat, drink and play – easy in Vancouver’s diverse food scene. Chefs from around the world have brought their own recipes and culinary traditions to create a new Pacific Northwest cuisine with produce from the region’s fertile farmland and excellent seafood from its cool, clear waters. If you want your sustainable lingcod or Vancouver Island Little Wing oysters to come with a side of Hollywood royalty, try these hotspots.
Where to dine with the stars
Past celebrity spots: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Clive Owen
In Chinatown, the hottest celebrity spot is The Keefer. The bar specialises in apothecary-style cocktails created using ingredients from traditional Chinese medicine, such as a magnolia bark tincture said to help digestive issues; and astragalus, which is said to elevate your qi (vital energy). Swing by on Monday night for half-price bubbles. 135 Keefer Street, thekeeferbar.com
The Sutton Place
Past celebrity spots: Colin Firth, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sean Connery, Courtney Love
After a busy day shooting downtown film crews relax incognito in baseball caps and jeans in Gerard Lounge at The Sutton Place Hotel Vancouver, a classic old-school drinking spot with cosy wingback armchairs, a toasty fire and excellent service. A-listers spotted digging into the daily oyster happy hour specials have included Colin Firth and Sean Connery. The hotel’s Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar also has its fair share of big names: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Courtney Love, Olivia Munn and Comedy Central’s Jordan Peele have all been spotted here. Dive into the local seafood towers or try the bouillabaisse made with local rockfish. 845 Burrard Street, suttonplace.com/vancouver
Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar
Past celebrity spots: Janeane Garofalo, Hugh Laurie
With its late opening hours, live music at the weekend and creative cocktail list, Uva is a reliable celebrity hangout for when movie crews – and stars – are in town. The cast of the new Star Trek movies, along with Janeane Garofalo and Hugh Laurie, have all slid into Uva’s comfy leather booths. Drink like a celeb with a no-sugar, low-carb highball – or try a signature cocktail like the Gin-Gin Donkey or Chartreuse Milkshake. Moda Hotel, 900 Seymour Street, uvavancouver.com
Gotham Steakhouse & Bar
Past celebrity spots: Halle Berry, George Clooney, Robert Pattinson
Tucked away in a beautiful art deco heritage building, the Gotham Steakhouse is a Vancouver classic. Prime-grade Alberta 28-day aged beef features on the menu along with discreet service and killer cocktails. Halle Berry, George Clooney and Robert Pattinson have all visited – along with every ice hockey team that comes to town – so join the stars, stay carb-free (although the cheese toast is insanely good) and protein load like a pro. 615 Seymour Street, gothamsteakhouse.com
Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio
Past celebrity spots: Idris Elba, Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick
On False Creek, Peruvian-Japanese fusion Ancora has beautiful views over the water and Vancouver’s urban sprawl. It’s a major draw thanks to its delicately spiced take on Peruvian classics made with local sustainable seafood, as well as zingingly fresh sushi. If no celebrities are around, sample local British Columbia wines on the sunny patio as sporty locals run, bike or rollerblade past on the seawall. The 28-kilometre path wraps around downtown and Stanley Park. 1600 Howe Street, ancoradining.com
Past celebrity spots: Tom Cruise, Ryan Reynolds, Oprah, John Travolta
The Shangri-La, Vancouver’s most discreet hotel, has private underground access for heavy hitters who want to avoid the paparazzi. The luxury hotel is also home to Market by Jean-Georges, a restaurant created by decorated French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, where A-listers feast on signature dishes such as black truffle pizza and steelhead sashimi on crispy rice. 1128 West Georgia Street, shangri-la.com/vancouver
Past celebrity spots: Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Vera Farmiga
Celebs that want to eat vegan or vegetarian without compromising on flavour head to The Acorn on Vancouver’s hip Main Street. Oscar winner Casey Affleck has dined here, as well as Woody Harrelson, Vera Farmiga and Lisa Edelstein. Although the ever-changing seasonal menu has something new each time you visit, the beer-battered halloumi with smashed peas is a perennial favourite. Pair it with one of the thoughtfully crafted cocktails such as the Tomatina with tequila, rosemary-infused dry vermouth, tomato consommé, herb oil and orange zest served in a mezcal rinsed glass. 3995 Main Street, theacornrestaurant.ca
Past celebrity spots: Kate Winslet, Clive Owen
Winner of Vancouver Magazine’s 2016 Best Restaurant gong, Maenam blends traditional Thai recipes and flavours with locally sourced produce to create a very Vancouver restaurant. Dishes such as fermented pork with crispy rice salad and eight-spice lingcod have lured the likes of Kate Winslet and Clive Owen to its tables. Don’t miss the Thai-inspired cocktails with ingredients such as salted plum, lemongrass and galangal, along with one of the city’s most interesting wine lists focusing on aromatic rieslings and lighter reds, paired beautifully with chef Angus An’s delicately spiced food. 1938 West Fourth Avenue, maenam.ca
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