Vancouver Part 5: Multicultural Experiences

In celebration of the city’s 125 birthday in 2011, we’re counting down the top 125 reasons to love Vancouver — whether you’re a local or a visitor. In the last part of our five-part series, we’re counting out ways to celebrate Vancouver’s multicultural heritage, through art, festivals, cuisine and unique experiences. Here are 25 ways to enjoy the city’s cultural diversity.

101. Watch First Nations performance art at the Talking Stick Festival

Aboriginal tribes passed down their history and legends through the art of storytelling, and the Talking Stick Festival celebrates this tradition while infusing modern flair. Get ready for 13 days of contemporary performance art, music, theatre, cabaret and dance, creatively integrated with traditional First Nations themes and art.

102. Learn about cultures from around the world at the Museum of Anthropology

Travel around the globe in an afternoon at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology. Its extensive collections include nearly 600,000 ethnographic and archaeological objects that will offer visitors a glimpse into an array of cultures from the South Pacific, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe.

103. Peruse Chinese street food and colorful wares at the Chinatown Night Market

Every weekend during the warm summer months, the Chinatown Night Market transforms the streets into a bustling, open-air marketplace. Colourful tents line the sidewalks as visitors purchase inexpensive wares, handcrafted trinkets and authentic Chinese street food such as seared squid and fish balls.

104. Stroll through a traditional Japanese tea garden

In Japan, teatime doesn’t require raised pinkies or crumpets, but it does follow a set of rituals. Wander the tranquil surroundings of the Nitobe Memorial Garden, where its authentic Japanese teahouse hosts traditional ceremonies for intimate gatherings throughout the summer. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

105. Eat baklava and loukoumades at the annual Greek Day on Broadway

Immerse yourself in Greek culture at this vibrant festival, which features live music, dancing, folklore, and, of course, delicious food. Make sure to indulge in traditional treats like flaky, saccharine baklava and warm, doughy loukoumades (think donut balls soaked in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon).

106. See jewelry and carvings at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art

The influence of First Nations culture in Vancouver can be seen all around the city, from towering totem poles in Stanley Park to art galleries in Yaletown. For contemporary aboriginal pieces, visit the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, which houses intricate gold and silver jewelry, bronze carvings and historical footage of the prolific Haida artist Bill Reid.

107. Chow down on bulgogi and bibimbap at a nearby Korean restaurant

From tiny, hole-in-the-wall eateries to trendy, upscale restaurants, the best Korean food in Vancouver can be found in a variety of places. Try customary dishes like the marinated barbecue beef known as bulgogi, or opt for a vegetarian dish like bibimbap, warm white rice topped with sautéed vegetables.

108. Munch on a freshly made cannoli on Commercial Drive

Formerly known as “Little Italy,” Commercial Drive is an eclectic district filled with quaint bistros, mom-and-pop delis, sidewalk cafes and ethnic restaurants. Stop into a nearby bakery to try a cannoli, a crisp Sicilian pastry made of fried dough and a sweet, creamy filling.

109. Take off your shoes at the Arthur Erickson Ross Street Sikh Temple

Located near the Indo-Canadian district known as Punjabi Market, the Sikh temple at the foot of Ross Street is a well-known attraction due to its celebrated designer. Vancouver-born architect Arthur Erickson, who is known for his innovative buildings around the city, designed this contemporary structure in 1969. Visitors are welcome to enter the religious structure as long as they take off their shoes and cover their hair with a headscarf, per the Sikh tradition.

110. Hike Burnaby Mountain to see the carved poles of Kamui Mintara

Enjoy the great outdoors and explore Burnaby Mountain Park’s Kamui Mintara—or “Playground of the Gods.” This collection of approximately a dozen carved poles commemorates the goodwill between Burnaby and its sister city, Kushiro Japan.

111. Fill up on German bratwurst and Wiener Schnitzel on Granville Island

When it comes to genuine ethnic dishes, Granville Island is a food-lover’s paradise. Stop by the Granville Island Public Market to fill up on German favourites like Schnitzel sandwiches or spicy bratwurst loaded with grilled onions and sauerkraut.

112. Watch foreign cinema at the Vancouver International Film Festival

Experience other cultures from the comfort of a dark movie theatre with this 16-day celebration of cinema. Featuring hundreds of film screenings and three galas, the Vancouver International Film Festival is a must-attend multicultural event for movie lovers and members of the film industry.

113. Write a poem for the annual Haiku Invitational

Join aspiring poets and inspired word nerds by trying your hand in this annual verse writing competition. As part of the annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, the Haiku Invitational celebrates the fleeting beauty of these blooming cherry trees with short sentiments found in Japanese poetic form.

114. Take a folk dancing class at the Scandinavian Community Centre

Scandinavian culture is alive and thriving at this Lower Mainland community centre, where you can learn the traditional folk dances of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Pick up basic moves at a beginner’s class, where you’ll learn everything from the polka to hambo.

115. Sip Belgian-style ale at Chambar Belgian Restaurant

There are plenty of brewpubs and microbreweries in Vancouver to enjoy a delicious pint of craft beer, but when the beer was created specifically to pair with the cuisine, you know you’re in for a treat. Order Chambar Ale, an amber-coloured brew with aromas of toffee and caramel malt, to enjoy alongside chef Nico Schuermans’ dishes.

116. Cheer on competing rowers at the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival

As North America’s largest dragon boat festival, nearly 180 teams come out to participate in this visually stunning event, filling the waters of False Creek with vibrantly decorated boats. Walk along the waterfront to watch the races, sample authentic global cuisine at the Silk Road Food Festival and dance to international music performances at the World Beat Stage.

117. Partake in an Asian shopping experience at Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre

If you want shopping malls in Vancouver, there are more than enough options, but when you’re looking for a cultural retail experience, head down to nearby Richmond, which has a vibrant Asian community. Here you’ll find the Aberdeen Centre, an upscale shopping mall with Asian-inspired home décor, toys, clothing and specialty foods.

118. Hear Aboriginal legends and lore at the Klahowya Village

Sometimes the past is accessible without the need for a time machine. Take, for example, Klahowya Village, an interactive aboriginal experience in Stanley Park. Here, visitors can experience First Nations culture by watching traditional dances, listening to stories and legends from tribal elders, sampling aboriginal cuisine and witnessing the craft of skilled carvers and weavers.

119. Pull up a chair at The Irish Heather’s communal table for Irish and British home-style cooking

As it turns out, the best things about holiday dinners — large groups of people coming together, hearty food and lots of conversation — are available year-round at The Irish Heather (sans awkward family situations, of course). This Gastown gastropub offers a Long Table Series where 40 people share a communal table and fill up on British and Irish favourites like roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, slow-roasted leg of lamb with gremolata and herb-marinated Cornish hen.

120. Enjoy quiet contemplation at the International Buddhist Temple

There are plenty of peaceful places in Vancouver, but this notable temple is one of the most well known. Attracting a quarter of a million visitors every year, this spiritual retreat in nearby Richmond touts a Chinese garden, the world’s longest Buddha mural, hand-carved stone lanterns, lily ponds and resident monks and nuns.

121. Order a jug of sangria at La Bodega Restaurante & Tapa Bar

While you might not be able to travel to Spain for the night, you can still indulge in its flavorful cuisine and cocktails. Make a reservation at La Bodega Restaurante & Tapa Bar, where you can order authentic paella, colourful tapas and a jug of light red or fruity white sangria.

122. Listen to Swiss singing and yodeling at Saengerfest

Warm up your vocal chords and get ready for four days of yodeling and songs, performed by musical groups from around the world. Don’t worry; even if you don’t know the words to Der Ustig Wott cho, there will be plenty of opportunities to be amazed by the vocal abilities of Swiss choir groups, yodelers and alporn players.

123. Try goat watt and spicy kitfo at Nyala African Cuisine

Thinking about Africa might conjure up mental images of exotic wildlife, and as it turns out, those ideas are especially accurate when it comes to the food. At Nyala African Cuisine, you can go on an adventure over dinner with dishes like goat watt, ostrich stew, spicy kitfo (Ethiopian steak tartar) and Moroccan lamb sausages.

124. Watch traditional Russian entertainment at the Russian Community Centre

The Russian Community Centre in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood offers plenty of ways to experience foreign arts and culture. Watch a performance by the Yablochko Russian Dance Ensemble or listen to Balalaika Orchestra and the Pushkin Children’s Language School.

125. Stock up on Indian-Pakistani ingredients at Punjabi Market

This Indo-Canadian district has plenty of small shops and grocery stores that make it easy to recreate authentic Punjabi dishes at home. Fill up a basket with items like tamarind, cumin, curry sauce and exotic snacks before heading home. Of course, if you don’t feel like cooking, you can always check out one of Vancouver’s Indian restaurants.

Read Part One: The Great Outdoors
Read Part Two: The Urban Delights
Read Part Three: Food and Drink
Read Part Four: Local’s Favourites
Read Part Five: Multicultural Experiences