By JILL VON SPRECKEN
Day or night, Vancouver’s markets and festivals deliver a taste of the West Coast. Explore the city’s diverse neighbourhoods, dig into the street food scene, sample the local harvest and score handmade works by local artisans—just for starters
Richmond’s Night Markets
The Far East meets the West Coast at Richmond’s two night markets, where cheap wares, crowds of people and unique fare all mingle by twilight. If open-air markets rank on your travel bucket list—and even if they don’t—these markets aren’t to be missed. The International Summer Night Market was named one of the world’s top night markets by BBC Travel in 2011, for celebrating “the city’s immigrant population—Canada’s largest—through performances and food.” The Richmond Night Market, however, is not to be outdone. The plethora of food vendors at both markets ensures that the adventurous and cautious alike find tastes to tempt them: from grilled satay skewers and dim sum to BBQ squid and the infamous potato tornado (a curlicue of deep-fried potato on a stick). Walk it all off as you shop the vendors for trinkets and toys, including clothing, phone accessories and stationery. For even more international flavour, take in music and dance performances. After all that, go ahead and cross “outdoor night market” off your bucket list.
Chinatown Night Market
When we think of a neighbourhood with loads of ethnic flavour, we think Chinatown. The sights, smells and sounds tantalize year-round, and the night market takes it all out-of-doors, adding a crush of people, enticing festival-style food vendors, a dose of entertainment and kitschy knick-knacks and wares. After 17 seasons, the market got a hip upgrade this year, which includes new vendors selling handmade goods by local artisans—think homemade fruit pies, art and silk scarves—and fresh new tastes to write home about. The perfect showcase of Vancouver’s cultural diversity? We like to think so.
Food Cart Fest
If a casual bite alfresco is right up your alley, then the city’s Food Cart Fest won’t disappoint. Vancouver’s street food scene draws locals and visitors alike to the colourful trucks selling a unique combination of laid-back and creative cuisine. Some are an extension of the city’s finest dining spots—such as Vij’s Railway Express—and others simply found food cart fame. Find more than 20 vendors all in one place every Sunday until Sep. 22. Sample modern Chinese from Le Tigre, eclectic dishes from Feastro the Rolling Bistro, pan-Asian tastes from Roaming Dragon and classic comfort food from Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck. Grab a plate—or two—of the food cart fare, then enjoy live music and DJs, community markets and kids’ activities. Or take advantage of the waterside location with a stroll along False Creek. With the cityscape as your backdrop and a plate of the city’s tastiest street food offerings in hand, you’ll have found nothing less than Sunday afternoon perfection.
Get a taste of the local food movement at one of the many farmers’ markets in Vancouver and Whistler. Several days a week, side streets and parking lots are transformed into bustling markets packed to the brim with home-grown flavour. Grocery-store aisles can’t compete with garden-fresh fruits and veggies, artisan cheeses and harvested honey. Whether you’re packing a picnic or stocking your pantry, the market’s made-from-scratch items will tempt you with heavenly pastries and preserves, baked breads and exceptional dips and spreads. It’ll have you praising the locavore movement—and BC’s extraordinary bounty. If a less perishable keepsake is on your list, turn your attention to the handmade craft and jewellery vendors selling everything from silver and pearls to aprons and quilts. If it’s the bustle of the market you’re craving, grab a coffee and a bite from the on-site food trucks and take it all in. With local farmers and producers selling wares this fresh, it’s easy to see why Vancouver is the birthplace of Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon’s The 100-Mile Diet.