Ten Things to Know About Vancouver

JamesZ, flickr

For the next month Vancouver will be know as the Olympic City, but it is way more than that. It was officially settled in the late 1880s to take advantage of its natural port and today is officially one of the best cities in the world to live in and to visit thanks to its climate, diverse population, and hundreds of parks. And you may just see a movie star or two as well. Here are some Vancouver facts you should know before you travel to the Olympics.

It is known as Hollywood North.

The city earned this nickname because it ranks second to LA in number of television productions and third to LA and NYC in film productions shot here. Due to the low production costs, shows like Fringe (which takes place in "Boston" and "New York") and movies such as the Twilight franchise (at least that's supposed to be the Pacific Northwest) set up here. Want to star gaze while you are in town? The rich and famous can usually be found shopping on Robson Street or sunning on Kitsilano Beach.

It is one of the few places where you can ski and golf on the same day.

Spring is many Vancouverites favorite time of the year, when enough snow still caps local mountains for a quick slalom but the temps are around 60 degrees on the lower land, warm enough for a round of golf or even a jaunt out on a sailboat. The North Shore and Cypress mountains have skiing well into April. If you want to tee off, there are a number of course in Vancouver and nearby Whistler, including challenging public courses.

It is routinely voted one of the world's best cities to live.

Vancouver typically ranks highly in polls like "world's most livable cities." The city's superior infrastructure and a government dedicated to fostering community make it a desirable location in which to settle down. The editors at Conde Nast Traveler also rank Vancouver as one of the best cities in the Americas (it took first place in 2004) for its friendliness, culture, restaurants, and hotels.

It was founded in 1886.

American, British, and European explorers all made trips to what is now Vancouver in hopes of drawing a link between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. But it wasn't until the gold rush of 1858 that the area really took off. The first official settlement sprung up around a tavern that was the epicenter of activity and was called Gastown (named after the bar's long-winded owner). In 1886 the town was officially incorporated and renamed Vancouver. The city quickly took off, thanks to another gold rush and the building of a transcontinental railroad that linked the city's port with the rest of Canada.

It was named after Captain George Vancouver.

The British naval officer had been dead for almost 100 years when his name was bestowed up the city. He was given the honor due to his pioneering explorations of the area. He had been on Captain James Cook's failed trip to this part of the Canadian coast in 1778 (they had to turn back due to weather) but led a successful voyage in 1792. He made detailed maps of much of the Canadian coast and of Alaska while attempting to find the Northwest Passage. The exploration lasted three years, with much of the work being done not in a grand ship but in small rowboats.

It is now the third largest city in Canada.

The more eastern cities of Toronto and Montreal are the country's first and second largest, respectively, making Vancouver number three and by far the largest in the west. About two million people call the metro area home, with just over 600,000 living in the city center. The city's typically temperate climate, thriving industries, busy port, and waterfront setting make it a very attractive place to call home.

It was once home to the world's largest neon sign company.

Many industries flourished in early Vancouver-logging, fur trapping, gold mining. But in the 1950s, this was a neon town. Almost every coffee shop, theater, hotel, and restaurant was emblazoned with neon to the point where there was one sign for every 19 residents (take that, Times Square). You can still see retro signs still lit up at the Ovaltine Café on East Hastings Street and Save On Meats on West Hastings Street. The city is now encouraging companies in the Granville District to use neon signs as a nod to Vancouver's brightly-lit past.

It has the largest port in Canada.

If you are thinking about cruising to Alaska, you'll most likely be setting sail from Vancouver. About 250 cruise ships dock here every year, most of them going north into the Pacific and along the coast. The port isn't just for pleasure cruises, of course. This is a hub for massive container ships bringing goods from overseas to be distributed throughout Canada, and a tradition that dates back to when traders first set up shop here back in the 1870s.

It has a very multicultural population.

The diverse make-up of Vancouver's residents includes a large number of immigrants of Asian decent. This is not a new phenomenon-the Indo-Canadian community can trace its roots back to the 1890s while Chinese and Taiwanese citizens began arriving in the large numbers. There was also a significant number of Hong Kong residents that immigrated to Vancouver in the 1980s when the former British colony came under Chinese rule. Today the city retains a Chinatown, a Japantown, and a Punjabi Market district.

It is a city that values the great outdoors.

There are more than 200 parks in Vancouver to satisfy the need for residents and tourists to enjoy the area's natural beauty. When the city was incorporated in 1886, the charter called for a 1,000-acre peninsula to be set aside as a public park. Known as Stanley Park, it still thrives today. The parks' landscape has fir, cedar, and hemlock trees, a rhododendron garden, and wildlife like eagles and even coyote. Other notable parks include Queen Elizabeth Park (famous for its arboretum) and the VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Looking for more Olympics coverage? Check out FanHouse's Winter Olympics Page.

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