With the second-largest Chinese community in North America and one of the largest outside Asia, Vancouver ’s Chinatown is an exciting place any time of year. But it’s especially lively during a Chinese festival or holiday, when thronging masses follow the ferocious dancing dragon, avoid exploding firecrackers, sample tasty tidbits from outdoor stalls, and pound their feet to the beat of the drums.
Chinatown lies several blocks southeast of Gastown , along East Pender Street between Carrall and Gore Streets. Its commercial center is the block bordered by Main, East Pender, Gore, and Keefer Streets. Stroll through the neighborhood to admire the architecture—right down to the pagoda-roofed telephone booths—or to seek out one of the multitude of restaurants.
Designed primarily to host community programs for the local Chinese population, the Chinese Cultural Centre also has a museum (555 Columbia St., 604/687-0282, Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m., adult $5, senior $3) cataloging the history of Chinese Canadians in Vancouver.
Gardening enthusiasts won’t want to miss Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (behind the Cultural Centre at 578 Carrall St., 604/662-3207, summer daily 9:30 a.m.–7 p.m., spring and fall daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m., winter daily 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m., adult $10, senior $9, child $8), which features limestone rockeries, a waterfall and tranquil pools, and beautiful trees and plants hidden away behind tall walls.
To get to Chinatown from downtown, catch bus number 19 or 22 east along Pender Street. Try to avoid East Hastings Street at all times; it’s Vancouver ’s skid row, inhabited by unsavory characters day and night.