Vancouver is a relaxed city with many diversions and easy access to outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, boating and skiing. There is a lively cultural scene. Some have called it a “city of neighbourhoods,” each with its own distinctive character.
Vancouver can be an expensive city, as housing prices are among the highest in Canada. Various strategies aim to lessen housing costs. These include cooperative housing, suites, increased density and smart growth. Nevertheless, as with many other cities on the west coast of North America, homelessness is a concern, as is the growing gulf between rich and poor.
Vancouver is home to people of many ethnic backgrounds and religions. It contains the second largest Chinatown in North America, (after San Francisco). Street signs written in Chinese and Punjabi (with original English names) can be seen in those respective cultural communities. Prior to the hand-over of Hong Kong to China many Chinese immigrants made Vancouver their home.
Vancouver has many progressive elements, including a bustling music and art scene and innovative approaches to drug-related harm. The Four Pillars Drug Strategy combines harm reduction (needle exchanges, safe injection sites) with prevention, treatment and enforcement. Marijuana laws are generally unenforced within the city region allowing several “marijuana cafes” to open, earning it the name the Amsterdam of the North.
Vancouver is Canada’s largest port and North America’s gateway for Asia-Pacific trade. It ranks second in North America in total foreign exports and second on the West Coast in total cargo volume.
“Hollywood North,” as the city has been called, typically hosts 10% of Hollywood’s movies. Many American television series are filmed exclusively in Vancouver.
Tourism is a vital industry in Vancouver. Whistler, BC, 126 kilometres north of Vancouver, has often been designated as having the best skiing mountains in North America. Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain, each with a variety of summer and winter sports, are within thirty minutes drive of downtown Vancouver. The city’s beaches, parks, waterfront and mountain backdrop, combined with its cultural and multi-ethnic character, all contribute to its unique appeal.
In an International Olympic Committee meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, in July 2003, Vancouver received (along with Whistler) the right to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. Vancouver was also the site of the 1986 World Exposition.