Vancouver, British Columbia, delivers an appealing mix of urban convenience and access to nature—so it's no wonder that 2.5 million people call the greater metropolitan area home. Here are 25 facts that will send you running across the the border to the Canadian city.
1. British Captain George Vancouver arrived in 1792 and quickly realized the Spanish technically owned the entire west coast because of 1494’s Treaty of Tordesillas. He left after one day.
2. As the story goes, a popular saloon was built on the Burrard Inlet by a guy nicknamed Gassy Jack in 1867 (so named for his outgoing personality—we hope). Soon a community sprung up in the area named Gastown. In 1870, Gastown was incorporated as the town of Granville and in 1886, Granville was incorporated as the City of Vancouver, with around 1000 residents.
3. When the city was just two months old, it completely burned down in the Great Fire of Vancouver. Only three buildings survived. Historians believe that the town's two newspapers were also affected by the blaze—there's a gap in the microfilm archives from June 10, 1886 to July 23, 1886.
4. Even though Vancouver surpassed the current British Columbia capital Victoria in size in 1900, it never had the distinction of serving as the provincial seat of government.
5. Downtown’s Marine Building in Coal Harbour used to be the tallest building in not just Canada, but in the entire British Empire. The October 7, 1930, Vancouver Sun newspaper supplement described the 321-foot tall art deco structure as a “great marine rock rising from the sea, clinging with sea flora and fauna, tinted in sea green, flashed with gold, at night a dim silhouette piercing the sea mists.”
Vancouver’s first green space, the 1001-acre Stanley Park, is one of North America’s largest urban greenspaces. It hosts around 8 million visitors a year. Among its many attractions: "Girl in a Wetsuit," which looks remarkably like Copenhagen's "Little Mermaid." Of course, it features a few modern updates that kept the artist from getting sued. All of the squirrels in Stanley Park are descended from eight pairs gifted to Vancouverby the City of New York in 1909.
7. One of the world’s longest continuous waterfront paths is Vancouver’s 17.4-mile Seaside Greenway, which includes the 5.6-mile Stanley Park Seawall.
8. Built to create jobs during the Depression, the Kitsilano Pool opened on August 15, 1931, and is North America’s longest saltwater pool. The 449-foot long space, which locals call “Kits Pool,” was originally built for $50,000, but got a $2.2 million makeover in 1978.
9. British Columbia’s most visited attraction, the Brockton Point totem poles, are located inside Stanley Park. The display started in the 1920s when four poles were brought in from Alert Bay. In 1936, more were bought from Haida Gwaii and the province’s central coast. The First Nations artifacts were moved to their current location in the 1960s. Currently, there are nine poles; the most recent was added in 2009.
The third time the Granville Street Bridge was built in 1954, the first civilian to drive over it was the same woman who was the first to drive over the second iteration of that bridge in 1909. Both times she made the journey in a new Cadillac.
11. Unlike most North American metropolises, there still aren’t any freeways in downtown Vancouver—although there have been a number of plans to build them through the decades. One idea in the 1960s involved creating a massive ditch at Comox and Thurlow streets to carve out room for a complex system of highways.
12. An iconic sight along the waterfront are the five 90-foot sails made of teflon-coated fiberglass on top of Canada Place, installed in 1986. Every night, the white surfaces are illuminated with colors, displays, and animation, often honoring local charities and events.
13. Princess Diana and Prince Charles hopped across the pond to open the 1986 World’s Fair, better known as Expo 86, which coincided with the 100th anniversary of the city. The event attracted 22 million visitors that year, but it was far from profitable: in fact, that particular fair ran a $337 million deficit.
14. The 155-foot-tall geodesic dome on Quebec Street designed by American R. Buckminster Fuller was constructed for Expo 86 to serve as the Expo Preview Center. With 766 triangles, 391 lights and 15,000 pounds of aluminum, it now holds the Science World British Columbia museum.
Today, Leg-in-Boot Square looks a lot like your typical urban plaza. But for a two-week period back in 1887, the otherwise unassuming square boasted a grisly landmark: a half of a leg in—you guessed it—a boot, which local police decided to display outside their station in case its owner came looking for it.
16. The historic industrial region of Granville Island started its transformation in the 1970s into a community known for its artisans, performers, and market. Granville Island is also home to the Sea Village, a neighborhood on the water comprised of floating houses [PDF].
17. Vancouver's Chinatown houses Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park, as well as the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. What’s the difference? The Park is a public city space designed by local architects, who relied on modern-day equipment with materials from the Americas and volcanic rocks from Mexico. The Garden, on the other hand, was founded by a non-profit and designed by Chinese artisans using architecture from the Ming Dynasty and supplies from China, including fossil limestone rocks from Lake Tai. Both were built in the 1980s and share a pond in the middle.
18. A combination of the exchange rate and tax credits has given Vancouver the moniker “Hollywood North” for the tremendous number of film and TV shows filmed there. A record 353 productions were shot in the city in 2015; Deadpool hired more than 2000 employees over the course of production. Most recently, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, out next May, wrapped filming in the area.
19. Home to the Vancouver Whitecaps and the BC Lions (which are both technically football teams), the BC Place stadium has served as a filming location for Godzilla 3D, The Fantastic Four, and Alien vs. Predator, as well as TV shows Arrow, Smallville, Fringe, Highlander, and The Flash. But the stadium's real star is its 328-by-279-foot retractable roof—the largest of its kind in the world.
20. According to Vancouver's Neon Products Ltd., Vancouver had the second-highest number of neon signs per capita in the 1950s and '60s. (Only Shanghai had more.)
21. The city hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, with 2566 athletes from 82 countries competing. The 17-day event was covered by 10,000 media representatives and watched by 3 billion viewers globally. Venues were spread over a 75-mile area stretching from Richmond to Whistler.
Soaring 499 feet above sea level at the highest point in Vancouver is the 128-acre Queen Elizabeth Park, with sweeping views of the city, water, and mountains. Its arboretum features 1500 trees from across Canada, while the park's Bloedel Conservatoryhouses 500 exotic plants and 200 birds.
23. The California roll was, ironically, invented in Vancouver by sushi chef Hidekazu Tojo, who moved to the city from Japan in 1971. After observing that westerns weren’t huge fans of raw fish or seaweed, he ditched the fish and hid the seaweed. Many of the early fans were visitors from Los Angeles, so he named it after the Golden State.
24. If you're ever looking for a spot to kick back, consider heading to Vancouver's own Dude Chilling Park. That isn't the park's official name—according to city officials, it's technically still called Guelph Park—but local residents couldn't help but refer to the park's main attraction, an abstract figure that appears to be, well, just chilling. A "Dude Chilling Park" sign was installed as a "public art project" in 2014.
One of the Canadian metropolis’ biggest names is Chester, a young false killer whale who was rescued near Tofino with just a 10 percent chance of survival and rehabilitated by the Vancouver Aquarium. These days, he can be spotted in the Aquarium's Wild Coast habitat, alongside a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Helen.