British Columbia: Cities in Wilderness

Yes, you can have it all. Heart-pounding natural adventure one minute and eco-friendly urban fun the next. And it’s only a short flight north of L.A., in British Columbia. So pack your gear – and your wine list – and head on out. Here’s a check list of some wild and wonderful experiences in and around two of British Columbia’s coolest cities.

Vancouver – A City on the Edge

Rising between the Pacific Ocean and ancient rainforest, Vancouver is steeped in natural excitement. For base camp, consider the environmentally friendly Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel, with stunning water and mountain views and adventure just steps away. From the hotel, follow the seawall (the city’s scenic oceanfront path), by foot or rent a bicycle, into Stanley Park’s sprawling rainforests and meadows. A 15-minute drive and you’re in true wilderness – Grouse Mountain – to stroll among 400-year-old trees or walk the Grouse Grind trail’s steep slopes. Don’t miss the Capilano Suspension Bridge in the nearby cedar temperate rainforests – at 450 feet long and 230 feet above the Capilano River, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Soar off the beaten path with Sky Helicopter Tours over remote peaks and snowy glaciers. Fly low over the water and through the Lions — twin mountain peaks just north of the city — and touch down in the pristine North Shore Mountains on the “North Shore and Howe Sound” flightseeing tour. Or experience the ice-blue glaciers, waterfalls, lakes and meadows of the Coast Mountains on the “Mountain and Glacier View” trip.

Cap off the day’s adventure exploring Vancouver’s dynamic, sustainable foodie scene. Treat yourself to fine dining at Hawksworth, one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants. Chef and owner David Hawksworth celebrates Vancouver’s cultural diversity and natural environment with contemporary cuisine, using local, organic ingredients and seafood. Top menu picks include pan-roasted sablefish and roast venison loin. The Fairmont Pacific Rim’s ORU fine dining restaurant also specializes in local-ingredient cooking, and the hotel’s RawBar is Vancouver’s first 100 percent “Ocean Wise” sushi destination, meaning they serve only sustainable seafood.

Whistler – Mountain Playground

Nestled in British Columbia’s Coastal Mountains, Whistler is renowned for exhilarating eco adventures. The cosmopolitan destination is one of few North American resort towns with access to such remote wilderness – Arctic-like glaciers and ice caves – so quickly. For once-in-a-lifetime thrills, the Four Seasons Whistler resort is a great pick. It’s at the edge of the village, with beautiful indoor-outdoor mountain views and has partnered with Head-Line Mountain Holidays to offer year-round helicopter wilderness experiences into the untouched backcountry and the Pemberton Ice Cap.

Thrill to Arctic-like expeditions across endless ice fields and explore 15,000-year-old ice caves on the Heli Ice Cap Snowmobile or Snowbike tours. Even overnight on the ice – make camp at the Four Seasons’ luxury base on the icefields on the “Ice Cap Soiree.” For green thrills, helicopter to pristine streams on a heli-canoe trip; or spot black bear in the old-growth forests with researcher Michael Allen, through the Four Seasons.

Back in Whistler, continue the environmental thrills with dinner at Araxi Restaurant + Oyster Bar. It’s internationally known for the finest ingredients from the nearby fields, pastures and pristine waters by three-time James Beard winner and farm-to-table pioneer Chef James Walt. Or try your hand at sabering a bottle of champagne at the Bearfoot Bistro. Before dinner, have a drink at the underground wine cellar, the Champagne Bar or the Ketel One Ice Room – parka included – the world’s coldest vodka tasting room. Then enjoy local seasonal dishes with an international twist – think Peridot truffles and Berkshire pork – by Chef Melissa Craig.

—Barbara Beckley, Content Solutions Writer

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