Top of the World trail, Whistler
Experience the wild and mild sides of British Columbia
Adventure comes in many flavors, especially for those sampling all that British Columbia, Canada, has to offer before, during and after meetings.
There are daring activities, such as ziplining atop Grouse Mountain, looking down upon Vancouver or across the horizon to the Pacific Ocean. There are exhilarating experiences, including whale watching aboard zodiac-style vessels that depart from Victoria. And there are mild, yet moving attractions such as the First Nations cultural center in Whistler.
British Columbia has the full gamut of adventures for attendees to indulge in, whether you’re planning for adrenaline junkies or wildlife photographers. Plus, British Columbia has international allure, with all the comforts of a U.S. meetings destination.
“As one of the world’s top destinations for outdoor adventure, Vancouver offers everything from adrenaline-inducing thrills to peaceful nature journeys,” says Dave Gazley, vice president of meeting and convention sales for Tourism Vancouver. “These experiences are enjoyable, out-of-the-box alternatives to standard team-building activities and allow delegates to fully experience Vancouver’s natural playground. From skiing on the North Shore mountains to kayaking through False Creek, the plethora of outdoor experiences available in the city is a real draw for organizations seeking adventure outside the boardroom.”
Vancouver is an international meeting city complemented by world-renowned adventures. For starters, the city’s 1,000-acre Stanley Park is regarded as one of the top urban parks in the world and serves as a main tourist attraction. Well-maintained paved and dirt trails are very popular for bike riding, skating, running and walking, with water views at every turn.
According to the annual International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) rankings, Vancouver is the leading association meeting destination in North America. In February, Vancouver also was named the top city in North America for quality of living by the consulting firm Mercer. Survey criteria included social and economic conditions, public services, environment and, of course, recreation.
The Wild Side
Grouse Mountain, known as The Peak of Vancouver, is a vast outdoor playground 15 minutes north of downtown. A longtime British Columbia favorite, Grouse Mountain gained international notoriety in 1949 when it unveiled the world’s first double chairlift. It was back in the spotlight during the 2010 Winter Olympics when The Today Show broadcast its morning show from there.
Grouse Mountain offers several breathtaking experiences, including a two-hour ziplining ride across peaks and canyons. The open Peak Chairlift Ride climbs to an elevation of 4,100 feet, where spectacular panoramic views showcase old-growth forest and the Pacific Ocean. The enclosed Skyride is North America’s largest aerial tramway system.
The 8,000-square-foot Mountaintop Plaza makes a memorable reception space after a play day on the mountain. The Observatory is a landmark restaurant atop the mountain that is reached via Skyride.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver is truly a walk on the wild side. The suspension bridge, which was originally built in 1889, is 450 feet long and 230 feet above the Capilano River. The park also has a series of footbridges suspended between old-growth Douglas Fir trees nearly 100 feet above the forest floor.
Sea-to-Sky Highway, Vancouver
Sea-to-Sky Highway extends from Vancouver to north of Whistler, offering expansive ocean views, amazing waterfalls and outdoor adventure. Scenic Rush adds a little zip to the experience, allowing members of your group to drive exotic race cars, including Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches; at predetermined stops along the way, drivers switch cars so everyone gets to experience luxury craftsmanship behind each machine.
The Mild Side
Granville Island makes its way onto every list of things to do in Vancouver. The shopping, arts and entertainment hub is located on False Creek, across from downtown. The Public Market is perfect for finding locally made crafts and tasty treats. Visitors will also enjoy an eclectic mix of festivals, theater, street performers, musical shows and art exhibits. The most fun way to arrive from downtown is via an Aquabus or False Creek Ferry.
Richmond, home to Vancouver International Airport (YVR), is south of British Columbia’s largest city. One of Richmond’s most popular attractions is Highway to Heaven, which exudes the essence of mild with more than 60 temples, mosques, churches and chapels, many of which stand side by side.
International Buddhist Temple is the second-largest Buddhist temple in North America, featuring golden statues, ornamental fountains and beautiful gardens. The traditional Tibetan Buddhist Thrangu Monastery invites visitors to join in religious services followed by a vegetarian meal. Hindu Ram Krishna Mandir in the Vedic Cultural Centre welcomes visitors to join in meditation classes and ceremonies.
On the lighter side, Richmond’s Food Street features more than 200 authentic Asian restaurants packed into three short blocks. Richmond has the highest immigrant population in Canada, resulting in a notable diversity of Asian cuisines (including Cantonese, Szechuan, Shanghainese, Northern Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Malaysian) and the type of variety found in international cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore.
International Buddhist Temple, Richmond
The four-season adventure mecca of Whistler is so proud of its outdoor pursuits that it stages a festival to call attention to its specialties. The third annual Go Fest: Whistler’s Great Outdoors Festival will take place May 20−23, featuring group runs, social biking outings, stand-up paddleboarding and fly-fishing. Music fans will enjoy live performances on the Village Square center stage.
The Wild Side
Whistler Mountain Bike Park draws riders from throughout the world who come craving gravity-induced thrills. It ranks as the No. 1 mountain bike park in North America for lift-accessed trails thanks to its spacious gondolas. The Top of the World alpine trail is one of the most popular options, with a 5,000-foot descent. There are trails for beginners, too, and the park even offers lessons.
North of Whistler, Head-Line Mountain Holidays offers unforgettable adventures amid serene ice fields. Guests are whisked from Whistler to Pemberton Ice Cap via a helicopter. Guided tours take participants through a natural ice cave, with ice flows in vivid shades of blue. Spa packages are offered at the natural hot spring, and gourmet meals complement an overnight stay in the seasonal snow hotel, where countless stars fill the night sky.
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
The Mild Side
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre celebrates the history of the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations by showcasing creative works and culture in an interactive format. There’s an interpretive center, theater, museum and contemporary gallery that help guests learn more about First Nations people. The center can accommodate 150 for sit-down dinners and up to 700 for events that take over the entire venue.
Just a few minutes from bustling Whistler Village, Scandinave Spa is a Nordic-inspired spa that features hydrotherapy with hot baths, cool waterfalls, a wood-burning sauna and eucalyptus steam room. Surrounded by towering peaks, the spa offers treatments that improve blood circulation, release endorphins and contribute to improvement in one’s physical condition. The spa incorporates many green initiatives, including green roofs and passive solar heating on all major buildings.
Whale watching, Victoria
With the mildest climate in the country, Victoria is Canada’s destination for year-round outdoor adventure. Located on Vancouver Island, the capital of British Columbia features beauty and natural surroundings that inspire people to go outdoors and get active. Victoria provides incredibly easy access to many scenic trails and sites that feature mountains, old-growth rainforests and ocean shores. Hiking, cycling, kayaking and running are just a few of the activities enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
The Wild Side
If you meet in Victoria, attendees must make time to go whale watching. The waters surrounding Victoria host an abundance of marine wildlife, including nine baby orcas that were born last year. Orcas, or killer whales, are the main whales found in the area, but gray, humpback and minke whales are also sighted. Three pods of resident orcas, totaling nearly 90 whales, live in Victoria’s waters. Sea lions, seals, porpoises and a number of marine birds are also residents.
Several whale-watching companies are based in Victoria, including Prince of Whales, which offers three-hour tours that explore the protected waters of Haro Strait and Strait of Juan de Fuca in open-air, zodiac-style vessels.
offers bike rentals for independent explorers and guided tours. The Hoppy Hour Ride allows cyclists to engage with the city’s passionate brewmasters and sample local beer. Another bike tour allows participants to indulge in culinary gems for a rolling feast. Custom group trips are available.
Pacific Yellowfin Private Charters offers wildlife and culinary cruises that transport groups into the wild Pacific Northwest. The scenery reflects the heart and soul of British Columbia’s coastline aboard an all-inclusive private charter. The journeys are ideal for groups seeking a luxury wilderness experience that truly is once in a lifetime.
The Mild Side
The Butchart Gardens is a 55-acre National Historic Site of Canada. Dating to 1904, the gardens are evocative of grand estates during the turn of the century. An old limestone quarry was transformed into a Sunken Garden, serving as a reminder of the early 20th-century beautification movement and a source of pride in exceptional gardening. The gardens have maintained most of their original designs and are emblematic of the Victorian tradition of seasonal floral displays. There’s reception space for up to 400 and banquet seating for 220.
Royal BC Museum will help familiarize attendees with British Columbia in one convenient location. It offers 26,000 sq. ft. of exhibits, including rainforest, seashore, old town and cannery displays. The museum precinct also features Mungo Martin House/Wawaditla, Netherlands Carillon, BC Archives, Helmcken House, St. Ann’s Schoolhouse and Thunderbird Park. The museum has many event venues and is capable of hosting groups as large as 2,000 for galas.
Fairmont Empress, Victoria
High tea at Fairmont Empress, a Victoria landmark hotel, has been a tradition for more than a century. Even for those not staying at the 477-room luxury property, high tea is one of the key attractions in Victoria. The Fairmont has 22 meetings rooms and can accommodate up to 1,200 for special events.
“Memorable experiences are the core of every travel adventure,” says Trina Mousseau, chief marketing officer for Tourism Victoria. “As a destination, it is important to have a wide range of authentic experiences that delegates can engage with as it is those moments that keep them coming back while inspiring them to share their story with others.”
Major Projects Underway in Vancouver
The $486 million parq Vancouver is expected to open early next year, christening a new era in entertainment. Located next to BC Place Stadium, the project will include the 329-room JW Marriott parq Vancouver (pictured), which will feature a rooftop spa with panoramic ocean and mountain views. Also scheduled to open is The Douglas Vancouver, an Autograph Collection Hotel, with 188 guest rooms.
The parq Vancouver property is expected to become the city’s first LEED Gold hotel complex. It will offer 62,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space, including the city’s largest hotel ballroom. The complex also will feature a 30,000-square-foot park on its sixth floor, replete with trees, water features and greenery. There will be eight restaurants and lounges, and a two-level casino.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver will open in June, becoming the second tallest building in the city at 616 feet. The 63-story mixed-use property has an ideal location in the Coal Harbour downtown area. It will offer 147 luxurious guest rooms and 218 residences above the hotel.
Major Meeting Venues
Next to the water; close to Gastown district, Stanley Park and Vancouver Convention Centre; 220 guest rooms; 8,061 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 5,000-square-foot ballroom.
Mobile check-in and in-room iPads; harbor and mountains views; 377 guest rooms; more than 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; ballroom can hold up to 500; spa; three restaurants.
Award-winning airport hotel is soundproof; located in Richmond; 386 guest rooms; more than 8,800 sq. ft. of event space; Jetside Bar; spa.
Mobile check-in; located in Richmond, seven minutes from Vancouver International Airport (YVR); free airport shuttle; 237 guest rooms; more than 4,000 sq. ft. of event space; heated rooftop pool.
Jewel of Robson Street shopping district; AAA Four Diamond boutique property; 75 guest rooms; conference room can hold up to 60.
Business hotel located on North Vancouver oceanfront; 105 guest rooms; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; floor-to-ceiling glass walls in meeting space; room for up to 500; art collection.
Luxury property has downtown waterfront location; 503 guest rooms; nearly 42,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space; fitness club; spa; pool; four restaurants; business center.
Historic retreat dates to 1927; Forbes Five Star property in downtown Vancouver; 156 guest rooms; 9,847 sq. ft. of meeting space; elegant ballroom can hold up to 350 (800 when combined with promenade); full-service spa.
Site of PCMA Convening Leaders in January 2016; two buildings offer 466,500 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibition space in 72 rooms; 53,000-square-foot waterfront ballroom; 2010 Olympic cauldron is key feature of 57,964-square-foot plaza.
Popular property with dignitaries since hotel opened in 1908; 477 guest rooms; more than 23,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; full-service spa.
Access to skiing and golf; modern alpine setting with touch of elegance; meeting space for up to 1,000; 550 guest rooms; spa; six dining options.
Forbes Five Star rated; surrounded by amazing options for outdoor adventure; ski rentals; 273 guest rooms; 15,380 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 3,800-square-foot ballroom.
Located at base of Whistler Mountain, next to ski lifts; near Whistler Conference Center; more than 10,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space; 287 guest rooms; award-winning spa.
European-alpine design; access to skiing, hiking, mountain bike riding, golf, fishing; spa; fitness facility; 83 guest rooms; reception space for 80.
Major player during 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games; 400 guest rooms; pet friendly; nearly 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; can accommodate up to 1,000 for receptions.
Hotels around the world are incorporating art into the visitor’s experience with private art collections, galleries and installations.