Vancouver Beer fans rejoice: Winter Ale is back

Photo credit: My Beers and Ales | Flickr

Now that we’ve officially proved the world isn’t coming to an end, here’s one more reason to celebrate this holiday season.

Local brewmeisters Central City have brought back their seriously addictive Red Racer Winter Ale, just in time for Christmas.  Normally, this wouldn’t be breaking news – But this isn’t any normal ale.

Plenty of local breweries are offering up holiday suds (check out Shawn’s recent post for a complete rundown), but beer fans were seriously disappointed when it appeared that Central City might not be among them.

For the past several years, their Winter Ale has been among the most sought-after of seasonal beers – a serious, hoppy brew with just the faintest touch of vanilla and maple syrup. In contrast to other winter beers, Central City’s was hearty and complex – not some sugar- and cinnamon-sweetened macrobrew dressed up for the holidays.

But it’s never too late for a little Christmas miracle.  Continue reading:
Vancouver Beer fans rejoice: Winter Ale is back

Top 5 Alternative and Weird Holiday Shows in Vancouver

Ryan Beil in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of The Santaland Diaries. Photo by David Cooper

With Christmas just days away, there’s no shortage of holiday shows and musicals in Vancouver, from performances of the classic Nutcracker to Christmas concerts with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and stagings of White Christmas.

But for holiday lovers seeking some alternative seasonal charms, Vancouver has plenty to offer, as well.  Here’s a look at five less-than-traditional, slightly skewed Christmas shows gracing Vancouver stages this month:

The Christmas Carol ProjectTake Dickens’ timeless holiday fable and set it to live  blues, folk and Celtic music and you get the Christmas Carol Project.  Who knew the Ghost of Christmas Past could boogie down?  The Cultch; Dec. 16-18 Continue reading:
Top 5 Alternative and Weird Holiday Shows in Vancouver

Vancouver ranked best city in North America

Photo credit: PoYang_博仰 | Flickr

Vancouver is once again the most livable city in the Americas.

Vancouver ranked fifth overall out of 221 global cities surveyed as part of the annual Mercer Quality of Living Ranking released earlier this month.  The top-ranked city on this year’s survey was Vienna, while Baghdad was ranked the world’s least livable city.

The rankings take into account more than three dozen factors, from economic and political stability to health and environmental issues, personal safety, education and public services.  The results are used by employers to determine where to relocate international workers and whether they qualify for hardship pay.

Vancouver was the only city in the Americas to crack the top five, which also included Zurich (2), Auckland (3) and Munich (4).  Other Canadian cities appeared farther down the list, including Ottawa (14th), Toronto (15th) and Montreal (23rd).  By contrast, the top-ranked U.S. city was Honolulu (28th), followed by San Francisco (29th).

This year’s Mercer survey also included a separate ranking for infrastructure, which takes into account electricity, water, telephone, traffic congestion, international flight availability and public transportation.   Continue reading:
Vancouver ranked best city in North America

Fight December Darkness at the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival, Dec 21

Photo credit: eych-you-bee-ee-ahr-tee | Flickr

Darkness has descended on Vancouver.  During December, we wake up in the dark, then trudge home from work and school in the dark.  Days grow ever shorter until Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, when Vancouver gets a meagre 8 hours and 14 minutes of light (That day also corresponds to the end of the world in the Mayan Calendar, just for a little extra doom and gloom).

If all that darkness has you down, you may want to check out the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival.  This unique event, timed on Dec. 21 to coincide with the shortest day of the year, celebrates the return of light and warmth to our corner of the world as we move away from darkness and tilt ever closer to the sun.

On the evening of Friday, Dec. 21 – at five separate locations around the city – crowds carrying handmade paper lanterns will converge for a procession of light.  After winding their way along city streets and seawalls, they’ll descend on local parks and community centres for singing, drumming, bonfires and a toast to the season.

Want to get in on the lantern action?  Workshops for making your own paper lanterns are being held throughout the city during the month of December.  And here’s what’s in store for the festival on Dec. 21: Continue reading:
Fight December Darkness at the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival, Dec 21

Carol Ships Return to Vancouver: Holiday dinner cruises, Dec 1-23

Photo credit: orbital-vancouver | Flickr

Carol ship season is upon us.

Every night from Dec. 1-Dec. 23, as part of one of Vancouver’s most eccentric holiday rituals, dozens of cruise ships decorated with brightly coloured lights will circle the waters around the city in a floating parade.

The Carol Ships Parade of Lights tradition began more than 50 years ago with a single boat decorated with Christmas lights in Coal Harbour.  This year, more than 50 boats – strung with hundreds of thousands of lights – will carry some 30,000 people during the month-long festival.

Multiple cruise lines offer carol ships packages, which generally include a holiday dinner on the high seas, accompanied by carolling, live entertainment and some quality time with Santa. Continue reading:
Carol Ships Return to Vancouver: Holiday dinner cruises, Dec 1-23

Snowy Owls Return to Vancouver

Photo Credit: Remy Scalza | Flickr

The snowy owls are back.

The cuddly looking birds with white feathers and giant yellow eyes have again taken up residence in Delta, outside of Vancouver, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.  More than two dozen of the enormous owls, which stand up to 61 centimetres and have a wingspan of 1.5 metres, are currently living in Boundary Bay Regional Park.

For wildlife lovers, it’s a rare treat.  While the owls also appeared last year, they are far from a common sight in the area.  They spend their summers on the arctic tundra, growing fat on lemmings hunted on the open plains.  When cold weather hits, they migrate south, occasionally ending up in the Lower Mainland.

Thousands of birdwatchers flocked to Delta and Tsawwassen to see the snowy owls last year.  On some days, the dykes along the bay were nearly wall-to-wall tripods, as eager photographers lined up for shots.

Wildlife experts warn, however, that too much disturbance could be lethal for the animals, which are already weakened from the long flight and a lack of food over the summer.  People wanting a peek at the owls are urged to keep a respectful distance and use binoculars and scopes.  Agitating the birds or causing them to take flight could deplete their already limited energy reserves and actually kill the animals.   Continue reading:
Snowy Owls Return to Vancouver

Top 5 Holiday Light Displays in Vancouver for 2012

Photo credit: Capilano Suspension Bridge

Now that we’ve made it through Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there’s nothing left to do but admit it: Holiday season is officially here.

Over the next month, expect to see the streets, parks and even ships of Vancouver come alive with millions of multicoloured lights in celebration of the season.  Here are the top five holiday light displays around town:

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical GardenEvery year, the stately botanical garden in the heart of Vancouver is decorated with thousands of strings of coloured lights.  The centrepiece is a “dancing lights” display over Livingstone Lake, a choreographed light dance set to seasonal music that illuminates every half hour.  Also on hand are roving elves and food vendors serving holiday treats.  Dec. 7 – Jan. 1, 4:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.  Closed Christmas.  Adult $14.25; Senior and Youth $10.50; Child $7.75.  

Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension BridgeThe iconic, 137-metre suspension bridge is decked out with  lights every December – forming a glittering string of pearls over the Capilano River.  Walk across and step into an enchanted rainforest, bedazzled with hundreds of thousands of lights.  There’s also a scavenger hunt, gingerbread cookie decorating, glass blowing demos and sing-along carols.  Dec. 1 – Jan. 5, 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.  Closed Christmas.  Adult $31.95; Child $12; $65 per family (2 adults and 2 kids).   Continue reading:
Top 5 Holiday Light Displays in Vancouver for 2012