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It is the largest metropolitan centre in western Canada and third largest in the country.

The city's population is 545,671 and that of the metropolitan area is 2,186,965 (2001 census). [1] Vancouver is one of the cities of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) and of the larger geographic region commonly known as the Lower Mainland of BC. The mayor is Sam Sullivan, NPA (see List of Mayors of Vancouver). The Port of Vancouver is significant on a world scale, and Vancouver is also the third largest film production centre in North America after Hollywood and New York. Vancouver will be the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the 2006 United Nations World Urban Forum and the 2007 Memorial Cup. Vancouver will also host some games for the 2007 FIFA U20 World Cup.

Geography and location
Vancouver is situated at 49°16′N 123°7′W, in the Pacific Time Zone (UTC-8), and the Pacific Maritime Ecozone. It is adjacent to the Strait of Georgia, a body of water that is shielded from the Pacific Ocean by Vancouver Island. The city itself forms part of the Burrard Peninsula, lying between Burrard Inlet to the north and the Fraser River to the south.

Some unfamiliar with the region find it disconcerting that Vancouver does not lie on Vancouver Island. However, both the the island and the city (and its U.S. counterpart) are named after Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver of Great Britain, who explored the region in 1792.

Vancouver has an area of 114.67km² (44 sq. miles), including both flat and hilly ground. Vancouver has a wet climate and is surrounded by water; while early records show that there may have been as many as fifty creeks and streams in the area, currently only four are left.

An Aboriginal settlement called Xwméthkwyiem, ("Musqueam"—from masqui "an edible grass that grows in the sea"), near the mouth of the Fraser River dates back to at least 3,000 years ago. Vancouver's ecosystem, with its abundant plant and animal life, provides a wealth of food and materials that have likely supported people for over 10,000 years. At the time of first European contact, the Musqueam and Squamish peoples had villages in the areas around present-day Vancouver. There is also evidence of a third group, the Tsleil'wauthuth, ancestors of today's Burrard Band in North Vancouver. These were Coast Salish First Nations sharing cultural traits with people in the Fraser Valley and Northern Washington. Hun'qumi'num', the downriver dialect of the Halkomelem language was the common language of the native community at Musqueam on the Fraser River on the south side of today's city. The Squamish and their kin the Tsleil-Waututh or Burrard Band, spoke a different, though related language, Skwxwú7mesh, which is similar to Sechelt (Shishalh) and also spoken at the Squamish Nation's other main population centre at the town of Squamish. The most famous member of Vancouver's native community is indubitably the late Chief Dan George of the Burrard Band.

The Native peoples of the Northwest Coast had achieved a very high level of cultural complexity for a food gathering base. As Bruce Macdonald notes in Vancouver: a visual history: "Their economic system encouraged hard work, the accumulation of wealth and status and the redistribution of wealth..." Winter villages, in what is now known as Vancouver, were comprised of large plankhouses made of Western Red Cedar wood. Gatherings called potlatches were common in the summer and winter months when the spirit powers were active. These ceremonies were an important part of the social and spiritual life of the people. The largest villages were at Homulchesan, near the mouth of the Capilano River and roughly beneath where the north foot of the present Lions Gate Bridge is today, and at Musqueam. Qwhy-qwhy in Stanley Park (Lumberman's Arch)'s village was auxiliary to its role as the ceremonial grounds for the Homulchesan Squamish across the inlet. The foundation of a Catholic mission at Mosquito Creek engendered the creation of another large community of Squamish there. Snauq, approximately where the south foot of the Burrard Bridge, was a smaller village, more of a single residence with extra buildings, but it was the residence of August Jack Kahtsahlano, forger of the joint chieftaincy of the Squamish and Musqueam and namesake of the Kitsilano neighbourhood.

Spanish Captain Jose Maria Narvaez was the first European to explore the Strait of Georgia in 1791. In the following year, 1792, the British naval Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798) from King's Lynn in Norfolk joined the Spanish expedition based at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island's west coast and further explored the Strait of Georgia, as well as the Puget Sound in the present day Seattle area. Simon Fraser was the first European to reach the area overland, descending the river which bears his name in 1808. Despite the influx of the Fraser Gold Rush in 1858-59, settlement on Burrard Inlet and English Bay was unknown prior to the early 1860s due to the power of the Squamish chiefs over the area; in later years prospectors' bodies were found occasionally on isolated beaches, apparently from failed attempts to land or settle. The first non-native settlement in the city limits of Vancouver was at McLeery's Farm, in the area of the Oak Street bridge, in about 1862.

Lumbering was the early industry along Burrard Inlet, now the site of Vancouver's seaport. The first sawmill began operating in 1863 at Moodyville (in 1915, expanded as a municipality and renamed "North Vancouver"; the name Moodyville still applies to the Lower Lonsdale district, though more as a marketing term than in common usage). The first export of lumber took place in 1865; this lumber was shipped to Australia. In 1865, the first sawmill on the south shore of Burrard Inlet, Stamp's Mill, began operations in what would later become Vancouver; this mill was originally located at Brockton Point in Stanley Park but was moved to its longtime location because of the currents and shoals at Brockton Point, which made docking difficult. The largest trees in the world grew along the south shores of False Creek and English Bay and provided (amongst other things) masts for the world's windjammer fleets and the increasingly-large vessels of the Royal Navy. One famous sale, of trees cut from the Jericho neighbourhood (west of Kitsilano), was a special order for the Celestial Emperor (i.e. of China) of a few dozen immense beams for the construction of the Great Hall of Heavenly Peace in the Forbidden City in Beijing. Millworkers and lumberers were from a wide variety of backgrounds - mostly Scandinavians and Nootkas, who were also brought to the inlet to help with the local whaling industry. At first, Squamish typically did not work in the mills.

A former river pilot, John (Jack) Deighton, set up a small (24' x 12')saloon on the beach about a mile west of the sawmill in 1867. His place was popular and a well-worn trail between the mill and saloon was soon established - this is today's Alexander Street. Deighton's nickname, Gassy Jack, came about because he was known as quite the talker or "gassy". A number of men began living near the saloon and the "settlement" quickly became known as Gassy's town. In 1870, the colonial government of British Columbia took notice of the growing settlement and sent a surveyor to lay out an official townsite known as Granville. Granville was named for the British Colonial Secretary, the Earl of Granville, though everyone still called it Gassy's Town, which quickly shortened to Gastown.

The new townsite was situated on one of the best natural harbours in the world and for this reason it was selected by the Canadian Pacific Railway as their terminus. The transcontinental railway was commissioned by the government of Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald and was a condition of British Columbia joining confederation in 1871. (The CPR president, William Van Horne, decided that Granville wasn't such a great name for the new terminus because of the seedy associations with Gastown, and strongly suggested "Vancouver" would be a better name in part because people in Toronto and Montreal knew where Vancouver Island was but had no idea of where Granville was. Under its new name the city was incorporated on April 6, 1886. Three months later, on June 13, a spectacular blaze destroyed most of the city along the swampy shores of Burrard Inlet in twenty-five minutes.

Things recovered quickly after the fire, although celebratory Dominion Day festivities to launch the opening of the CPR were postponed a year as a result. The first regular transcontinental train from Montreal arrived at a temporary terminus at Port Moody in July 1886, and service to Vancouver itself began in May 1887. That year Vancouver's population was 5,000, by 1892 it reached 15,000 and by 1900 it was 100,000.

The fire which destroyed the city was eventually considered to be beneficial, as the city was rebuilt with modern water, electricity and streetcar systems.

For early provincial and federal electoral districts in the city of Vancouver, please see Vancouver (electoral districts).

(Source: Early Vancouver, Maj. J.S. Matthews, Vancouver Archvies, 1937; Vancouver: A Visual History, Bruce Macdonald, Talonbooks 1992)

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Vancouver is internationally renowned for preserving its natural beauty within the metropolis. Vancouver is home to one of North America's largest urban parks, Stanley Park. The city has all the urban amenities of a major city, as well as easy access to the Pacific Ocean and the mountains of the Pacific Coast Range. Real estate is largely limited by the surrounding mountains and water. The North Shore mountains dominate the city landscape, and on a clear day scenic vistas include the dormant, snow-capped volcano Mount Baker in the State of Washington to the southeast; Vancouver Island across the Strait of Georgia to the west and southwest and the Sunshine Coast to the northwest. The breathtaking views of the city and its environment have made it renowned for its beauty.

When speaking of Vancouver's skyline, it is important to note that there are in fact three different skylines in Vancouver with substantial count of high-rise buildings. The two most prominent skylines, often featured in postcards, are perhaps the view of southern shore of Burrard Inlet and northern shore of False Creek. The skyline of southern shore of Burrard Inlet comprises buildings of Coal Harbour, and buildings along the Waterfront Road. It includes some of the city's most renowned architectural masterpieces such as Canada Place, Harbour Centre, the Marine Building, and Shaw Tower. The skyline of northern shore of False Creek include southern portion of West End, the three bridges connecting to Vancouver Downtown (Granville, Cambie and Burrard), Yaletown, Concord Pacific Place (North America's largest residential condominium project), and famous attractions like General Motors Place and TELUS World of Science. The third and less commonly referred skyline in Vancouver includes buildings that line along the Broadway Corridor at False Creek south. This section of the city, although much more "mid-rise" than Downtown (average building height ranging from 50-80 m), contains some of the city's largest government buildings, such as Vancouver Hospital (23rd tallest hospital in the world) and the art deco-styled Vancouver City Hall. In the future, False Creek south should play a more important role in the city's skyline as the emptied industrial land in Southeast False Creek is developed in the coming years.

Although Vancouver, per capita, has more high-rises than any other city in North America, Vancouver's skyline is relatively "mid-rise" by Canadian standards. Most buildings in Downtown have a height of around 90m-130m, with the tallest skyscrapers around 150 m tall. This is the result of a strict height restriction that is in place to protect mountain views.

The View Protection Guidelines were approved on December 12, 1989 and amended on December 11, 1990, establishing a number of view corridors in the downtown with height limits to protect views of the north shore mountains from a variety of locations south of the downtown peninsula. Over the year, the view protection guideline had succeeded in preserving mountain views; however, various people have commented that Vancouver's skyline is now flat and lacks visual interest. Many agreed that there is a need for some taller buildings that reflect Vancouver's contemporary image. Others are worried about proposals for much higher buildings. Many are concerned that the natural setting and, in particular, the north shore mountains may be compromised as tall buildings proliferate. In response to these concerns and the desire to a clear City policy for considering buildings that exceed current height limits, Council directed staff to undertake a Skyline Study.

In 1997, the Downtown Vancouver Skyline Study concluded that Vancouver's skyline would benefit from the addition of a handful of buildings exceeding current height limits to add visual interest to Vancouver's skyline. This led to the General Policy on Higher Buildings. The 1997 study noted that the opportunities for such buildings were restricted due to a limited number of large development sites in the downtown. There were at least five sites identified where buildings exceeding the 450 foot height limit are possible and at least two sites in the northwest corner of the Central Business District where heights up to 400 feet (exceeding the 300 foot limit) might be considered. Eight years later, five of the seven identified sites for higher buildings have been developed or are in the development application process.

Currently, an Urban Design Panel has been set up for the purpose of reviewing building proposals and rezoning applications in the downtown area (especially those that significantly exceed the current height limits).

Vancouver's climate is unusually temperate by Canadian standards; after Victoria, it is the second warmest major city in Canada during the winter. Summer months are generally sunny and dry, temperatures moderate, with the daily maximum averaging 22°C in July and August, but this is due to the influence of the Burrard Inlet and the Strait of Georgia, as the more easterly suburbs are hotter in the summer. Unlike most large Canadian cities, thunderstorms are very rare, due to the fact that the Pacific Ocean simply is not warm enough to produce the lift needed for those storms. However, they can occur at any time of the year-not just in summer. Spring and autumn are usually showery and cool. Rainfall is frequent in winter. Snow occurs in the surrounding mountains and the higher-lying areas such as the eastern suburbs, but less often at sea level, though there are winters in which the city receives enough snowfall to cause school closures, and even small amounts of snow produce massive traffic problems. Blizzards are rare but can incapacitate much of the Lower Mainland. One in 1996 resulted in over 60 cm of snow in Vancouver. The system was responsible for millions of dollars in damage.

Although Vancouver is popularly known as a rainy city, only 166 days per year have measurable precipitation on average, and 289 days per year have measurable sunshine. However, winters in Vancouver can be dark, as the sky during this time is often covered with low altitude gray cloud. For a few nights near the summer solstice, twilight lasts until about 10 pm, the northern sky remains slightly lit by the sun all night, and there are less than 8 hours between sunset and sunrise.

A wide range of plant species, including many exotics, can be found growing in Vancouver thanks to the mild climate. The increasingly popular Chinese Windmill Palm which can grow as high as 40 feet is a common sight in many areas, especially in the city's West End and beach neighbourhoods.

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. It is consistently ranked at or near the top of the best cities in the world in which to live.

Vancouver can be an expensive city, as its housing prices are 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 gap between rich and poor.

Vancouver's population density on the downtown peninsula is as high as 20,000 people per square kilometre. The density of the city itself is third highest of any metropolitan centre in North America, after New York City and San Francisco (it should be noted that a handful of cities in the New York Metropolitan Area are more densely populated than Vancouver). City planners in the late 1950s and 1960s deliberately encouraged the development of high-rise condominium towers in the West End downtown neighbourhood, which has resulted in a compact, walkable and transit/bike friendly urban core. A major downtown condominium construction boom throughout the late 1990s (mainly caused by the huge capital flow from Hong Kong immigrants prior to the hand-over) and early 2000s has resulted in real estate values gaining as much as 10-15% per year.

Vancouver was reported in 2004 to have the third-highest crime rate in Canada. The same report noted that Vancouver's violent-crime rate was low but its property-crime rate (partially a consequence of drug addiction centred in the Downtown Eastside) was second only to Tampa, Florida in North America. One of the most common property crimes in the Vancouver area is automobile break-in; thus visitors are advised to conceal all items left in their car, and to use auto-theft protection devices.

Ethnic groups
Vancouver is home to people of many ethnic backgrounds and religions. Chinese is by far, the largest visible ethnic minority group in the city. Vancouver contains the second largest Chinatown in North America (after San Francisco's), and many multicultural neighbourhoods such as the Punjabi Market, Little Italy, Greektown, Japantown, Commercial Drive, and Koreatown which is developing around Robson and Denman Streets in the West End. Street signs bilingual in English and Chinese or Punjabi can be seen at these centres of ethnic concentration.

Many immigrants from Hong Kong made Vancouver their home. This continued a tradition of immigrants flocking from around the world, to call Vancouver home. Statistics Canada data shows that 17% of the approximately 2 million people living in the metropolitan area are ethnic Chinese. Other significant Asian ethnic groups in Vancouver are Vietnamese, Filipino, Cambodian, and Taiwanese.

Much of the European population consists of persons whose origins go back to the U.K. as it was the number one ancestry according to the 2001 Census, and until recently it was a truism that British Columbians with UK ancestry most likely have that directly from the British Isles, rather than via Ontario or the Maritime Provinces. Other European groups consist of German, Dutch, French [of both European and Canadian origin], Ukrainians, Italians, Yugoslavs, Greeks, and lately numerous Russians and Poles.

There is also a sizeable community of aboriginal people in Vancouver as well as in the surrounding metropolitan region, with the result that Vancouver constitutes the largest native community in the province, albeit an unincorporated one (i.e. not as a band government). There is an equally-large or larger Métis contingent, with these being a mix of traditional "real" Metis from the Prairies and others whose mixed native/non-native ancestry qualifies them legally as Metis.

The city of Vancouver has developed a reputation as tolerant city that is open to social experimentation and alternative lifestyles as well as being willing to explore alternative drug policies. The city has adopted a Four Pillars Drug Strategy, which combines harm reduction (e.g. needle exchanges, supervised injection sites) with treatment, enforcement, and prevention. The strategy is largely a response to endemic HIV and hepatitis C among injection drug users in the city's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The area is characterized by entrenched poverty, the commercial sex trade, and an AIDS epidemic that in the 1990s became the worst in the developed world. Some community and professional groups—such as From Grief to Action and Keeping the Door Open—are fostering public dialogue in the city about further alternatives to current drug policies. The former mayor, Larry Campbell, came to office in 2002 in part because of his willingness to champion alternative interventions for drug issues, such as supervised injection sites. Although it is technically illegal, Vancouver police generally do not enforce marijuana possession laws, allowing several "marijuana cafes" to open.

While not completely free of racial tension, Vancouver is known for having more harmonious race relations than most large multiethnic cities. One result is a relatively high rate of intermarriage; trans-ethnic couples are unremarkable in any neighbourhood. Vancouver has a bustling music and art scene, and one of the largest gay communities in North America.

About half the population is of Christian background, one of the lowest rates in the country. The vast majority of them being technically Protestant, although Vancouver, like the rest of British Columbia, has a very low rate of church attendance compared to the rest of the continent and the vast majority of the population does not practice religion seriously. Around 5% are Sikh, 3.7% Buddhist, 2.6% Muslim, and 1.4% Hindu. Within the growing Muslim population there is a large contingent of Ismaili Muslims who have settled in the area following their expulsion from Uganda.

Vancouver's name is sometimes shortened down to "Van", and often as simply "the City" in surrounding communities. Some older monikers it holds dating back to the 1880s are "the Big Smoke", which is still in common usage, and "the Terminal City", which is no longer used. Some other common nicknames are "Lotus Land" (a reference to the mythical island of the Lotus trees) due to the attractive and easygoing lifestyle in the city, "Hollywood North" for the film industry, and "Vansterdam" for the loose drug enforcement policy. The influx of Hong Kong immigrants in the 1990s caused some to jokingly call it "Hongcouver", but the name can be perceived as derogatory.

International trade
International commerce and trade is a key sector for Vancouver's economy. The city has Canada's largest port and is one of North America's major gateways for Pan-Pacific trade. The Port of Vancouver ranks first in North America in total foreign exports and second on the West Coast in total cargo volume.

Vancouver was the source of the sobriquet "Hollywood North", for hosting the production of approximately ten percent of Hollywood's movies. Many U.S. television and films series are shot exclusively in Vancouver. This has partly been because of the favourable Canadian dollar exchange rate.

Vancouver International Airport is the principal international port in Western Canada and is the second busiest in the nation. As the premier gateway to Asia, it hosts many airlines' regional offices and their flights daily to Asia, Europe, and the United States. Vancouver is also served by the Abbotsford International Airport, fast becoming a reliever to YVR convenient for the Eastern suburbs and transborder United States. Several floatplane operators support both tourist scenic flights and practical transportation with extensive operations during daylight hours.

Natural Resources
As a major centre for the global forestry industry, Vancouver is host to many international forestry conferences and events, and the natural home of the massive BC forestry business. Companies such as Canfor and West Fraser Timber Co., the second and third largest lumber producers in the world, are headquartered in Vancouver.

Vancouver is also a major centre for the mining industry, with the former Vancouver Stock Exchange (now absorbed into the TSX Venture Exchange) notable as the largest market in the world for venture capital in small to medium sized mining ventures. The highly speculative Vancouver market was sometimes criticized as too risky and even scam-ridden, which somewhat tarnished its reputation, though the long term effect on business has been negligible. Vancouver is the primary western ship loading point for sulphur refined in Alberta.

Banking and Financial
The headquarters for HSBC Canada is located in the Financial District in downtown, as are financial services giants RBC and TD Waterhouse, Bentall Capital, and regional offices of the worlds' most notable institutions. Canada's third largest commercial entity, Jim Pattison Group is also based in Vancouver.

International relations
Downtown also plays host as a major centre for diplomacy and foreign relations. Most countries of the world have consulate or consulate general offices in the Central Business District. In fact, many major diplomatic conventions are hosted by the city - including the world famous G7 summit with President Clinton, APEC, and the World Trade Organization. While speaking of foreign diplomatic relations, Greenpeace has its world headquarters in the city just across the Burrard Street bridge from downtown. As a result of the powerful influence of green politics, Vancouver was among the first North American cities to declare itself a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.

High tech
Because of its local universities and reputation for very high quality of life, Vancouver has a growing high-technology sector - including software development. Additionally, Vancouver is emerging as a world leader in fuel cell technology, accounting for 70 percent of Canadians employed in the industry. The headquarters of Ballard Power Systems (Burnaby), and the National Research Council Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation are both located in Vancouver.

Tourism is a vital industry to Vancouver. Tourism Vancouver is currently the official destination marketing organization and as such is the official resource for visitors to the GVRD.

The Whistler-Blackcomb Resort, 126 kilometres north of Vancouver, is among the most popular skiing resorts in North America, and will be the site of the downhill events of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour, and Cypress Mountain, each with a variety of summer and winter leisure activities, are within a 30 km drive of downtown and all have bird's-eye views of the city and the surrounding region. Vancouver's numerous beaches, parks, waterfronts, and mountain backdrops, combined with its cultural and multi-ethnic character, all contribute to its unique appeal and style. Over a million people annually pass through Vancouver en route to a cruise ship vacation, usually to Alaska.

Of special note, the 1986 World Exposition was held in Vancouver.

Music and Entertainment
The first known musical entertainments (other than those provided by First Nations residents and millworkers and whatever personal abilities of the sailors and loggers and tavernkeepers) in what would later become Vancouver were Methodist church services led by a Mrs. Sullivan in Gastown, who was of West Indian origin. Her son Arthur became popular with Vancouver impresarios as a Master of Ceremonies and his career as a singer, actor and host bridged the pre-railway Gastown era with the glitter of Vancouver's nightlife in the '20s and '30s.

The city has had a sometimes-vibrant musical culture since the days it was on the worldwide circuit known as "Grand Tour", which included clubs in centres such as New York, London, Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Cairo, Sydney, San Francisco and even Dawson City. Artists such as Caruso and Pavlova trod the boards in Vancouver and the city regularly feted musical dignitaries of similar calibre, as the CPR terminus was on the main route from London to the Orient. Attached to the Canadian Pacific's second Hotel Vancouver (now the Toronto-Dominion Tower on Georgia Street) was an opera house in neo-Egyptian art deco styling fronting on Granville Street. When this theatre closed and was demolished to make way for the new Pacific Centre in the early 1970s its name was the Lyric Theatre, but it was the original bearer of the name Orpheum Theatre, now worn by the restored vaudeville house a block farther down Granville. The newer Orpheum was home to one of the last full-scale Wurlitzer organs, installed in the theatre in the age of silent cinema.

The Lyric (the original Orpheum) was home to the city's first resident orchestra, until the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra was founded (its home was in the Capitol Theatre). The city also had several professional and amateur musical theatre companies, and a lavish original musical styled on British auteurs Gilbert and Sullivan, Atlantis, was premiered at the "Lyric" in the 1920s (anticipating a world tour, but getting mixed reviews). Other theatres with stages for live theatre, opera and music were in the Vogue (still standing), the Strand, the Coronet (all movie theatres in their last days, the Strand opposite the Bay across Georgia, the Coronet opposite the Bayacross Granville) and at two vanished opera houses on Pender Street, one near Howe Street, the other at what is now Carrall and Pender (then named Dupont Street). The now-derelict stretch of Hastings Street between Main and Cambie was known as "the Great White Way" because of its many theatres, restaurants and bright neon decor, and was home to the Beacon and Lux theatres and the original cinema of the continent-wide Pantages chain (the Pantages family are also the founders of the city's annual Polar Bear Swim on English Bay). The original movie theatre was the tiny Savoy (1902) on Cordova Street (approximately where the Telecom building meets the newly-rebuilt Woodwards garage), which in the 1890s and early '00s was the main social and shopping promenade in the city. The Lyric and the greatly-expanded Hotel Vancouver, the second by that name, were intended by the CPR's property division to attract commercial life up out of the older part of the city, and as a result restaurants, stores and other theatres quickly opened in the same area, giving birth to the strip once known as Theatre Row and now prosaically-retitled the Granville Entertainment District, aka Granville Mall (its southern three blocks anyway - Theatre Row extended to Dunsmuir Street because of the Lyric, Strand and Coronet). Other stages and movie theatres typically were found in each of the city's local commercial areas - the Park, Stanley, Hollywood, Rio, York, Dunbar and others. An important stage for musical theatre, the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park, was built by the Malkin family, who made their fortune made in wholesale groceries. Malkin Bowl's resident company, Theatre Under the Stars (often just referred to as TUTS) was a popular and critical success for many years (rain and fog permitting). Its successor in the 1970s was less-successful Theatre in the Park, although a revamped and improved company in recent years has re-taken the name Theatre Under The Stars.

The city is home to two opera companies, the Vancouver Opera and the Pacific Opera, and there is a plethora of small specialized classical and early music ensembles and individual peformers. The city is home to several full-size pipe organs, the more well-known ones being at the UBC School of Music and St Andrews-Wesley United Church on Burrard (there is another of the same vintage at Christ Church Cathedral in New Westminster). Most universities and colleges in the region have music and theatre programs, the most notable being at UBC (the Freddy Wood Theatre and UBC music's opera program) and Langara College's Studio 54 theatre intensive study/peformance program. SFU's music and theatre programs are known for being more radical and experimental in nature, while Capilano College and other colleges are known for their jazz and popular music formats.

Complementing mainstream entertainment and high art, it follows naturally that a city that began life as a nearly all-male seaport, fishing and lumbering town would have a tradition of burlesque, and also of popular music. No doubt musical entertainments were to be had in the old bordellos of the pre-railway days, as also in private gentlemen's clubs, but these artists are unrecorded, other than the erstwhile singer Lulu Sweet, the namesake of Lulu Island (the City of Richmond) and purported mistress of the Mayor of Vancouver.

Throughout Vancouver's history, Chinese opera and other Chinese musical performances were organized in Chinatown, and several Chinese Benevolent Organizations had their own private orchestras. Similarly in "Little Yokohama", aka Japantown, Japanese musical and theatrical arts were practiced and performed. Other ethnic groups also formed their own musical groups, such as the Sons of Norway organization's choirs, the one-time Vancouver Welsh Choir, and folk dance troupes of all backgrounds (but notably Ukrainian). In some areas such as in West Broadway's Greektown or on Commercial Drive's old Italian-Portuguese days, ethnic dinner restaurants often had orchestras, and likewise all ethnic groups in Vancouver important popular and classical entertainers from their home countries. Cantopop and Bhangra are particularly well-represented. Scottish bagpipe bands are so much a part of local culture that over time many participants are from non-Scots backgrounds, ranging from Ukrainians to Chinese. In later years, the Irish folk-pop band The Irish Rovers established the first in their onetime worldwide chain of Irish pubs in Vancouver, partly because of the popularity of that style of music in the city (still to be found today at the Gastown pubs the Irish Heather, the Blarney Stone and elsewhere). World musics are popular in Vancouver today, and are part of the big success of the annual Vancouver Folk Festival at Jericho Beach, as well as part of the general musical milieu of the city, particularly along Commercial Drive's countercultural/alternative district.

Jazz music came to Vancouver relatively early, in part because of the role of the city as a residence or turnaround for the typically-African American/Canadian customer service employees of the railways (porters, stewards, waiters, cooks, trainmen) but also because of the "Grand Tour" which brought Jazz celebres through Vancouver to perform, if only because they were en route elsewhere. A shantytown on Union and Prior Streets east of Main, known as Hogan's Alley because of one its first black residents, became home to illicit music clubs, often harrassed and shut down by the police. Despite its slum reputation, the neighbourhood was home to good "session players", but it was not until later years that black musicians were allowed to play in the house bands of the city's mai

The mild climate of the city and close proximity to ocean, mountains, rivers and lakes make the area a popular destination for outdoor recreationists.

Vancouver has over 2,700 acres (11 km²) of parks, with Stanley Park being the largest. The municipality also has several large beaches, many flowing into each other, with the largest groups extending from the coast of Stanley Park before reaching False Creek, and on the other side of English Bay, starting in the Kitsilano neighborhood all the way to the University Endowment Lands, which are separate from Vancouver. The generous coastline provides for every type of water sport, and the city is a popular destination for boating enthusiasts.

The nearby North Shore mountains are home to three ski hills - Cypress Bowl, Grouse Mountain, and Mount Seymour - each within 20 to 30 minutes of downtown Vancouver. Mountain bikers have created world-renowned trails across the North Shore. Three rivers - Capilano River, Lynn Creek, Seymour River - each within 20 minutes of downtown provide opportunities to whitewater enthusiasts during periods of rain and spring melt.

Vancouver also attracts cannabis-oriented tourists because of the reputation of its indigenous drug culture, high-strength hydroponically-grown marijuana, and non-restrictive policing of drug use. Some coffee shops in Vancouver, notably near Gastown in the Downtown Eastside, and on Commercial Drive, allow marijuana and hashish to be smoked inside their walls.

Nightlife in Vancouver had, for years, been seen as restricted in comparison to other "world class" cities, with early closing times for bars and night clubs, and a reluctance by authorities to allow for further development. However, Vancouver has, in the past few years, experimented with later closing hours and relaxed regulations, and an effort has been made to develop the Downtown core even further as an entertainment district, especially on and around Granville St.

Government and politics
Vancouver is governed by the ten-member Vancouver City Council, a nine-member School Board, and a seven-member Parks Board, all elected for three-year terms through an at-large system.

Historically, in all levels of government, the more affluent west side of Vancouver has voted along conservative or centre-right lines while the working-class eastern side of the city has voted along left-wing lines. This was reaffirmed with the results of the 2005 provincial election.

Though polarized, a political consensus has emerged in Vancouver around a number of issues. Protection of urban parks, a focus on the development of rapid transit as opposed to a freeway system, and a general concern about community based development are examples of policies that have come to have broad support across the political spectrum in Vancouver.

The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) operates a regional rapid transit system, under the auspices of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority, known as TransLink, an organization which is responsible for all aspects of municipal transportation, including roads and ferries within the GVRD. There is frequent bus service throughout Greater Vancouver. A foot passenger and bicycle ferry service (known as SeaBus) crosses Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver, while a two-line automated metro system, the SkyTrain, the world's longest automated light rapid transit system, links downtown to the suburbs of Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey. An underground/elevated SkyTrain line running from downtown Vancouver to Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport by 2010 (see Canada Line) is currently under construction. An at-grade light rail transit to Coquitlam and Port Moody is also under construction.

The West Coast Express, a commuter rail train serves Port Moody, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and Mission. These services have an integrated ticketing system, making public transport inexpensive and efficient. In addition, private companies operate leisure-oriented passenger ferry services, around False Creek. HarbourLynx provides passenger-only fast-ferry service from Vancouver harbour to Nanaimo harbour on Vancouver Island.

Bus service operates throughout the region. Most buses are wheelchair accessible and a large number carry bike racks, able to carry two wheelchairs and bicycles respectively. Some buses which operate from overhead electrical trolley wires do not carry bicycle racks. It is worth noting that Vancouver is among the last of a few cities in North America which still have trolley buses operating on their streets. Certain diesel commuter buses which travel to the suburbs have bicycle racks, wheelchair lifts, and comfortable high back Greyhound-style seats. Frequency in Greater Vancouver ranges from every few minutes within the City of Vancouver to two to three trips a day to Maple Ridge and Aldergrove.

There is an extensive network of bike paths that provide east/west and north/south routes from one end of the city to the other. Each of the major bike paths has signal control to permit cyclists easy crossing of major arterial roads. Some of the bike paths are on streets that have extensive traffic calming measures such as traffic circles. Neighbourhoods are encouraged to plant and care for the circles and boulevards and add public art along bike routes. The Stanley Park seawall is also a popular recreational bicycle route.

Municipal bylaws and geography have protected Vancouver from the spread of urban freeways, and the only freeway within city limits is Highway 1, which passes through the eastern edge of the city. All other limited-access routes entering the city (Highway 99, Knight Street, Grant MacConachie Way, the Lions' Gate Bridge, etc.) promptly cease being freeways once they enter Vancouver's city limits.

Vancouver is served by Vancouver International Airport, located on Sea Island in the City of Richmond, immediately south of Vancouver. The airport (YVR) the second busiest in nation and one of the busiest international airports on the West Coast of North America. A third SkyTrain rail line connecting Vancouver to Richmond and the airport (with future extension possibly to Tsawwassen), the Canada Line, is under construction, with completion planned for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which are to take place in Vancouver. A heliport and seaplane dock on Burrard Inlet link downtown directly to Victoria and YVR. Vancouver is also served by two B.C. Ferry terminals, one to the northwest near the village of Horseshoe Bay, and one to the south, at Tsawwassen (the flagship terminal), linking the mainland to Vancouver Island and other nearby islands.

Sites of interest
Notable buildings within the city include Christ Church Cathedral, the Hotel Vancouver (now part of the Fairmont chain, originally a Canadian Pacific hotel), the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (with a world-class collection of Native American art including work by Bill Reid), and the Vancouver Art Gallery (notable collections include several paintings by Emily Carr). There are several striking modern buildings in the downtown area, including the Vancouver Law Courts and surrounding plaza known as Robson Square (Arthur Erickson, architect) and the Vancouver Library Square (Moshe Safdie, architect), reminiscent of the Colosseum in Rome. The original BC Hydro headquarters building at Nelson & Burrard Streets, now converted into the Electra condominiums, was a radical open-floor concept skyscraper that won several awards. Another award winner was the "concrete waffle" of the MacMillan-Bloedel building on Burrard at Thurlow. A prominent addition to the city's landscape is the giant tent-frame Canada Place, the former Canada Pavilion from Expo '86 and including the Trade and Convention Centre as well as a Cruise Ship Terminal and the Pan-Pacific Hotel.

A collection of Edwardian buildings in the city's old downtown core were in their day the tallest buildings in the British Empire. These were, in succession, the Province Building, the Dominion Building (1907. both at Cambie & Hastings Streets), and the Sun Tower (1911, Beatty & Pender Streets. The Sun Tower's cupola was finally exceeded as the Empire's tallest by the elaborate Art Deco-flavoured Marine Building in the 1920s (even though its absolute elevation was lower than the Hotel Vancouver and other more uptown buildings). The Marine Building is known for its elaborate ceramic tile facings and brass-gilt doors and elevators, which make it a favourite location for movie shoots. Another famous Edwardian building in the city is the current Vancouver Art Gallery building, designed by Francis Mawson Rattenbury who also designed the provincial Legislature and the original and highly decorative Hotel Vancouver (torn down after WWII as a condition of the completion of the "new" Hotel Vancouver a block away).

Interesting places
Some well-known neighbourhoods and other interesting places within the city include the following:

Burrard Street is home to high fashion retail, posh hotels, and—interestingly enough—the Financial District. There is an underground SkyTrain station (Burrard Station) near the end of the street, in the middle of the Financial District.

Canada Place, a convention centre, cruise ship terminal, and an Imax theatre built over the harbour

Chinatown, including the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical Chinese garden, the Chinese Cultural Centre, shops, restaurants, and open-air markets. The Chinatown-Stadium SkyTrain station is located less than two blocks from Keefer Street in Chinatown

Gastown, with brick streets and original buildings reflecting Vancouver's history, home to Storyeum

Granville Mall, a pedestrian street, characterized by blazing neon signs and a 24/7 urban scene in the centre of downtown is a hip area of dance clubs, bars, theatres, concert halls, shops, and restaurants. It is also the main transfer area for many of the TransLink buses and has its own underground SkyTrain station.

Robson Street, a hip and fashionable shopping and dining district

Sports arenas BC Place Stadium and GM Place, home to major sports teams like the BC Lions and the Vancouver Canucks as well as major touring concerts and gatherings. The Chinatown-Stadium SkyTrain station is the closest rapid transit access.

Kitsilano, including Greektown, Kits Beach and the Planetarium

VanDusen Botanical Garden, a 22-hectare garden in the middle of the city with guided tours offered daily, major events include the yearly garden show and the winter Festival of Lights.

Granville Island, including artist galleries and a bustling fresh food market. Tiny passenger ferries known as the "Aquabus" connect Granville Island to the downtown core.

The University of British Columbia campus and adjacent parklands, including clothing-optional Wreck Beach, the huge Pacific Spirit Regional Park, the Museum of Anthropology, and the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research. The University of British Columbia also operates the TRIUMF particle/nuclear physics laboratory.

The Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) grounds, located in Hastings Park, is the site of the annual fair of the same name held at the end of August. It also has exhibition buildings and the Coliseum, used for concerts and where the Vancouver Giants play

Playland, sharing its location with the PNE, is the city's amusement park and operates from April to September every year

World of Science, Vancouver, built for Expo 86. (formerly Science World)

Colleges and universities
Vancouver and its adjacent communities are the home of two major universities, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), as well as two community colleges and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). BCIT provides polytechnic education and grants degrees in several fields. Each of these institutions has a small campus in downtown Vancouver to complement their main facilities. Capilano College, Langara College, Vancouver Community College (VCC), Kwantlen University College, also serve the region's post-secondary education needs with career, trade, and university-transfer programs. Vancouver is also home to Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. The Greater Vancouver area is also served by Canada's only wholly private 4-year institution, Trinity Western University, which is a small faith-based Campus in Langley. Vancouver Film School also resides in Downtown Vancouver.

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