This summer seems especially full of community events. Part of it is Vancouver’s125th Birthday, with events like this past weekend’s Summer Live. Another part of it is that there’s been a groundswell of community creativity around public events that’s been supported by the current City government. Organizations like Vancouver Public Space Network, websites like Vancouver is Awesome, and initiatives like Car-Free Vancouver are helping to drive this movement. Public Dreams pioneered such community-making, espousing a grassroots ethos that includes making these events free of charge.
I think this atmosphere is inspiring traditional institutions like Tourism Vancouver to follow suit. This May, they ran a promotion of local attractions called Be a Tourist in Your Own Town, which was open only to residents of Greater Vancouver. Each day of the promotion, residents could download coupons good for a range of destinations around Greater Vancouver, ranging from the well-known to the obscure.
I managed to take advantage of two of the offers, admission to Vancouver Lookout and Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden. The first was one I’d never considered, while the second was a chance to re-visit one of Vancouver’s treasures.
Vancouver Lookout sits atop Harbour Centre’s tower, which was Vancouver’s tallest building until 2009. It still gives a clear 360° view, looking out over downtown, the west and east ends of town, and toward the North Shore. Even on a rainy day, the views were compelling. It made for a nice exercise – trying to identify our neighbourhood from that height and distance; seeing the roofs of most of the downtown’s buildings; getting an aerial view across the water.
I went to Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens on another grey day, but the rain held until near the end of my visit. The Vancouver Tourism offer coincided with the garden’s 25th Anniversary celebration, so we were treated to tours, activities and goodies. I loved watching the koi feed, hearing the history of the garden, and contemplating the symbolism of elements in the scholar’s garden. The garden is not just a contemplative space, providing a venue for theatre, music and conferences.
I try to approach living in this region, where I grew up, in the same way I do unfamiliar places. Looking at one’s home through traveller’s eyes means trying to discover both the surprising and delightful, along with what’s most authentic. But tourism has its rewards, too. Thanks Tourism Vancouver, for reminding me of that.