Vancouver’s 7 (or something) ‘Burbs: New Westminster


As a way to distract us from the oppressive heat, the Metbloggers figured nothing beats a little local pride and suburbling rivalry. So here we go on a series on the packed-with-personality and under-appreciated suburbs of Vancouver.

Except . . . well . . . how about we start with the city that Vancouver is a suburb of? (And I don’t mean Seattle, if there are any snarky southerners piping up about now).

. . .

I’m talking about New Westminster. The Royal City. Named because it was selected by Queen Victoria to be the first capital of the colony of British Columbia.

Why’d they change it to Victoria? I can’t say. People just liked it better that . . . ahem. Sorry.

So yeah, even though New West handed its capital status to the island, there are still a lot of reasons why it’s one of the coolest places in the GVRD, but don’t misquote me on that if you wind up there this week and it’s still 35 degrees.

I’ll tell you what I mean:

* Sea lions! Granted, I seem to have a knack of spotting them paddling around the Fraser every time I spend a lazy Saturday morning at the New Westminster Public Market, and no one else does, but even if it’s not every time, sea lions! The canines of the sea! With barking and flippery bits! Who can say no?

* Lots of cool shops. I never thought I was much of an antique fan, but New West proves it’s about more than just porcelain and footstools. You can find rare cameras, old ship parts, telescopes, and plenty of other stuff to convince your friends that you were the heir to a giant estate.

* A casino! Lose your rent money in style on the Royal Star Riverboat Casino. Way cooler than watching washed-up 80s celebrities at the River Rock, if you ask me. And they won’t even laugh at you if you’re a gambling wimp and only bet a dollar.

* Lots of SkyTrain stops. Hey, if you nap through that Burnaby bit in the middle (not knocking Burnaby — it’s my home, but not much for SkyTrain scenery), it’s practically downtown! (And if you’re coming by car, the parking is way cheaper than downtown Vancouver. I’m just sayin.)

* Haunted coffee at the BC Pen. Now mostly converted into condominiums, you can still stop by the coffee shop in the main building, wander around the grounds, and visit one of the creepiest cemeteries in BC (or pretend to visit, since it would be, like, trespassing to jump the fence to get in there . . . of course).

What else? Queens Park, some great places to eat, live music, a large number of some of the best-preserved heritage homes in the Lower Mainland, the chance to pretend you’re in San Francisco while driving up and down the steep hills — what else can you ask for?

The North Shore may be hipper (or at least Douglas Coupland says so), Richmond may be shinier, Port Moody may be more quaint, Coquitlam may be more . . . uh . . . hm, but no matter what you say, New West was here first, and still gives Vancouver a run for its money on cool stuff to see and do.

3 Comments so far

  1. Maktaaq (unregistered) on July 13th, 2007 @ 7:08 pm

    Don’t forget the nice, airy antique store with all the creepy Nazi memorabilia mixed in with the poodle knickknacks…

  2. Graham Ballantyne (unregistered) on July 14th, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

    I think you mean Queens Park, not Queen Anne Park.

  3. Ryan (unregistered) on July 15th, 2007 @ 8:08 am

    Be wary of the junkies aggressively begging at the foot of the pedestrian bridge to NW Quay and the casino.

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