Vancouver has many faces, including some you might not find at home. If you’re interested in exploring Alternative Vancouver, this is a good place to start.
Vancouver’s Alternative Media Scene
Vancouver has a very lively alternative art scene with both funky and avant garde art, fashion, theatre and other forms of entertainment. The centre of the alternative art and fashion scene is Commercial Drive which runs north and south and is east of downtown. The following venues and galleries will give you access to alternative art in Vancouver.
The Vancouver East Cultural Centre
1895 Venables Street
Called the ‘Cultch’ by locals, this performance space was originally a church. Now it is one of the city’s favorite, most active venues for music, dance, theatre and children’s programs. In truth, a trip to Vancouver isn’t quite complete without a visit to this funky, important cultural centre.
Western Front Society
303 East 8th Avenue
Started in 1973, Western Front is the oldest artist run centre in Vancouver. It is dedicated to the production, exhibition, and promotion of contemporary and experimental and electronic media, music and art.
#116 – 350 East 2nd Ave
Grunt is a Vancouver artist-run gallery formed in 1984 featuring exhibitions, performances, artist talks, publications and special projects.
Full Figure Theatre:
is a small company that produces original works written from diverse perspectives. Its particular interests lie in supporting the performing arts, initiated by and/or about women.
Alternative Movie Theatres
As in most cities, it’s getting harder to find non mainstream movie theatres, but Vancouver still has some good ones.
Fifth Avenue Cinemas: 2110 Burrard Street
The Fifth Avenue cinema has three screens and lie the other 2 Festival cinemas, has espresso and cookies.
The Park Theatre: 3440 Cambie Street
The Park is a comfortable old single screen theatre which is conveniently located on the Canada Line.
Rio Theatre: 1660 East Broadway Street
The Rio Theatre is a multi media venue for premier independent cinema of first-run feature films and live entertainment. It was built in 1938 and has been fully restored.
1131 Howe Street
The goal of Pacific Cinematheque is to promote critical media literacy and advance cinema as an art form and as a vital means of communication.
Alternative Radio Stations
Vancouver has three genuinely alternative radio stations, CJSF 90.1FM, which broadcasts from the top of Burnaby Mountain at Simon Fraser University, one broadcast at UBC and the other, CO-OP Radio, broadcast locally by hard working, committed volunteers.
CO-OP radio (102.7 FM) has been broadcasting alternative perspectives since 1975 and refuses to take money from either the government or big business because they are committed to an independent point of view.
CJSF (90.1FM) SFU’s Campus and Community Radio Station
CiTR (101.9 FM) UBC Radio
Local Escort Services
Escort services of all kinds exist legally in Vancouver. The yellow pages has 26 pages devoted to the topic. Just look up Escort in the yellow pages. You might also want to check out the classified ads in the local newspapers, the Vancouver Sun and Province. Also check out the adult services in the Georgia Straight Classifieds.
Clothing Optional Beach
Vancouver’s Wreck Beach has been a clothing optional beach since the 1920s. Despite the fact that the authorities, some UBC administrators and some easily offended locals have tried to eliminate it, Wreck Beach and its community flourish, in large measure due to the hard work and dedication of the Wreck Beach Preservation Society.
A weekend visit to the beach in the summer is a special treat. You’ll find food and beverage vendors, body painters, crafts, swimming, volleyball and board games. The atmosphere is welcoming and laid back. Just don’t come to gawk, photograph or act like a fool. It’s just not that kind of place, and you’ll quickly get set straight.
The beach is located at the western tip of Vancouver, west of Spanish Banks. It is possible to walk to Wreck Beach from Spanish Banks but the walk is neither easy nor short. The main beach is located below Trail 6.
From downtown, cross the Burrard Street Bridge and stay on Burrard to 4th. Turn west (right) on 4th Avenue all the way to Blanca. Turn left on Blanca and right on South West Marine Drive. Park near gate 6 and descend to the beach at Trail 6. If you get to Nitobe Garden, you’ve gone too far.
You can also access the beach by taking Trail 4 located behind The UBC Museum of Anthropology. The trails down to the beach are steep with stairs.
Vancouver Marijuana Culture
Vancouver has a thriving Marijuana culture that includes the political, medicinal, agricultural, and cultural aspects of the plant. While smoking marijuana is not legal in Vancouver, it is not a crime the police spend a lot of time cracking down on or punishing.
Currently there are several local shops that provide information and equipment for people interested in the subject of marijuana. The best place to hang out if you’re interested in more information and exposure to the local culture is the 300 block of West Hastings.
New Amsterdam Cafe is Vancouver’s premier head shop located at 301 West Hastings Street. You can find smoking paraphernalia and apparel as well as grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s a fun place to hang out, and you can smoke there on weekends.
Cannabis Culture Headquarters at 307 W Hastings
Street has a store, and upstairs is the BC Marijuana Part Headquarters.
Puff has glass pipes and other smoke shop accessories plus clothing. They’re located at 4326 Main Street, 841 Granville Street and 1838 West 4th Avenue.
On July 8, 2003, a law went into effect allowing same sex couples to marry in British Columbia. Couples wishing to marry don’t have to be BC residents; however, both must be single and at least 19 years old and be able to produce a birth certificate, passport or Immigration papers verifying identity.
You can get a marriage license at a local insurance office or from a local notary public. Marriage licenses cost C$100 and are valid for three months. Once you have obtained a marriage license, contact a marriage commissioner who will perform the marriage ceremony. For all the information you need about getting married in British Columbia, go the the Government’s Marriage Information website.
Canadians are, in some ways, a strange lot. About some things, they are quite conservative; their liquor laws, for example, are rather old-fashioned. However, when it comes to issues of diversity, they are definitely progressive. The Gay and Lesbian community in Vancouver enjoys relative freedom from discrimination, so much so that lesbians, at least, seem to have all but disappeared into mainstream culture.
If you’re looking for a place to meet and hang out with other lesbians, try the SuperDyke site. For up-to-date information about the Lesbian scene, it’s the best place to start.
For more information about what’s going on for women, definitely consult Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium at 1238 Davie Street. The phone number is 604-669-1753 and if you’re in Canada, but outside Vancouver, you can call their toll-free line @ 800-567-1662.
Gay Pride Events
To get more information about Gay Pride Events, check out the Gay Vancouver Website. Go to the Pride Parade & Festival for information about the annual parade.
The centre of gay life in Vancouver is Davie Street in downtown Vancouver. You’ll know you’re there because of the rainbow banners streaming from light standards. Along with Davie Street, one of the best places to find other men is at the Dufferin Hotel located at 900 Seymour Street, at Smithe.
Each Sunday evening between 6:00 and 8:00, Queer FM offers news, information, and music for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Vancouverites. Queer FM, broadcast on CiTR 101.9 FM, acts as a forum for discussions affecting the queer community. Queer FM Arts Xtra is on every Tuesday from 9:30 to 10:30 AM, and it highlights LGBTQ arts and entertainment from around the world.
Xtra West: Published each Thursday and available around town, Xtra West is the voice of the gay and lesbian community. Find a copy if you want to know what’s going on around the city.
CRUISEY T Cruises: Cruisey T Productions offers 4 hour cruises departing from downtown Vancouver beginning in May. CruiseyT’s main focus is to raise funds for local charities and organizations within the Gay & Lesbian Communities.