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Pack your bags: Vancouver (aka., Hollywood North)

"Hollywood North? What-the-what?" you might be asking yourself. Well, I'm not referring to a suburb of Los Angeles at all - not even close. Instead, head about 1,300 miles North into the gentle hospitality of Canada. Though Vancouver is frequently known by this glamorous SoCal association, given its very well-established film industry, it's also the recipient of numerous other nicknames as well. Some denote its characteristic weather ("Rain City" or "Raincouver"), while others reflect its architectural prowess ("City of Glass") or it's prevailing cultural policies ("No Fun City"). I, however, found in a recent trip to Vancouver that the city itself is anything but "no fun."

What prompted this Northwest journey? One of my best friends from graduate school was engaged to be married and the entire group of "dudes" was descending on the city for the special day (and about 12 hours either side of that day, too!) While there, we got a great taste of what 'couver has to offer. So, without further ado, I give you the Vancouver Top 3 To-Do's (if you visit on a whirlwind trip):

Harbour Green Park: Now, to be honest, any park that strings around the surrounding waterfront of Vancouver Harbour will do, but Harbour Green Park happened to be particularly close to our hotel and particularly serene. You've got mountain vistas to view, the gentle buzz of seaplanes coming and going and the balance of lush green grasses, placid water and sleek contemporary glass and concrete urbanity. Be sure to stop by The Mill Marine Bistro for a bit of pub 'n grub, right in the park. It's even the site of the 2012 Olympics torch, too. Perfect photo-opp. What's not to love?

Grouse Mountain: About 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver you'll find some of British Columbia's great skiing. Whether you're carving turns down the mountain or simply looking for a spectacular view of the city, head to Grouse Mountain. It's an easy drive that delivers gigabytes of possible photos. No matter the season, there's hiking, skiing and tons of family activities to participate in.

Blenz Coffee: Yes, Blenz Coffee is a chain (I later found out) and, yes, there are TONS of great independent coffee shops in Vancouver. So, for all you Vancouver aficionados, please excuse the immense cultural faux-pas. Alas, due to timing and geography, this was the only one we got to and - boy - did it deliver! The thickest, creamiest cappuccino I've had in a long while with an exquisite foam design atop the caffeinated creation. (It was almost a shame to drink it...almost.) So, whether it's Blenz or any other coffee joint in BC, your trip for a cup o' Joe might just surprise you with it's creative and culinary skill.

Now, sure, it wasn't the longest, most in-depth trip ever experienced, but for a quick turn-around it was gorgeous, very pedestrian-friendly and filled with great nooks and crannies that ooze hospitality and humble Canadian pride.

Have you headed to Vancouver or B.C.? If so, we'd love to hear about your favorite places to visit!

Image courtesy of www.sfu.ca

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The 4-1-1 on Ryan Morris