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April
17
Photo credits: rickchung.com
 
20 years ago, most people called them “comic book conventions”, and, for better or worse, they were considered the exclusive domain of pocket-protector-sporting “nerds”. Not the case anymore. Not even close. The “fan conventions” of today are hip, even glamorous affairs, hosting high-profile celebrity guests and celebrating every aspect of fantasy and sci-fi culture.
 
This Easter weekend, Fan Expo Vancouver will set up shop at the Vancouver Convention Centre, hosting 3 days of shopping, Q & A sessions, workshops, meet-and-greets, multimedia exhibitions and interactive activities.  
 
For many fans, the Expo is more than just an opportunity to see their favourite star or find a rare comic; it’s a chance to inhabit a whole new persona. Costume-clad role players make up a sizeable segment of the attendees, and you can expect to see every character from Anakin Skywalker to Zelda.
 
Tickets are $20 for Friday, $35 for Saturday and $30 for Sunday; $69 for all three days. Not a bad deal when you consider the number of attractions on tap for the weekend. Highlights include:
               
  • Celebrity guests Tom Felton (Harry Potter), Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) and Robert Englund (best known for playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street films), along with many others
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  • Rue Morgue Festival of Fear, the county’s largest horror expo taking place within the Fan Expo
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  • Cosplay Masquerade with awards for best costume
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  • Easter-themed events including egg hunts, stormtrooper egg rolls and a special Easter reading from voice actor Christian Potenza
 
 
 
If you’re in town for Fan Expo Vancouver this weekend and looking for a place to stay, consider the Ramada Downtown Vancouver Hotel, located in the heart of downtown Vancouver’s Granville Entertainment District, just a short walk, bus or cab ride to the Vancouver Convention Centre.  
The Hudson’s Bay Company is the oldest existing corporation in North America. Since the late 19th century, HBC department stores have occupied an important place in the commercial centres of major Canadian cities, especially Vancouver. 
 
The Hudson’s Bay building at the corner of Granville and Georgia in Vancouver’s downtown core is among the city’s most recognizable structures. Its elegant cream terra cotta façade, classical columns and block-wide footprint distinguish it as a place of great importance and history.
 
The Bay Store in 1936
 
The structure dates to 1914, but the presence of HBC in Vancouver began in 1887, when the city had fewer than 500 residents. By the end of the 19th century, HBC operated a bustling retail store at its present location on Granville and Georgia, sourced by the company’s massive warehouse at 321 Water Street (which still stands today).
 
In 1914, construction began on the first phase of the present-day terra cotta Bay building, which was constructed adjacent to the original 3-story red-brick Bay store. In 1925, the original store was demolished and the terra-cotta building was expanded to span the entire block of Georgia Street between Granville and Seymour.
 
More additions would follow in 1949, extending the store north along Seymour Street to its present dimensions. In total, 650,000 pounds of steel was used in its construction and more than 38 miles of electrical wiring.
 
In the mid 80s, the Bay was connected, through its lower floors, to the newly constructed Granville SkyTrain station and Pacific Centre Mall. 
 
The Bay Store as it appears today
 
Today, the Vancouver Hudson’s Bay store serves as one of the company’s flagship locations, receiving more than $300 million in upgrades over the past three years, including the addition of the world’s second largest TopShop store.
 
You’ll find the Bay just 5 blocks north of our Ramada Downtown Vancouver Hotel. It’s a must-stop destination on your Vancouver shopping itinerary!
 
Check back next month for the final instalment of our History of Granville Street series.  
March
12
 
Craftsmanship is so in right now. That may sound a little silly, but it’s true. Artisanal goods are enjoying a significant surge in popularity—everything from homemade pickles to hand-carved hat boxes. In our culture of disposability, people are increasingly recognizing the value of handmade, locally produced goods, the sort of things that are made with care and built to last.
 
This March in Vancouver, three high-profile artisan markets (two of which are entirely new) are happening on three consecutive weekends, giving savvy shoppers three chances to browse some of BC’s best artisan food, décor, art, clothing and more.
 
Heritage Hall. 15th and Main. 
Salt Spring Island, the most well known of the idyllic and unspoiled Gulf Islands, has long been a haunt of hippies artists and craftsmen. At this first-of-its-kind event, some four dozen of the islands’ artisans will offer their products for sale. Absorb the island vibes and take home some goodies that you literally won’t find anywhere else, short of taking a ferry ride to the island itself. 
 
Creekside Community Centre. Olympic Village
Designed to encourage Vancouverites to shop local, this vibrant artisan/craft fair offers a wide variety of fashion, jewelry, art, edibles and toys. Grab a Shop Local punch card at the entrance, get it stamped with your purchases and enter to win a PW gift card.
 
Woodward’s Atrium. 111 W. Hastings.
After enjoying great success in their first year of operation, the people behind the Eastside Flea Market are launching the first Eastside Artisan’s Market, showcasing the products of a talented group of local artisans, artists and craftsmen. Partial proceeds will be donated to the Vancouver Inner City Artisan Society.
 
Spring is an exciting time to visit Vancouver. If you’re heading to Van City this spring, stay in the heart of it all at the Ramada Downtown Vancouver Hotel. 
February
26
The Vancouver Block shortly after its constuction crica 1913
 
When you look from a distance at downtown Vancouver today, it’s hard to identify any truly distinctive features of the downtown skyline—it’s a mass of steel and glass high rises that, while attractive, are rather unremarkable. 
 
It wasn’t always that way, of course. When the Vancouver Block was constructed near the bustling intersection of Georgia and Granville in 1912, the 15-story building was the tallest in the city and an instantly iconic feature of the Vancouver skyline, with its stately Edwardian architecture, terra cotta flourishes and large clock tower.  
 
In an era when Vancouver was enjoying rapid economic and urban growth, the Vancouver Block was a symbol of the city’s seemingly endless prosperity. 
 
The Vancouver Block as it appears today
 
When ground was broken for the structure in 1910, the commercial centre of Vancouver had begun to shift from Hastings and Pender Streets (in present-day Gastown) to Granville Street. Encouraged by the CPR, who owned much of the land along Granville Street and offered incentives to commercial builders, wealthy businessmen began to set up their new ventures along Granville Street, which quickly gained a prestigious reputation as the “new” centre of the city.
 
Prestige was certainly on the mind of business magnate Dominic Burns when he commissioned the city’s preeminent architectural firm, Parr & Fee to design the 265-ft high Vancouver Block to be built on the highest point of land in downtown Vancouver. In an era of economic abundance, one-upsmanship was often the motivating factor in the construction of grand new buildings, and there was no doubt that, with the visually striking Vancouver Block, Burns one-upped every other building owner on Granville.
 
In 1927, neon lights were added to the clock tower, making it an even more eye-catching feature of the skyline (and helping it fit in with Granville’s neon-lit theatre row).  
 
The iconic clock tower (credit: JMV)
 
The clock's inner workings (credit: JMV)
 
The marble staircase (credit: JMV)
 
Today, the Vancouver Block stands as one of the most recognizable buildings in the city, and one of the greatest achievements of architects Parr & Fee, who were responsible for a number of other iconic Vancouver buildings including the Hotel Europe.
 
The Vancouver Block is located between Robson and Georgia St. on Granville, roughly five blocks from our Ramada Downtown Vancouver Hotel. Be sure to look skyward when you pass by it!
 
Stay tuned to our blog for the next installment of The History of Granville Street.
 
Source:
February
11
 
For the past ten years, the annual Vancouver CelticFest has helped Vancouverites shake off the winter blues with a lively celebration of all things Celtic. Taking place from March 8th to 16th, the festival comprises a wide variety of events and attractions—from concerts to parades to artisan markets—that reflect diverse aspects of both traditional and contemporary Celtic culture.
 
More than 80 events take place over the 9 days of the festival at a number of venues in the Granville Street area of downtown Vancouver. The festivities culminate with a St. Patrick’s Day Parade along Howe Street on Sunday March 16—a popular local tradition.
 
 
 
There will be both free and ticketed events. Highlights include:
                
  • “A Whisky Kiss” Scotch Tasting | Wed, Mar. 12 @ The Cellar: Dazzle your senses by sampling a scintillating assortment of scotches served with commentary from spirits experts Simone Kelly and Keith Trusler. 7:30 pm. $30.
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  • CelticFest 10th Anniversary Gala | Fri, Mar. 14 @ Vogue Theatre: Head to the historic Vogue Theatre for the festival’s marquee concert featuring The Once, The Paperboys, Hermitage Green and Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project. $30. (Get 50% off your ticket when you book at the Ramada Vancouver
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  • Celtic Village & Street Market | Sat, Mar. 15 & Sun, Mar.16 @ Granville Street b/w Nelson St. and Robson St.: Breathe deep of the early spring air and join fellow lovers of Celtic culture for this lively street fair featuring an artisan market, free concerts and a variety of street performers. FREE.
 
The Ramada Downtown Vancouver Hotel is a proud to be an official partner of the 2014 Vancouver CelticFest. For anyone seeking CelticFest accommodations, we are offering the special room rate of $75. Just give us a call at 1-888-835-0078 to book your room and mention promo code CF2014. We look forward to seeing you here for CelticFest this March! 
January
28
This month, we bring you the story of another legendary theatre still in operation on Granville Street’s famous “theatre row”. In its mid-century heyday, this stretch of Granville—from about Nelson to Robson—was aglow with the massive neon signs of grand movie houses like the Capitol and the Paradise. Today, only a few of these stately structures remain and the Vogue Theatre is one of the finest.
 
Opened in 1941, the Vogue is a beautiful example of late Art Deco (or “Moderne”) architecture. Its opulent interior harkens to the early 20th-century trend of constructing movie houses as “Movie Palaces”, extravagantly appointed theatres built to give the average filmgoer a sense of being treated like royalty.
 
The Vogue Theatre in 1948
 
The first film to hit the screen at the Vogue was I See Ice, a 1938 British romantic comedy with a hockey theme. It has also been host to extended runs of popular movies. Star Wars and Jaws both played there for many months past their original runs (a 1981 photo shows The Empire Stikes Back still on the marquee two years after its release!).
 
In 1987, the Vogue was sold and converted from movie house to live performance venue. Since then, some big names have graced its stage. Some have even left a little spooked after reportedly seeing ghosts in the building. Rumours of the Vogue being haunted persist to this day, although the owners insist that any spirits in the 73-year-old building are friendly. 
 
The Vogue Theatre as it Appears Today
 
Today, the Vogue, like its neighbour the Orpheum, is one of Vancouver’s premiere live performance venues. More than just music, it is frequently host to stand-up comedy events from high-profile touring comedians.
 
The Vogue is located between Nelson St. and Smithe St., just a few blocks north of our Ramada Downtown Vancouver Hotel. Check back next month for the next instalment of our History of Granville Street series. 
 
Sources:
-City of Vancouver Archives
-“Know Your History: Vogue Theatre”, Georgia Straight 
 
The next two weeks are a very exciting time for Vancouver foodies. From January 17th to February 2nd, the annual DineOut Vancouver Festival offers a rare opportunity for gastropods to enjoy a gourmet meal some of Vancouver’s finest restaurants for a very reasonable price.
 
More than 200 restaurants are participating, offering a three-course prix-fix meal in one of three price brackets: $18, $28, or $38. Throughout the duration of the festival, there will also be a number of special events taking place—everything from cocktail tours to cooking classes to street food markets. 
 
With so many participating restaurants, the hardest part is choosing one! To make things easier, here is a list of 3 amazing DineOut Vancouver restaurants, each in a different price category and all within easy walking distance of our Ramada Downtown Vancouver Hotel. 
 
$18: The Refinery (1115 Granville Street)
This market-style eatery manages to be both casual and, as the name suggests, refined. It features a friendly, lively atmosphere, an extensive wine list and an on-trend menu that focuses on market-fresh dishes made with distinctive local ingredients. 
 
$28: Ten Ten Tapas (1010 Beach Ave)
What could be better than dining to the smooth sound of live jazz? At Ten Ten Tapas, the west-coast inspired, tapas-style cuisine is matched only by the house entertainment, which includes some of the brightest stars on the local jazz circuit.
 
$38: C Restaurant (1600 Howe Street) 
Vancouver is world-famous for its seafood, and C Restaurant does much to sustain this reputation, serving some of the finest seafood in the country. The restaurant’s beautiful waterfront setting and commitment to sustainably sourced ingredients continually earns it a place among the top ranked dining spots in Vancouver.
 
To make your evening truly special, complete your DineOut Vancouver experience with a relaxing stay at our Ramada Downtown Vancouver hotel, located in the vibrant heart of downtown.
December
30
 
The Commodore Ballroom in the 1960s
 
Last month, we chronicled the colourful history of Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre. Now, we’d like to tell you a bit about its less gilded but equally storied neighbour, the Commodore Ballroom. In the eyes of many music lovers, the Commodore is Vancouver’s finest live music venue, renowned for its amazing acoustics, charming interior and classic hardwood dance floor.
 
Over the years, the Commodore has hosted many of the biggest names in rock and jazz, everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to David Bowie to the Clash. In some instances, performers easily capable of selling out a much larger venue have requested to play at the historic Commodore instead.
 
But it wasn’t always this way. It took the Commodore many years to earn its reputation as the premier live music venue in the city. Built in the late 20s at the height of the art deco period, the Commodore Cabaret, as it was originally called, was envisioned by its owners as a venue for private events, a competitor to the very popular Hotel Vancouver ballroom.
 
After a few false starts, owing by the onset of the great depression, the Commodore officially opened in 1930. It was available for rent on every night except Saturday, the night on which its owners hosted a public dinner and dance for $1. These Saturday night jazz orchestra concerts gained a legendary reputation around town—for a time, they were broadcast live on the radio every week.
 
Comparison of the Commodore interior in the 1930s and the present day
 
By the 60s, the Commodore’s lustre had faded somewhat. The popularity of swing orchestras had been eclipsed by bebop jazz and the center of city’s live jazz scene had shifted to the hipper and more intimate Cave Nightclub and Palomar Room (both now demolished).
 
Things changed in 1970 when entertainment entrepreneur Drew Burns purchased the Commodore Cabaret, renovated it, changed its name to the Commodore Ballroom and began booking rock and roll bands. Before long, the venue became the city’s hottest spot for rock concerts, occupying a unique position as a venue larger than a typical nightclub, but more intimate than an arena.
 
The expiration of Burns’ lease in 1996 cast doubt on the future of the Commodore, and for 3 years it sat vacant. It’s no coincidence that during these years, Vancouver experienced a dearth of quality touring bands passing through our city. Recognizing the importance of this one-of-a-kind venue, House of Blues purchased the Commodore in 1999, invested in extensive renovations and restored it to its former glory.
 
Today, the Commodore hosts over 150 concerts a year from some of the biggest names in music and sees more than 120,000 guests pass through its doors annually.
 
The Commodore Ballroom in the mid-2000s
 
You’ll find the Commodore on Granville Street between Smithe and Robson Streets, just a few blocks north of the Ramada Downtown Vancouver Hotel. Stay tuned for next month’s instalment of our ongoing series on The History of Granville Street.
 
Sources:
 
Anyone passing over Vancouver’s Cambie Street bridge this December will notice something unusual at the edge of false creek: an enormous white circus tent. Nearly every night from now until January 12th, this 2000-seat temporary venue, which is the size of two NFL football fields, will host one of the most spectacular live shows you’ll see in Vancouver—or anywhere for that matter.
 
It’s called Cavalia Odysseo, a horse show augmented by the death-defying acrobatics and dreamlike sets of Cirque du Soleil.
 
The 3-hour show features all manner of dazzling stunts both human and equine. Equally impressive is the elaborate and dynamic set design, which immerses the viewer in a spellbinding fairytale world.
 
67 horses, including Lusitanos, Arabians, Quarter Horses and others, make up the cast, along with talented acrobats and circus performers. As a whole, the show is not so much a narrative as it is a sensory experience, aiming to inspire a feeling awe and wonder in spectators—not difficult, considering most in attendance will have never seen a spectacle quite like this before.
 
 
We wouldn’t want to spoil too much of the excitement by going into detail about all the amazing things you’ll see at Odysseo, but to give you a rough idea of the scope of the stunts, it take more than 300,000 litres of water to stage the finale alone!
 
Performances, either in the evening or afternoon, take place every day—with the exception of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day—until Jan 12th. Tickets range from $44.50 to $229.50, with discounts for children, youth and seniors.
 
The venue is located at 299 W. 1st Ave, just a 5-minute drive or 20-minute walk from the Ramada Downtown Vancouver Hotel. Pay parking is available onsite and opens 90 minutes before show time.
November
21
The iconic neon sign of the Orpheum Theatre is a prominent feature on Granville Street’s downtown strip, marking Vancouver’s grandest and most beautiful heritage theatre.

Orpheum Theatre circa 1946

At the time of its completion in 1927, the Orpheum was the biggest theatre in Canada, with 3000 seats. $1.25 million was spent on its construction ($17 million in today’s dollars), which funded not only its size but also its opulent interior.

In its early days, the Orpheum was a vaudeville house, hosting live theatrical shows in an era before the widespread popularity of motion pictures. By the mid-30s, however, vaudeville was quickly being outgunned by the movie industry and by the end of that decade the Orpheum was being used primarily as a movie theatre under the ownership of the Famous Players company.     

The Orpheum remained a single-screen movie house until 1973 when Famous Players tabled a plan to convert the structure into a multiplex cinema. The plan was met with widespread backlash from citizens who wished to see the heritage theatre preserved. A “Save the Orpheum” campaign was launched which, with the help of celebrity endorsement from the likes of Jack Benny, convinced the City of Vancouver to purchase the Orpheum at a cost of $7.1 million.

An extensive 2-year restoration effort followed, which restored the threadbare theatre to the glory of its early days thanks, in part, to assistance from the theatre’s original interior designer. In 1977, the newly restored Orpheum opened to much fanfare and has since been used primarily as a live performance venue and home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.  

Orpheum Theatre as it appears today

To learn more about the fascinating history of the street our hotel calls home, stay tuned to the Ramada Downtown Vancouver Hotel blog.

Sources: 

Wikipedia.  “Orpheum (Vancouver”

City of Vancouver Archives “Exterior View of the Orpheum Theatre”