The world definitely hasn’t returned to normal yet, but some things are at least getting closer to it, and Vancouver Pride is an example of that. Whereas last year it was completely online with no in-person events, this year there were a number of options available, in a smaller and social-distanced capacity. So whereas last year there really wasn’t a reason to leave our home when we could just flip open the laptop to see what was happening virtually, this year my fiancé and I had a staycation to make the most of a long-weekend that actually included places to go and things to do!
Of course, the key thing with any staycation is finding the right accommodations. We ended up staying at the iconic Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. I’ve walked past the building more times than I can count since it’s right downtown, and I’ve even been inside for the occasional dinner or drinks at Notch8, but this was the first time I got to stay there. The building was first opened in 1939, with King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother being among the first guests, so it has quite the history. We had a corner room with a view of the Vancouver Art Gallery, another iconic building in the area, and also where one of the official Pride events was taking place in its large open plaza.
That event was one of three different outdoor lounges in the city where 2 hour slots could be booked to sit at a table with your guests, order drinks from a bar setup, and take in live entertainment on stage. We actually ended up going to the one by our hotel twice – one day in the late morning and another day in the late afternoon. We saw drag queens, a drag king, and a few singers who were either on their own or with a small band.
Another official Pride event that we went to was the Pride Picnic. In 2019 I emceed this event in its larger/normal capacity in Stanley Park, but for this year’s smaller version it took place at Jonathan Rogers Park, just south of downtown. There were a number of the typical booths you’d find at the usual Pride festival and then a stage with performers that included more drag performances and musical guests. We brought an Afternoon Tea to-go kit from Notch8 to enjoy while we watched the entertainers, which really brought our picnic to a whole other level!
Speaking of which, we also tried their Picnic Package for Two for lunch one day, which was a nice and quick way to enjoy some food in our room before heading out for the day (although we could have easily brought it with us). Otherwise for breakfast we opted to have it delivered to our room, which is such a treat to get to do, and we did go into the restaurant one night to have dinner there and enjoy the ambiance outside of our room.
We also had meals at other Fairmont properties, since there are in fact three of them within walking distance in downtown Vancouver! We had a dinner at the Oakrdige X Pacific Rim Patio Pop-Up, located on the Fairmont Pacific Rim‘s front plaza (a grass-covered space with picnic tables and a food truck) and we went to the Pride Recovery Drag Brunch at Arc Restaurant in the Fairmont Waterfront, where we were entertained by three of Vancouvers top drag queens while having all we could eat from their extensive menu, including a stack of rainbow pancakes!
Of course, what Pride would be complete without also going to a night club? So we made sure to go into the gaybourhood one evening (Davie Village in the West End) to take in a drag show at Numbers Cabaret, Vancouver’s oldest gay bar. They have a large space in the back that’s been converted into an awesome outdoor seated area with a stage for the queens to perform on – and they even offer food now so we could have some appies with our drinks while we watched the show.
Other than that we mostly spent time enjoying our room and amenities at the hotel – there is a large indoor pool, which we had intended to go to, but instead we found ourselves spending time in the Hashtag Holidays photo booth room on the 1st floor, where there are 14 beautiful floral backdrops set up to take photos in. We were actually among the first to experience it, but they’ll be keeping it up until the end of September
So while there wasn’t the typical parade or big festival this year, and not the usual opportunities to meet and chat with new people, it was very nice to still have at least a few options of things to see and do during this year’s Vancouver Pride long weekend. And we couldn’t have had a better place to stay for it all too – the location of the hotel along with the high standard of service and delicious food options really made for an amazing staycation that we really enjoyed!
Disclaimer: All of my experiences were gifted by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, the Vancouver Pride Society, or the West End Business Association.