Seattle vs. Vancouver

Yahoo Travel

Each week, Yahoo Travel pits writers from rival cities against each other to determine once and for all which destination is the best.

The Case for Seattle:

Seattle is a work-hard, play-hard, gold-rushing, ocean-spanning center of commerce and fun, a city with a spirit of creativity and individualism that radiates energy like the power chords of a grunge band. Its high tech companies attract some of the brightest minds in the world, and the outdoor activities in the nearby national parks provide recreation for the body. Visitors enjoy the ample output of this energy by dining, shopping, watching championship sports teams, accessing nearby nature, and exploring inside, outside and underneath this vibrant city.

Vancouver is merely a colder, rainier shadow to the north, a second-city aspiring to match the dynamic hub for business and culture that is Seattle. It’s as hollow at the center as a Tim Horton doughnut, blighted with unoccupied buildings and overpriced food and drink.

Population: About 650,000 (and the fastest growing big city in the U.S.)


Seattle’s own Jimi Hendrix (Photo: Getty Images)

Famous Faces:  Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Macklemore, Carol Channing

Popular Way to Get Around Town: A good town for walking and biking, as well as for taking public transit on the Metro.


Nothing compares to Seattle’s Space Needle — especially what’s in that other city (Photo: Sergio Bonachela/Flickr)

Tall Place From Which to View City:  The Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair is a symbol of the city, and unlike the wannabe viewing platform in Vancouver, is an architecturally stunning tower, not some tumor atop a cement block.

RELATED: An Ode to the Space Needle 

Historic Downtown District: Seattle’s Pioneer Square is the historic center of town, with 20 square blocks of restored buildings dating back to the 1890’s. For a look into an even older era, take the entertaining Underground Tour beneath the streets and into a time capsule of the city from before the Great Fire. Then check out the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park to see how the craze of 1897 helped shape the town. In the face of all Seattle’s history, Vancouver seems like it was just built last week.


The Big Fish of fish markets at Pike Place (Photo: xetark/Flickr)

Iconic Waterfront Market with Fish: Established in 1907, Pike Place Market has the original Starbucks shop, farmers’ and crafts markets, and those guys tossing the fish around. The market area also boasts the Tasting Room, featuring wines exclusively from Washington vineyards. Sorry, Vancouver, your novelty ice wines just don’t compare.   

RELATED: City Smackdown: Portland vs. Portland (Oregon and Maine, that is)

Music Scene:  Seattle was home to Hendrix, Cobain, and the entire grunge music scene. Vancouver brought us Nickelback. ‘Nuff said. For even more, check out the cool “Experience Music Project” EMP Museum for an entertaining combo of music, pop culture and sci-fi.  For live music, you can catch everything from jazz at the Triple Door, classical music at Benarova Hall, or the latest garage bands tearing it up at the Sunset Tavern or the Showbox.  

Reason to Riot:  Hosting the World Trade Organization in 1999 resulted in a “state of civil emergency.”  Fight the power!

Abandoned by NBA Franchise:  Still more bitter than a day-old cup of Starbucks about Clayton Bennett taking the Sonics to Oklahoma. Winning the Super Bowl and having great venues for pro baseball and soccer almost make up for it.


Stunning views at Olympic National Park (photo:  Bala Sivakumar/Flickr)

The Great Outdoors: There’s a reason Seattle is called the “Emerald City.” Greenery fills the city and its surroundings, including on hiking trails in the nearby Mt. Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic National Parks. And then there’s adventure on the waters with ferries, cruises, float planes, kayak tours, whale watching and other aquatic fun at Lake Union, Lake Washington and the Puget Sound.

Nearby Skiing: Seattle has some popular local ski resorts including Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass, both about 80-90 miles from town.

Fine Feasting:  As a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region, as well as its proximity to the verdant farmlands of Washington, Seattle has an excellent food scene combining the farm-to-table movement with a rich assortment of ethnic cuisine. Check out Shiro’s for sushi, Mamnoon for Middle-Eastern, Poppy for a unique “modern northwest” take on thali-style dishes, and the Crab Pot to smash and munch on local seafood. And be sure to wash down your meal with some excellent Washington wines.

RELATED: City Smackdown: Cincinnati vs. Covington and Northern Kentucky

The Case for Vancouver:

You know why Starbucks started in Seattle? Because the place is so boring you need to add stimulants to entertain yourself. Seattle’s a tedious town of corporate slaves, toiling away for the overlords at Micro$oft-Amazon-Boeing, desperately trying to make enough money to pay for basic health care. And enough with the plaid shirts; you’re not a lumberjack and the 90’s are over. As Vancouver native son Douglas Coupland wrote in Generation X about you people and your McJobs, “you have to live with the fact that history will ignore you.”

In Vancouver, quality of life is everything, with the city rated “the most livable city” in the world eight times. Sophisticated without being snooty, beautiful while still approachable, the city is like a supermodel with smarts and a good personality. Ringed by snow-capped mountains and the white-capped ocean, Vancouver’s diversity goes beyond its accessible sea-and-ski activities, and extends to the cultural, culinary, and the daily life of both visitors and residents of this very international city.     

Population: about 600,000


Vancouver’s Pamela Anderson. Did Seattle’s Bill Gates ever make Playboy’s cover? (Photo: Getty Images)

Famous Faces: Michael Bublé, Sarah McLachlan, Pamela Anderson, Douglas Coupland, Steve Nash, Seth Rogen

Popular Way to Get Around Town: The most walkable city in Canada, Vancouver’s concentrated neighborhoods make strolling or biking around town a pleasure. Also take advantage of great public transit including the Sky Train, with $4 rides to the airport.

Tall Place from which to View City: At the Vancouver Lookout, take in 360-degree views of the city and harbor from its 553-foot-tall observation deck (33 feet higher than the Space Needle!) 

RELATED: City Smackdown: San Francisco vs. Oakland

Historic Downtown District: Established in 1867, Gastown was created by saloon manager “Gassy Jack” Deighton to serve local millworkers, and was incorporated into the city of Vancouver in 1886 (and promptly burned down). Rebuilt and prospering for years, it descended into urban blight in the 1960’s before being revitalized as a historic district.  Now it’s one of the hipper areas of town with refurbished buildings, a mix of businesses, shops, artists and, of course, plenty of bars to honor old Gassy Jack.  It’s not a tourist trap like Seattle’s Pioneer Place, but rather a genuine living, breathing part of the city.

Vancouver’s Gastown (Photo: robina/Flickr)

Iconic Waterfront Market with Fish:  Granville Island Public Market, which, unlike Seattle’s tourist-infested Pike Place, is actually enjoyed by locals and integrated into the nearby neighborhood. The area features a variety of local artists’ studios, theater productions, a brewery and, appropriately for a waterfront market area, a maritime market with boat builders plying their trade.  It just feels more genuine than Seattle’s faux market.

Japandroids: Cooler than Kenny G (Photo: Getty Images)

Music Scene:  Vancouver’s Japandroids are pretty cool.  And you know who Seattle’s all-time best selling musician is? Kenny G. When in Vancouver, check out some great live music venues like the Commodore Ballroom or the Railway Club.

Reason to Riot: Madness in the streets after losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994 and 2011. Not Vancouver’s finest moments, but it did result in this awesome photo

Abandoned By NBA Franchise:  We had an NBA team? Meh. Come see the CanucksBC Lions (Canadian Football), or the Whitecaps (soccer). Or even some curling.  No riots in curling.  

Stanley Park (Photo: Mike Heller/Flickr)

The Great Outdoors:  Vancouver’s Stanley Park has over 1,000 acres of natural forest smack dab in the middle of the city, and it was recently rated as not just the top city park in the Northwest, but tops in the world. Also see the classic Chinese Sun Yat-Sen Garden, the cherry blossoms of UBC’s Japanese Nitobe Garden, and the fall colors in 130-acre Queen Elizabeth Park — and that’s just what’s inside city limits. British Colombia boasts some of the world’s best wilderness adventures a short trip from Vancouver. And the waterways offer another assortment of outdoor activity from sailing to kayaking, cruises and a waterfront that, unlike Seattle’s, is almost 100% publicly accessible green space.

Nearby Skiing:  Oh, did somebody say Olympics? Yes, we’ve hosted one. 2010 Olympic venue Cypress Mountain is just a 30 minute drive from downtown, and Grouse Mountain is merely 15 minutes away. Ninety minutes north, massive Whistler-Blackcomb is rated by many as the best ski resort in North America. There’s a reason people from Seattle flock to our mountains. 

Fine Feasting:  For those people who think food north of the border is all about maple syrup and Canadian Bacon, prepare to have your taste buds awestruck at the upscale “contemporary Canadian cuisine” of Hawksworth Restaurant. Dine al fresco amidst Vancouver’s natural beauty at Araxi’s Longtable event with locally sourced foods.  And for a real native meal, try Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro whose dishes are inspired by traditional First Nations cooking.  With its large Asian community, some excellent ethnic dining options include Japanese at Tojo’s Restaurant, and Indian at Vij’s Restaurant, or even the odd cultural mash-up of Japadog—a food truck with Japanese-styled hot dogs.  

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