Vancouver has won Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Award for best city in the Americas.

Vancouver is in British Columbia, in Canada, I recently discovered.

While the survey was focused on the city as a destination for tourists, it can be implied that the city is great for full-time living, as well.

Why Vancouver?

According to an article in Travel + Leisure:

“We are ethnic-embracing, gay-loving, godless commies,” says Guy Saddy, columnist for the Globe and Mail.

Um, yeah. Er. Moving on.

It may have started out as a lumber town, but with tourism, yoga gear, and new construction of glass condominium towers as its other major industries, it’s clear that the city where both Greenpeace and the radical culture magazine Adbusters were founded has a default liberal streak.

Despite the abundance of natural beauty, wide-open-minded views on hemp cultivation that have earned the city the nickname Vansterdam, and a seal of fashion approval from hordes of visiting style-obsessed Tokyo twentysomethings, locals view their hometown as a cultural also-ran, forever comparing it unfavorably with Toronto, Montreal, or nearby Seattle …

… Almost anywhere you go in Vancouver, one unifying quality emerges: it is an uncommonly functional and versatile place, just large enough to satisfy the curiosity of even the most jaded travelers. It’s a big city that nonetheless feels friendly and intimate. That friendliness comes from its sociable, socially progressive populace, many of whom came to stake a claim in the global lifestyle of this 21st-century town. It’s the terminus of the nation.

People come here to remake or reinvent themselves.

Well, how does it compare with Boston, Massachusetts, a city of somewhat similar size (Vancouver broke the 500,000 resident barrier a couple years ago, Boston is headed downward in that direction, at least according to doomsayers.)

Cub reporter Sebastian White drew me this chart:

Boston:

Has more history – a good or bad thing
Has lots of old architecture
Economy has been having ups and downs
European ties are strong
Academic community
Downtown areas are hot
Economically segregated
Wealthy from biotech, tech, medicine
People moving into downtown tend to be young and single
Arrogant, snooty
High real estate prices

(I’d add, racially segregated, too.)

Vancouver:

Less history – generally seen as a good thing (In Boston, everything is someone related back to the old days, or the Brahmins.)
Has lots of new architecture
Asian ties
Wealthy, without any real economy (there is no dominant industry. Wwhat do people do there? – It’s like Santa Barbara in this respect)
Downtown is a huge success story
Income diversity in city central
Weather/climate is real draw
Spectacular/dramatic setting
Closest North American city to asia
Biggest port on North American west coast
People with families are moving into downtown
Film and TV market is huge
Isolated from the rest of Canada
Undiscovered, but being exposed to the world slowly
Olympics in three years will change it
No sprawl – city is hemmed in by mountains and sea
20 miles to US
Inferiority complex
Not a flashy place
Real estate prices are soaring – million dollar condos are the norm (unheard of in Canada)

I asked Sebastian about Vancouver’s drug problem, something he has mentioned in his own blog.

SFGW: The downtown eastside has a major drug problem. But, one of the things you’ll find, as in much of Canada, is that there is much more outreach work.

JAK: Hmmm. We (in Boston) only have a minor drug problem.

SFGW: Drug use is criminalized in both countries but in Canada they treat them as people who need help, not necessarily as criminals!

SFGW: Yeah, (Boston) is nowhere near as bad.

SFGW: Both cities have extremes.

JAK: Perhaps ostracization works?

SFGW: I’m heading to Gym Bar … TTYL!

More: Vancouver Rising – By David A Keeps, Travel + Leisure

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