Granville Island isn't really an island - it's a manmade infill (administered by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Association, a government organization) of part of False Creek in Vancouver, British Columbia, under the Granville St. Bridge (on the south side, in Kitsilano), and it ties with Stanley Park as the biggest tourist trap in town.

It's a strange mix of commercial zones: you have your big farmer's market, you have a profusion of performing arts venues, you have zillions of tourist oriented shops (a mix of local artists selling their wares and marine shops selling boats, tours, and probably souvenir life jackets embroidered with killer whales for all I know), and then in the middle of everything, you have heavy industry - breweries, a chemical plant, and a huge concrete/cement company. These dissonant pursuits combine in to one glorious place with two overpowering properties: 1. Tourists flock to it, and 2. The parking is bad.

The parking is astoundingly bad. Even at midnight on weekdays you'll be hard pressed to find a spot easily, but on any given weekend, whether in August or December, there'll be cars lined up for four blocks just trying to get in to the island, and twice as many slowly slowly circling the various pedestrian-clogged roads of Granville Island, desperately seeking refuge. Despite one enormous warehouse dedicated to parking, and other parking lots and spots dotted around, this process can be expected to take upwards of an hour - if you're lucky and quick on the draw. Public transit is a little better - the bus runs slowly, since it has to wade through all that traffic, but at least you don't have to park it. Better yet, walk. There are also some cute little pedestrian ferries that stop at Granville Island, connecting with Science World, the Maritime Museum, and the Aquatic Centre - other interesting destinations short hops along or across False Creek.

Performing arts notables in Granville Island include The Arts Club and The Firehouse theatres, and the Arts Umbrella, an academy of sorts for young would-be-artists.

Other landmarks of note include: Kids Only, a two story mall with only children's shops; the Market, an enormous fresh food market which features both produce and a wide variety of other food from fresh pasta to fudge to a popular pie company; the neighbourhood of houseboats docked on the northmost edge of Granville Island; Granville Island Brewing Company, which I'm told is a fantastic microbrewery; the children's waterpark between Kids Only and the False Creek Community centre. A jazz festival and the writer's festival are held annually in Granville Island, and other less official special events are frequently the order of the day. Granville island offers great viewing for the Alcan Dragonboat Festival in May, which is held across the water at the Plaza of Nations.

There are zillions of other shops and weird attractions, though, and it's good for a walkabout any time of year. Street performers abound on weekends - everything from guitar players to jugglers to virtuoso violinists - especially in the summer months if you can stand the crowds. Locals sneak in on quieter weekday afternoons to get the best produce and seafood in town.

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