Once a down-at-the-heels strip of dry cleaners and creaky antiques shops, Main Street in Vancouver, B.C., from roughly Kingsway to East 33rd Avenue is now dotted with smart restaurants and quirky shops. Credit the free-spending young urban couples and single-Prius families who over the last two or three years have been nesting in the area's fixer-uppers.
If you're in search of one-of-a-kind gifts and hand-hewn treasures, you should check it out.
From downtown Vancouver, head east across the Georgia St. Viaduct (1A), exit at Main St., turn right, and drive south for two miles. Or go green and take SkyTrain to Main St. Station, then transfer to the southbound number 3 Main bus.
Liberty Bakery. Snag a table at this longtime locals' haunt and kick-start your prowl with a blueberry muffin, a croissant, or an apple strudel danish ― plus a latte, of course. $, cash only; 3699 Main St.; 604/709-9999.
Chef Claire's Home Is in the Kitchen. Chef Claire curates her stock of scrumptious non-perishable foods ― think crackers and flatbreads ― with a focus on small, regional brands. Check out her line of rubs, spices, and cures. 3610 Main St.; 604/875-6400.
Eugene Choo. Up-and-coming and local designers stock the men's and women's racks at this spare boutique, where styles range from grown-up skateboarder to a more structured European look. 3683 Main St.; 604/873-8874.
Flower Factory. Combat winter grays with delicate Singapore orchids, and while you're at it, browse the in-store gallery of paintings and photography. 3604 Main St.; 604/871-1008.
The Regional Assembly of Text. Note-paper, cards, and ready-to-hang chalkboards ― all of them handmade by the owners with a healthy dash of typewriter-era irony. 3934 Main St.; 604/877-2247.
Shaktea. Warm up a drizzly winter day with a cuppa South African rooibos herbal tea or one of the 80 other custom blends at the richly hued tea-house. Closed Mon; 3702 Main St.; 604/873-5151.MAKE IT A NIGHT
Wrap up your shopping at Habit Lounge ($$ U.S.; 2610 Main St.; www.habitlounge.ca or 604/877-8582), a replica of a 1975 Canadian rumpus room populated by a groovy but unpretentious crowd sharing small plates of free-range-beef brochettes on portabellini mushroom and Pacific halibut in green-peppercorn coconut curry. Show up early to score a window seat.
There's no hotel yet in the South Main area, but it's easy to pop over to Yaletown and check into Opus Hotel (from $179 U.S.; 866/642-6787; www.opushotel.com), a modern boutique where some rooms come with a welcome fireplace.