Vancouver's dream

A new, high-energy show draws visitors to the city's Gastown district

Beverley Sinclair

Experiencing the newest attraction in Vancouver, British Columbia, is a bit like having a really terrific dream. And this is one dream not to be missed. Storyeum (10-5 Wed-Sun; $17 U.S.; 142 Water St.; www.storyeum.com or 800/687-8142) plunges you into a vivid journey through the province's history via a lively combination of actors, film clips, storytelling, and theater. So many people, images, and effects pass by that, when the 70-minute trip is over, visitors are left feeling like they've experienced a play, movie, and time capsule all at once.

It's appropriate that Storyeum is in the heart of Vancouver's historic Gastown neighborhood. Cast-cobblestone streets are lined with historic buildings, most built between 1886 and 1914, which have been restored and turned into art galleries, restaurants, and shops.

Images for a Canadian Heritage (164 Water; www.imagesforcanada.com or 604/685-7046), a local gallery, brings Storyeum highlights to life with displays of exquisite native carvings, sculptures, and paintings. And a few blocks away, Button Button (closed Sun; 422 W. Cordova St.; 604/687-0067) will have you convinced that buttons are an art form.

Nearby landmarks include the statue of John Deighton, aka Gassy Jack (probably because he was famous for talking a lot), for whom Gastown was named. The statue is at the intersection of Water, Carrall, and Powell Streets, across from the Europe Hotel. This skinny, pie-shaped 1909 building was later refurbished as affordable housing. Also be sure to walk past the steam clock, at Cambie and Water Streets.

When you've built up an appetite, head to the Steamworks Brewing Co. ($; 375 Water; www.steamworks.com or 604/689-2739). It makes about 15 different brews every year, including local favorites Nirvana Nutbrown and Lions Gate Lager. Dishes complement hearty appetites ― try a blue-cheese burger or a salmon fillet with honey-and-cumin glaze. Gassy Jack was a saloon keeper as well as a prospector, so a cool beer seems like an appropriate finish to a visit of his old haunts.

To Gastown

Vancouver, B.C.'s Gastown neighborhood is a four-block area just east of downtown. It's bounded by Richards St., Abbott St., Burrard Inlet, and Cordova St. Contact Tourism Vancouver ( www.tourismvancouver.com or 604/683-2000).