Located: The historic district is a short 10-15 minute walk from downtown Vancouver, running from about Richards east to Main Street, and from the train tracks along the waterfront south to Hastings Street.
Why it’s buzzing: Gastown is transcending its tourist-trap reputation, with much more on offer than souvenir shops. It is a design destination – for clothing and home furnishings – and is hopping at night too. Recently, the governing ABC Party announced plans to create a more “people-focused” Gastown, including exploring options to pedestrianize Water Street.
Where to go: Both The Shop Vancouver and the Vancouver-born fashion brand Oak+Fort chose Gastown for their new and improved store locations. Another place to shop for clothing is One of a Few, or for shoes at Fluevog. For a snack, get your baked goods at Purebread. Michelin-recommended restaurant Chupito plans to open soon for the season. You can check out its cocktail bar Cantina 189 on the lower floor, then Guilt & Company for live music and dancing to work off those Purebread pastries. Marsha Lederman
Edmonton: 124th St
Located: West of downtown but still in central Edmonton, where Jasper Street curves north.
Why it’s buzzing: 124th street has long been Edmonton’s gallery hub (there are six art galleries in a two block area) but it has exploded with an interesting cluster of shops in the past few years, closer to the intersection of High Ave. Its especially lively on the days of the summer street market on Sundays, Thursday evenings and Friday nights.
Where to go: Try the new restaurant May, cult favourites like Tiramisu Bistro and Zwick’s pretzels, or find vegan food and coffee at Edmonton-only chain Remedy. Have dessert one block over at Duchess Bakeshop, then step underground for a hidden treasure — the rock n’ roll-themed wine and spirits bar Powerage. Find minimalist style at Shades of Grey, or second-hand gems at Swish vintage store.
Located: 9th Avenue SE, east of the Elbow River and downtown.
Why it’s buzzing: This formerly industrial area is known for more than 100 shops, boutiques, restaurants and a host of pet-friendly breweries where you can bring your own food.
Where to go: Have a woodfire rotisserie and charcoal cooked meal at Nash, classic diner food at the popular Inglewood Drive-In, or try plant-based eats at Vegan Street Taco Bar. Learn how to dress for your body type at Espy clothing store, browse hand-crafted felt cowboy hats at Smithbilt Hats Inc, or unique cowboy boots at the new Hello Vintage. Find live music at Gravity Cafe or Jam’s Diner, art at Escar Foundation galleries, or visit the free monthly night market on July 14, August 11, September 8 or 15.
Winnipeg: Exchange District
Located: North of downtown, one block north of Portage and Main.
Why it’s buzzing: There is plenty to explore while walking streets filled with around 150 heritage buildings, including old warehouses from when it was known as “the Chicago of the north.” The best time to go is the first Friday of the month when galleries, museums, shops and more stay open late.
Where to go: Try the tasting menu at one of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants Deer + Almond, Filipino flavours at the new tiki bar Bahay Kubo, cute treats at award-winning dessert shop Cake-logy, and unique tea-inspired cocktails at Amsterdam Tea Room. Figure out the perfect game for your crew with the help of a “game sommelier” at Across The Board game cafe. For shopping, check out Winnipeg-famous designer Hilary Druxman’s jewellery store and Boutique Anya.
Halifax: Downtown Dartmouth
Located: Just a short ferry ride across Halifax Harbour to Alderney Landing and walk straight up Portland Street (Alderney Drive and Portland Street).
Why it’s buzzing: Downtown Dartmouth, dubbed the Brooklyn of Halifax, is buzzing with rejuvenation and a new entrepreneurial energy. For years, it had a reputation as “a little rough around the edges” — locals gave it the nickname “the Darkside,” because it stood in the shadows of the city. But over the past 10+ years, a vibrant, youthful community of business owners has emerged, all excited to make the downtown core of Dartmouth viable once again. Welcome to the Darkside!
Where to go: From cold plunge pools at Nature Folk Wellness Collective, to drinks and live music with patio views of Halifax Harbour at The New Scotland Brewing Co., the waterfront offers a variety of things to do. The best cocktails and friendliest staff are found at Dear Friend, the 10th Best Bar in Canada (Canada’s 100 Best list). Their Orange Crush is the must-try this summer. My favourite ciders are at Lake City Cider: Cherry Soda, and the Pride Rosé which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community! For food, try The Canteen, co-owned and operated by Renée Lavallée (Top Chef Canada alumni). My favourite dish is the pan seared Digby scallops with pea & mint risotto, asiago cream, pancetta, apple, pea shoot and a pickled shallot salad. You can find whimsical handmade items by over 200 makers from across Canada at The Trainyard General Store. Benjamin MacDonald
Located: South-west, on the banks of the St. Lawrence river.
Why it’s buzzing: Verdun’s Promenade Wellington was recently named the coolest street in the world by TimeOut. Throughout the summer, it will be pedestrianized, dotted with patios, green and relaxation areas, and you can cool off at the Verdun beach.
Where to go: Here you can find Canada’s 8th best restaurant Beba, and several new dining arrivals like Paname MTL French style bistro for brunch and apéro, Kwizinn’s Caribbean headquarters, Ketiw Montreal Cambodian Noodle Counter. A new pop-up store, VerdunLuv Boutique x Bref MTL, hosts different local businesses and artisans each month.