With the 2010 Winter Olympics just around the corner, Vancouver is going all out with preparations for its time in the spotlight. By visiting in 2009, you can reap the benefits of all the new infrastructure developments while enjoying the city and everything it has to offer. And as a place voted Best City in the Americas by Conde Nast Traveler three years running, the expansions and improvements are really just icing on the cake.
New hotels—including The Loden Vancouver, Shangri-La Hotel, and the Fairmont Pacific Rim—are opening around the city in anticipation of the flood of Olympians and fans. Nearby Cypress Mountain ski resort has added nine new runs, new ski and snowboarding features, and a new lodge. And the rail extension connecting Vancouver's airport and downtown will open in late 2009.
Even though the Games don't begin until February 2010, you can catch some pre-Olympic action in 2009 at events such as the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, the FIS Freestyle World Cup, and the World Junior Curling Championships. Yes, that's right, there are junior curlers out there and they're gearing up to compete. In February and March there's also a Cultural Olympiad featuring more than 400 art, dance, music, and other events, many of which are free.
Vancouver provides solid vacation value as well. The exchange rate isn't as good as it used to be, but after hovering close to equal for a stretch, the U.S. dollar seems to be gaining the advantage again, meaning U.S. travelers' money goes farther. The city is served by a range of carriers, including Alaska Airlines, and Southwest has announced it will team up with Canadian carrier WestJet to fly to destinations in Canada. WestJet already serves Vancouver, so it seems more than possible that sometime next year passengers will be able to book a flight to Vancouver through Southwest.
Interested in visiting during the Olympics? Then you should know that more than 100,000 tickets will cost just $25, and that half of all the Olympic Winter Games tickets are priced at $100 or less.