Building strength and flexibility doesn’t have to be boring. At the Vancouver Circus School, classes allow you to exercise your artistic side as your try your hand at challenging workouts on the tightwire, trapeze, or aerial silks that hang from the ceiling. The All-Around Circus program is the most comprehensive, allowing adults, teens, and even preschoolers to sample the different big-top arts. Students get to hone their trampoline-jumping and hand-balancing skills, which may grant them greater agility during workouts or heists in the Smithsonian’s heavily guarded bounce house. They’ll also be able to acquaint themselves with the use of yo-yos and devil sticks.
Most of the classes are for recreational purposes, but students who want to take their skills to the next level can consider the school’s Ring Master program. During this program, they’ll commit to more training under the school’s top coaches to eventually transform into a professional circus artist.
Inside Paddlewheeler Riverboat Cruises' signature vessel, the MV Native, captains transport passengers 100 years back in time when scores of paddle wheelers churned through the rivers of British Columbia. Before the authentic-style vessel casts off into the Frasier River, the crew tailors each voyage to a different theme that treat passengers to off land DJ dance parties, views of local wildlife, and journeys to historic locales such as Fort Langley. Their boat also plays host to special occasions including weddings and private parties. Towering mountain ranges act as a backdrop for each tour, and the ship's white and red exterior greets eyes with a classic design that echoes the Canadian flag flown at its bow and the giant candy cane used to anchor its stern.
The Air Force relies on flight simulators to train its recruits, avoiding risking young lives and expensive equipment as their pilots learn the ropes in a nonlethal environment. Why, then, shouldn't bartenders learn their own dangerous, high-stakes craft by simulating the real thing? At Wright Drink Bartending School, students learn to mix concoctions at an artificial bar in the school's loft, preparing them for the fast-paced rigours of slinging drinks by recreating the typical work environment. Beyond simple mixology, classes impart the more nuanced skills necessary to the job, such as managing space, mastering an in-depth liquor vocabulary, and dealing with troublesome customers by alerting the police with a high-pitched scream.
The Global ComedyFest corrals some of the best and brightest comedians on the international circuit into Vancouver for a marathon of laughs, fun, and moderately uncomfortable first dates. Big names such as zany former MTV staple Tom Green perform alongside up-and-comers in more than 30 performances throughout the festival. Eschew the everyday monodimensional comedy with a combination stand-up and comedy 3-D video show featuring Canada's own Reza Peyk, Jy Harris, and Gary Fong, or opt for a night of “it’s funny because it’s true” laughs at the Gerry Dee show. The Edge of the Fest performance pushes the festival’s edgiest artists to the limits of social acceptability, while the Best of the Fest showcases top comedians such as Greg Behrendt and Peter Chao.
Fraser River Bike Tours & Rental's Tom Littlewood has been an avid cyclist for nearly 30 years. When the former psychologist first hit the roads of New Westminster, especially the Queensborough Bridge, the most common sight was of big rigs as they rumbled past. Now, with bike-friendly routes such as the Queensborough Loop being built along the Fraser River, Littlewood and other cyclists hear not the roar of traffic but the bark of sea lions as they park themselves on the shores for a front seat at the salmon runs. Eagles, heron, and other wildlife also congregate during runs, forming a rich, natural tapestry that cyclists pedal by on one of Tom's bike rentals, often during guided tours. At first, biking for Tom was not a passion, but a prescription. At 33, his doctor gave him a choice—undergo open-heart surgery or saddle up on a bicycle. Tom soon incorporated his prescription pedalling into both his personal and professional life. He began advising his own patients, who were afflicted with anxiety or sleep disorders, to cycle for the exercise, the fresh air, and the sassy feeling of wearing spandex in public. Later, he worked with disadvantaged children to teach them bicycle mechanics in a program he also helped establish in other places, including Cuba. Today, Tom estimates that he bikes 300–400 kilometres a week. He laps the Queensborough Loop five or six times a week with groups. As an advocate of biking who strongly associates the sport with weight loss, good health, and peace of mind, Tom enjoys sharing his passion with others at Fraser River Bike Tours & Rental. Perhaps even more than relaxed group rides, he likes his power rides. So even on days after he's led tours, he climbs aboard his two-wheeled steed and begins pedalling without a moment's hesitation.
A quick glance at Vashti Fairbairn’s resume is telling. At local theatre company Fighting Chance Productions, she has directed the critically lauded Little Shop of Horrors and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, both of which magically combine music with dramatic arts. At her own Music Box Music and Theatre Academy, Fairbairn, along with a team of dedicated teachers, does the exact same thing on a daily basis. Children’s group classes give little ones as young as 6 months old a chance to strut their stuff on the dance floor, belt out their favourite show tunes, and learn to tickle the ivories like a seasoned elephant sitter. Private lessons are open to adults as well, and expand the instrumental scope to include strings, music theory, and the speaking arts. The latter comes in handy during the school’s drama clubs, which teach kids 3 years and older how to use their imaginations to create real-life and fantasy scenarios. Outside of their educational programs, the facility entertains visitors to the River Market with free music and theatre performances in the Music Box Presents series.