Film Reel

When California Is Really Vancouver

America is world famous for the movies and television shows that they produce and distribute around the world. However should we believe everything that we see?

Many films are set in cities and states around the country such as California or Texas however many are actually filmed in Canada.

Films such as 2005’s Brokeback Mountain– set in Wyoming but filmed on location in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains – or 2004’s Mean Girls – Chicago based but filmed in Toronto – are just two of the many that have had us questioning just where they were filmed.

Meghan Markle’s Suits follows the story of New York lawyers Harvey Specter and Mike Ross but was in fact filmed in Toronto. It is believed this is one of the reasons why Meghan and her husband, the UK’s Prince Harry, relocated to Canada when they first stepped back from royal duties last year.

Netflix’s surprise hit Virgin River is the latest television show trying to convince us that the main character Mel has run away to the quiet town in California when in fact it is being filmed around Vancouver, using locations including Port Coquitlam, Brackendale and Burnaby for their outdoor scenes.

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And it is easy to see why. Vancouver is a home to many stunning outdoor spaces including the ever popular Stanley Park which has 400-hectares of natural West Coast rainforest. The mountains, trails and beaches are the perfect way to spend a day hiking or if you prefer a lazy day head to one of the park’s restaurants such as the Stanley Park Pavilion, a ‘rustic heritage building’ that has space for 200 diners outside and 50 inside.

If you fancy the idea of looking at nature from a different perspective take a trip to the world famous Capilano Suspension Bridge. The 450-foot bridge stands at 230 feet above the Capilano River and offers breathtaking views from every angle.

Once completed why not make your way to the seven suspension bridges of Treetops Adventure? Built in 2004 the bridges were designed so they would not affect the growth of the trees they are in and each viewing platform is attached via a ‘tree collar system’ that does not have any bolts or nails damaging the Douglas-firs, an innovative first.

A visit to the Cliffwalk, a walkway that takes you along the side of the granite cliffs 700 feet in the air, is guaranteed to leave you feeling exhilarated. Although the walkways can be narrow at times – some areas are purely open grated walkways – the views are definitely worth it. Not only can you see panoramic views of the rainforest but also the canyon beneath you.

Although most of the visitors to the area head for the thrilling experiences up above there are also plenty of walks you can do on the ground, allowing you to see the ponds, evergreens and majestic rainforest from the ground up.

Travel an hour north of Vancouver and you will reach the stunning setting of Brackendale. Used for the majority of the outdoor scenes of Virgin River, Brackendale is home to the largest concentration of wintering bald eagles in North America. But this is not why people continue to head here for their vacations.

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Just one look at the Squamish River with the Coast Mountains in the background is enough to make you want to up and leave your life behind and spend your day fishing by the river and your evening in The Watershed Grill – said to be the location of Jack’s Bar in the show.

The Coast Mountains run for just under 1,000 miles from the Fraser River Lowlands near Vancouver up to Yukon in the North. Although they look quite peaceful on the television they actually face the Pacific Ocean and have several glaciers, mostly near Mt Waddington, which is the highest point of the range.

Just outside of Vancouver is the final location, Burnaby. Often discounted as a suburb of ‘the main attraction’ of Vancouver, Burnaby is actually a city in its own right and has views, outdoor activities and parks – including Central Park which has walking trails, picnic areas, lawn bowling and tennis courts in the 90-hectares – and The Burnaby Central Railway that has a classic steam train that will take you on a tour of Confederation Park. Currently the track is just under two miles long however this is continuing to be extended.

A trip to the mountains would not be complete without some skiing and Grouse Mountain is open throughout the year – current restrictions permitting. With 26 runs and four chairlifts for both skiing and snowboarding you will never need to wait long before you can head down the slopes. There are some breathtaking views of Greater Vancouver as you head up the lift so make sure you relax and enjoy the trip.

Currently Canada has a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone entering the country and all travelers over the age of five has to have proof of a negative Covid-19 test. Many locations are also operating at limited capacity or reduced hours so it is important that you check the websites before you venture out.

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