Kitsilano (or “Kits,” to locals) is located on Vancouver’s West Side between Point Grey and downtown. This makes it a cross-section of wealth and frugality as business executives and students rub shoulders, with retirees and young families. It remains very much the heart of Vancouver’s West Side, the community through which residents of the more elite neighbourhoods to the south pass en route to downtown.
Originally home to the indigenous Squamish people, who formed the community of Sen̓áḵw on Kitsilano Point, the neighbourhood draws its name from Squamish Chief August Jack Khatsahlano (1867-1971). Khatsahlano lived many years at Sen̓áḵw and played a key role in sharing what we know of his people’s history and traditions.
Development of downtown Vancouver at the end of the 19th century led people to seek a rustic retreat on the south shore of English Bay. The population grew, and – in one of the area’s less savoury incidents – the native residents were forcibly removed and development began in earnest. Kitsilano, as the Canadian Pacific Railway named the area (the railway still has a right-of-way through the community), rapidly evolved from a place where trees were cut and milled into lumber to a thriving residential community. Shops such as Jackson Meats on West 4th, opened in 1911, testify to the established sense of community even as successive waves of immigration continue to transform the area.
A vibrant mix of culture and counter-culture are a hallmark of the area, home to both high-end motor dealerships as well as environmental activist David Suzuki.
With a population now exceeding 40,000 Kitsilano is a stable but dynamic neighbourhood to live.
Local Access and Public Transportation
Being at the heart of Vancouver’s West Side, Kitsilano is also a crossroads of sorts with a number of options for pedestrians, cyclists and commuters, whether by car or transit.
West Broadway is the main east-west arterial, while the neighbourhood is bounded by Burrard Street, with its iconic bridge leading to downtown and Alma, which crosses the city. Arbutus Street also crosses the city, connecting with Marine Drive on the city’s south side.
While talk of a subway line abounds, the 99 B-line bus presently ferries commuters from UBC to the Commercial Drive SkyTrain station and a stop at the Broadway-City Hall station of the Canada line. Other express bus services include the 32 and 44 to downtown and the 84 to the VCC-Clark SkyTrain station.
Kitsilano is also served by two False Creek ferry operators that depart from Vanier Park for locations from the West End to Science World. Cyclists can also reach Science World and downtown via the city’s famous Seawall, one of several bike routes that also include the Cypress, Off-Broadway and Seaside routes.
Community Resources and Recreation
Kitsilano is known for its beaches and fitness studios that attract bevvies of buff beauties of all genders. With more than 17 parks – including Almond Park, McBride Park and Tatlow Park – it also provides playing fields and quiet green spaces for rest and refreshment. Vanier Park is a popular site for picnics and dog-walking, and adjacent to it is the Burrard Civic Marina. Kitsilano Community Centre and rink rounds out sports offerings, with adjacent Connaught Park regularly home to cricket, soccer and other field sports.
Point Grey Road from Macdonald Street west is closed to motor vehicles, creating a safe route for cyclists between Kitsilano Beach and Jericho Park. The neighbourhood is also home to several bike routes, while many access points exist to the waterfront – a delight to explore at low tide.
Cultural institutions abound in the area, including the Museum of Vancouver and civic archives, the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Vancouver Public Library has a branch on Macdonald Street at West 8th, while a few blocks west St. James Community Square is a popular venue for live music and other events.
Kitsilano is well-served by schools, with four elementary schools operating in the area (Bayview, General Gordon, Henry Hudson and Lord Tennyson). Kitsilano Secondary School, opened in 1917, receives students from these schools as well as two others. A number of private and independent schools also exist;
St. Augustine’s is a Catholic elementary school serving students up to grade 7, while St. John’s International School welcomes international students. Fraser Academy provides students with language-based learning disabilities from grades 1 through 12. A number of Montessori schools exist for students pre-school through elementary.
Annual Events and Festivals
Kitsilano hosts many festivals throughout the year with the support of many community-minded businesses and volunteers. Bard on the Beach in Vanier Park presents live performances of Shakespeare’s plays, while the sizeable Greek community along West Broadway west of Macdonald hosts Greek Day each June. Live performance is also celebrated during the Khatsalano! Music and Arts Festival each July, a massive street party on West 4th. Kits Point is a favourite venue for people to watch the annual three-night fireworks competition over English Bay each July and August.
Saturdays brings the province’s busiest farmers’ market to the Kitsilano Community Centre, while local churches and residents regularly host garage sales, teas and other events.
Epicurean Cafe Bistro, 1898 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver: A favourite of architect Arthur Erickson, it serves traditional Italian breakfasts, pastries and of course – strong coffee.
Vanier Park, Kistilano Point: Just around the corner from Kits Beach, it offers the same great vistas to boot but often with fewer people.
West Broadway, Macdonald to Alma: An eclectic shopping district packed with shops, grocers and eateries sure to please any appetite.
Kitsilano Farmers Market, West 10th and Larch: Those with a taste for local food and the accompanying carnival will find firends and entertainment here on Sundays throughout the summer.
Sweet Obsession, 2611 West 16th Avenue: An upscale coffee spot with delectable pastries where the movers and shakers of Vancouver can be seen, out of the limelight’s glare.