It's little wonder Vancouver is having its best convention year to date. This British Columbia standout, along with neighboring Richmond and Whistler, grabbed the spotlight as host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the destination's popularity hasn't waned since.

Just as compelling is a newly expanded, cutting-edge convention center that has become all the rage for its impressive setting and innovative green features, not to mention the destination's alluring amenities, dramatic natural surroundings and outdoor pursuits.

With citywide conventions representing 224,000 room nights and counting this year, Vancouver seems to be as desirable as ever for groups.

"2010 was an exceptional year and 2011 is our largest convention year yet because of the awareness of our city due to the Olympics as well as the expansion of the Vancouver Convention Centre, which is truly spectacular," says Dave Gazley, vice president, meeting and convention sales for Tourism Vancouver. "It's perched out over the water and enclosed in glass, so you see the mountains, the water and the city."

As the only LEED Platinum-certified convention center in the world, the venue boasts some impressive highlights, including a six-acre living green roof that houses indigenous plants and recovers rainwater for irrigation, beehives to source honey that is incorporated into the center's cuisine and a 100 percent "scratch" kitchen that makes everything from handmade ice cream to mayonnaise to pasta.

Getting there: More than 50 airlines serve Vancouver International Airport. Downtown Vancouver is a 25-minute taxi ride from the airport or a 26-minute ride aboard the new Canada Line rapid light rail transit, a nearly $1 billion project that opened just prior to the Olympics. Vancouver is also served by Amtrak from Seattle.

 

MPI took advantage of the newly expanded convention center for its World Education Congress in 2010, and the event was a tremendous success, according to Gazley.

Additionally, BC Place, which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies during the Olympics, is currently being transformed into a 60,000-seat, open-air stadium with a retractable roof.

Aside from the fresh facilities, attendees are enjoying plenty of diversions.

"You have everything an internationally recognized city includes—the dining, nightlife and culture—yet in 20 minutes you can be skiing on the top of a mountain away from everything or in a rainforest on a trail in Stanley Park all by yourself," Gazley says. "That's what makes Vancouver special."