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Vancouver must-dos during Madonna mania
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Everyone is headed to Vancouver, British Columbia this week for a rare Northwest date with her Madge-esty, the original and still-kicking Madonna. With its close proximity, easy access and similar scenery, Vancouver is undoubtedly one of the most-visited destinations by Gay Seattleites and a definite personal favorite. Davie Village will be bustling with pre- and post-Madonna parties surrounding the pop queen's visit, and many Seattle travelers are electing to stay through the weekend to "trick or treat" with the Canadian boys. Whether it's a night or two for the big show or a near future trip that takes you to Vancouver, here's a short list of must-dos while you're there.

1181's pre-Madonna (1181 Davie Street) and Celebrities' post-Madonna (1022 Davie Street) parties are two ways to get into the groove before and after the huge concert. 1181 is a trendy hangout that bills itself as a "tight lounge" and it ain't kidding, while Celebrities is an ample two-level club that packs them in Thursdays through Saturdays - both are Gay bars. Co-hosted by Vancouver's GLBA and Skyy Vodka, 1181's pre bash kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with DJ Gluve spinning Material Girl tunes all through the night, plus $4 premium draft beers and $6.50 doubles. At Celebrities, "The Candy Shop" (titled after the "Sticky and Sweet Tour") begins at 9 p.m. and runs until 3 a.m. with a special performance by drag star Trixie. 1181 has no cover, Celebrities will charge $10. Don't forget to wear your favorite Madge gear, as the Gay boys will be on a long-awaited "holiday" on "la isla bonita" (cheesy, but you get the message). Visit www.tightlounge.com and www.celebritiesnightclub.com for more details.

The History Boys (Granville Island Stage), a Tony Award-winning play set in Sheffield, England in the early '80s, is a perfect compliment to a Madonna show or a night when you're hungry for a good dose of live theater. A cluster of teenage prep students have earned their school's highest scores on a college entrance exam and immerse themselves in intense study sessions to take the final and most important part of the test. The boys' instructor, the rather plump and naughty Hector, often takes advantage of the lads after class on his motorcycle. But the stage work-turned-motion picture is a comedy, as it focuses on the friendship between the young men and their teacher, and also the handsome new staffer Irwin who takes a liking to one of the straight chaps. The production runs through November 1 at the Granville Island Stage, a five-minute water taxi trek from Yaletown or 10-minute cab ride from downtown, with 8 p.m. nightly showtimes and a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee. Tickets start at $30, and having seen The History Boys and having been to this adorable theater, it's worth adding to your itinerary. Visit www.artsclub.com for more details.

Stanley Park Hallowe'en Ghost Train (Stanley Park) will frighten the dickens out of you, or at least attempt to, as Vancouverites celebrate the upcoming spook-tacular holiday. Near the city's West End district, this outdoor attraction promises a pirate-themed adventure complete with dark forests, ghostly galleon shipwrecks, devilish dead pirates, skeletons hanging from gallows, hidden maps, sword fights, pirate pumpkins, mermaid ghosts and secret treasures - all aboard a small train. Admission prices range from $5.50 to $9. If not feeling Halloweeny, the massive 1000-acre Stanley Park also provides trolley rides, picnic areas, cricket fields, forest trails, and a 5.5-mile seawall exterior with paved paths for cyclists, rollerbladers, joggers, and pedestrians. On a sunny afternoon, rent a bike on Georgia Street for about $20 a day or $10 for a half-day - most places will rent by the hour, too. Call (604) 257-8531 for more Ghost Train details.

Cactus Club Cafe (Burrard and Dunsmuir), a Canadian dining chain with a fabulous new location in downtown Vancouver, is a cool place to go for lunch or dinner before any major event. Floor to ceiling windows, sexy crowd, outdoor patio, oval-shaped bar, chic ambiance, abundant seating, and several flatscreens usually tuned into American baseball makes it a thriving hotspot for Gay and Gay-friendly locals. Begin your visit with The Cohiba, a refreshing blackberry and spearmint mojito that isn't too sweet or too tart but right on the money. Move on to a tall, cold glass of regional ale, followed by a superb and ever-so-smooth J Lohr Cabernet-Sauvingon. For dinner, try the mouthwatering Halibut filet encrusted with pistachios and served on a bed of sticky rice (per special request, no extra charge) with a mild Thai red curry sauce. Other selections include fish tacos, burgers, steaks, cedar-roasted salmon, pastas, and salads. Cactus Club Cafe is fun, hip, reasonably priced, and convenient if staying in or near downtown. Visit www.cactusclubcafe.com for more details.

Skoah (1011 Hamilton Street) is a nifty little spa in the Yaletown district that makes its own products and brightens the day of both residents and visitors. My first Skoah experience was two years ago before heading to Winter Pride in Whistler, and I've practically begged to go back since then, yet somehow could never work it into my schedule. Finally, I made it a priority to return this summer to the spa, opened seven years ago by Andrea and Chris Scott that has now expanded to locations in Burnaby and Calgary. A strong recommendation is the facialiscious, an hour-plus facial catered to your specific skin needs that includes a soothing neck, shoulders, legs and foot massage. Facials are often viewed as pampering sessions, but living in the windy and rainy Northwest can do a number on your skin, so a great way to make it glow again is a facial to exfoliate, detoxify, and re-stimulate it back to prime condition. Purchase the $20 trial kit on your way out, as Skoah products don't ship outside Canada. Treatment prices here are comparable to similar spas. Visit www.skoah.com for more details.
 

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