VANCOUVER — "We definitely strove to be Vancouver, not Vegas."

Brand experience manager Matthew Wu was giving us a tour of Parq Vancouver, the new international entertainment destination here that consists of a casino and two Marriott-branded hotels: a JW Marriott and the Douglas, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection.

The Parq Vancouver features two Marriott hotels and the only casino in downtown Vancouver.
The Parq Vancouver features two Marriott hotels and the only casino in downtown Vancouver.

Indeed, while the gaming element is an integral part of the experience, this is very much the Vancouver version of a high-end casino-hotel and not the Vegas version. The casino is flooded with natural light, and there are clocks on the walls that, Wu said, are intended to promote "responsible gaming." 

From the sixth-floor outdoor park, which pays homage to the region's well-known wilderness areas, to the regionally influenced restaurant collection that aims to keep pace with Vancouver's foodie reputation, Parq Vancouver strives to set itself apart from other casino destinations. 

In addition to welcoming what Wu said has been a solid mix of business and leisure clients, Parq Vancouver also caters to the large population of Asian-Canadians and travelers who flock to the property, not least for the gaming aspect.

I was a bit apprehensive about my stay at the casino-hotel with my husband and 2-year-old son last month. Casinos don't typically scream family-friendly property. But Parq Vancouver does a great job of creating many different ways to experience and enjoy the property, including for families.

To my surprise, we were not the only guests with kids. I was equally surprised when the very hipster-esque staff at the Douglas handed our son, Niko, a stuffed squirrel, a coloring book and crayons.

For avid gamblers, a stay at Parq Vancouver is a no-brainer: It's the only casino in downtown Vancouver. (The city's handful of other casinos are all located in outer neighborhoods.)

The same goes for fans heading to a concert or event at the neighboring BC Place stadium, from which guests can directly access the property, or to a game at the nearby Rogers Arena, home to pro hockey and lacrosse teams.

In contrast to the Douglas, the JW Marriott tower features brighter rooms with a more traditional luxury feel.
In contrast to the Douglas, the JW Marriott tower features brighter rooms with a more traditional luxury feel.

Beyond its more obvious attractions, food lovers will be happy to find the hotel has an attractive roster of restaurants, ranging from the Victor, a high-end steak house, to the more casual and cheeky pan-Asian establishment on the casino level, MRKT East. 

The sports bar BC Kitchen serves up pub grub and live sporting events on its numerous screens, and the property's high-end Chinese restaurant, 1886, recently started serving an all-you-can-eat dim sum brunch that has received high marks. 

Being with a toddler, we couldn't go to any of the casino-level restaurants, which are reserved for patrons age 19 and older, but we did experience breakfast at Honey Salt, the farm-to-table venue in the main lobby, as well as dinner at the Victor, which is accessed via the sixth-floor outdoor park. Honey Salt has a welcoming and casual vibe with a very open layout, and the food was simple but well executed. And the Victor's cowboy ribeye, mac and cheese waffle were on point.

For those looking for a bit more rest and relaxation, the Spa at the JW Marriott (the first in Canada) offers a restful escape. It is part of the JW Marriott's wellness area, which takes up the entire 17th floor and includes a large fitness area and an outdoor hot tub and sunbathing deck for those rare but welcome warm and sunny Vancouver days.

There is no pool, which Wu and Sylvie Kotyk, marketing manager for the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and the Douglas, attributed to the city's unpredictable weather. 

The 329-room JW Marriott offers a clean, warm and contemporary take on modern hotel design suitable for guests who like sophisticated luxury. It not only feels like the obvious choice for those drawn to the property's definitively classy casino facility but should also appeal to business travelers looking for a soothing space to chill out after a meeting or conference (Parq Vancouver has more than 60,000 square feet of meetings and event space.)

The Douglas is the first Marriott Autograph Collection hotel in Canada and has a decidedly hip, boutique hotel feel.
The Douglas is the first Marriott Autograph Collection hotel in Canada and has a decidedly hip, boutique hotel feel. Photo Credit: TW photo by Michelle Baran

For our part, we felt more at home at the Douglas, a 188-room hotel that is the first Autograph Collection member in Canada. This decidedly boutique hotel felt a bit more detached from the casino experience. We appreciated the avant-garde details, such as exposed concrete ceilings and Edison bulb lighting in the room, and the lobby had a very Pacific Northwest playfulness to it, including a pool table, a private room hidden behind a library wall, ample lounge seating and a reception desk that sits atop a glass-encased log, a tribute to the region's lumber industry. 

The 775,000-square-foot Parq Vancouver opened in September 2017 at 39 Smithe St. in the heart of downtown Vancouver's entertainment district near Yaletown. It's within walking distance from the False Creek waterfront, where numerous ferries to nearby destinations are available. 

Rates for standard rooms at both hotels start at $213 during the low season and at $495 during the high season.

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