During my visit to Vancouver last year one of my favourite tourist attractions was barely an attraction at all – the Gastown Steam Clock. The clock chimes every 15 minutes – on the hour, at :15, :30, and :45 – and once you get there it’s worth the wait to hear the Westminster Quarters and see the steam. Although for a reason unknown to me, the clock is a little off real time so you can’t rely on your cell phone to tell you exactly when it will whistle.
I know the Gastown Steam Clock has detractors and I can see their point – it was built to be a tourist attraction (i.e. tourist trap), it’s not really that old (1977), and entire tour groups visit only to laugh at themselves for traveling so far “just to see a clock” – BUT I still recommend checking out the Gastown Steam Clock whenever you’re in the area. It’s great for a whimsy induced chuckle or a little levity.
Perhaps the trick to enjoying the Steam Clock is to use it as an excuse to visit Gastown. The neighbourhood has everything from trend-setting shops, busy restaurants, cheap souvenir stores, Victorian architecture, and people just trying to live their everyday lives. I ended up back there for drinks the same evening. The clock might actually be a little more amusing after visiting one of the neighbourhood bars and in the evening there aren’t any tour groups crowding the clock. Just don’t try to hang off the clock like I did – it’s hot!