Enjoy plenty of cool and unusual things to do in Vancouver with our inside guide. And have more fun than you thought possible in the so-called "no fun city."
Cool, Fun and Unusual Things to do in Vancouver
Vancouver is a city that rumbles with creative energy on top of a rich, cultural history and the kind of scenery that others would kill for. Let me share with you my favourite unusual and cool things to do in Vancouver.
1 – Unusually Arty: Sleep in an artist’s residence
Skwachay’s Lodge at the crossroads of Gastown and Chinatown combines three concepts in one: a residence for local aboriginal artists, a boutique hotel with swirling wooden bedsteads, self-catering options and bright salmon-leaping décor, and an art gallery open to all who pass by.
I loved the sugar-puffed bannock, complimentary tea and coffee and lively open area where you can chat with First Nations princesses.
2 – Unusually Wet: Zip Around the Waterways
Vancouver is a city near built on water, and when the sun shines, how stunning that water appears. Sea Vancouver whips you away from the quayside, splashing you thoroughly as you storm away from Coal Harbour, past Stanley Park, Granville Island and beyond.
Look out for splashing seals in the quieter moments – but be warned that there aren’t too many of those. Not for the faint of heart. Sorry, stomach.
For a calmer, more romantic experience on the water, try the sunset dinner cruise instead. And breathe...
3 – Unusually Historic: Relive Prohibition in Vancouver
Now, perhaps this is where the nickname comes from. Back in 1917, Vancouver became yet another part of northern America where “ hard liquor” became verboten. Forbidden Vancouver takes this interesting slice of history as the premise to stroll around the Gastown and Chinatown district, atmospheric today without the talk of rum runners and speakeasies.
Learn about corruption, chaos and cocktails – and how it was democracy and the introduction of votes for women that led to the end of all the madness.
4 – Unusually Tasty: Explore the Food Scene
5 – Unusually Poignant: Explore First Nations Culture
First Nations can be a confusing term and as a non-native Canadian, I am terrified of causing offence by accident. It refers to the peoples and tribes that roamed Canada before the arrival of, well, predominantly Europeans; the nearest equivalence in the US would be the term Native Americans. Sometimes I see aboriginal populations used but terms change all the time, so please. If I’ve got it wrong, correct me.
Unlike in some parts of the world, decimation rather than outright destruction took place. What does this mean?
It means that in Vancouver, those cultures live on: making the steps to discover them no dry, academic thing.
You’ll find many museums and art galleries across the city but the one that stood out for me was the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art.
Reid himself had both European and Haida heritage, not to mention a background in broadcasting, before he turned to art.
6 – Unusually Experimental: Beer from a test tube rack
Can’t decide what you fancy of an evening? A trip to The Belgard Kitchen should set you straight. Here you can ask for a “tasting menu” of craft beer, delivered to your counter top on a specially designed wooden rack.
Line your stomach with rock shrimp ceviche, ruby red beet dip and scallop and shrimp risotto from the tapas menu.
7 – Unusually Active: Cycle Stanley Park, Vancouver
Be inspired by the active Vancouverites and take to two wheels. Ignore the cycle paths that considerately skirt around the edge of Stanley Park, the ones that offer views of the stunning coastline, brilliant First Nation totem poles, frolicking seals and ice cream stands.
Instead, choose to cycle up the tarmac on the brutally steep path through a forest dark enough to house vampires from tween pic Twilight.
Lose your balance as the cars zoom by and drop your camera into the undergrowth.
Bend the basket as the bike falls as you lurch for said camera.
Curse self as you attempt to fix both lens and basket in the dusty dreariness of the road.
Decide that, all things considered, this is one unusual thing to be avoided.
Advise readers to stick to the gentle cycle paths instead.
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More on Travel in Canada
For even more unusual things to do in Canada, leave Vancouver and head out exploring. Check out this article on the Williams Lake Stampede for a look at a popular tradition.
And read this article to discover some things to do in Calgary, too.