Cool things to do in Vancouver?
April 9, 2005 5:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to Vancouver for this conference. I am looking for interesting, non overpriced, non-deafening-bar things to do in the afternoons and evenings.
posted by By The Grace of God to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Where to begin? Rent a bike or rollerblades, and go around the Seawall. Or just walk/run around the seawall: on a sunny afternoon, it's the place to be. If you even remotely like aquariums, the Vancouver Aquarium is my favourite - it will occupy you for hours and Stanly Park is great for a few hours. Wander through Yaletown - get a Tea Latte from O-Cha on Homer Street (any flavour, but the Green Tea or the Caramel one is amazing), and wander down to the water, or through the restored warehouses in the area. If you like oysters or other seafood, Rodney's Oyster House is in Yaletown and is pretty good bang for the buck, in my opinion. Pick up sushi and eat it on the beach, or at the sushi bar. Eat Ramen on Denman street, a few restaurants up from the intersection at Georgia; sit at the bar, and you'll eat some of the best homemade ramen this side of Tokyo (I think it's called Kintaro). Take the bus across the water and go up Grouse or Cypress mountain for some amazing views, hiking, or biking. Rent a kayak and tool around the harbour. Take the little Aquabus over to Granville Island; there are amazing crafts, arts, boating stores, and of course the fresh food market. Pick up some food from the stalls - local strawberries (without the white styrofoam centers that so many national growers use), Kelowna peaches, local cherries or amazing fresh pasta salad from Zara's stall. Get a baguette and go sit outside: there will always be a few buskers playing world music in one of the squares. At night, there is a fun improv theatre there that is fairly cheap (I think this is one). If sushi is your thing, you'll be in heaven. Organize a meetup - I'm not there, but there are lots of other Vancouver Mefites!
posted by fionab at 5:51 PM on April 9, 2005

My favorite thing to do when I visited Vancouver was to go walking in Stanley Park. It's stunningly beautiful. There's a "prices" list on the site I linked but I never paid; perhaps it's a parking fee.

My favorite restaurant was Vij's. For how incredibly good the food is, it's very reasonably priced.

I also had a lot of fun just walking around Granville Island goggling at things. You can take a cheap water taxi to get there and that alone is cool, especially if you don't already live near the water. Proximity to all that sea and sky was really all I needed to be happy while I was there. Have fun -- it's a lovely city to get to visit, and what a lovely time of year to do so.
posted by melissa may at 5:54 PM on April 9, 2005

Oh, and I checked the conference site and you're staying at the same hotel I was! That means Stanley Park is just a few bus stops away. Get a few DayPasses; it'll save you money and hassle. You can find them at most convenience stores; there's a 7-11 just a block or so from the hotel that carries them.
posted by melissa may at 6:02 PM on April 9, 2005

How's about the Museum of Anthropology at UBC? Seems a standard destination even for non-museum-conference-attending folk. And although it's not web-based, the Ubiquity Interactive Guide now launched at the museum might be right up your alley (no, not a self-link, but one of the principals is a friend of mine).
posted by stevil at 6:04 PM on April 9, 2005

Oh yes: Chinatown and its myriad of markets and cheap eats. The Georgia Straight is the local weekly paper [side note: it includes both gay and straight listings - the Georgia Strait is the body of water between the mainland and Vancouver Island]. It will have listings for the various art cinemas, live music, and other events. I second Vij's for dinner!
posted by fionab at 6:11 PM on April 9, 2005

I second Vij's. I heard it described as, I think, the third best Indian food in North America. I think I was warned about lunchtime crowds.

La Casa Gelato is a real hike into a totally dull area, but where else can you get lavender / fig and almond / wasabi / blue cheese / basil gelato? (After tasting a dozen others.) Review here. Tip: the basil is, indeed, really nasty.

I wasn't there very long, but the best restaurant I went to was The Sequoia Grill on the edge of Stanley Park, itself recommended above (and by me too!).

Wreck Beach is vaguely near the anthro museum. Unlike all other nude beaches I've seen in North America, it is filled with young hippies instead of old ones. One interesting difference: young ones are tatooed.
posted by Aknaton at 6:22 PM on April 9, 2005

When you're done at Wreck beach, walk up the stairs, turn a few corners and hit the Nitobe Garden for Japanese prettiness. Also the UBC Botanical Gardens. And then that evening, you can run to the Freddy Wood Theatre (five minutes from the Nitobe Gardens and see a relatively cheap play.
posted by stray at 6:29 PM on April 9, 2005

get a Tea Latte from O-Cha on Homer Street

I live in Vancouver and haven't heard of this place -- I'm definitely going to check it out, thanks for the tip.

Anyways, what do you guys say about a meetup?
posted by ori at 7:48 PM on April 9, 2005

ori - it's a small little place in Yaletown, but they make these amazing drinks. The green tea latte is steeped macha in steamed milk, and they have chocolate versions, peppermint patty versions, and an amazing 'cold blaster' with secret ingredients. That, and Don't Wake the Elephant are two great tea places in the area. Don't Wake the Elephant is named that due to a bathroom that has a clear window in it. When you lock the door, it automatically fogs up. They have oodles of amazing music that they'll play on request, and they're open late - 4am in the summer? - so it's nice after drinks.
posted by fionab at 8:10 PM on April 9, 2005

don't miss the vancouver public library. it's modeled after the roman coliseum. designed by moshe safdie.
posted by subatomiczoo at 8:22 PM on April 9, 2005

While we're talking about it, does anyone know an interesting, cheap, dog-friendly place to stay in Vancouver? I know Motel 6s and some other motel chains take dogs - but wonder if there's something more funky. Dodgy part of town (but not as dodgy as the downtown easy side), somewhat dodgy place is alright.
posted by Emanuel at 9:17 PM on April 9, 2005

If Taf's is still open on Granville Street (near...umm... Robson, I think?) you should stop by and have the greatest chicken Caesar salad of your life.

Avoid East Hastings at night... scary.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:54 PM on April 9, 2005

No one mentioned the Victoria Drive area, which is an entertainment in itself, and just a couple blocks from the gelato place, which is in an industrial area. Walk up two blocks though, and the charachter of the neighbourhood suddenly transforms itself.

A plethora of inexpensive restaurants, funky shops, buskers, hemp stores, Italian delis and real coffee shops,The Drive is about as eclectic a neighbourhood as one could imagine. If Salvador Dali, Federico Fellini and Hunter Thompson designed a neighbourhood, it would probably resemble The Drive. While there, Joes is the ONLY place to have a cappucino in Vancouver.

As you're heading out toward UBC anyway; the Hastings Mill museum at Pt.Grey Road and Alma is worth a stop, and is free. Should you be busing it, you could walk down from 4th Avenue, it's just a few blocks. This is the oldest building in the city, possibly the only one left that survived the Great Fire.

While out at UBC, a walk in the University Endownment lands forest is always a good bet. Hard to believe you're in the middle of a big city.

You can also take Sailing or kayaking lessons at the Jericho Sailing centre, just on the edge of the campus, on the waterfront, at the foot of Discovery street. Or just hang out, and watch the sailboarders from the city's best, and cheapest, deck.

Along the route from downtown to UBC as well, the Maritime museum is a unique and inexpensive facility, and handy to the Planetarium and Vancouver museum, also on the waterfront.

Do invest in a transit pass! Another great little trip besides the Sea-bus to the North shore, ( a must, btw) would be to take the elevated Skytrain out to the New Westminster Quay waterfront. You're above the traffic, and can zip across the entire city in less than a half hour.

While over On the North Shore you can visit Lynn Canyon and enjoy the free, non touristy, suspension bridge and walk in the forest there along the river.

When in Chinatown, don't miss Sam Kee insurance at 8 West Pender St. It's the the world's narrowest Office Building, built on a bet. If you're having your picture taken , the owner will often come out and talk to you, offer to trake your group's photo, and perhaps sell you some insurance. Yes its a real business.

While there, walk up to the Goldstone Bakery on Keefer at Quebec, get some chinese buns, 60 cents each, and enjoy them in the Dr Sun Yat Sen memorial garden. It's free, and you can watch the carp and enjoy the tranquility of classic Chinese garden surrounded by office towers. if you eat meat you can buy 1/2 a BBQ duck for less than $6, at one of the Chinese butcher. The best and cheapest are east of Main street.

Make sure you stop and have a secret chuckle at all the tourists admiring the "Steam Clock" in Gastown. It's actually electric.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:15 AM on April 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

Definitely hit up Granville Island not just for the food market but the art school there (they usually have some type of show happening in the Concourse Gallery). Stanley Park for the rose garden. Gastown for the cobbled streets, brown stone buildings, high end galleries, Gassy Jack, Europe Hotel, Gaolers Mews (first jail in Vancouver) and Bloody Alley. For architecture check out the Marine Building, Vancouver Hotel, Vancouver Art Gallery, the new library (designed by Moshe Safdie), Canada Place. There is also Queen Elizabeth park which has a arbouritum and a wonderful view of the city. Commercial Drive used to be little italy, not sure what it is like there now but Joe's Cafe is worth stopping into for coffee. University of British Columbia has an excellent anthropology museum and then depending on the time of year there is always Wreak Beach.

Only place I know that is still around that I would say is a must go for food is Hon's House of Wonton on Keefer, they make the best pot stickers anywhere. East Pender (that's where Chinatown starts) is kinda dead these days and the Chinatown that I grew up with is more active on the other side of Hastings on West Pender/Keefer a couple blocks up from the Sam Kee Building. If your going to check out the Sam Kee building walk across the street on the same side and you'll find the Sun Yet Sen Gardens.

oh! If you like vegetarian food you have to get something to eat at The Naam.

Steam Clock electric? Blasphemy! It runs off of steam from the Central Heat Distribution Limited [link] which heats numerous buildings in the downtown area and a brewery near the steam clock takes advantage of the steam in their brewing process.
posted by squeak at 4:37 AM on April 10, 2005


Thanks, guys!

I've been looking at the web sites of all the other museums etc. attending and whoo nelly, are they better than mine! Of course they all likely have budgets and professional designers for this crap. Ours is literally hosted out of the basement.

Meetup sounds good. Please send me email (bythegraceofgod at the fabulous mail o'google) if you feel like having drinkies, anybody.

Ori, for one, I know we would have a lot to talk about! ;)
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:31 AM on April 10, 2005

Terra Bread, on Fourth Avenue at Balsam (also in Granville Island Market) is an amazing bakery, and a great place to have breakfast or lunch (delicious sandwiches, pastries, buns). Best in the city IMO. Many more interesting things to see on Fourth Ave.

UBC has a large indoor swimming pool (check public hours). The UBC Music Faculty has a small theatre where you can sometimes hear concerts for a couple of dollars, or even free of charge. Check out the notices in the lobby. The nearby Chan Centre is more upscale and expensive, but very good.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:14 AM on April 10, 2005

Amsterdam Cafe, down near Cambie and W. Hastings. Open smoking of pot, really quite a unique experience given the generally wacko attitude towards such in North America. Don't be afraid of the homeless around that area; they're old enough to know that life is easier without harming you.

Next door is a headshop with a psychoactive biologicals shop tucked into the back corner. You'll get a great conversation with the girl behind the counter, as she talks about the dozen plants she offers for tripping.

I didn't partake in anything in either spot, but it was sure cool to have an adult conversation about the psychoactives, and to see people openly, happily, and securely enjoying their weed. It really is quite startling, given the sorts of "Reefer Madness!" attitude North America has towards this sort of thing.

Apparently you can purchase at narc park kitty-corner to the shop, but the prices aren't anything great and the quality isn't fantastic. Average weed from average shady sorts of people. Probably just fine if you're used to that sort of thing, otherwise you'd best bring your own.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:55 AM on April 10, 2005

Apparently you can purchase at narc park kitty-corner to the shop, but the prices aren't anything great and the quality isn't fantastic. Average weed from average shady sorts of people.

Oh dear, fff, you're not sending people to the corner of Hastings and Carrall to buy pot, are you? Or Victory Square? I'd recommend instead bringing your own or talking to students at the conference if you're in the market... I wouldn't trust buying on the street.... Also, unless they have relocated, the building where the Blunt Brothers-- the headshop-- was situated burned down last year. (My ex-husband's studio was there; he lost everything. But moving along.)

As far as neighbourhoods go, nobody's mentioned Mount Pleasant yet, so I feel I should represent. It's the hip and trendy place to be, or so say the newspapers, which probably signal its immediate descent into the final stages of gentrification hell. Before that happens, do check out, around Broadway and Main: Pulp Fiction, the best used book store in the city; Soma and the Our Town Cafe, one block apart; The Whip, licensed, nice outdoor seating (albeit on the sidewalk, and I have to say the service was terrible last time I ate there); Foundation on the corner of 7th and Main, vegan food, always a lineup; the Western Front at 6th and Scotia, the oldest (and largest) artist-run gallery in the city, musical performances happening regularly (also in the immediate area, the Video In and the grunt gallery, both also artist-run, both also fixtures in the artistic life of the city); and the many small boutiques run by young designers-- try walking up Main Street heading south to visit the storefronts (Smoking Lily comes to mind, particularly) if you are interested in fashion. Enjoy your time here. And I'm up for a meetup if anyone else is. :)
posted by jokeefe at 11:21 AM on April 10, 2005

No pot-plans for me. :)

Meetups are best in the evening, when I don't feel like attending the shcmooze sessions.
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:11 PM on April 10, 2005

Oh dear, fff, you're not sending people to the corner of Hastings and Carrall to buy pot, are you? Or Victory Square?

Beats me. I know I wouldn't ever consider purchasing from the rubbies that inhabit that area, but I'm dead certain that there's an endless quantity of weed -- and every other drug -- to be purchased around there. When I was looking up info on the cafe (Blunt Bros. is in there, btw), there were words about hooking up with dealers in the park. (The guy said he asked the cops who he should buy from! I'm not entirely sure I believe that, and if it is true, it must take balls as big as basketballs to do that.)

What I find most interesting about the Hastings area is that even though it's choc-a-bloc full of drug addicts, I never feel that I'm going to be accosted or harmed. Guys are shooting up right there in the boarded-up doorways, dealing drugs on the street corners, and sometimes begging change; but I've yet to encounter the slightest bit of aggression.

Not at all the sort of thing a small-town boy expects from the big city.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:26 PM on April 10, 2005

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