Things to do in Vancouver

Hidden Gems in Vancouver

Adventure lies in wait, tucked away in the streets of Vancouver. Join us as we travel down these hidden paths to new experiences.

Lace up your boots and journey through the rain-soaked embrace of the Pacific Northwest. Once a small hamlet nestled quietly between the cedar trees, Vancouver now stretches far across the landscape. Its tall buildings replace the towering cedars, but still reach for the heavens.

History weaves through the streets below, creating a labyrinth of secluded places over generations of architectural upheaval. If you know where to look, there are many things to do in Vancouver. Adventure awaits urban explorers who seek out its hidden gems.

Parks and Nature

Breathtaking parks and forests give rise to a picturesque city that respects and nurtures its natural surroundings. But search deeper, and you’ll find experiences replicating an untapped wilderness in the heart of the metropolis.

1. Bloedel Conservatory

Looking at Bloedel Conservatory from the outside, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped foot on an alien planet. The futuristic geodesic dome encasing part of the conservatory resembles what you’d expect colonists of Mars to inhabit.

But this dome is actually home to exotic plants that thrive under the protective plexiglass, sheltered from the elements. So, what’s it like inside? Imagine a rainforest inside a greenhouse.

The dome separates into three climate zones, including tropical and subtropical rainforests and a desert biome where you can glimpse more unique plant species.

Bloedel Conservatory is also one of the few gardens that hosts the rare and magnificent corpse flower. Smelling distinctly of rotting meat, this otherworldly plant grows up to 8 ft. tall and only blooms for two to three days a year.

2. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Few figures carry the mystique of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. As the Republic of China's first president, he ended 2 millennia of imperial rule through a bloody revolution. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen dreamed of a China where independence and prosperity swept through the land, and the people could have a say in the country’s future.

While both the Pacific Ocean and over 5,000 miles separate Vancouver and China, the city grew through multiculturalism. Many people traveled from across the world during the Gold Rush. Perhaps the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden was an attempt to feel closer to home in this strange, new land.

Legendary craftsmen from Suzhou used materials directly from China to create the garden, which celebrates Ming Dynasty-era gardening and traditional architecture. Culturally significant plants like bamboo and plum trees stretch around a central pond. The garden is complete with koi fish, creating a unique Asian oasis.

Photographer: Ronin

3. VanDusen Botanical Garden

There's no better way to celebrate a Vancouver autumn than to visit the 55-acre VanDusen Botanical Garden as the flora transforms in color. Of course, the botanical garden is also worth a visit at other times throughout the year, and there's more to see than just plants.

Unlike many botanical gardens, VanDusen was designed with wildlife in mind, ensuring food sources and habitats for native birds. You can earn a Junior Birder challenge button if you spot enough of the 85 species living within the gardens.

Stroll through the hedge maze if you’re up for another competition. These mazes once served as novelties when garden design reached new heights during the Elizabethan era. Nobles and royalty were fascinated by the beautiful, symmetrical hedge mazes brought to their estates and the amusement they incited in guests.

4. Greenheart TreeWalk

We’re no strangers to heights, but we’re usually soaring over a stage, creating unforgettable memories for our fans. Things look different from the sky, and the only way to experience the thrill — or panic — of looking down is to try it for yourself.

Greenheart TreeWalk offers just that — an exciting walkway and bridge network suspended 65 ft. above the rainforest floor below. Look at your surroundings if you dare. The rainforest is home to old Douglas firs and cedar trees. These giant sentinels have stood watch over British Columbia even before the first settlers arrived in Vancouver.

As you pass them, keep an eye out for owls. While they may sleep calmly in the cedars throughout the day, these fierce birds transform into formidable hunters under the cloak of darkness.

Historic Sites and Landmarks

Walk through the corridors of time by exploring iconic Vancouver landmarks and historic sites. These secret spots tell a tale of triumph over adversity and the indomitable spirit that took Vancouver from 1,000 buildings obliterated by fire into a sprawling metropolis.

5. Gastown Steam Clock

Think of all the feats that were difficult, if not impossible, before the advent of steam power. It works almost like sorcery.

When water is heated until it boils, it turns into steam and expands to escape the vessel holding it. This expansive force, directed through pistons, enabled mass production in factories and movement over land and sea at tremendous speeds.

It’s also the power source behind the Gastown Steam Clock — a pinnacle of Victorian-era elegance and industrial engineering. The clock resembles London’s Big Ben and plays the same Westminster Chime as its cousin four times an hour.

Photographer: Yuta Koike

6. Kitsilano Beach Park

As the sun sets over the North Shore Mountains, its golden rays bounce across the Vancouver skyline, casting a warm glow over the city.

At this time of day, the English Bay takes on a dreamy atmosphere, with the distant silhouettes of sailboats over the horizon. While many people watch the sunset from Jericho Beach, Kitsilano Beach Park, located farther along the bay toward Downtown, is another enchanting spot.

Once the sun goes down and you’re tired from swimming and playing basketball, stroll around Kits Point and follow the path False Creek carves into the landscape. You’ll soon pass Habitat Island, a blissful wildlife sanctuary in the heart of Vancouver.

7. Mountain View Cemetery

Who says a cemetery isn’t a place for sightseeing? If anything, true to its name, Mountain View Cemetery offers some of the best views in Vancouver. It’s a tranquil spot to sit and reflect if you’re not bothered that most of the pioneers who founded the city rest beneath your feet.

Picturesque natural scenery aside, the lush greens of the cemetery give way to buildings that demonstrate various kinds of architecture. Sections are devoted to honoring Vancouver’s multicultural roots, so you’ll also experience how different cultures approach remembrance.

Not sure where to look first? Take a tour. The cemetery guides will lead you to the final resting spots of Vancouver’s most noteworthy individuals.

Unique Eateries and Cafés

No work gets done on an empty stomach, so we never skip breakfast. If you find yourself hungry and looking for something a tad unique, the fare from these hidden culinary gems of Vancouver will hit the spot.

8. Kitsilano Farmers Market

Tucked away within one of Vancouver’s most dynamic neighborhoods, you’ll find Kitsilano Community Centre and the Kitsilano Farmers Market.

Every Sunday, over 50 vendors come together, bringing fresh produce and succulent cuts of meat from local farms. It's a favorite hangout for the city’s foodies. Food and beverage trucks are also on-site.

Can’t tell a pie from a tart? You don’t need to be the next Gordon Ramsay to enjoy the markets. While accomplished home cooks will adore the opportunity to prepare meals with some of the region’s best ingredients, there are also many ready-to-eat treats.

Think artisan bread, yogurt, and homemade wine. There’s even live music and various games to keep you occupied once you’ve had your fill.

9. Nemesis Coffee

Weaving through the air like an invisible ribbon, the scent of coffee beckons like nothing else. Its mere presence evokes energy and gets you ready to take on the day.

Few beverages draw so much from the land and its cultivation as coffee, with beans from various places, giving it different tastes. But one thing about coffee is certain. It’s always better when produced sustainably and with plenty of love, which Nemesis Coffee strives for.

In fact, some of the farms Nemesis sources coffee from have been operating since the 1800s. The growers have poured their lives and souls into producing smooth yet robust flavors brimming with vibrancy.

Planning a brunch with friends? Celebrate in style with buttery croissants and pistachio swirls to accompany your coffee order.

Photographer: Peter Skaronis

10. Revolver Coffee

To say coffee is popular throughout Canada would be an understatement. The average Canadian consumes nearly three cups a day, and the warm beverage has a special place in most people’s hearts. That’s because no other drink brings friends and family together quite like a strong cup of drip coffee or a smooth latte.

Whatever way you choose to process your beans, Revolver Coffee has you covered. Tucked away in Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, Gastown, this shop allows you to experience living history.

While Gastown was completely destroyed during the Great Fire of Vancouver, it rose from the ashes like a phoenix. Nowadays, there’s no better place to see old and new Canada coalesce.

Want the perfect gift for the coffee lovers in your life? Revolver Coffee also sells brewing equipment that transforms your brew into a warm cup of Joe on a cold Canadian day.

11. The Shameful Tiki Room

It’s almost strange to think of Hawaiian tiki restaurant culture making it to Canada. However, when you move past the snow-capped mountains that flank North Vancouver, it’s pretty much a match made in heaven.

Vancouver rose out of land that was once tropical rainforests, and the Tiki experience feels right at home. Stepping into The Shameful Tiki Room, you’re greeted by decor that makes you feel like you’re relaxing by Waikiki Beach.

It’s like stepping into a portal and ending up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, far removed from your troubles. Sit back and let the exotic cocktails work their magic. If sipping on a Pago Pago doesn’t work, the live surf and ukulele music definitely will.

12. The Naam

Throughout the ‘60s, the Kitsilano neighborhood in Vancouver was at the cusp of hippie and Bohemian culture. While Kitsilano evolved into more of a modern hipster neighborhood over time, its long history of counterculture is still evident in the many health-conscious eateries, yoga studios, and independent shops that line its streets.

However, if one thing about Kitsilano has stood the test of time, it’s The Naam restaurant. Founded toward the end of the swinging ‘60s, this iconic vegetarian and vegan spot is the oldest of its kind in Vancouver.

While The Naam remains true to its roots and continues to serve purely natural foods, it embraces new culinary techniques and innovative cuisine that keeps things modern. You can even pair your food with locally-made wine for the full Vancouver experience.

Quirky and Offbeat Spots

Give in to your adventurous spirit and break free from the ordinary trail. Vancouver is home to several attractions you won’t find anywhere else.

13. Cambie Climbing Tree

Visiting the Cambie Climbing Tree gives you a sense of how our performers feel when they rise to these dizzying heights. Located just south of Downtown Vancouver, this giant sequoia tree has become a legendary spot for local daredevils.

However, even inexperienced climbers can have fun here, thanks to the many ropes and tires that help with the feat. Once you reach the top, gaze at your reward: the incredible panoramic views across Vancouver and Burnaby!

Photographer: Radek Kozák

14. The Hive

When they're not spinning across the stage, our performers practice yoga, dancing, and many other kinds of workouts to stay fit and active. However, you don’t need to be a dancer or a trapeze artist to have fun while working out. Instead, why not reach the same heights by taking it one rock at a time?

The Hive climbing makes bouldering accessible to people of all skill and fitness levels. Feel the thrill as you grip onto the wall and take that first stretch upwards. Yoga and aerobics classes are also offered if you’d rather keep your feet firmly on the ground.

Photographer: Allan Mas

15. Secret Location

What could be more secret than a place called Secret Location? Is it a shop? Is it a restaurant? Well, there’s no need to contort yourself into a box over it because it’s a bit of both. It’s also a luxury interior design studio, so if you lack inspiration while pondering how to decorate your new living room, ask away.

When you're done shopping for homewares and lifestyle goods, head into Secret Location’s tasting room. Here, the baroque style that swept through Europe in the 16th century creates a lavish space enhanced by modern inspiration. The unique cuisine is also European-inspired, so you won’t find anything quite like it elsewhere in Vancouver.

Discovering Vancouver’s Hidden Gems

From West Vancouver to Downtown, the best experiences in British Columbia are hidden from sight. With some exploration and a healthy dose of curiosity, Vancouver’s beauty will reveal itself through unforgettable adventures and breathtaking scenery.

The last point in your journey should be visiting our universe, where up is down and gravity is irrelevant. Watch as our acrobats and dancers' movements leave you spellbound. Listen as the music rises to a crescendo, adding to the heart-pumping atmosphere.

What comes next? Well, that, too, is a secret. Come watch one of our shows in Vancouver to find out!

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