Things to do in Vancouver

Vancouver Museums: Experience the Most Captivating Exhibits

A world of wonder awaits in the City of Glass. Enrich your life with a museum visit.

Vancouver has dozens of museums. It’s a popular destination for amateur art critics and history buffs alike. Here, you can see everything from European paintings to original works by First Nations artists. Vancouver also has several museums dedicated to preserving the heritage of local cultures.

But there are plenty of things to do in Vancouver, so you don’t have to limit yourself to museums. Fill your itinerary with galleries, gardens, parks, and special events.

Space and Science Museums

You may not be able to travel to a galaxy far, far away, but you can immerse yourself in astronomy while in the City of Glass. Vancouver also has museums dedicated to earth science, natural history, and anthropology. Broaden your horizons with a visit to one of these Vancouver museums.

1. Museum of Anthropology at UBC

Lovers of anthropology, head to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The museum links its objects with larger themes, allowing you to learn more about the world around you.

It also hosts national art tours, making anthropology more accessible to Vancouver residents. MOA is one of the best places to see works by Indigenous artists. Many exhibits focus on BC artists rather than featuring works from other countries.

This natural history museum has previously featured exhibits on the Great East Japan Earthquake and the American Civil Rights Movement.

2. Science World

Satisfy your curiosity with a trip to Science World, Vancouver’s premier destination for learning about all things STEAM.

If you have children, take them to the Living Lab for hands-on demonstrations to inspire a love of science. Even hard-to-please teenagers can’t help but enjoy themselves as they participate in activities related to cognitive development.

At Sara Stern Gallery, you get up close and personal with nature. If you’re daring, you can meet a Madagascar hissing cockroach, but we wouldn’t blame you if you skipped the roach and watched your kids crawl through a beaver dam instead. Before you leave, test your intelligence with a stop at the Puzzles and Illusions exhibit.

Photographer: James Wheeler

3. Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Part of the University of British Columbia, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum aims to nurture an interest in natural history. The blue whale display is one of its most popular exhibits, as it’s just one of the 21 blue whale skeletons visible to the public. Big Blue is 26 meters long, making it the focal point of the museum’s atrium.

To track how the planet has changed over time, check out the Earth Timeline exhibit. It walks you through 500 million years of development, tracing life from its early forms to the complex organisms we know and love.

Don’t leave without seeing Culture at the Centre. The permanent exhibit highlights the interconnectedness of six First Nations communities. You’ll discover how alike we really are despite our different languages and customs.

Stop by Beaty Biodiversity Museum during the day and explore your newfound knowledge within the realm of fiction by night.

4. H.R. MacMillan Space Centre

If you’ve ever wanted to explore deep space or learn more about dark matter, H.R. MacMillan Space Centre is the place to be. It’s home to the Planetarium Star Theatre, which gives you a front-row seat for a journey through the universe.

Explore Mars, discover if humans can live on the moon, or surf through the solar system. H.R. MacMillan Space Centre also has an observatory, making it the perfect place for a romantic evening with someone special.

If you’d rather visit during the day, leave plenty of time for walking along the seawall. From the museum's Vanier Park location, you can see a little of everything, including the Pacific Ocean and the North Shore Mountains.

Photographer: Yuta Koike

5. Pacific Museum of Earth

Tucked away in the Earth and Ocean Sciences Main Building at UBC, the Pacific Museum of Earth introduces you to the wonders of our planet.

Be sure to meet Dorothy, a long-neck marine reptile who swam through the Western Interior Seaway approximately 80 million years ago. The museum is also home to George, a lambeosaurus found in a bone bed in 1913.

Don’t leave the Pacific Museum of Earth without viewing Magnificent Minerals. The geology exhibit contains dozens of spectacular specimens, from amethyst and quartz to beryl and diamonds. Conclude your visit with a stop at Weather Alley, where you can create your own tornado and learn more about natural disasters.

Sports Museum

You don’t have to excel at sports to enjoy a visit to the BC Sports Hall of Fame. Head to the museum to learn more about the achievements of BC athletes through the years.

6. BC Sports Hall of Famec

Whether you love football or racing, there’s at least one exhibit for you at the BC Sports Hall of Fame. The museum honors the best athletes in British Columbia by displaying jerseys, race cars, medals, and sports equipment, giving an intimate look at the lives of inductees.

The Indigenous Sport Gallery honors the achievements of First Nations athletes, including Angela Chalmers, John Wilson Poole, and the 1936 North Shore Indians. If you’re into racing, step into the Greg Moore Gallery. It has over 800 sq. ft. of displays, but Moore’s Indy racing car is the crown jewel.

Finally, head to the Participation Zone to shoot hoops, climb a rotating wall, play bubble hockey, or try to beat your best time in the 14-meter dash. Play for fun, or turn it into a friendly competition with your companions. Just try not to gloat if you win.

Photographer: jaspion82

Art Museums

Artists flock from all over the world to paint the Vancouver skyline, experiment with new techniques and draw inspiration from the city’s vibrant culture. Visit these art museums in Vancouver to discover new-to-you artists and styles.

7. Vancouver Art Gallery

Vancouver Art Gallery rotates its exhibits regularly, treating you to an entirely new experience every time you visit.

Each exhibit focuses on a specific theme, highlighting the importance of art as a tool for social commentary. The gallery is also home to the Institute of Asian Art, an initiative created to honor Vancouver’s role as North America’s gateway to Asia.

If you think all Vancouver art galleries are filled with stuffy paintings from the 1800s, think again. This museum has photos, posters, mixed-media compositions, sculptures, and more. If you’ve never considered yourself an art enthusiast, a visit here just might change your mind.

8. West Vancouver Art Museum

About 10 kilometers from the city proper, West Vancouver Art Museum offers an exciting introduction to modern art.

If you’re more interested in photography than painting, you’re in luck. Selwyn Pullan and John Fulker donated their photo collections to the museum. Both photographers concentrated on Vancouver’s homes and commercial buildings.

Gordon Smith, a Canadian artist, also donated his personal collection to the museum. The collection includes works by Douglas Coupland, Arabella Campbell, Ann Kipling, and Ian Wallace.

Historical Home Museum

Thanks to its location on the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver has long been one of North America's most important shipping ports. Many business tycoons built their fortunes by importing raw materials or exporting their finished goods, making Vancouver the ideal place to visit if you love historic homes.

9. Roedde House Museum

Gustav Roedde was the first bookbinder in Vancouver. Although bookbinding may seem quaint now, it was once an art form.

Roedde and his contemporaries had to painstakingly use leather, vellum, and other materials to protect the ideas of authors like L. M. Montgomery and Robert W. Service. That alone makes his legacy worth preserving.

Roedde House Museum transports you to the late Victorian period, allowing you to follow in the footsteps of Roedde and his loved ones. Although much of the mansion has been restored, it still contains artifacts owned by the Roedde family. You can even attend concerts or have tea and cookies during special events.

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Cultural Museums

Due to its long history, Vancouver is a bit of a cultural melting pot. First Nations communities lived on Vancouver Island more than 10,000 years ago, living in relative peace until settlers arrived from other countries in the 1700s and 1800s. Head to these museums to celebrate the heritage of several cultural groups.

10. Museum of Vancouver

The Museum of Vancouver exists to engage city residents and help them build resilience. It's more than a museum, however, as it showcases the achievements of Indigenous artists and aims to foster connections among individuals with different backgrounds.

Staff members are devoted to promoting diversity, sustainability, and decolonization. Every exhibit focuses on one of these themes, enabling the museum to fulfill its mission.

We recommend visiting the Unity Indigenous Plant Garden. The living exhibition features native plants with signs translated into the languages used by the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. The Museum of Vancouver also has an exhibit on Vancouver’s golden years.

11. Chinese Canadian Museum

Located in the Wing Sang building, the Chinese Canadian Museum has several permanent exhibits designed to help you learn more about the contributions of Chinese Canadians.

Visit the museum to learn how immigration influenced the community's growth or see replicas of the schoolrooms used by Chinese Canadian children in the early 1900s.

The Chinese Canadian Museum also hosts traveling exhibits, making exploring the connections between the past and the present easier. For example, The Paper Trail to the 1923 Exclusion Act displays identity certificates and other documents carried by Chinese Canadians when they were required to register with the government or face deportation.

12. Vancouver Police Museum & Archives

Unleash your inner detective with a visit to the Vancouver Police Museum & Archives. The museum has exhibits dedicated to gun culture, true crime, famous law enforcement officers, and more. You can even visit a replica of the city morgue from the 1970s. It has an autopsy suite, so it’s not exactly for the faint of heart.

Coroner’s Court, which served as a real courtroom until 1980, is another popular exhibit. Coroners used this space to conduct inquests and make recommendations regarding active investigations. You can even look at a mugshot book from the early 1900s to see how people dressed and styled their hair.

13. Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre

Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre uses books, historical documents, and survivor testimonies to commemorate the millions of people targeted based on their ethnicity, faith, sexual orientation, and disability status.

Although it’s a somber topic, museum staff do a fantastic job connecting the events of the Holocaust to the racism that persists today. This spot also sponsors a variety of educational programs. Local teachers come to the museum to learn how to educate their students about the Holocaust in an age-appropriate way.

14. The Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia

Vancouver is also home to The Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia. The museum celebrates the triumphs of Jewish life in British Columbia without glossing over the hardships, making it the ideal place to learn about the ethnic religion. Although The Jewish Museum has no permanent exhibits on display, it hosts special events for community members.

Maritime Museum

You don’t need a map or a compass to have fun in Vancouver. Just visit the Maritime Museum, which highlights how ships propelled Vancouver to be one of the largest cities in Canada.

15. Vancouver Maritime Museum

A visit to the Vancouver Maritime Museum is probably the closest you’ll ever get to the navigation wheel of a ship. The specialty museum has a large outdoor exhibit known as Heritage Harbour, which has 15 vessels on display. It’s also home to St. Roch National Historic Site, the first ship to travel from west to east via the Northwest Passage.

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Exploring Beyond the Exhibits: Vancouver's Cultural Journey Through Its Museums

So much to do, so much to see. We’re inspired just thinking about all the art galleries, interactive exhibits, and landmarks you can visit. If you still have energy, visit some famous Vancouver buildings like Hobbit House and Ladner Clock Tower. You’ll discover why the City of Glass has one of the most beautiful skylines in the world.

Keep the party going with one of our shows in Vancouver. Our performers use feats of bravery, expert stagecraft, and high-tech special effects to create awe-inspiring experiences. Dare to dream the unimaginable. Join us under the big top for a breathtaking experience you'll never forget.

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