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What ever happened to the Expo '86 exhibits? (PHOTOS)

DH Vancouver Staff May 02, 2016 5:34 pm

As we celebrate 30 years since the opening of Expo ’86 in Vancouver, we found ourselves wondering… what on earth happened to all those amazing exhibits?

We’ve been treated to some great vintage photos of Expo ’86 today, as millions of people remember the glorious days of the world’s fair that placed Vancouver on the global stage.

And we all know what happened to Science World. But where are all those other exhibits that had Vancouver and the world enthralled for so long?

Here’s what we managed to track down.

China Gate

Chinese Cultural Centre

The ornate red China Gate led visitors into the People’s Republic of China Pavilion, one of the largest at Expo ’86. It was later donated to the City of Vancouver, and sat for 20 years in Chinatown, at the entrance to the Chinese Cultural Centre on Pender Street. The gate has since been remodelled in white in a different style.

Million Dollar Gold Coin

This huge coin was three feet wide and contained a million dollars worth of gold, making it the largest coin ever minted in history. There were rumours Donald Trump wanted to buy it, but it was eventually given back to the company that made it and melted down. [am2_see_also]


The Inukshuk on English Bay (Ahmed Bukhamsin/Flickr)

The Inukshuk on English Bay (Ahmed Bukhamsin/Flickr)

This huge Inukshuk – traditionally an ancient Inuit navigation aid – welcomed visitors to the Northwest Territories Pavilion. Now it stands on a grassy point on the south side of English Bay, an international symbol of hospitality and friendship.

Friendship 500/Mcdonalds

The old Friendship 500 McDonalds abandoned in Burrard Inlet (Taz/Flickr)

The old Friendship 500 McDonalds abandoned in Burrard Inlet (Taz/Flickr)

Better know as the McBarge, this was one of the busiest McDonalds in the world during Expo 86. Sadly, it then sat derelict in Burrard Inlet just north of Capitol Hill, Burnaby for decades – until being towed away for a secretive $4.5-million refit last year.

France Pavilion ornaments

Several unusual statues – flat silhouettes with star fields painted on them – graced the France Pavilion. They were later placed in the Seven Oaks Shopping Centre in Abbotsford, but that has since been demolished. Whereabouts of the statues is unknown.

The Roundhouse

The Roundhouse in Yaletown (Jasperdo/Flickr)

The Roundhouse in Yaletown (Jasperdo/Flickr)

Originally used to fix trains, the Roundhouse was deemed a heritage building and restored for Expo 86, where it housed exhibits looking back at the beginnings of electricity and the combustion engine. It is now a community centre.

Locomotive #374

Locomotive 374 in The Roundhouse (Joe Goldberg/Flickr)

Locomotive 374 in The Roundhouse (Joe Goldberg/Flickr)

The first transcontinental passenger train into Vancouver in 1887, this locomotive was also restored for Expo 86 and was displayed in the courtyard outside the Roundhouse. It now sits on permanent display inside the building.

The Monorail

The Expo 86 Monorail, now at Alton Towers amusement park in the UK (aunt agatha/Flickr)

The Expo 86 Monorail, now at Alton Towers amusement park in the UK (aunt agatha/Flickr)

The monorail shuttled visitors to every zone in Expo ’86 and was intended to stay a shuttle service from English Bay to downtown. But after protests about the noise, it was sold and now shuttles people around Alton Towers, an amusement park in the UK.

World’s largest Canadian flag

This record breaking flag measured 24 by 12 metres and stood on a flagpole 86 metres tall. The pole now stands on 104 Avenue in Surrey, flying the flag (rather tattered and by now replaced multiple times) over a Barnes Wheaton GM car dealership. [am2_see_also]


This cool water sculpture of a green alien landing his spaceship in a fantastical sea of jumping water was a huge hit at Expo. It was later bought at auction by the Mount Layton Hot Springs Resort in Terrace, B.C. but has since fallen into disrepair.

World’s largest hockey stick

The World's Largest Hockey Stick in Duncan, B.C. (Sarah Caufield/Flickr)

The World’s Largest Hockey Stick in Duncan, B.C. (Sarah Caufield/Flickr)

At 62.48 metres long and weighing 28.12 tonnes, the Expo 86 hockey stick is still recognized as the world’s largest. It now graces the front of the Island Savings Centre (formerly the Cowichan Community Centre) in Duncan, BC. – the smallest city in Canada. [am2_see_also]

The Spirit Lodge

Visitors lined up for hours to see this show at the GM Motors Pavilion, which used holographic effects to tell First Nations legends. The set was moved to Alert Bay and was supposed to move to dedicated building, but seems to have vanished without a trace.

Plaza of Nations

The Plaza of Nations before demolition (Thom Quine/Flickr)

The Plaza of Nations before demolition (Thom Quine/Flickr)

This huge glass-covered plaza could hold 5000 spectators, flew the flags of all participating nations and was the hub of parades and ceremonies at Expo. It remained in use in False Creek until 2007, when the roof became unsafe and was demolished.

China Gate Cafe

The Lighthouse Pub (formerly China Gate Cafe) in Sechelt is on the left (Coffeerob/Wikipedia)

The Lighthouse Pub (formerly China Gate Cafe) in Sechelt is on the left (Coffeerob/Wikipedia)

This building caught the imagination of a property developer in Sechelt, who bought it at auction and shipped it to the Sunshine Coast. It is now the Lighthouse Pub – the “lighthouse” on top is actually a spaceship that sat atop a nearby Expo McDonald’s. [am2_see_also]

The Spirit Catcher

Spirit Catcher in Barrie, Ontario

This huge sculpture has 16 kinetic quills, which rock back and forth when the wind blows. It was bought for $230,000 after Expo and now sits in a waterfront park at the bottom of Maple Avenue in Barrie, Ontario.



The Folklife Village, in pavilions built from B.C. timber, showcased the traditions of Canada’s cultures, with performances from Newfoundland fiddlers and First Nations dance troupes. After Expo 86, it was taken to Gabriola Island to become a strip mall.


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DH Vancouver Staff
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