Vancouver’s most popular attractions are spectacular in their own right—they are, by definition of the word, attractive—but there is something kind of dull about spending your day off visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery, seeing the steam clock in Gastown, or hanging out at English Bay.
A kind of “been-there-done-that” vibe settles in, and you’re left wondering what this city still has offer within its bustling streets, what stones are left unturned, and what experiences are out there just waiting for those willing to look.
Forget the Grouse Grind, the rotating restaurant, or the Stanley Park seawall. You’re a Vancouverite and you will find those little-known spots that will impress your friends the next time they visit.
You’re paying the big bucks to live in this city, you might as well enjoy all that it has to offer, right?
Here are a few lesser-known Vancouver gems we’ve dug up (they may not be entirely secret—if they were, we wouldn’t have found them) for you to find on your next adventurous day off.
This tiny pub sits beside The Cobalt, though you would barely be able to tell by looking at it from the street. It is basically a narrow hallway with rotating taps, though if you manage to snag seats its one of the comfiest places to enjoy a pint.
When you think “old school bowling alley” you’re accidentally picturing this place. Town N’ Country Bowl offers unlimited bowling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (after 9 pm), sells booze, has disco nights, and—the real kicker—has a stocked menu from fries to deep fried pickles to chicken strips… all for crazy cheap prices.
When most people visit Stanley Park they generally stick to the outskirts—walking, roller blading, or biking around the seawall, enjoying the ocean breeze and sunsets. What they’re missing out on is the great expanse of trails within the park itself, and Beaver Lake at its centre.
No secret to UBC students, the Nitobe Memorial Garden is a beautiful place to take a leisurely stroll, breath in the fresh flowery air, and see the swimming koi. Its location away from downtown makes it a short trip to get to by car, but ensures a quieter evening.
On Mitchell Island off the Knight Street Bridge is a gigantic warehouse full of sand, volleyball nets, archery tag, and cold beers. It’s a little hard to find if you’ve never been, but once you’ve experienced the brightly lit sandbox, it’s not something you’ll soon forget.
Hidden away in the West End is the cutest coffee shop you ever did see. Built into the bottom floor of a house, Cardero Bottega is a great place to scope out and visit if you’re in the area.
Now, we’re not going to tell you exactly where this one is, because much of the fun is finding it yourself! Though the name and general location should make it reasonably doable. This big tree has been a favourite climb for years, and even has a hammock sitting among its highest branches. Climb at your own risk, of course!
Believe it or not, but there’s actually hidden treasure scattered all over Vancouver—and the world. Geocaching is a phenomenon wherein small containers are hidden at locations, with their coordinates and clues on how to uncover them posted online. Usually they only hold a few trinkets and a list of finders names to add yours to, but the act of looking is the real fun.
There is nothing better than stumbling upon a hidden treehouse, and that’s what many people have done while travelling the Trans Canada Trail in Montrose Park. The treehouse is big enough to fit upwards of ten people, and offers a great view of the Second Narrows Bridge. Bring a sharpie and add to the notes left by other visitors!
Beaver Lake isn’t the only gem hidden away in the forests of Stanley Park. Yes, Malkin Bowl is not exactly a well kept Vancouver secret, but if you’ve ever enjoyed a live concert surrounded by trees here, you know the feeling of secrecy and comfort being shared with all those present.
While many may know about the Shameful Tiki Room, actually getting into the place is its own challenge. The doors and windows are blocked, and there is only a small sign that shows you’re in the right place. What’s more is that seating is extremely limited, so get there early if you want to enjoy the tropical booze and delicious nachos.
Obviously one of the coolest parks in the city, Dude Chilling Park sits a few blocks away from main roads, and can easily be construed as just another park. A great place to hang out with the dudes and dudettes, break out the hoola hoops, or just bask in the sun.
Though it is more of a peninsula, really, Habitat Island is one of Vancouver’s quieter areas where you can feel like you’re out of the city—even when you’re surrounded by it. A short walk across a narrow “bridge” finds you on the little island, which has a small forest for exploring or a little beach to lounge on. An easy one to spot, but a bit more effort to get to.