When the weather in Vancouver is good, it’s great; but when it is bad, it is grey, wet and chilly. Thankfully, there are plenty of fun places to go to pass a rainy day in Vancouver without staying on your couch.
Visit one of the galleries
The Vancouver Art Gallery, located downtown just off Robson Street, usually has several different exhibits open. You can roam its otherworldly white halls and see fascinating artworks, both historical and contemporary, in traditional and modern media, and from around the world. Future shows in 2018 include a review of modern Japanese painter Takashi Murakami, and the Bombhead exhibition that explores the impact of the nuclear age on art and society. You can get a deal on admission by buying an individual or household annual membership, which includes free gallery admission and entry to many events. The gallery also has admission by donation on Tuesdays after 5pm.
Also downtown, the Contemporary Gallery is a non-profit space for contemporary visual art. There are regular tours of the gallery space with artists and curators (in multiple languages), and talks on anything from textile art to cultural accessibility and human rights.
Tucked into a Chinatown storefront, Access Gallery is an artist-run, non-profits pace that aims to show more provocative visual art. One of their past shows was "Twenty-Three Days At Sea", showing the works created by artists in residence aboard a cargo container ship traveling from Shanghai to Vancouver. The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday.
Discover that science is fun - in Science World
Across the street from the Main Street Skytrain station, Telus World of Science is full of educational exhibits about many different sciences, for adults and kids. Bodyworks explores our bodies down to the cellular level. At Living Lab, you can work directly with UBC researchers who are studying cognitive development. You can do hands-on engineering experiments at Tinkering Space. The five-storey high screen in the OMNIMAX theatre makes documentaries, like Amazon Adventure and A Beautiful Planet into visually stunning, immersive experiences.
Vancouver Science World by Franco Ng
Enjoy a concert or a play
Built in 1927, the Orpheum Theatre is a monument to design, with sweeping staircases, a domed auditorium with a ceiling mural and a giant crystal chandelier It hosts shows like the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s New Music festival, stand up comedy stars, a Beatles tribute called Classical Mystery Tour, family-oriented explorations of classical music through legends and fairy tales, food tastings as part of Dine Out Vancouver, and orchestral and choir performances.
Just a few doors from the Orpheum on downtown Granville, the Art Deco-style Commodore Ballroom is coming up on its own 90th anniversary. This Vancouver landmark has survived many musical eras, and shut down a few times, only to be revived a few years later. It’s hosted musical stars from all over the world, as well as local bands and fund-raiser events. The huge venue has a dance floor and concert stage, tiered seating, and a fully equipped commercial kitchen and service staff for food and beverage.
Also downtown, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is a dramatic venue for everything from orchestral music to opera to stand up comedy to touring Broadway musicals. It’s home to Ballet BC, Vancouver Opera and Broadway Across Canada.
Watch classic and new films
When you’ve run out of things to watch online,you can go to an independent theatres such as the Pacific Cinematheque, the Rio Theatre, and the Vancouver International Film Centre which have diverse schedules of classic, foreign and cult films. Note that you have to pay a modest fee for a membership at the Pacific and the VIFC. The Rio also does live performances, like burlesque shows, The Gentlemen Hecklers, who do comedic commentary on bad movies, and The Critical Hit Show, which merges improv comedy with Dungeons and Dragons, with audience members invited on stage to play monsters.
The many branches of the Vancouver Public Library provide lectures, readings, workshops on coding and media, and screenings of features films and documentaries, some of them family-friendly.
Shop local in one of the indoor markets
Greater Vancouver has a few indoor markets where you can browse a wide variety of shops and food venues while staying warm and dry.
Take a quick Seabus trip from downtown across Vancouver harbour and visit LonsdaleQuay Market in North Vancouver. Directly connected to the Seabus terminal, it’s more than 80 shops and services, including clothing, wine, accessories, leather goods,and a food court and two restaurants.
Vancouver Granville Island Market by IQRemix
Granville Island Public Market, beneath the Granville Street bridge and reached from the Kitsilano neighbourhood, is an old industrial space that has been converted into an open market. Most of it is devoted to gourmet foods, offering fresh local seafood, meats and poultry, sausages and deli meats, fresh local fruits and vegetables, cheeses, chocolates, and pastas. If you really want to know your way around, book with Vancouver Foodie Tours and enjoy more than twenty food tastings. For lunch and snacks, take your pick from bagels baked in a flame oven, fudge, pastries, muffins, and donuts. The rest of the area includes many other shops, restaurants and theatres.
Relax in Vancouver's swimming pools
Funny how we hate cold water outdoors, but we immerse ourselves in warm water indoors. The best way to pay for visits to swimming pools, ice rinks and fitness centres is the Vancouver Park Board OneCard. You can get a card for free at any centre and load it with passes online. If you’re particularly extravagant, you can reserve a lane or an entire pool by the hour.
Located near Queen Elizabeth Park, the Hillcrest Aquatic Centre is the largest aquatic facility in Vancouver, built for the 2010 Olympics. You can splash around in the leisure pool, swim lengths, or participate in an aquafit class.
Swimming in Vancouver by Cara
Another city-run swimming pool is the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, locate in a bunker-like building near Sunset Beach. The huge, naturally-lit main pool has fifty-metre lap lanes and diving towers up to ten metres. You can also heat up in the sauna, cool down in the whirlpool, or exercise in the weight room. It’s wheelchair accessible and has universal change rooms.
Downtown, you can go to the Robert Lee YMCA Pool. There are open swim times, and teen and adult swimming lessons are included in your membership. You can also check out many fitness activities such as yoga, pilates, cycling, and cardio dance.
Recently rebuilt, the UBC Aquatic Centre can hold nearly 1,000 bathers, with a fifty-metre competition pool and a twenty-five-metre recreational pool, a steam room, a sauna and a hot tub. The facility is built to be as accessible as possible, with power-operated doors, Braille signage, male, female and universal change rooms, and access ramps in the pools. You can drop in to many different exercise and fitness classes. There are drop-in fees or membership passes.
Cozy up at a café
If you don’t want to go home right after your day trip, Vancouver has many cozy places to pass a chilly, damp afternoon with a cup of something hot.
Platform7 has two locations, one in East Vancouver and one in Kitsilano, modelled after 19th century British and French train stations. Each has three bars, one for espresso creations, one for single-origin coffees from around the world, and one for cold brews, plus locally-sourced baked goods and sandwiches.
Coffee in Vancouver by Kenny Louie
Aperture lies on West Broadway, three blocks from Cambie Street, and doubles as a gallery space. The gourmet cookies are hand made by the Cannele & Honeybun bakery.
49thParallel, with locations on Thurlow Street downtown, Main Street and West 4th, is for the dedicated coffee lover. You can get your own coffee brewing kits, coffee machines, cups, branded apparel and other paraphernalia, so you can enjoy this kind of coffee at home. If you’re serious about your coffee, the website includes details about growing region, elevation, variety and harvest year for each type sold, and detailed instructions on proper brewing. The subscription plans will bring selected packages of filter coffee and espresso to your home on a regular schedule. They make Lucky’s doughnuts on site, and the Thurlow location also has a brunch and lunch menu.
Experience beer tasting
Granville Island Brewing, located near the Public Market, does multiple tours and tastings each day of the week, and afterwards you can enjoy a drink with food pairings in the taproom.
You can explore Vancouver’s brewing community in more depth with Vancouver Brewery Tours. They’ll take you and your group to three different breweries and distilleries in three different neighbourhoods, teaching you about craft spirits, beer brewing, and barrel aging. On dryer days during the summer, you can do the walking tour of three breweries in three hours.
Granville Island Brewery Samples by Conrad Olson