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11 Rainy Day Activities in Vancouver

Things to Do in Vancouver When it Rains

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I don't often hear the saying "save it for a rainy day" in Vancouver. Maybe that's because rain is a part of the city's identity. And those traveling to Vancouver from October to May will need to factor the rain into vacation plans. Indoor gardens, First Nations art galleries, and waterfall hikes are all excellent attractions regardless of the weather.

How to Spend a Rainy Day in Vancouver

1. Tour Indoor Gardens

© Chloë Ernst
Seeing blossoming flowers, free flying birds, and landscaped ponds will help you forget about a rainy day. The much-lauded Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is open to the elements, but the tiny space also has covered walkways and indoor rooms depicting a scholar's residence from the Ming Dynasty. Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park is entirely enclosed under a triodesic glass dome. Enjoy a dry walk through the Vancouver attraction, seeing tropical plants, orchids, and birds, including a talking parrot.

2. All-weather Attractions

© Chloë Ernst
Some top Vancouver attractions aren't outdoors. The Vancouver Aquarium blends outdoors and in. Walk past aquarium tanks and watch dolphins underwater all while staying dry. The Vancouver Lookout atop Harbour Centre is a great vantage for a gray day, while Science World has hours-worth of exhibits and an IMAX theater to entertain kids.

3. Waterfalls

© Chloë Ernst
Nothing trumps a rainy day quite like donning rain-boots and walking to a waterfall. Shannon Falls Provincial Park requires only a five minute walk over a paved path. Slightly longer walks include Cypress Falls Park in West Vancouver, Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park near Chilliwack, and Brandywine Falls near Whistler. It's a long eight-hour drive from Vancouver to Wells Grey Provincial Park, but the waterfalls are some of the most spectacular in Canada.

4. Drink Coffee

© Chloë Ernst
When it rains, warm up like a local over a cup of Vancouver-roasted coffee. Vancouver coffee culture is more grab-and-go than some other cities, but there are also small cozy cafes in every city neighborhood. Some of the best spots include locations of Caffe Artigiano, Italian-style cafes on Commercial Drive, and 49th Parallel on West Fourth Avenue.

5. Winter Sports

© Chloë Ernst
When it rains in the city it often snows at higher elevations. Head to local ski mountains for snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. There are three main resorts all within a 30-minute drive of Vancouver: Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Seymour Mountain.

6. Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour

© Chloë Ernst
Take a guided bus tour around Vancouver to see the main city attractions while staying out of the rain. Vancouver Trolley Company and Big Bus both offer good tours in covered buses. Bring an umbrella for staying dry while waiting at the stops.

7. Museums and Art Galleries

© Chloë Ernst
Museums and art galleries are a classic choice for a rainy day in any city. The city's top museums include the Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Vancouver. But smaller organizations like the Vancouver Police Museum and the Vancouver Maritime Museum also house interesting exhibits. At the latter, you can stay indoors to explore the RCMP Arctic patrol vessel the St. Roch, which is sheltered under the peak-roofed museum.

8. Vancouver Nightlife

© Chloë Ernst
The party doesn't stop for rain. Spend a winter night in Vancouver visiting the bars and pubs in Gastown. The neighborhood, with its cobblestone streets and iron lampposts, looks lovely in any season. Other bar-dense neighborhoods include the downtown Granville Street Entertainment District and Main Street in Mount Pleasant.

9. Go Shopping

photo Chloë Ernst
Malls are an easy way to duck out of the rain. Head to Pacific Centre downtown, or take the SkyTrain out to Metrotown in Burnaby. Robson Street, West Fourth Avenue, and Main Street are all great shopping streets with varied and trendy stores. Vancouver-area markets like the weekend indoor flea market, pre-holiday-season craft markets, and the Granville Island Public Market all mean a chance to chat with the locals while staying inside.

10. Restaurants and Dine Out Vancouver

© Chloë Ernst
Dine Out Vancouver lands in January -- officially Vancouver's rainiest month. The 17-day festival sees many Vancouver restaurants offer special-priced, three-course menus. But while the dining festival is a great time to visit Vancouver, any time of year presents the opportunity to try international cuisines, fresh local delicacies, and celebrity chef restaurants.

11. Indoor Sports

Many Vancouverites keep fit during the winter by visiting a community or fitness center. The city built both the Creekside and Hillcrest community centers as part of the 2010 Winter Olympics infrastructure. Likewise in Richmond, there's the impressive Richmond Olympic Oval with sports courts, ice rinks, and a climbing wall. All offer day-pass pricing for short-term visitors.
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