Things to do in Vancouver – Explore Vancouver Like a Local

local burrard bridge

Vancouverites know things like Stanley Park and the Grouse Mountain Gondola will be there in the off-season. Local people actively avoid Granville Island and Gastown in the summer. Many locals do hit the beaches, but that’s because in the off-season the beaches are cold.

This is not to say not to do all the fantastic things Vancouver has to offer! If you don’t have a lot of time definitely get to Stanley Park and the seawall, or Granville Island.

But if you want to see Vancouver more like a local, here’s a couple of places you can go.

Main Street

Main Street between East 17th Avenue and East 33rd Avenue is a great neighbourhood of pubs, coffee shops, antique stores, restaurants, and retail. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a hipster (understand, I would never swing a cat). People watching, patios, beverages, and shopping are activities to enjoy here.

Lower Main Street between East 2nd Avenue and East Broadway (9th Avenue) is a craft brew mecca. Within a six block radius to either side of Main are about 10 craft breweries. A very happy afternoon can be spent walking this area.

Things to do in Vancouver - Explore Vancouver Like a Local

Main Street Brewing sampler

Commercial Drive

“The Drive” as it’s called locally, is one of Vancouver’s most vibrant and authentic neighbourhoods. Between Venables Street and East 16th Avenue you’ll find kitschy cafes, boutiques, live music, pubs, shops, and bakeries. The Drive is home to  Vancouver’s Little Italy; eight blocks of local Italian goodness with over 30 businesses owned by the local Italian community. Come for an espresso, stay for the gelato!

Davie Village and Denman Street

Davie Street or “Davie Village” is the centre Vancouver’s LGBTQ community. Home to Canada’s first rainbow crosswalk, Davie Village has nightclubs, coffee houses, restaurants, and shops. It’s close to the beach and downtown.

The west end of Davie Street ends at Denman Street which stretches north/south from English Bay to Coal Harbour. Due to its proximity to Stanley Park, Denman is where you’ll find many skate and bike rental shops. You will also find many other shops, coffee houses, and restaurants.

Both streets are great for strolling and people watching.

Live Music Venues

If you’re a live music fan, there’s usually something going on. Between the Imperial Room, the Rickshaw Theatre, The Commodore Ballroom, and the Biltmore Cabaret, you’re going to find something live every day of the week.

Vancouver also has an annual International Jazz Festival and a Folk Music Festival. Just outside of Vancouver in Burnaby is the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival.

Things to do in Vancouver - Explore Vancouver Like a Local

Live Music

Get out to the ballgame!

If you enjoy a good game (or sportball, as my teen says), throughout the year in Vancouver there’s BC Lions Football and Vancouver Whitecaps soccer at BC Place Stadium, Vancouver Canadians single-A baseball at Nat Bailey Stadium,  and (although not played with a ball) Vancouver Canucks’ games at Rogers Arena.

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Get out to the westernmost part of Vancouver, rent a bike and cruise the trails of Pacific Spirit Regional Park. There’s nothing like riding 50 kilometres of forest trails in the big city.

Let me know in the comments of any other local areas you think should be included and whatever you end up doing in Vancouver, enjoy yourself.

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Things to do in Vancouver - Explore Vancouver Like a Local

Comments 2

  1. I am going to Van for the first time next September – so excited as wanted to go for a while. Definitely bookmarking this for nearer the time and I can’t wait to try all the craft beer.

  2. I visited Vancouver as a teenager in the 1980s but I’d really like to go back as I understand the city has changed so much since then. Thanks for the tips, sometimes it’s nice to read posts from a middle age perspective!

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