10 hidden gems in Vancouver
Yes, you can hike, ski and set sail to see a local pod of orca whales – everyone knows what Vancouver is famous for!
Instead of joining the crowds, here are some of the things you probably didn’t know you could do, but definitely should add to your Vancouver to-do list.
1. Climbing Tree
Yes, a climbing tree. Near Cambie and King Edward, this incredible tree combines the power of mother nature, boasting a huge strong trunk and dozens of thick, evenly-spaced trees, and the creativity of humankind. Here people have neatly customized the tree with hammocks, tire swings and rope climbing nets to make this particular specimen the stuff of legend.
2. The Shameful Tiki Room
One of Vancouver’s coolest bars, the Shameful Tiki Room is certainly a ‘hidden’ gem – it’s deliberately disguised and hidden from the outside so that only in-the-know locals and well-researched tourists know its whereabouts. If you can find the small sign that marks the entrance, you’re in for a night of vintage tiki decor, delicious food, cocktails, and often even live music.
3. VanDusen Botanical Garden Hedge Maze
In the heart of bustling Vancouver, the VanDusen Botanical Garden is a peaceful oasis bursting with beautiful botanical specimens and different plant species from all four corners of the globe. It’s a great place to escape the busy city life and the Elizabethan Hedge Maze, surrounded by monkey puzzle trees, offers a fun and unusual challenge for you to tackle with friends.
4. The Naam
This plant-based restaurant is a popular spot with local young people and students. Not too many tourists know Naam, so it’s still possible to get a table and tuck into an array of delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes without the crowds. The restaurant has 50 years of experience turning local ingredients and fresh produce – including tofu, organic blueberries and free-range eggs – into mouth-watering eats for breakfast, brunch and dinner.
To experience a different side to Vancouver, head to the neighbourhood of Southlands. This is a place where the trendy urban environment meets rural farmland and countryside-living. Here horses graze around the host of beautiful houses and Instagram-worthy traditional mansions, and ancient trees line the streets. Just a stone’s throw from the city, the Southlands Farm feels like worlds away, selling fresh local produce weekly throughout the summer.
6. Greenheart TreeWalk
One of the highlights of any trip to the UBC Botanical Gardens is the hanging tree walkway. The Greenheart Tree Walk takes you on a tour of the tree canopy and offers a unique way to get up-close to some of the ancient Douglas firs, cedars and grand fir trees that are native to the region’s coastal temperate rainforest. For the best bird’s-eye view in town, follow the suspended walkways up to 20 metres above the forest floor.
7. Fraser River Park
When in Vancouver, there’s no avoiding the water – the trick is knowing where to go to enjoy a part of the waterfront without the crowds. Head to Fraser River Park to find a quieter stretch of the waterside. This peaceful green space running alongside the river offers a scenic route with easy boardwalks and is not as popular as the Kitsilano Beach or English Bay areas, which can get pretty crowded.
8. Pink Alley
In Downtown Vancouver, an alleyway has been reimagined and reinvented, even winning an international award for exceptional public spaces. The walls and floor of Pink Alley have been painted varying shades of – yep, you guessed it – pink. Like a bright hidden haven, this tucked-away road celebrates graffiti, street art and visual storytelling,
9. The Rennie Museum
This free, private art museum can be found in Chinatown and, though it only opened in 2009, it is already a big hit with culture-vultures and art-aficionados. The Rennie Museum has brought an impressive collection of contemporary art to Vancouver, boasting pieces of painting, photography and film from over 370 artists. It’s also home to a beautiful rooftop patio, offering a hidden oasis in the city.
10. Habitat Island
You don’t have to leave the city to enjoy a real authentic slice of the great Canadian outdoors. While hiking trails criss-cross the rural countryside, Habitat Island is located just off Vancouver’s Hinge Park. This wild peninsula is man-made and was designed to bring nature into a part of the urban landscape. Cross the little bridge to reach it and you’ll be rewarded with small beaches, shrubs, a forest and a quiet patch where nature – including birdlife – has been encouraged to flourish.