Surviving a rainy day in Vancouver

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Of which there are many. I didn’t realise quite how wet a city Vancouver was (despite the warnings) until I got here. Having lived in Wellington for the last few years I have developed a strong distaste for the wind, so the rain is actually a welcome change. However, it sure makes getting out and seeing things a bit of a challenge at times. The rain is just so darn relentless. I have been working to compile a list of fun things to do when its wet because let’s face it, that is usually at least one day of every weekend! (Although everyone assures me it is highly seasonal and it won’t stay this way.)

Granville Island: this is one of my favourite activities in Vancouver and I don’t think I will ever get tired of it. Granville Island is underneath the Granville Bridge and is not actually an island, despite having the definite appearance of being one. My favourite activities on Granville Island are wandering around and eating at the market finishing up with beers at the Granville Island Brewing Company. It is important to visit when hungry! On a nice day, it is also extremely pleasant to wander the waterfront – both directions leading away from the market are beautiful.

Granville Market is such an easy way to kill an afternoon. It is a mixture between artisan vendors (there are so many samples on offer – you have been warned!), fresh produce and then food stalls. Nothing is particularly cheap, so my recommendation would always be to load up on the samples whilst browsing the food stalls before finalising the meal of choice. From coffee to soup, Asian to Mexican, there is honestly something for everyone. There is plenty of seating too, although it can be hard to find a table at peak times.

Once the belly is full, it’s time to wander over to w ander. On the way, it is totally worth stopping at Net Loft, just one of many pop-up feeling shopping arcades in the area, but probably one of the coolest. Paper-Ya is a very cool stationery shop and often extremely busy. There are also some other cool cafes in the area – Edible Canada is definitely one and so is A Bread Affair. I haven’t eaten at either of these spots yet because we always end up at Granville Market.

The painted silos are also popular to visit: a few years ago some Brazilian street artists painted the silo tanks as giant people. It was a bit of a let-down for me – the concrete trucks in front of it completely obstruct any chance of a good photo, however still worth seeing as it’s not much of a detour. If the weather is holding up, not far from where the silo tanks are is a wee floating village. The houses are super cute and there is a plaque to read providing more information.

Final destination: Granville Island Brewing. The beer here is great. It is possible to order flights (you choose or the barman chooses) or just a glass. The food menu is also cracking – typical bar snacks but all done well. Next door is the tap room, where merchandise (some of it very stylish and practical) and beer are available for sale.

The Vancouver Aquarium: Given that a) it is located in Stanley Park and b) the tenants whom we are sub-letting from work there, it was never going to take us long to visit this favourable attraction. We were lucky to get free tickets, but it costs a little over $40 for those not in the know (pricey, yes!). It is an incredibly diverse aquarium: we saw sloths, monkeys, a dolphin (it transpires that BC is a little behind the times, they have only just introduced a law to prohibit dolphins and whales being kept in captivity), 500 kg sea lions, parrots and of course, my favourites: the otters.

It is a great activity on a rainy day, although admittedly its location in the park could prove to be a pain. We actually went on a snow day, so we ended up taxiing there (but walking back). Buses run into Stanley Park, but not directly to the aquarium, so a bit of a walk is still required. Although the day we went was too cold to spend too much time outside, visiting the outside animals was my far the best part. We watched both the otter feeding show and the sea lion training show, as well as watching the dolphin get up to some tricks. On a sunny day, I would totally take a picnic lunch and eat in one of the stadium seats watching the seals, sea lions or otters as I ate.

Inside, the aquarium is split into regions. The Amazon was probably the most exciting: mostly because it had animals other than just fish (including the sloths, monkeys and parrots mentioned above as well as cayman alligators and pythons). There is also a 4D cinema which frequently plays shows – educational and interesting, highly worth the watch. I’m an aquarium lover so might be a little biased, but if you’re willing to pay the price, I think it is quite a good one to visit!

The Bloedel Conservatory: slightly cheaper than those that come before it, the Conservatory is located in Queen Elizabeth park and is a warm way to spend some time. There is an abundance of tropical plants and birds, and if you hang around long enough you will be able to see some of these birds getting up to mischief and putting on quite the show. The Conservatory is in the shape of a globe, so visiting is essentially a stroll around the outer perimeter of the circle. At the ticket desk, pick up a map and see what birds can be spotted along the way. If the day has good visibility, some good views of the nearby areas can be seen from outside too.

Another good rainy day activity is a board game bar or restaurant. I have been to both Stormcrow Tavern and Pizzeria Ludicia. They were both excellent in different ways.

Stormcrow Tavern has two locations: Both have great happy hour specials, delicious food and an extensive and quirky list of cocktails. On Broadway, the bar itself is just a really cool place to hang out: the owners sure didn’t miss a beat when decorating it. The biggest downsides are that it is actually quite loud there so can be difficult to hear at times (maybe just happy hour onwards though) and the board game selection is quite generalist. I’m no board game connoisseur but I do know a geeky assortment when I see one.  It’s location on Commercial is more low-key, a quieter vibe but with a similar array of games. Stormcrow Tavern is pretty family friendly, with lots of different games for all ages making the overall selection slightly more limited.

Pizzeria Ludicia on the other hand really enables the inner geek to shine. The whole wall is just covered in board games and when a game is popular there seems to be multiple copies with all the expansion packs available. It has a quieter environment, so a good place to challenge oneself with a new game. The slight negative of Pizzeria Ludicia is the quality of the food isn’t quite as nice as Stormcrow’s. It has an Italian menu, so there isn’t too much scope to go wrong with the pizza and pasta but we all found our meals to be overall quite bland. I’d definitely eat there again, but with just lower expectations.   

There are plenty of museums and educational facilities in Vancouver too. So far we have ventured out to the University of British Columbia campus to visit the Anthropology Museum. It came to us very highly recommended and we thought it was good, but not necessarily great. It felt like more of a showcase of artifacts, rather than anything chronological. However it was still very interesting and I’m sure others would be even more impressed than I was.  Vancouver Art Gallery is still on my list as is Science World – an interactive science museum which I assume will be overrun with children.

Last but not least, no trip to Canada is complete with a visit to the hockey. Ice hockey, to be precise! The Vancouver Canucks are having a highly successful season (touch wood) and going to a game is a next level experience compared to sport at home. Hockey is played in three ‘periods’, so there is basically two half-times… double the fun! Literally every game is a sell-out (and they play multiple times a week) and tickets can be quite expensive, so it’s definitely worth looking in advance.

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