Are you looking for non touristy things to do in Vancouver? I can help you out.
Being born and raised in Vancouver, I can help you experience and give you the local insider scoop on non touristy things to do in Vancouver.
Vancouver, British Columbia, is a popular tourist destination in Canada. While it is widely known on the West Coast for its beautiful mountain views and ocean scenery, there are a lot of hidden gems that only locals tend to know.
In this blog post, I’ll discuss locations of places and activities which you won’t likely see pop up when you search on Google unless you know about them already, as well as local places to eat, seasonal events, and off-the-beaten-path locations.
Non Touristy Things To Do In Vancouver
Some of these places are located outside of Vancouver. However, you can use local transit as it is always available and easily accessible for these locations. Or renting a car is another option.
1. Burnaby Mountain Park
Burnaby Mountain Park is among the best places to check out and hang out with friends or family. Its location is beside Simon Fraser University. You can also walk around the campus if you drive further up the hill.
Many locals trek to Burnaby Mountain Park during summer to catch the sunset. The view is stunning as you can see Downtown Vancouver, parts of North Vancouver and the ocean on the horizon.
2. Deer Lake
One of the best hidden gems near Vancouver is Deer Lake. You can walk around the entire park walk, which takes about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Or rent a paddle boat on the lake. It’s a picturesque park where many wedding takes place.
You can also head over to the Burnaby Village Museum an outdoor museum, which is excellent for children to explore. Admission is free; however, other activities, such as the carousel ride, cost extra.
The museum is only open seasonally. However, they are open during certain holidays.
3. Capitol Hill
While visiting Vancouver, you must take an evening trip to Capitol Hill. It is also a small, perfect romantic spot to watch the sunset over the city. It is truly a hidden gem that locals know.
Many friend groups and couples enjoy the lookout point. Bring a blanket or sit on the cement dividers; do not forget the snacks!
Parking is limited. Capitol Hill’s location is in a residential neighbourhood, so be mindful of loud noises.
Google Maps location for Capitol Hill.
One of Vancouver’s biggest local things is biking around Stanely Park on the seawall, downtown, or the mountains. In the downtown area, many locals bike to work.
However, I recommend taking a Stanley Park bike tour if you are looking for somewhere to bike in the city but do not know where to start.
The top tour that I recommend is The Grand Tour, which is a fantastic tour that will take you to many well-known neighbourhoods and popular biking spots in Vancouver.
Their five-hour grand tour is excellent for bike riders at all levels. And do not worry if you do not have a bike; you can rent a helmet and a bike for the duration of the tour.
With overwhelmingly positive reviews, you can expect an excellent tour of the downtown core of Vancouver. However, do not forget to layer and be prepared for rain during the fall months!
Group Activities In Vancouver
One of the best adventures in Vancouver is these Vancouver indoor activities you can do with a group of friends or family.
5. Watch A Hockey Game
Of course, what is Vancouver without watching a hockey game? Vancouver is home to the NHL (National Hockey League) team, the Vancouver Canucks, WHL (Western Hockey League) team, the Vancouver Giants, and the AHL (Americal Hockey League), the Abbotsford Canucks.
If you are watching a Canucks game, the best tip from a local is not to buy food from inside the arena but beforehand to order food from Costco. Also, it became a pre-game tradition for some who watch hockey games in person – me being one of those people (lol).
I highly recommend buying the food from Costco because the food is cheaper. You do not have to pay for an arm and a leg for arena food when you have already paid for the expensive tickets. Unless you want the whole arena experience, then go for it!
6. Rugby Sevens
A fantastic sports event to watch in Vancouver is the HSBC World Rugby Seven Series. If you travel during the Spring, the series is an event you do not want to miss.
Even if you are not into rugby, the fans/crowd dress up in ridiculous or amazing costumes and have a great time. The event is widely entertaining if you plan to watch it with friends or family.
7. Rio Theatre
Are you a movie fan? The Rio Theatre is an old local Vancouver hidden gem. The Rio shows many independent films and older movies. They do hold movie events from time to time, too.
Experience Activities In Vancouver Off The Beaten Path
Vancouver locals know about many places within the central city; however, many locals will drive out to other popular locations outside the city.
8. Extreme Air Park
If you are looking for something non-touristy to do with children, head to Extreme Air Park, an indoor trampoline park. There are three locations: Richmond, New Westminster, and Langley.
Other activities inside include glow-in-the-dark rock climbing, dodgeball, foam pit zone, and more.
9. Lighthouse Park (West Vancouver)
Year-round, you can find many locals and tourists at one of the most notable locations in Vancouver, Lighthouse Park. The functioning lighthouse was deemed a National Historic Site in the 1870s.
Many Vancouverites love to go to Lighthouse Park to walk the loop around the park, which takes about an hour or two to complete; however, it is an easy trail. Or hang out, have a picnic, and watch the sunset from one of the best sunset spots in Vancouver.
You do not have to walk to the loop; you can also walk directly to see the lighthouse or down to the lookout on the rocks.
Parking tends to be harder to find, especially during sunny days, weekends, or summer months. It is also one of the best places to propose in Vancouver.
10. Cypress Lookout
One of the best viewpoints in the city to overlook Vancouver is the Cypress Lookout. It is an excellent spot to hang out with friends or your significant other and watch the sunset into the evening.
There are benches you can sit on to enjoy the panoramic view of the cityscape.
11. Deep Cove
Deep Cove in North Vancouver is another popular spot. It is also the spot if you want to experience outdoor activities in Vancouver that do not require you to travel hours away.
Things to do in Deep Cove include kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, and more in the cove. Although you can rent kayaks on the beachfront at the Deep Cove Kayak Centre, kayak tours are also available.
You can also hang out at Panorama Park. The best hike, the Quarry Rock Hike, is open depending on the season. If you were to go when it is opened, you could hike toward the top of a massive rock and have a stunning view of the cove down below.
Getting into the lower mainland destinations, Steveston is a neighbourhood in Richmond. You can find many seafood and pizza restaurants along the waterfront on Bayview Street, walk out on the Steveston Warf, or enjoy the Steveston Dragon Boat Festival during the summer.
Many locals come out to Steveston to enjoy a fish and chips meal. Down the road is Garry Point Park. The Kuno Japanese Garden and the Steveston Fisherman’s Memorial are notable attractions within the park.
13. New Westminster Quay
The New Westminster Quay (pronounced KEY) is a fantastic boardwalk along the Fraser River. It is similar to the seawall in Downtown Vancouver but is not as long.
Walking along the quay is a great way to get out and get some air with family or friends. At the beginning of the boardwalk, there are a couple of markets, a gelato store and a few other coffee shops.
At the end of the boardwalk, there is a playground for children to run around. I used to play on the playground quite often when I was younger.
Getting to the New Westminster Quay is easy. All you have to do is travel Eastbound on the Expo Line and get off at Columbia Station.
14. Cloverdale Flea Market
The Cloverdale Flea Market is out in Cloverdale, Surrey, which is about a 45-minute or so drive outside of Vancouver.
You can find all sorts of nick-nacks, food and many other vendors. However, the Coverdale Flea Market is only open on Sundays from 6 AM to 3 PM.
15. Fort Langley
Even further out of Vancouver is the Township of Fort Langley. Fort Langley was the base for trading and selling goods in the 1800s, owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The primary source of trade the fort was known for was fur.
It is a fantastic historic site to learn about the history of Indigenous people and the fur trade process. As a kid in elementary school, having a field trip to Fort Langley was pretty popular, which I did go to a lot.
The national site is excellent for children. You can experience panning for gold (the most popular interactive activity), learning about blacksmithing, walking along the fort, and many other educational experiences.
Walking around the town is a great experience as well. You may notice the yellow town hall looks familiar; why? Fort Langley is a famous filming location for many television shows and movies.
Places To Eat In Vancouver – A Local’s Suggestion
You cannot experience adventures in Vancouver without trying the food. I may be biased, but Vancouver has many incredible restaurants and various choices.
16. Phenom Penh
First things first, Phenom Penh. A Cambodian and Vietnamese infusion restaurant that is always excellent. Back in the day, only locals knew about this restaurant.
However, if you are a friend of a local, they probably mentioned Phenom Penh to you.
Suppose you are visiting or staying in Vancouver for the first time. In that case, I highly recommend dining in or getting takeout from Phenom Penh.
Their chicken wings are my favourite and the most popular item on the menu. I also love eating the Beef Luc Lac.
17. New Town Bakery
New Town Bakery is not too far away from Phenom Penh. So after having a meal, head over to New Town to grab some Chinese and Filipino pastries and baked goods. One of the best places to get fresh bakery items in the city.
Our go-to orders are their egg tarts, chicken buns, and BBQ pork buns. But, honestly, all their bakery items are good, and you can not go wrong. You can also dine in the restaurant for lunch or dinner!
MeeT is an excellent restaurant in Vancouver that caters to vegetarians and vegans.
I love going to MeeT even though I am not vegetarian or vegan. They have three locations: Gastown, Main Street, and Yaletown.
💡 Note: There are nuts used in the kitchen.
19. Border Burrito
A new location that popped up on the Eastside is Border Burrito. Border Burrito is an excellent location if you are looking for Mexican takeout tacos, burritos, quesadillas and more.
Another fantastic location for traditional Mexican food is Adelitas. Everything is homemade, even the ice cream they serve with the churros!
The location is a small restaurant; sometimes, during the dinner rush, it can get busy.
21. Happy Sushi
Happy Sushi is one of my favourite sushi restaurants to order from in Vancouver. The reason why is they make massive sushi rolls instead of the traditional small rolls.
It is a small restaurant, and again, like Adelitas, it can get busy during the dinner rush.
22. The Eatery
One of my favourite locations to eat on the West side of Vancouver is the Eatery. It is a funky twist on your typical Japanese restaurant with crazy decorations but still an excellent atmosphere. The menu has a wide variety of drinks, cocktails, and many food options.
Seasonal Events In Vancouver
These are the seasonal local events that many Vancouverites like to attend.
23. Vancouver’s Greek Summerfest
Vancouver’s Greek Festival happens for two weeks during the summer. You can enjoy Greek dishes, dessert, entertainment, and live music and enter the raffle; a trip to Greece has always been the grand prize.
24. Polar Bear Swim
The Polar Bear Swim is a yearly tradition in Vancouver on New Year’s Day. Hundreds of people will head to English Bay Beach to plunge into the cold ocean water yearly.
Now, you do not have to go to English Bay to participate. You can do so at a lake or an outdoor swimming pool. Make sure you are doing the polar bear swim safely!
Playland/PNE is an annual fair that happens every summer. There are differences in the names; however, they are located on the same grounds.
Playland is where they have all the rides and fair games, which run most of the summer.
PNE, on the other hand, only opens during the last month of the summer and the tail end of Playland, and it has food trucks, food stalls, and more exhibits and shows.
26. Fright Nights
Another local event that happens in Vancouver is Fright Nights. Playland/PNE hosts Fright Night and is open every year in October for Halloween.
The grounds will have many different themed haunted houses around the park. In addition, the park will be all decked out in Halloween-themed decorations.
27. Richmond Night Market
Going to the Richmond Night Market is one of the most popular local events and the biggest thing to do in the summer in Vancouver.
If you love food, you can expect plenty of food vendors with a variety of different styles of food, from BBQ skewers, shaved ice desserts, ramen and more.
You can also enjoy shopping from local small shops or vendors only open during the night market. As well as entertainment and fair games.
If you decide to drive to the Richmond Night Market, parking is free; however, parking can be tough to find. Or, if you travel by transit, hop on the Canada Line and get off at Bridgeport.
💡 Tip: If you are driving, parking is much easier to find a few hours after opening. Also, buying a Zoom Pass is worth the money if you plan on going multiple times.
28. Honda Celebration of Lights
One of the most significant Vancouver events of the summer is the Honda Celebration of Lights. Like the Richmond Night Market, the celebration is one of Vancouver’s summer activities where you can catch thousands of locals together.
Massive fireworks display on one of the barges, and thousands of Vancouverites and tourists flock to the beaches of Vancouver to watch the three-day event at the end of July.
It is a competition between three countries (Canada is one of them). You can vote on which country had the best fireworks display that evening.
The duration of the fireworks show is about 25 minutes long. However, many locals, during the day of the fireworks, like to pick a spot on the beach until 10 PM.
So, if you plan to watch the fireworks highly recommend spending an entire day at the beach for the best spot.
29. Ice Skating
Ice skating is a Vancouver thing to do in the winter. Honestly, it is a Canadian thing to do in the winter, but many locals love to go ice skating in the winter.
Tourist locations for ice skating are Robson Square Ice Rink and Skate Plaza at the Shipyards (Lower Lonsdale, North Vancouver). Both places, especially Robson Square Ice Rink, will be crowded most of the season.
However, for the experience of ice skating like a local, community centres with indoor ice rinks tend to have scheduled days in the winter for public skating for a couple of hours.
List of a few ice rinks around the city:
- Britannia Community Centre
- Kitsilano Community Centre
- Killarney Community Centre
- Trout Lake Community Centre
If you want to look at the schedule for when the specific public skate days are, here is the link.
30. Vancouver Christmas Market
The Vancouver Christmas Market is a fun winter event in Jack Polle Plaza in Coal Harbour. It is a traditional German Market where you can find German sweets, treats, food, and drinks.
The small market is excellent for hanging out with family or taking your children.
31. Dine Out Vancouver Festival
Dine Out Vancouver Festival is one of the most popular things to do as a Vancouver local. Over 300 high-end to casual restaurants all over the city participate in Dine Out annually.
A set menu and course meals are prepared specifically for this two-week festival, usually around the beginning of the year.
More information on Dine Out Vancouver Festival.
How Many Days Do You Need In Vancouver
Depending on what you plan to do in Vancouver will determine how many days you should stay. If you plan to only stay in the downtown core area, you will only need a weekend or three days.
But suppose you plan on venturing out to other locations around Vancouver. In that case, I recommend five to seven days in Vancouver.
Best Time To Visit Vancouver
The best time to visit Vancouver is in May and September, especially if you want to avoid rain while visiting. However, visiting during this time is in the peak tourist season, resulting in higher costs.
On the other hand, if you are trying to be more budget-conscious and do not mind rain or cold, October to April offers more affordable options.
Snow can occur in the lower mainland from mid-November to February, but the snow does not usually stick around for a long period of time as the rain will melt it away. But the winter months are also the rainiest.
How To Get Around Vancouver
Vancouver is relatively easy to get around. Local transit can be daunting but easy and the best way to get around Vancouver. Vancouver’s transit consists of the SkyTrain with train lines connecting to the city’s outskirts.
The Canada Line connects Downtown Vancouver to the airport and multiple buses that will take you to the SkyTrain, or Canada Line, or locations the trains cannot.
You will need to buy a Compass Pass or Compass Card to get around. However, buses also accept coins. You can purchase Compass Passes at every SkyTrain and Canada Line station.
Compass Cards are reloadable and reusable cards you can purchase from customer service at Waterfront Station. They are excellent for long-term stays in Vancouver.
You can also drive in Vancouver. It is best to go if you plan to explore outside of Vancouver. However, I would not recommend it in Downtown Vancouver as it can get congested and finding parking is a nightmare.
Where To Stay In Vancouver
Are you trying to figure out where to stay in Vancouver for the first time? In that case, areas and neighbourhoods around the city are in better locations than others, and you do not need to use transit or a car to get around.
💎 Best Luxury Hotel – The Rosewood Hotel Georgia
✅ Excellent location
✅ Highly Rated Customer Service
The Rosewood Hotel Georgia is a renowned luxury hotel in Vancouver, offering an exceptional guest experience. It combines modern elegance with a rich historical heritage.
⚖️ Best Mid-Range Hotel – Hotel BLU
✅ Free WIFI
✅ Complimentary Bike Rentals
Hotel Blu in Vancouver provides a contemporary and comfortable stay for guests. It offers modern amenities and a convenient location in the city.
🎯 Best Budget-Friendly Hotel – Best Western Plus Sands
✅ Excellent Location
✅ 24-Hour Front Desk
The Best Western Plus Sands in Vancouver provides comfortable accommodations for travellers. It offers practical amenities and a convenient city location.
Non Touristy Things To Do In Vancouver — FAQs
These are some frequently asked questions on non-touristy things to do in Vancouver.
Is Vancouver A Walkable City?
Yes! Vancouver is a walkable city. Downtown Vancouver is easy to walk around and more condensed than you think. Walking from one neighbourhood to another will take around 5 to 20 minutes.
What Do Locals Call Vancouver?
What do locals call Vancouver, you may ask? There are a couple of names that come to mind. But, of course, locals are also called a specific name.
The name given to locals born and raised in Vancouver, which you probably have seen throughout this post, is “Vancouverites.”
Since Vancouver is a temperate rainforest, which means ample rainfall, thus the given name of “Raincover.”
Another name for Vancouver that locals gave is “No Fun City.” People gave the name No Fun City because the nightlife or sometimes certain things that happen in Vancouver tend to be lame or boring.
What Is Vancouver Known For?
Vancouver is known for many different things. The beautiful mountain ranges, islands on the coast, the diversity and culture of people, wildlife and much more.
What most people would say put Vancouver’s reputation on the map for tourism and a popular travel destination to this day was Expo 86.
Held in 1986 in Vancouver, British Columbia, The World Exposition on Transportation and Communications was a world-fair event. Millions of people worldwide would travel to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event in Vancouver.
Where Is The Hipster Part Of Vancouver?
The hipster part of Vancouver is around the Mount Pleasant and Main Street areas. There are many hip coffee shops, restaurants, and clothing stores.
What Is The Dress Code For Vancouver?
Vancouver typically has no dress code, but most people wear casual, athleisure, and business attire (typically only in Downtown Vancouver for work).
Conclusion: Non Touristy Things To Do In Vancouver
I hope this helped you know all the ins and details on how to experience non touristy things to do in Vancouver from a local.
Vancouver is full of many different things to see and do for everyone in the city, whether you are a tourist or moving to Vancouver.
Have a good day 🙂