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Off the beaten path: What are the most unique things to do in Vancouver?

Off the beaten path What are the most unique things to do in Vancouver

When you think of Vancouver, your mind might dart to the usual suspects: towering mountains, expansive parks, and that Instagrammable skyline. 

But if you’re the type who prefers to stray off the beaten path, well we’ve got your back. The word “ordinary” is easier to toss from your vocabulary than you think when you’re in Vancouver.

From secret underground tours to culinary adventures that defy convention, we’ve scoured the city’s nooks and crannies to bring you the most uniquely Vancouver experiences. So, forget the travel brochures, and get ready to explore Vancouver like you’ve never seen it before!

Enjoy a Gastown food tour with Vancouver Food Tours

– Media from tastevantours

Location: 318 Homer St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2V2, Canada

Contact: +1 778-228-7932

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Friday – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM


For a starting price of $169.99, this 3-hour tour isn’t just a walk with snacks, it’s a carefully crafted journey through Gastown’s most beloved eateries. And if you’re feeling fancy, add a splash of spirits to your tour for an extra $30.

Here, you get to indulge in dishes like seafood tostadas and the extravagant 23 Karat Gold Pizza. Plus, you also contribute to a great cause when you join this tour. A portion of your ticket supports Employ to Empower, a local non-profit that helps work and social engagements. 

But remember, with a group size capped at 16, it’s as intimate as a dinner party with new friends. 

Explore Stanley Park in style in a horse-drawn carriage

– Media from discoverstanleypark

Location: 735 Stanley Park Dr, Vancouver, BC V6G 3E2, Canada

Contact: +1 604-681-5115

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM


What better way to jewel gaze than from the comfy seat of an old-fashioned carriage, where horsepower still means, well, horsepower? This isn’t your average, everyday park visit. This is Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours we’re talking about.

Imagine it. You’re there and the gentle trot of the horses syncs with the heartbeat of the city, while a professional guide narrates your journey through the lush landscapes. If you’re lucky, you might even exchange a nod with a local raccoon (just kidding, please don’t actually do that).

With clip-clop tempo as your soundtrack, you’ll pass by landmarks that are as much a part of Vancouver as the rain. From the stately Lions Gate Bridge to the enigmatic totem poles, every stop is a story, and every view is a postcard begging to be sent.

Visit the pixelated orca sculpture

– Media credit to ferrous_water

Location: Vancouver Convention Centre West Building, 1055 Canada Pl, Vancouver, BC V6C 0C3, Canada

Contact: +1 604-689-8232

Opening hours: Open 24 hours


Created by the culturally visionary Douglas Coupland, this pixelated masterpiece depicts a killer whale leaping from the digital depths and it’s anything but ordinary.

Crafted in 2009, the Digital Orca, with its black and white cubic form, stretches the imagination and transforms a familiar symbol of the West Coast into a pixelated vision that seems to jump right out of a computer screen. 

By day, the sculpture is a sleek and modern marvel, its aluminum cladding shimmering in the sunlight. But as dusk falls, it transforms yet again – its integrated lighting components casting a glow that echoes the changing moods of the harbour.

Join the Polar Bear Swim at English Bay

– Media credit to 5050travelog

Location: Beach Ave, Vancouver, BC V6C 3C1, Canada


The Polar Bear Swim has been making a splash in Vancouver since 1920. Every 1st of January at 2:30 PM, thousands of Vancouverites, wearing bikinis to banana costumes, plunge into the icy embrace of the Pacific. Yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds!

In addition to the icy plunge, the event is a full-blown festivity with live music, food trucks, and warming tents to defrost those toes. And, for the competitive spirits, there’s even a 100-yard dash to a marker buoy. 

Safety is key at this chilly celebration. If you have heart problems or aren’t feeling well, it’s best to enjoy the event from the warmth of the shore. And remember, even the bravest of polar bears should keep their dip under 15 minutes to avoid turning into an ice sculpture.

Attach a padlock at the Vancouver Love Lock Sculpture

– Media credit to sophisticlicks

Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Opening hours: 

  • Monday to Sunday – 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM


Known as “Love in the Rain”, this sculpture by local artist Bruce Voyce is a canvas for declarations of love and is a message in metal that love knows no age, no gender, and indeed, no boundaries.

The idea is simple yet profound: engrave your name, attach the lock, and throw away the key, symbolizing love that’s meant to last forever. 

And if you’re wondering about the keys, they’re not forgotten! They’re collected and later recycled, perhaps to become part of another artistic tribute to love.

Witness the Gastown Steam Clock

– Media credit to yyan.photograph

Location: 305 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B9, Canada

Contact: +1 604-873-7000

Opening hours: Open 24 hours


Contrary to its Victorian-era facade, the Gastown Steam Clock is a relatively modern addition to the city that’s crafted to conceal a steam grate as part of Vancouver’s distributed steam heating. 

Powered by steam from the city’s heating network, the clock features a miniature steam engine that drives a series of actions that culminate in the chain lift movement of steel balls. 

And let’s not forget the auditory delight – instead of bells, the steam powers whistles that produce Westminster “chim” and signal the time. It makes every quarter-hour a spectacle to behold. 

Interact with the laughing men statues at English Bay

– Media credit to university_canada_west

Location: Morton Park, 1800 Morton Ave, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Contact: +1 604-873-7000

Opening hours: Open 24 hours


Created by the renowned artist Yue Minjun and installed in 2009, this ensemble of 14 bronze giants captures Minjun’s face frozen in a state of ecstatic laughter, and it’s infectious. Just try standing among them without cracking a smile.

This beloved installation was donated to the city by Chip and Shannon Wilson to ensure these jubilant figures would continue spreading cheer in Morton Park. 

With their exaggerated expressions and dynamic postures, these statues invite you to ponder – are they laughing with you, or at the world’s absurdity?

Watch a movie in a morgue

– Media credit to policemuseum

Location: 240 E Cordova St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1L3, Canada

Contact: +1 604-665-3346

Opening hours: 

  • Thursday to Saturday – 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Sunday – 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM


Coined “Movies in the Morgue”, this event transforms the old City Morgue into a cinema space that offers an ambiance that’s, let’s say, quite unlike your standard movie theatre. 

Held on the second Tuesday of each month, this event has garnered a reputation for being a unique blend of spooky and entertaining. It’s the kind of thing you might do if you’ve braved all sorts of horror movies and are looking for a new thrill. 

With tickets priced at $18.50, it’s an affordable yet unforgettable evening out. Plus, they even announce movies that are on their waitlist! You can check them out here.

Experience Canada from above with FlyOver Canada

– Media credit to experienceflyover

Location: 999 Canada Pl #201, Vancouver, BC V6C 3E1, Canada

Contact: +1 855-463-4822

Opening hours: 

  • Monday to Thursday & Sunday – 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • Friday to Saturday – 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM
  • Sunday – 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM


This attraction isn’t your typical ‘sit back and watch’ experience. It’s a multi-sensory adventure that makes use of state-of-the-art technology, including a gigantic spherical screen that creates a feeling of flight. 

Here, you’ll dangle your feet in the air, feeling every tilt and turn, as you’re whisked from the roaring Niagara Falls to the towering Rockies. The special effects – wind, mist, and even scents – add layers of immersion to the 8-minute journey that’s designed to awe and inspire.

It’s not just about the ride, though. Your total experience will last around 30 minutes, starting with a pre-show that introduces you to Canada’s diverse culture. Then, you’ll proceed to the boarding zone for your flight briefing before finally taking off on the Ultimate Flying Ride.

Climb the Gastown’s Woodward’s spiral staircase

– Media credit to sina.__.sf

Location: 128 W Cordova St, Vancouver, BC V6B 0E6, Canada

Opening hours: Open 24 hours


Originally constructed in 1903, this building was once the epicentre of Vancouver’s shopping universe. Over the years, it expanded and adapted, until its eventual decline and closure in the 1990s. 

However, the story didn’t end there. The building transformed, and today, the Woodward’s Building complex is a hub for mixed-use facilities, including residential units, a university campus, and of course, the iconic spiral staircase. 

Climbing this instagrammable staircase is an ascent through layers of history that have woven the fabric of this iconic neighbourhood.

Dive into a virtual reality adventure at Evolve Virtual Reality

– Media credit to evolvevirtualreality

Location: 411 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1R4, Canada

Contact: +1 604-829-2486

Opening hours

  • Monday to Thursday – 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM
  • Friday – 12:00 PM to 12:00 AM
  • Saturday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM


With over 50 games, escape rooms, and experiences Evolve VR is like the Disneyland of digital realms. Whether you’re battling zombies, slicing beats in rhythm games, or exploring alien landscapes, this place has it all, and then some.

The comfort doesn’t end with the virtual experiences – the lounge areas are also designed for you to relax and watch the action unfold or debrief with your squad post-adventure. 

And if you’re worried about the tech, don’t be. Evolve VR boasts top-of-the-line hardware and attentive staff to ensure your experience is nothing short of stellar. 

Try your hand at glassblowing with Terminal City Glass

– Media credit to terminalcityglass 

Location: 1191 Parker St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2H3, Canada

Contact: +1 604-253-2667

Opening hours

  • Monday to Friday – 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM


As Canada’s first non-profit, cooperative glass arts facility, Terminal City Glass is all about immersing yourself in a fiery world of artistic expression. 

Whether you’re swirling colours into a paperweight, blowing your first glass vessel, or crafting festive ornaments, this place turns up the heat on creativity. With classes for all skill levels and a supportive community vibe, this place offers a sizzling experience.

Kayak at dusk with Deep Cove Kayak

– Media credit to deepcovekayak

Location: 2156 Banbury Rd, North Vancouver, BC V7G 2T1, Canada

Contact: +1 604-929-2268

Opening hours: 

  • Monday to Sunday – 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM


Kayaking at dusk with Deep Cove Kayak offers a unique paddling experience that’s a world apart from your usual daytime dip in the water. It’s a journey into the serene and sometimes mystical evening atmosphere of North Vancouver’s waterfront. 

The “Friday Night Lights” series, which runs from June through Septemeber, provides an opportunity to experience the waters under a different light, quite literally. With your kayak outfitted with lights, you’ll be navigating through the peaceful evening waters.

While the adventure is exhilarating, remember to dress warmly as the evening air over the water can be quite crisp.