Vancouver is full of little secrets and undiscovered gems. Okay, we don't mean "secret" as in absolutely nobody knows about them. Still, these are some lesser-known spots that definitely deserve a little more love, so we're here to spread some!
From eclectic art galleries and green roof-top patios, to unkempt bookstores and garden cafes hidden in plain sight, there's something for everyone.
If you're aware of these, then you're a certified insider. Maybe you're planning a trip to the city and want to know its ins and outs. Either way, we've got you covered! Here are 11 of the coolest "secret" things to do or see in Vancouver.
Rennie Collection, 51 E Pender St.
If you've ever seen the words "Everything Is Going To Be Alright" mounted in bright white neon lights on a red brick wall in Gastown, then you've definitely passed by the iconic Rennie Museum without even knowing you're this close to a kick-ass art collection. The Rennie Collection is an absolute gem for eclectic art exhibitions and cool art installations that will leave you in awe and mindful contemplation. And you absolutely can't miss their rooftop patio as well!
Jimi Hendrix Shrine, 432 Homer St.
If you didn't already know this, blues/rock/hippie legend Mr. Jimi Hendrix is practically from Vancouver. Okay, not actually, but he did spend a huge chunk of his childhood here. Jimi's grandmother used to run a soul-food kitchen called Vie's where all the big names like Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong would hit up after a show. Vie's was turned into the original Jimi Hendrix Shrine, which has now been relocated to its new home at 432 Homer Street. Check out old photos and cool memorabilia at the Shrine. Admission is totally free and donations are welcome.
Hot Art Wet City
What was once a uniquely quirky and fun art gallery that hosted comedy shows, cabaret drawing classes, and weird workshops is now an art and comedy show producer that hosts different shows. To see all their upcoming events and locations, check here.
Standing Egg Coffee, 109-4501 North Rd.
Tucked away under the cement staircase of a strip mall on North Road is the cutest little coffee lab, Standing Egg Coffee. Serving up one-of-a-kind items like their matcha affogato, and super cute creations like their adorable cat coffee art, Standing Egg is one of the few pioneers of hipster coffee in Coquitlam. It might be a little hard to find at first, but you'll thank yourself for making the effort.
The Nest at UBC, 6133 University Blvd.
If you're a UBC Thunderbird then you know The Nest as your home, and it's definitely no secret to you. This hot spot is an inviting, environmentally friendly space where students can eat, shop, study, and reconnect. It even boasts a rock-climbing wall, The Pit Pub, and the Hatch Art Gallery, showcasing some of the best student art since 1970. Not to mention, delicious restaurants and even a hair salon. I mean, talk about student LIFE!
Equinox Art Gallery + Monte Clarke Gallery, 525 Great Northern Way
Kill two birds with one stone at these two amazing contemporary art galleries located right next to each other. The spaces are clean, simple, and modern, hosting an impressive roster of artists from Philippe Raphanel and Liz Magor, to Roy Lichtenstein and Jean-Paul Riopelle. By the way, The Equinox serves wine. Just sayin'.
Vancouver Art Gallery Cafe, 750 Hornby St.
A little secret garden oasis smack dab in the middle of downtown. Even though the Vancouver Art Gallery Cafe is between bustling Robson and Georgia, city dwellers hardly ever seem to notice this spot. Serving up fresh soups, salads, and paninis, plus wine and coffee, the Gallery Cafe is a great space to catch up with a friend or read a book. Shake off the daily grind with a sumptuous dessert, some classical music, and one of the best outdoor patios.
Macleod's Books, 455 W Pender St.
Stacked way more than eye-high with hundreds of piles of books ranging from modern to antique, Macleod's Books is reputed by some as "the last great bookstore." It's definitely a bibliophile's paradise. The owner of this slightly chaotic literary haven, Don Stewart, is a fascinating intellectual with boundless knowledge about practically every novel on the planet. His staff are always friendly, and you might end up spending your entire day sitting in a corner, happily browsing away.
Everett Crowley Park, 8200 Kerr St.
Nature's sanctuary hidden within East Van. A rather unlikely spot for a beautiful park, as it used to be a garbage dump back in the 60s. But since its development and reforestation in the late 80s, it was reintroduced as Everett Crowley Park. If you're canine-obsessed, then you'll fall in love. Locals always bring their pups out here on their daily walks. Enjoy the many free trails that wind through the lush forests.
Rooftop of Cactus Club Cafe Coal Harbour, 1085 Canada Place
You've probably been to this Cactus several times and had to wait at least an hour for the tables by the window. But did you know that there's an even more spectacular panoramic view from another spot? As part of the company's values in sustainability, their grassy green rooftop offers a breathtaking vista of the North Shore and is completely accessible to the public, either by staircase or elevator outside of the building. Next time you're stuck in the summer lineup, grab some Cactus take-out, head to the rooftop, and snatch the best seat!
Univrs Virtual Reality Lounge, 100–8160 Park Road
Ever watched those Samsung Christmas commercials where the family gets together and laughs at their parents trying out virtual-reality goggles? You can enjoy a few laughs now too without having to pay ridiculous amounts to buy your own VR headset. Visit Vancouver's first VR lounge and try jumping from a thousand stories high or shooting up zombies (but not really).
Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara, 1155 Resort Drive, Parksville
You'll have to road-trip a little for this gem since it's on the Island, but if you happen to make it out on a weekend getaway, you'll become instantly addicted. Indulge in a relaxing mineral pool designed to look like a grotto escape and de-stress from your 9 to 5. The Grotto Spa also offers awesome spa packages, couples packages, and beauty treatments. But, seriously, don't wait for a special occasion - treat yourself ASAP!