It’s spring break in BC’s Lower Mainland and that pretty much guarantees a gloomy weather forecast. (Old joke: how do you know what the weather’s doing in Vancouver? Easy: if you can’t see the mountains it means it’s raining and if you can see the mountains, it means it’s going to rain.)

You can’t let the wet stuff dampen your holiday spirit. Just grab the Gore-Tex and a sturdy brolly (the cheerful, wind-resistant offerings from Vancouver’s Cheeky Umbrellas are well worth the bucks) and make like a local with some of these recommended rainy-day pastimes:

Vancouver loves a Cheeky Umbrella

Vancouver loves a Cheeky Umbrella

  • Visit Hong Kong without a passport on a trip to Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre, where the city’s sizeable Asian population comes to shop, eat and be entertained. 
  • Cloudy skies only heighten the moody atmosphere of the Museum of Anthropology, a celebrated repository of Northwest Coast Aboriginal art at the University of British Columbia
  • Look up when it’s coming down: head for the snow on the nearby North Shore mountains. Look for specially priced ski-and-snowshoe packages here.
  • Steamy and tropical, the domed Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park blooms with birds, butterflies and lush floral vistas. (It’s the best place for foolproof photos, too.) 
  • Indulge your inner culture-vulture at Tickets Tonight with last-minute, half-price tickets to Vancouver’s primo arts events and wait out the monsoon in a matinée.
  • Rain or shine, the Whistler Mountaineer train between North Vancouver and Whistler is the best way to take in the coastal scenery along the Sea-to-Sky corridor. (The season runs May to October.)
  • Drop your umbrella and your shoulders and say spaaaaaaah. My favourite sanctuary is still (and will likely ever be) the Absolute Spa chain, now with a new location at Park Royal in West Vancouver. 
  • When you’ve exhausted the indoor pleasures of Granville Island Public Market, pop your top and walk the False Creek seawall west to Kitsilano Beach or east to Science World.
  • Like hockey but can’t afford tickets to a game? Head downtown to Vancity Theatre for the Hockey Nights in Film series during spring break.

Where do you like to pass a rainy day in the Lower Mainland? Please share your suggestions!


So I got this note from Pam Mandel, a Seattle travel writer, via Twitter last night:

nerdseyeview @julieoc richmond is the kinda town you want a local to drag you around. it’s not easy to know what to do/where to go, but it could be fun.

And she’s right of course. It’s easy to forget that Richmond, BC —land of mini-malls and big-box stores—is an island, with an island’s watery charms. I grew up there, so I say this with some authority. Descending into Vancouver International Airport, you stare down on Richmond’s hard, grey, flat expanse of roadways and rooftops and retail. But look to the edge of the frame, to the soft-ripened spot where the dyke holds back the mighty Fraser River: now that’s a place you ought to get to know—especially in springtime.

Bike the dyke

Bike the dyke

Richmond is below sea level and the 80-km dyke that rings the island is one of the city’s best features—and not merely as a safety measure. It’s at once a backyard fitness track for locals, a rich habitat for migratory birds, and a quiet refuge for the world-weary (except, I guess, for two weeks in 2010, when the new riverside Olympic speed-skating oval will be a little busy). 

Walk (or bike) it in the spring, when warmer weather wakes up the critters that call the marshland home. Start at Steveston village, where the annual farmers’ and artisans’ market gets underway in the parking lot of the historic Gulf of Georgia cannery every Sunday starting in late May until September. Grab a cone of fish and chips from Dave’s or Pajo’s, and then settle down at nearby Garry Point Park to catch the serendipitous photo-op of the day: Japanese box-kites slashing through the sky, or colourful fishing boats sauntering home for supper, or wizened old ladies practicing Tai Chi on the beach.

Stay long enough and you might even catch an epic sunset—a not-quickly-forgotten magenta stain in the sky over the distant Gulf Islands.  And if you’ve worked up an appetite, remember: there’s a glut of award-winning Chinese restaurants just a few miles down the road…