Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rainy days shouldn't stop you from having fun

Rainy days are a fact of life on the Wet Coast, so it surprised me one morning last week when I read how U.S. day visits to B.C. are down this year, and our rainy, cool summer is being fingered as one of the reasons, especially when we're talking about people who live in this same region, with essentially the same climate.

Personally, I prefer cooler weather for my outdoor activities; it's nicer to hike or paddle in 20 degrees C than say, 28 or 30 C. And there are lots of things for visitors to do in Vancouver and area even when it's raining.

I think the weaker U.S. dollar has more to do with it than anything; it takes more American greenbacks to buy the same products and services than it did a year ago.

That being said, I thought, "What kinds of activities and are available for day-trip visitors to the Lower Mainland who want to stay out of the rain? Or for those who don't mind a bit of a sprinkle?" Bear in mind, I'm an outdoor type who is usually unfazed by any kind of weather, so to me, unless it's a monsoon, I don't usually let it stop me. But I'll try to restrict this "top five" list to stuff you can do inside - or outside with very little exposure to the elements. At a later date, I'll probably write a list of cool "outdoor" stuff to do - and there's plenty of that in B.C.
So it's raining; life still goes on ...

I won't include details about obvious things like shopping, theatres or movies; this is a list of other activities, some fairly typical, others not so much.

And armed with this list - there should be no reason not to come visit here. No excuses - at least not the rain, please...
1. Visit Bloedel Conservatory. This is probably as close as you'll come to experiencing the outdoors - while staying dry and warm indoors. Set atop Queen Elizabeth Park in central Vancouver, this geodesic dome is home to hundreds of tropical and sub-tropical plants, as well as dozens of free-flying birds. One of the main draws is its small collection of parrots - macaws, a cockatoo, some Amazons and an African grey. They are not free flighted, but very easy to see and photograph. It's a great way to spend a few rainy hours. Just minutes away by foot from the conservatory is Seasons Restaurant, where you can eat lunch or supper, before or after, your excursion. And if it stops raining, check out the surrounding gardens in the park - and the view of the north shore mountains; you can see across to North and West Vancouver from just outside the dome, if it's not raining or cloudy.

A green-winged macaw,
one of the many colourful birds you'll see at Bloedel.
 2. Visit a day spa. There are numerous wonderful day spas in and around Vancouver. Raintree Spa is just 10 minutes south of the Vancouver International Airport, down Highway 99 and into the village of Steveston. There are several Eccotique Day Spas located around the city, including two in Metrotown Mall and one in the Richmond Centre, allowing you to do some shopping before relaxing at the spa.

If you don't mind going a bit further afield,
head north of the city toward Whistler, and you can enjoy another type of spa experience: the kind you'd find in Europe at Spa Scandinave. Alternate immersions in cold pools and hot pools/steam rooms/dry saunas, throw in a Swedish or Thai yoga massage, grab a bite to eat in their dining area and you're guaranteed a good night's sleep that night.

Of course, those above-mentioned spas all offer full spa services including different types of massage (many have RMT's on their staff), waxing, pedicures, manicures and other esthetic services. But if you want a really different, once-in-a-lifetime experience at a spa in Vancouver, the place to go is the Miraj Hamma Spa on Sixth Avenue and Granville Street. There you get a full Moroccan-style day of pampering that includes a steam bath, exfoliation massage, and full body deep tissue massage all topped off with Moroccan tea and cake in private salon afterward.
Spa Scandinave: winter or summer, a great experience

3. Do a Canada Line Rail Tour. This does involve getting off and stopping, and yes, you will be outdoors at some point, so bring an umbrella. This is not a packaged program; it's simply a way of getting to know different parts of the city. Start at the SW Marine Drive station at the foot of Cambie Street. Then head north. You can be right downtown at Waterfront Station in less than 20 minutes. But that's not the point; there are plenty of interesting places to get off along the way and explore the neighborhood. You can get off at Cambie and 41st to shop in the Oakridge Centre. Further along, there's a stop at King Edward Street. Granted, if you get off here, you will need an umbrella if it's raining. But there are some really cool stores, shops and restaurants between King Edward and the next stop, Broadway-City Hall. While the King Edward stop would involve a north-south exploration of Cambie Street, the City Hall stop gives you the opportunity to go north-south along Cambie, or east-west along Broadway. Vancouver City Centre is pretty self-explanatory as is the Waterfront Station (which gives you the option of taking a water ferry across to North Vancouver - there are plenty of cool places to explore within a 15-minute walk of the ferry terminal.)

4. Visit Granville Island Public Market. Located on Granville Island, this will allow you to stay dry if you decide walking in the rain with an umbrella is not your cup of tea. There are plenty of food vendors, food kiosks where you can buy lunch, coffee shops, vendors selling crafts and other non-food items. Of course, if you do venture outside, there are lots of other attractions, including Granville Island Brewery, which gives tours (and samples!) daily.

5. Visit a museum. Any museum. There are plenty to choose from in Vancouver. One of the more unique ones is the Vancouver Maritime Museum, which features an ongoing, ever-changing line-up of exhibits, permanent collections, a heritage harbour (featuring a Viking ship) and some interactive events and activities. Other interesting museums include the Vancouver Police Museum, the Museum of Anthropology, and the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. These are just a few examples of some of the museums you can visit in Vancouver, I've barely scratched the surface. Tourism Vancouver can supply you with additional ideas.

So really, the rain is no excuse. You can do these things during a day trip to Vancouver and the surrounding area, rain or shine, but for the most part, you can do them on a rainy day, and stay reasonably dry.

Like Mark Twain said, "Everyone talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it."
 Well, this is one way of doing something about it: go out and have fun no matter what the weather.

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