Spend a little time in Vancouver, and your biggest problem is going to be deciding what to do while you’re here. Start the morning with a quiet beach-side stroll, coffee in-hand. Shop eclectic local designs and global brands in the afternoon, and then end the day by seeing a show and hitting the dancefloor until the wee hours. And that’s just day one.
Vancouver is a city of unique and vibrant neighbourhoods, and you’ll find our LGBTQ2+ community living with their families, playing, and walking hand-in-hand, throughout. So where can visitors go to find the very best of Vancouver's more rainbow-centric culture? Here are our suggestions:
The West End
Vancouver’s most rainbow-emblazoned neighbourhood is called the West End and encompasses Davie Village, affectionately known as the “gaybourhood.” The West End is made up of tree-lined streets with and high and low-rise apartment buildings where people of all walks of life live.
It’s easy to find the bars, shops, and pretty much anything you like to eat (or want to try) in the Davie Village and along Denman Street. Sushi, Greek food, ramen, fresh west coast cuisine, very Canadian poutine (fries drenched in gravy and topped with cheese curds) and more can be found. You’ll notice nearly every restaurant in this ‘hood has a little rainbow flag sticker somewhere in their window.
Follow the rainbow crosswalk at Bute Street to the new Jim Deva Plaza, which is a public community meeting and gathering place, named for the late activist, and champion of LGBTQ2+ rights and free speech.
A must-visit shop is Little Sister’s Bookstore, which Jim Deva opened with Bruce Smyth in 1983. It still sells much more than books, and is a hub of social progress.
Gastown, Vancouver’s original neighbourhood circa 1867, is many things to many people. Its brick-cobbled streets and character-rich buildings attract throngs of tourists, including those looking for the famous steam clock. It’s also home to small businesses including clothing designers, tattoo shops, production and gaming companies, and even residents. Follow this brick road for restauraunts, bars, and shopping.
John Fluevog is a Vancouver local, born and raised, and his company makes some of the most colourful, fashionable, and comfortable shoes around. Find his bright and friendly store on Waterfront Street, full of funky shoes for men and women.
For designers, sewers, and decorators, Dressew on Hastings is definitely worth exploring – two floors of fabric, accessories, and various accoutrements. And if you need a feather boa or a cheap wig in a pinch, this is the place to go.
At this laid-back community you can buy a yoga mat at the original lululemon, then go downward dog (or better yet, savasana) on the beach that makes appearances all along the north side of this ‘hood. “Kits,” as locals call it, is a vibrant and walkable neighbourhood full of shopping along 4th avenue, bars, and restauraunts. From downtown or the West End, a visit to Kits is easy—just put on your walking shoes and stroll across the scenic Burrard Bridge, or rent a bicycle.
Almost every city has a street named Main, but no other has quite the hip vibe or the stellar view of Vancouver’s. Catch a transit bus to Main and 30th, and enjoy the gradual three-kilometre downhill stroll back to the Main Street Skytrain station with the downtown skyline and mountains visible ahead. Enjoy dipping into antique stores, vintage shops, and local hideouts such as The Regional Assembly of Text, with hundreds of zines and self-published books. Try a coffee tasting flight at Kafka’s Coffee & Tea, or grab some all-vegetarian pub food at the Twin Peaks theme restaurant, The Black Lodge.
There’s no better neighbourhood in Vancouver to grab a craft beer than Mount Pleasant, just north of Broadway. Main Street Brewing, Brassneck, and Red Truck Beer Company are all within walking distance of each other, and only a start to the brewery crawl that can be had.
After dark, The Biltmore, The Fox Cabaret, and the Cobalt all have a variety of entertainment from dance nights, to live music, to all-gender-inclusive drag shows.
Locally known as "The Drive," this very multicultural area is the location of the annual Vancouver Dyke March, which is a march and festival welcoming to all on the LGBTQ2+ spectrum that provides both an addition and a more grassroots community alternative to the Pride Parade.
For an Instagram-worthy rainbow photo-op, Joes Café is worth a stop on your way to The Cultch, which hosts edgy, interesting, and thought-provoking performances. LGBTQ2+ thinkers and activists such as Ivan Coyote and Vivek Shraya tend to grace The Cultch’s stages.
The Drive is also a great place to be a vegetarian. Try Banditas and Sweet Cherubim to start for all-veg menus, but most restauraunts will have something delicious on their menu for those who are meat-free.
Other Neighbourhood Resources
While the West End neighbourhood is the focus of the LGBTQ2+ specific nightlife scene, you’ll find plenty of options sprinkled throughout the city – check out our neighbourhood guide for areas to explore. One of the best lists of LGBTQ2+ nightlife establishments and events, is on GayVan.com's website.
If strutting into some high-end fashion is your bag, try Holt Renfrew – a Canadian department store with exclusive international labels and a personal shopping service that leaves no coat-hanger unturned, or the Nordstrom department store. Downtown’s Alberni Street and the South Granville area are also havens of designer style. For a whole outdoor mall of designer outlets, hop the SkyTrain on the way to or from the airport to McArthurGlen; while you’re there, make sure to grab a coffee outdoors and watch the airplanes taking off and landing right overhead.
On the hunt for something unique? Check out Gastown’s indie studios, Main Street’s excellent vintage stores, and Kitsilano’s wholesome lifestyle purveyors. For culinary gems and tasty souvenirs, it’s hard to beat Granville Island’s public market and its neighbouring stores.
For more shopping information, click here.
With a robust LGBTQ2+ community in Vancouver, it’s easy for visitors to find like-minded locals who share their special interests, hobbies and sporting pastimes. From running groups and swim clubs, to dance troupes and choirs; community health and wellness groups, to organizations dedicated to exploring Vancouver’s natural environment, you’ll find Vancouverites who share your passions.
We’ve compiled the following resources to help you find groups and organizations to connect with:
- MyDavieVillage.com offers helpful lists of groups divided into arts and culture, sports, and social groups.
- QueerActive is dedicated to healthy pursuits, from badminton to dragon boating.