The following article was contributed by Vancouver travel writer and Lonely Planet author John Lee (@johnleewriter)
Autumn in Vancouver can be a minefield of rainy days. In fact, locals rarely leave home at this time of year without umbrellas, waterproof layers or – more likely – a permanent belief that sun is just around the corner (which it often is).
But the Wet Coast doesn’t simply grind to a halt when precipitation hits. The city is crammed like an overstuffed Wellington boot with great places to shelter from annoying deluges – including one that’s a blood-warming echo of balmy tropical climes.
Cresting the hill in verdant Queen Elizabeth Park, the Bloedel Conservatory is Vancouver’s unsung grey-season hero. Beneath its Perspex triodetic dome, you’ll find the kind of lush, hothouse idyll that recalls summer…and makes you daydream about the possibility of getting a job here.
Built with the help of a large donation from the Bloedel forestry family and opened in 1969, the building’s landmark opaque roof is made from 1,490 convex triangular panels. But what’s inside is even more impressive. Once your spectacles have unfogged, you’ll wander a winding walkway through a mini-jungle of vine-striped trees, studded with cawing, neon-plumed tropical birds.
Flora highlights include banana trees, Brazilian jelly palms, Malaysian fig trees and Central American trumpet trees – as well as fragrant, bright-coloured orchids clinging to surfaces like delicate daubs of paint in an impressionist painting.
As for birdlife: you’ll hear them before you see them. Huge preening parrots perch on branches ever-ready for their camera close-ups, eye-popping golden pheasants stroll ahead looking like they own the place, and a rowdy gang of multicoloured finches and budgerigars riot over seed bowls as if it’s the only food they’ve ever seen.
But while the conservatory is my favourite rainy day refuge, it’s not my only recommended shelter spot in Vancouver.
My other tempest-trumping spots include Granville Island Public Market, where the multitude of covered stalls and enticing food court can keep your dry and occupied for hours; the Vancouver Art Gallery, where the windowless exhibition rooms mean you’re ever-oblivious to the weather outside; and MacLeod’s Books, where browsing the teetering stacks of used tomes is the perfect escape from a day of pewter-grey skies.
And if it’s still raining when you leave the store with a backpack full of cool new reads? There’s a branch of local legend The Umbrella Shop a few steps away where you can pick-up the perfect weapon for defeating the drizzle.