How to Stay Cool During the Summer Heat in Vancouver

Photo: Swimming at Kits Pool in Vancouver, BC with West Vancouver in the background; Destination Vancouver/Grant Harder

While it can be amazing to bask in the warm weather in Vancouver, sometimes it is refreshing and necessary to find ways to cool down.

Here are some suggestions for escaping the heat, Vancouver-style:

Go Somewhere Cool

Libraries, community centres, and pop-up cooling centres are great options for finding some air conditioning. As well, below are some other places and activities that are AC-friendly.

Do Some Shopping

Photo: McArthurGlen Designer Outlet

There is no shortage of opportunities to shop in Vancouver, from owner-run boutiques to large well-known international chains. If you’re looking to pop into air conditioned stores in between strolling outside, areas such as West 4th Avenue, Main Street, Robson Street, Alberni Street (luxury shopping), and Yaletown are excellent options. Plus, they all have plenty of restaurants and cafes for grabbing a bite or a cooling drink along the way.

Metro Vancouver also has some great shopping centres and outlets malls where you can experience non-stop air conditioning. CF Pacific Centre in the heart of downtown has a wide selection of international brands, as well as a Nordstrom, Hudson’s Bay, and Holt Renfrew.

Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby is an expansive mall for all your shopping needs, and has a Silver City Cineplex if you want to watch a movie before or after browsing the stores. Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver has been recently renovated with both stylish indoor and outdoor options. Aberdeen Centre in Richmond has some really unique Asian stores and food vendors/establishments. Or, if you’re looking for a bargain at an outlet mall, Tsawwassen Mills and McArthurGlen Designer Outlet (this one is outdoors with air conditioned shops) in Richmond have tons of deals for you.

Catch a Movie

Photo: VIFF Centre Lobby

Spending two or three hours in a darkened air conditioned movie theatre can be such a welcome respite from the heat. Vancouver has Cineplex multiplexes throughout the city but also some independent movie theatres well worth supporting: Dunbar Theatre is a neighbourhood favourite with some of the best popcorn in the city; the Rio Theatre shows a mix of first run, 2nd run, cult favourites, and indie flicks; VIFF Centre showcases the best of local and international cinema; and The Cinematheque, with its curation of art-house and local/international cinema, is a destination for the discerning film buff.

Go See a Live Show

Photo: Arts Club Theatre’s Kinky Boots

Theatre companies are winding down their seasons but still have some performances left before the end of summer. Popular companies include Arts Club Theatre Company, the Cultch, and the Firehall Arts Centre. The Improv Centre on Granville Island will have shows throughout the summer. Cool down in the air conditioned theatre and appreciate the talent on stage. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra also has a few more performances this summer. Finally, check out concert and event listings for indoor venues that will keep you cool while entertaining you.

Visit an Exhibition

Photo: Cyclists and pedestrians oustide of Science World in Downtown Vancouver; Destination BC/Grant Harder

A stroll through a gallery, museum, science centre, or aquarium is a lovely and interactive way to spend part of the day out of the sunlight.

While the Vancouver Art Gallery in the heart of downtown is the primary art space in the city, there are other boutique galleries, such as the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, that are really illuminating.

Museums and cultural centres in Vancouver cover the rich stories—past and present—of this land. Recommended museums include the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the Chinese Canadian Museum, the Chinatown Storytelling Centre, and the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

If you’re looking for exhibitions that educate about science and the natural world, you can visit Science World, which currently has an exhibit on T. rex: The Ultimate Predator, or the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park, where you can wander around the inside galleries and marvel at sea life. The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and the Beaty Biodiversity Museum are other great learning experiences. Finally, there’s a new immersive experience at Tsawwassen Mills: Stargazer, curated by the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.

Go for a Swim

Photo: English Bay beach; Destination Vancouver/Tanya Goehring

Vancouver beaches, such as English Bay, Spanish Banks, and Kits Beach, offer spectacular views and cooling water for a dip. If you want to go further afield, lakes such as Buntzen, Alice, and Cultus, make for fun day trips.

The City of Vancouver has public swimming pools, both indoor and outdoor, that can help you cool down. The swimming pools are located in neighbourhoods across the city. In the summer, people particularly like the outdoor ones: New Brighton, Second Beach, Kitsilano, Hillcrest, and Maple Grove. UBC also has a state-of-the-art Aquatic Centre, which you could combine with a walk around the campus.

The City operates multiple spray parks and wading pools, which are fun for the kid in everyone. Just be prepared to be sprayed with cold water—a lot! A visit to Granville Island on a hot summer’s day could also include their Water Park.

And Big Splash Water Slide Park in Tsawwassen is an all-day outing if you’re looking for slides and pools for the whole family.

Seek Shaded Areas

Stanley Park Forest Trail

Stanley Park in Vancouver. Photo: Destination Vancouver/Kindred & Scout

While nature doesn’t have artificially-created air conditioning, it does have trees that provide a host of cooling benefits. If you visit trails in forested areas such as Stanley Park or Pacific Spirit Regional Park, you can find lots of shade as well as tranquility.

Hydrate and Enjoy Cold Treats

Photo: Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

There are a multitude of cafes and restaurants for escaping the heat and enjoying a drink or bite. If you’re looking for a cold treat, check out Bella Gelateria, D’Oro Gelato & Caffe, Uno Gelato, or Passione Gelato downtown. Outside of downtown, La Casa Gelato offers 238 flavours to choose from; other fan favourites include various locations of Earnest Ice Cream, Rain or Shine Ice Cream, and Mister Artisan Ice Cream.

Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is launching a “Treat-Cycle”: every Friday from now until September 2 (noon to 4pm while quantities last) they’ll be serving a different flavour of home-made ice cream (e.g., lemon meringue pie) right outside the hotel. During Vancouver Pride Festival, the “Treat-Cycle” will appear July 29-July 31 with $1 from each sale of their Neapolitan ice cream with a rainbow shortbread cookie going to the Vancouver Pride Society Community Bursary.

Vancouver is also known for its bubble tea and healthy smoothie cafes and juice bars, such as the Juice Truck, Glory Juice Co., Xing Fu Tang, and The Alley. They’re lovely for quenching your thirst on a hot day!


NOTE: intense heat can be extremely dangerous. Please refer to Vancouver Coastal Health’s information on signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as strategies for reducing the effects of heat (e.g., taking a cold shower).

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