One of Vancouver’s most prominent and well-known roads is Main Street. Along certain blocks it’s lined with interesting shops, cafés and restaurants.
Main Street isn’t a tourist destination like Robson Street and Granville Street are. It is, however, home to plenty of places worth visiting, and it’s popular with locals. The road stretches from Gastown and Crab Park in the north all the way to the Fraser River in the south.
One of the most notable streets in Vancouver, Main Street cuts through a wide variety of neighbourhoods and noteworthy spots. In this article we look at the areas that are more public-oriented rather than residential, with the different events and points of interest along the street.
Events on Main Street
Every year, Main Street is home to some fairly major events. They include Main Street Car Free Day, the Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival and Vancouver Mural Festival. There is also the Main Street Farmers Markets (most years, but not in 2021). Below are details about each of these events.
Main Street Car Free Day
The biggest of four annual Car Free Day events in the City of Vancouver, Main Street Car Free Day takes place on Father’s Day weekend in June. The other events put on by the same parent non-profit organization within the city are West End Car Free Day and Commercial Drive Car Free Day, plus a number of smaller and less formal block parties in Kitsilano.
During the Main Street event, stretching all the way from Broadway to 30th Avenue, over a hundred thousand people fill the street. There is live music and other performances on a dozen stages, plus food trucks, patios and vendors of all kinds.
Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade
Part of the city’s Vaisakhi Festival Celebrations, this annual event takes place in April. It celebrates the Punjabi New Year.
The parade begins at the Ross Street Temple just off of Marine Drive. In addition to a number of other roads, it goes along Main Street from Marine Drive to 49th Avenue. The event is Vancouver’s largest single-day festival. As many as 300,000 people attend each year.
The Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade packs Main Street for blocks on end with a celebratory atmosphere. East Indian music fills the air and free food is given away at stands along the route.
Vancouver Mural Festival
The Vancouver Mural Festival usually happens in August. It runs for a few days during which time a number of murals are painted on the sides of buildings on and around Main Street. There is also usually a one-day street party.
Places to Visit Along Main Street
There are a number of spots along Main Street that are worth visiting. Below are some of the biggest and most significant.
Vancouver’s Historic Gastown
One of the oldest neighbourhoods within the City of Vancouver, Gastown is a great place to shop as well as learn about Vancouver. Its entrance is right next to Waterfront Station, giving it easy access to and from the surrounding area.
Attractions in Gastown include the Vancouver Lookout, the steam clock and various art galleries including some specifically for Indigenous art. The neighbourhood is also one of the best places to eat in Vancouver. It has a high concentration of top restaurants and bars.
TIP: If you’re looking to explore the area more in-depth, Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours offers great guided tours through Gastown as well as other parts of the city. Vancouver Mysteries also operates outdoor adventure games in the area.
The Chinatown neighbourhood in Vancouver is the largest one of its kind in Canada. It’s also right in the downtown core and, like Gastown, it has great spots to eat and shop at. One of the most well-known places in Chinatown is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classic Chinese Garden. The garden is a beautiful, relaxing place to visit and explore.
In January or February there is the annual Chinese New Year parade with dozens of entries in the procession. The sidewalks get pretty crowded during the event, so try to get there early if you can!
(Note: To learn about British Columbia’s other famous Chinatown neighbourhood, see the website victoriasbestplaces.com.)
Also known as Punjabi Market, Little India covers a couple of blocks of Main Street from around 48th to 51st Avenue. It’s tiny and not nearly as large as Chinatown or even Little Italy on Commercial Drive. If you’re looking for quality Indian food, fashion and other products, however, it’s a good place to visit. The area also hosts part of the Vaisakhi Parade which includes the neighbourhood in its route.
Located in False Creek, Science World is a fun, family-friendly science centre. It’s a great spot for children especially, but offers a good time for all ages.
Science World’s address is 1455 Quebec Street, so it’s not actually on Main Street. It’s just a block or so away though, so pretty close.
If you’re looking for an activity on a rainy day this is one of the better attractions in the city. On top of its interactive exhibits, there is an OMNIMAX Theatre which is the biggest of its kind anywhere. The theatre shows movies on a massive screen. (Note: As of February, 2024, the OMNIMAX Theatre is temporarily closed. It has been since the start of the pandemic. We hope to see it re-open soon.)
Vancouver’s Heritage Hall
Heritage Hall is a historic building at 3102 Main Street (at the corner with 15th Avenue). Built in 1915, it was originally a post office. Today it’s used for both public and private events.
The building isn’t a tourist attraction or a place you visit when there isn’t an event happening. It’s a beautiful building, though both on the interior and exterior. Lots of interesting events take place inside.
To learn more about the building, see the Heritage Hall website.
Places to Shop and Eat
As mentioned, there are tons of places for eating and shopping on Main Street. Outside of the areas mentioned above, below are some other places you can check out when you’ve got that itch.
- Brassneck Brewery – a highly-rated craft beer establishment. Located at 2148 Main Street, it’s most known for its tasting room where you can sample a variety of drinks.
- Eugene Choo – go to 3683 Main Street to check out one of the many popular boutiques on Main. The place offers high-quality fashion and accessories for both men and women.
- Lucky’s Doughnuts – if a sweet treat is more your speed, 2902 Main Street is a top-tier place to buy doughnuts. You even get the option to place your order in advance online before going to pick it up.
- Much & Little – a gift store at 2543 Main Street that sells clothing and accessories on top of products like books, candles and blankets.
- Sweet Thea Bakery – a great place to pick up fresh-baked bread and delicious cakes and pastries at 4305 Main Street.
- The General Public Sushi Lodge – one of the highest-rated sushi places in the city, it describes itself as an “unpredictable” Asian-fusion restaurant with a fun atmosphere.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver’s Most Interesting Streets
- Best Places to Eat and Drink in Vancouver
- Vancouver’s Gastown
- Vancouver’s Chinatown
- Commercial Drive