Lonsdale Quay and Lower Lonsdale
When you take the 15-minute SeaBus ride from Vancouver’s Waterfront Station over to the North Shore you land at Lonsdale Quay, home to the Lonsdale Quay Public Market and close to a variety of interesting places. The entire neighbourhood is known as Lower Lonsdale.
What to Expect
At first, North Vancouver‘s Lonsdale Quay might seem unimpressive if you arrive by water. As you exit the SeaBus terminal, straight in front of you is a giant concrete bus terminal, which is convenient if heading someplace else on the North Shore directly. Don’t be fooled by the uninspiring first impressions!
Walk over to your right as you exit the SeaBus terminal and you’ll find the main attraction – the Lonsdale Quay Public Market.
Walk further on around and you’ll come across Shipbuilders’ Square – home of North Vancouver’s amazing Shipyard Night Market in the summer. And a little further on you’ll find the Shipbuilder’s Pier which is a nice place for a stroll.
Or, instead of turning right as you exit from the SeaBus, if you turn left past the McDonald’s, through the taxi and drop off parking and then down a small lane, you’ll come to Waterfront Park (where in the summer of 2021 you were allowed to drink alcohol in public during set times).
See below for more details on each of the above mentioned places in North Vancouver’s Lower Lonsdale and Lonsdale Quay area.
Lonsdale Quay Public Market
The public market has been a North Shore attraction since Expo ’86 – Vancouver’s 1986 World’s Fair. Inside the market you’ll find an eclectic selection of stores selling everything from wine to candies, fish, art, fresh produce and flowers.
Outside the market in the summer there is often live entertainment. Also, if you climb up the stairs to the observation tower (the bright red one with the giant Q at the top), you’ll find a beautiful view of Vancouver in the distance.
Making a very interesting daily public market even more interesting is the Lonsdale Quay Farmers Market that takes place right outside the Quay on Saturdays from May until October from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Although a tiny farmers market compared to other Metro Vancouver farmers markets, Saturdays in the summer are a great time to visit the Quay, and a good day to pick up farm fresh produce.
In addition to shops and places to eat, there is also a place to stay overnight. The Lonsdale Quay Hotel offers boutique accommodations on the top two floors of the public market’s building.
To learn more about the year-round indoor shops see our article about the Lonsdale Quay Public Market.
Lonsdale Quay Events
The Lonsdale Quay Public Market puts on free events from time to time. Around Chinese New Year, for example, they host fan dancing, kids’ craft activities and a lion dance. Events and entertainment also usually take place at the Quay around Family Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Canada Day and other seasonal holidays.
In the summer there is also usually live music, yoga (or some other kind of exercise class) and occasionally even a free outdoor movie outside in the plaza.
(NOTE: Because of COVID-19, most events at the market were cancelled in 2020. Many likely didn’t take place in 2021 either. Some events may happen in 2022 on a smaller scale, although exact details are to be confirmed.)
Chinese New Year at Lonsdale Quay
The Lunar New Year was celebrated at Lonsdale Quay with lion dancing and other cultural activities on Saturday, February 1st, 2020. The schedule of events for the day was the following:
- 1:30 pm – Chinese cooking demonstrations (at the Community Kitchen)
- 1:30 pm – Traditional Chinese music performance (by Anna Zhou Guzheng)
- 2:30 pm – Chinese fan dancing (by Jessica Yue)
- 3:45 pm – Lion dancing
Family Day at Lonsdale Quay
Family Day takes place on the third Monday in February in British Columbia. On that day every year, including on February 17th in 2020, Lonsdale Quay celebrates with a day of family-friendly activities.
The schedule of activities for the event in 2020 is below. (Note: Times and other details were subject to change.)
- 11:00 am to 1:00 pm – Farm animals to look at (in the East Plaza area)
- 11:30 am to 1:30 pm – Face painting (free) and balloon twisting (for a fee)
- 1:00 am – 3:00 pm – Cookie decorating (in the Kids Area on the 2nd floor)
In addition to the above, there was also live music featuring a variety of local musicians. Unless otherwise noted, activities were free. Donations to the BCSPCA, however, are greatly appreciated.
St. Patrick’s Day at Lonsdale Quay
Lonsdale Quay celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in 2019 with a variety of free activities. Below was the schedule of events for the afternoon of Sunday March 17th a couple of years ago (and the next event will likely be similar):
- 11:00 am – Eire Born Irish Dancers Performance
- 2:00 pm – Lucky Leprechaun Visit
- 3:00 pm – North Shore Celtic Ensemble Performance
Children’s craft activities, balloon twisting and face painting also took place between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. Similar events take place at Lonsdale Quay at other times of the year too.
Shipbuilders’ Square & North Van Night Market
If you walk east of Lonsdale Quay for about 5 minutes you’ll come to Shipbuilders’ Square. It’s on the waterfront side of the big white Pinnacle Hotel at the bottom of Lonsdale Avenue, behind an old restored ship manufacturing building from bygone years.
Past Shipbuilders’ Square is a pier, which makes for a nice walk out into Burrard Inlet for a ways. There isn’t a lot else to see, except for Friday and Saturday evenings in the summer when the place really comes alive.
Fridays are when North Vancouver’s Shipyard Night Market usually takes place at Shipbuilders’ Square (between 5:00 pm and 10:00 pm from mid-May until late September), and Saturdays are when the Summer Sessions Concert Series takes place, with free live music in July and August from 5:00 to 10:00 pm. (Note: Both of these events were cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.)
Unlike at some of Metro Vancouver’s Night Markets (like the Richmond Night Market), you won’t find any inexpensive sunglasses, imported electronics or cheap clothing here.
The vendors at the Shipyards Night Market are typically local artisans selling everything from organic vegetables to gluten-free bread to handmade jewellery. To add to the atmosphere, a different local band performs each night.
Waterfront Park is a nice little park. It’s not outstanding, but still a nice enough place. It’s less than a 5-minute walk from the SeaBus terminal, but not easy to see at first.
In 2021 North Vancouver legalized the drinking of alcohol in a number of designated public places. Waterfront Park was one of them. Whether the policy will continue in future years, and for how long, is to be determined.
Advice and Suggestions
Below are some tips and things to know to help you make the most out of your visit to Lonsdale Quay and the Lower Lonsdale Neighbourhood.
TIP #1: Consider going to the Lonsdale Quay Market on a Friday in the late afternoon so you can combine it with a visit to the night market at Shipbuilders Square in the summer.
TIP #2: There used to be free parking on weekends and evenings at the ICBC parkade on tiny Rogers Avenue just off Esplanade. As of 2020, however, this is no longer the case. If staying for less than 1 or 2 hours though, if you park a couple of blocks or more away from the Quay you can still take advantage of North Vancouver’s free on-street parking (assuming you can find an empty spot).
TIP #3: Got little kids? Need a break from dragging them through the market? Then check out the free kids’ play area upstairs in the market building at Lonsdale Quay. It’s tiny (so your kids need to be tiny too), but the play area can keep the children happily entertained while you sit for a rest and/or read a book.
TIP #4: Tourist attractions in the area include the Shipyards (where there is a large sheltered outdoor plaza as well as a pier that goes out into the water). There is also the Polygon Gallery (which is an art museum specializing in photography) and MONOVA (which is the new Museum of North Vancouver).
To learn more about the market see the Lonsdale Quay website.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Lonsdale Quay Public Market
- Granville Island Public Market
- North Vancouver
- Vancouver’s North Shore
- North Vancouver Shipyards
- Vancouver on a Budget
Lonsdale Quay and Shipbuilders’ Square are both wheelchair and stroller accessible. Lonsdale Avenue has some nice little shops to look at in the area too, plus a number of great restaurants, but it’s a steep hill for the first eight or so blocks (kind of like San Francisco) so not good for wheelchairs, except for those with powerful motors.