Seven Funky, Must-Visit Vancouver Stores

So, you’ve been to Granville Island. You’ve enjoyed the hip shops along Vancouver’s 4th Avenue. Ready for something different? Don’t want to buy just another mass-produced souvenir from the Robson stores? Here are seven indie-owned Vancouver shops that everyone will love.

1. Urban Source. Hundreds of bits ‘n’ scraps fill this store – no, it’s not a hoarder’s dream. Instead, it’s a clever shop that challenges children and adults alike to craftily reuse and recycle. Take paper and caps and create a flight of fancy in the form of a bird, or make your own decorative wrapping paper. It’s a fun way to spend $10 and make something beautiful once you get home.

Gettin' crafty with the bins at Urban Source

2. Regional Assembly of Text. If you’re helplessly devoted to type, this tiny shop will get your ink flowing. Create your own button-pin with the store’s typewriter and art supplies, browse cool ‘zines, select a handmade card, pick up a screenprinted shirt and otherwise immerse yourself in a type-cast world.

GumDrops helps you weather the weather.

3. GumDrops. Yes, it rains here. A lot. That’s no reason to hide inside. Head into the rain-focused GumDrops and pick up a gumball-colored matching set of raincoat, hat and boots. Children’s sizes are available, along with more sedate, urban rain fashions and summer (all weather!) sandals. You’ll weather any storm.

Chinatown, a kid-friendly place to go in Vancouver

4. Miscellaneous shops in Chinatown. In Vancouver’s Chinatown, a stuffed-animal wave awaits even the pickiest of children. Shops overflow with Pikachu, Hello Kitty and Disney Princesses (some authorized, some questionably authorized). We particularly like browsing businesses for Totoro-themed school supplies, cool Chinese sandals and stuffed animals. Don’t forget to visit side streets to enjoy a serendipitous shopping experience.

5. Stepback offers clever vintage and refurbished housewares, including melamine plates, children’s chairs, and 1940s-60s pastel-hued accessories. It’s a sure stop if you’re hoping to uniquely outfit the new baby’s nursery.

At 3H Craftworks

6. 3H Craftworks. This texture-rich store benefits both the manufacturer (a craft collective of developmentally disabled adults) and the consumer (you). You’ll find imaginative storyboards, hand puppets, sun hats, hand-stitched dresses and yes, even a sock monkey or two.

7. Smoking Lily. Our family’s must-stop shop for unique screenprinted tees for teens and adults, cool skirts (well, only for the ladies of the family), beautiful housewares and other one-of-a-kind items. These ahead of the trend tees, dresses and skirts aren’t cheap, but you may luck into a sale.

Do you have a favorite Vancouver shop?

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.


  • Laurie

    The moment I saw the headline I thought, “Regional Assembly of Text!” It may be the most charming stationery store I’ve ever visited.

    Vancouver Kidsbooks, on West Broadway in Kitsilano, may be the best children’s bookstore in the world. Don’t miss it. Fabulous selection for all ages, including books you can’t buy in the US.

  • Tara @ Tulip Family Travels

    Whew, kind of glad I didn’t see this list *before* TBEX! We were only in town for the weekend, and definitely didn’t need other reasons to miss out on conference time. On the other hand, I would have loved all of these shops. (The one I actually did track down, on one of our lunch breaks, was Button Button in Gastown. Button nirvana!)