Located in north-east Vancouver, Commercial Drive--from Venables in the north to Broadway in the south--is the cultural heart of East Van and one of the city's most beloved neighbourhood destinations. An eclectic mix of counter-culture and family-friendly, The Drive (as it's known locally) is the birthplace of the Vancouver Car-Free Festivals, the place to watch the World Cup in Vancouver, and the historic home of Halloween's Parade of Lost Souls.
But Vancouverites don't just go to Commercial Drive for special occasions. With it's large assortment of shops, delis, cafes, restaurants, and parks, it's a go-to destination for every-day living in Vancouver.
Use this Guide to the Top 5 Things to Do on Commercial Drive in Vancouver to discover the best things to do on Commercial Drive any day of the year.
Getting to Commercial Drive: You can drive, take the bus, or hop on the SkyTrain to Commercial Station (at Commercial Drive & Broadway).
01 of 05
Grab a Beer (or Three): Commercial Drive Bars
Commercial Drive in Vancouver isn't a nightlife district; there are pubs and bars, but they don't attract hard partying (for that you need to head downtown). But Commercial Drive is a go-to destination for beer lovers.
There are two great beer pubs on Commercial Drive that are also two of the Best Vancouver Beer Pubs & Taprooms: St. Augustine's and Biercraft Tap.
The ultra-laid-back St. Augustine's (2360 Commercial Drive) is the place to go for local beers; try their Sample Paddle to taste four different beers for under $9. For an incredibly extensive selection of Belgian beers, head to the more stylish Biercraft Tap (1191 Commerical Drive).
You can sample more local beers at several nearby breweries that have tasting rooms. Though these are not on The Drive itself, they are within a few minutes drive: Vancouver Brewery Guide.
02 of 05
Shop the Italian Delis: Santa Barbara Market
Historically the hub for Italian Canadians in Vancouver, Commercial Drive has several Italian-style delis, offering meat and cheeses at great prices and very high quality. The most popular Italian deli on the Drive is Santa Barbara Market (1322 Commercial Drive), where the line for the deli (located in the back of the store) can get so crowded on weekends that it takes 45 minutes to wait your turn. (Be sure to remember to take a number!) But people do wait 45 minutes, because that's how much they adore the delicious prosciutto, cheeses, and olives!
If you can go during the day on a week day--when the deli isn't too busy--the knowledgeable staff will help you pair your deli picks with one of their huge assortment of olive oils.
03 of 05
Bring the Kids: Baby & Toy Stores, Playgrounds & Parks
Commercial Drive in Vancouver is a great place to shop for expecting parents and parents of young kids. I bought my first nursing bra on Commercial Drive at Room for Two (1409 Commercial Drive), one of the Top 5 Baby Stores in Vancouver. When my kid was a toddler, I shopped the Drive's kid and toy stores and spent hours at the Drive's great parks (including the elaborate playground at Grandview Park).
04 of 05
Relax at a Unique Café
If you love unique cafés, Commercial Drive in Vancouver is the place to go: the Drive is teaming with independent and local cafés all along its length, ranging from Italian cafés for espresso lovers to vegetarian cafés to student haunts with late-night wi-fi.
For me, the two stand-outs are Café Deux Soleils (2096 Commercial Drive), which is both a café and one of the Best Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants in Vancouver, and the Vancouver-based JJ Beans (2206 Commercial Drive), which has the most delicious fresh muffins (not too sweet!).Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
There are many, many restaurants on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, and they cover practically every type of cuisine imaginable, from vegetarian to barbeque, El Salvadorean to Italian to Thai to Japanese, vegan muffins to poutine. Here are just a few of my favourites:
- Memphis Blues Barbeque House
- Falconetti's* - gourmet sausages
- Vera's Burger Shack
- Bandidas Taqueria
- Rinconcito Salvadorean - vegetarian options
*Falconetti's appeared on The Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in 2011.