Posted by: VPSN | December 9, 2012

Gift ideas for the Vancouver-loving public space aficionado

Beach Avenue - Detail - P1019316

UPDATEA few additions have been sent our way. Read on and see our ever-expanding list of awesome gifts…

‘Tis the season for all manner of holiday consumption and exchange… But wait, it doesn’t all have to be about crass cable-knit sweaters and electric doilies.  For the public space loving urbanists out there, there are a host of things that you can give to your friends and family that will not only make them happy, but do a nice turn for the city as well.

Here’s eight ten ideas to get you started.  (Got others to share? We welcome your additions and will update the list as appropriate.)

(1) Take your loved ones out for a bedazzling or ghostly experience.  Two of Vancouver’s biggest public spaces – Van Dusen Gardens and StanleyPark – get a special holiday make-over.  How about a trip to one or both of these seasonal gems:

(2) Support your local street performer. (Go retro, buy a CD!).  There’s tons of local musical and artistic talent to be found around the city – on the streets and in transit stations.  Like something you see or hear?  Lots of street artists offer CDs, sketches and painting for sale – a perfect opportunity to support the local scene and share some of the magic with a friend.

(3) Stay informed and stay up to date – While on the subject of street vending, keep your eyes peeled for two other items that make for great gifts.  The Hope in Shadows calendar features top-notch work by DTES photographers and Megaphone Magazine.  Revenue from both of these projects is used to provide education, training and support to low-income people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

(4) Historical pictures.  Who doesn’t like to see the way we used to live in years past?  The Vancouver Public Library has a great selection of old photographs of Vancouver – which can be purchased for reasonable cost on Floor 7 of VPL Central.  Or, you can go the DIY route and visit the Vancouver Archives on-line catalogue – where they have an amazing assortment of high-resolution photographs that you can download for free.

(A word to the wise – the VPL and Archives collections are different.  So if you’re looking for that perfect photograph of, say, Robson Square during the 1960s paint-in, you may have to visit both facilities).

(5) Friends-of Gift Memberships.  Both of the aforementioned organizations (the Vancouver Public Library and Vancouver Archives) have volunteer “Friends-of” groups that support their work.  The Friends of the VPL and Friends of the Archives both engage in special projects, raise funds for new acquisitions, and champion the work of their respective organizations. Know someone that likes libraries or gets jazzed about archival fonds?  Set them up as a patron of one of these groups by buying a gift membership.

(6) Go green with local nature.  For over two decades the Stanley Park Ecology Society has played a leadership role in the stewardship of Stanley Park.  They do this through a range of education, research and conservation programs.  You can support the good work they do by taking out a membership with their organization, sponsoring a birds nest, paying to plant saplings or several other things.  Check out the SPES gift list here.

(5) More brightening, less frightening – Bike & Ped lights.  There are too many people out there still walking and biking around without decent lights or reflective gear (Velcro bracelets, vests, etc.).  Why not keep your loved ones safe by upping their visibility.  MEC is an obvious go-to (and their new USB plug-in lights are awesome!) but there are lots of other places to get this sort of gear.

Know someone who’s not a cyclist but ought to be?  If they have a bike that’s kicking around and gathering dust – why not surprise them with a tune-up (at Our Community Bikes, or your neighbourhood bike shop).  Another idea, especially for newer bike users: give the gift of cycling confidence and sign them up for a streetwise biking course with HUB.

(6) Make a gift box on behalf of a friend or family member.  The holiday season is festive and fun for many of us.  For those less fortunate, the seasonal festivities can also be a time of loneliness and challenge – a time that is further compromised by the city’s cold, wet and rainy weather.

There are lots of organizations around town – Lookout, the Aboriginal Front Door, Covenant House, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, Carnegie, the Union Gospel Mission, the Kettle Friendship Society (to name just a few) – who will take donations of money, food, warm clothing (socks, sweaters, long johns, rainwear), toiletries, and other un-wrapped gifts.

(7) Make your own walking tour.  Why wait until May for Jane’s Walk?  Plot out a stroll and show your friends and family some of your favourite spots – the architecture you like, your favourite pieces of public art, a hidden park, other good places to meander.  Show them why you like the city.  Want to amp it up a bit? Put a few more treats into the itinerary – like a stop at your favourite café or restaurant for hot chocolate, or an end-of-walk admission ticket to the VAG or Science World.

(8) Surprise them with some random market magic.  Still searching for some stocking-stuffers?  You’ve just scored yourself a great opportunity to support Vancouver’s market scene.  Lots of choice here:  The annual Christmas Market occupies Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza between now and December 24.  Then, on Saturday, December 15, our good friends at Blim are throwing their winter market By happy coincidence, this is the same day as the Downtown Eastside Community Craft Fair at Woodwards and the 19th Annual Women’s Winter FaireAnd of course, for the foodie on your list, there’s the weeklyWinter Farmer’s Market at Nat Bailey Stadium – every Saturday from 10am-2pm).


A few additions to our list that folks have passed along…

(9a) A membership with Modo 

A casual membership to Modo (formerly the Car Co-op) costs $50 and gives you access to a range of vehicles for those times when you actually do need a car (which, for lots of folks, isn’t as as often as they think).  It turns out that the self-same membership also gives you a bunch of other perks as well, including discounts on:

And this presents us with another great avenue of gift giving to share…

(9b)  A membership in another co-operative!  You’ve probably heard about co-op housing before, but there are also a good number of co-ops that sell goods and services around town.  These include the aforementioned Modo and ever-popular MEC, as well as smaller ones like the Vancouver Tool Library or East End Food Co-op.  Co-ops are a good place to shop for those who want to support locally owned, member-driven organizations that operate with a concern for community. Buying a membership in a co-op is a great investment and a smart gift – and will turn your holiday gift exchange into a gala event!

(10) Keep track of the months with an Environmental Art calendar

More date-setting magic! The 2013 Environmental Art Calendar by Amber Lotus Publishing. It includes artwork by 2 BC artists: Nicole Dextras of Vancouver and Diana Lynn Thompson of SaltSpringIsland. It can be bought at Banyen Books in Vancouver or ordered online.

If you’ve got other public space gift ideas, please send them our way – via publicity [at] vancouverpublicspace [dot] ca. 



  1. Second the Streetwise Cycling course with HUB. Practical and awesome.

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