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12 Cool Places British Columbia Has Kept Quiet

What are Canadians hiding from us? Look past the moose and Mounties, and you'll find our Canuck friends have a hidden universe of drinks, eats, and treats to explore. Find out more at Destination British Columbia.

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1. Gastown, Vancouver

Hisakazu Watanabe / Flickr (CC BY-SA http://2.0) / Via Flickr: canadapenguin

Gastown is to Vancouver what Shoreditch is to London: It's a rapidly re-energising neighbourhood with tons of food, drink, and shops for people seeking a break from the norm. And yes, that's a steam-powered clock, the literal heart of the area and (probably) the world's most-Instagrammed timepiece.

2. Hope, British Columbia

Karen Neoh / Flickr (CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: kneoh

Sure, this unassuming burg to the east of Vancouver has scenic views of the Fraser Valley, but more importantly it's where First Blood was shot. Yes, Hope is the home of Rambo, and you didn't even know it.

Courtesy of The Regional Assembly Of Text

Forget "I <3 Canada" T-shirts; you'll find a truly thoughtful gift at this boutique. They sell handmade journals, vintage typewriters, and all kinds of paper goodies. Seriously, if a hip Vancouverite doesn't get something from Regional Assembly for their birthday, it's been a bad year.

4. Big Bad John's, Victoria

Courtesy of Big Bad John's

Big Bad John's isn't an artisanal microbrewery, or a gastropub, or a boutique club experience. It's a blatantly fun, messy, noisy bar with bras tacked to the ceiling (don't ask) where locals are guaranteed excellent (and cheap) drinks, a bucket of peanuts on arrival, and a bloody good night out. If you like your Saturday night with a side of rocking out, this is it.

5. Fat Mao, Vancouver

Courtesy of Angus An / Maenam

In Vancouver, the name Angus An is synonymous with mind-blowing food. He's owner and head chef of the city's Michelin-starred Maenam restaurant, and his latest is about to open. Fat Mao will open its doors in the city's Chinatown this spring, offering noodles, beer, and a few sides – and that's it. When the food's this good, who needs anything else? Be one of the first through the door.

6. Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler

Bearfoot Bistro / Joern Rohde Photography

Appropriately for a ski town, the Bearfoot has an ice bar, pumping club nights, and some of Whistler's best cocktails and food. Leave your skis at home.

7. Shameful Tiki Room, Vancouver

Courtesy of The Shameful Tiki Room / Via Facebook: 579285192083653

This Main hidey-hole brings punters back to the steamy days of 1950s clubland with a wonderfully tacky selection of lounge bands, Elvis impersonators, burlesque and go-go dancing every night of the week. Put on your Hawaiian shirt and brace yourself.

8. The Sardine Can, Vancouver

A slice of Barcelona in the middle of Canada – now there's something you don't see every day. The Sardine Can transplants the traditional Spanish tapas bar with astonishing accuracy, right down to the bar top plates of octopus and chorizo and vintage salvaged lighting. Foodies rave about it, everyone else just fills up on food and sherry.

9. The World Ski & Snowboard Festival, Whistler

WSSF.com Humphreys

The young and the cool flock to the resort town of Whistler in mid-April every year for this nonstop party of live music and powder sports. World-class slopes sit side by side with all-night clubbing and outdoor gigs to make an early highlight of the year.

Acts for 2015 are just about to drop, so get your card at the ready.

10. Wildebeest, Vancouver

Courtesy of Wildebeest.

Sometimes carrots simply won't cut it. When hip Vancouverites roll out of bed on the weekend, there's only one type of cure they're after: a big, hangover-bashing breakfast at shamelessly meaty and terminally hip joint Wildebeest.

11. Cultivate Tea, Vancouver

Courtesy of Cultivate Tea, photo by Safora Lahcene / Via Facebook: 721199487948602

Need something less weighty to get your morning going? Hit up Cultivate Tea on Main Street. It's a virtual paradise of calm in a bustling city, serving up hard-to-find brews in the Chinese tradition. Best of all, the owners, Jude and Lynn, are always happy to educate you on all the amazing varieties you've been missing out on.

12. Espace d., Vancouver

Courtesy of espace d.

Come home with something that will make your house worthy of Gastown, courtesy of this amazing houseware shop. They've got lamps, pressies, soft furnishings – basically all those things you wish you had.

Seriously, why waste another spring at home? Get exploring British Columbia – they can't keep it secret forever...

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