I’ve always been drawn to the sun. Like a housecat, I’ll seek out a sunbeam and bask in it all day. So needless to say that the dark and damp Vancouver winters are not usually my favourite time of the year. We don’t even get the soft fluffy white snow and all the accompanying fun soft fluffy white snow activities that the rest of the country looks forward to in the winter.
But, with the Covid-19 health guidelines in place, and few options for indoor activities, this was the year to get outside and brave the elements. And I have to say, I’ve never appreciated the wet winter weather more.
Feelings of freedom and pure joy overtook me as I welcomed the raindrops splashing on my face. I felt like a little kid again as I ignored all the usual nagging worries of frizzy hair. I accepted the rain and to my surprise, it was delightful.
Even in a non-pandemic situation, it’s important for us to get outside and enjoy nature in any kind of weather. Here are some tips and ideas on how to embrace your inner pluviophile and enjoy the rain this year!
10 ideas for activities that will get you and your community looking forward to the next rainy day
“Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.” – Author Unknown
Here are 10 ideas for activities that will get you and your community looking forward to the next rainy day. You could do most of these with your bubble or as a distanced gathering when public health guidelines allow.
Photo credit: Camilla Topola
- Invasive pulls. Pulling out invasives in the rain is much easier as the soil turns into soft mud. It’s a ton of fun and gives you a sense of accomplishment while also helping out our native biodiversity, consider volunteering with groups such as SPES, the Lower Mainland Green Team, or Wildcoast Ecological.
- Adopt a storm drain. Many municipalities run these programs. When it rains, leaves, debris, and litter can block catch basins and stop rainwater from properly draining. By adopting a catch basin you’ll help to protect water quality, reduce the risk of flooding, and keep the sidewalks dry while having fun. They’ll even send over materials, a training guide, and safety equipment.
- Nature boat races. Create a little raft using natural materials from around you and float them down a small stream. Make sure you only use biodegradable materials that have already fallen in case your raft accidentally floats into a storm drain. We encourage you to read this resource on honourable harvesting before collecting your materials.
- Get your cliche on. Go dancing in the rain! Find a safe open space and borrow some waterproof speakers and twirl away. You can even use your umbrella as a prop – just make sure everyone is spaced out far enough so that nobody gets an unwanted poke in the eye. Make a Dancing in the Rain playlist or try this one on Spotify.
- Raingear fashion show. Single Line Theatre has been hosting an Umbrella Fashion Show for the last three years at Jim Deva Plaza. Participants get an umbrella and $50 to spend on supplies. A community jury then scores and chooses a winner.
- Mudpies and structures. When’s the last time you got really muddy? Mud is a textural wonder and better yet, scientists have found that microbes in the soil such as Mycobacterium vaccae, mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier! While you can always play with mud with some water and soil, take advantage of the rain to help wash you off after you’re all done.
- Make art! There are many ways to use rain for art. Take some paper outside and see what patterns the raindrops leave on your canvas. Rain also transforms watercolours and chalk. You can also try shining some flashlights at a wall, the shadows from the raindrops can look beautiful.
- Make some noise. Grab pots of varying sizes and place them out in the rain to see what sounds the raindrops make. Try different kinds of materials to see if you can come up with the next #1 hit. If you’re feeling ambitious, consider making your own version of one of the winning entries in the Life Between Umbrellas competition to create wind chimes.
- Nature walks and hikes. Take a moment to tune in with all your senses. What do you hear, what do you smell? The same trails you walk on sunny days may transform on a rainy day. The forest colours might appear more vibrant and raindrops can create interesting ripples in the water. Keep a special eye out for ducks and slugs that may be hiding in the bushes when the sun is out. As a plus, the tree canopy should also help to keep you dry while you explore.
- Snow blitz. Of course, every once in a while we get a little bit of snow in Vancouver. Esther Moreno, a vibrant and inspirational leader in the Fraserview community never lets a rare Vancouver snow dump go to waste. She texts and calls all her neighbours whenever there’s snow in the forecast and keeps extra layers, sleds, and hot chocolate handy to share when the time is right. Organize a meeting spot in advance and keep an inventory of the winter items that neighbours are willing to share so that everyone can participate.
A step further
Despite my newly rediscovered love of the rain, Covid-19 has shone a light on the need for more covered outdoor spaces in public spaces. Vancouver’s winters have always been more dark and damp than the snowy winter wonderlands we see across other parts of the country or Hallmark holiday movies. And yet, there are only six undercover areas across the city’s park system. While preparing to write this blog, I searched up “rainy day activities” multiple times only to get a list of museums and malls in the area. With research showing how important it is to get outside for our mental and physical health in every season, this is a major gap that needs to be addressed.
Photo credit: Camilla Topola
Stemming from this need for more rain-friendly public spaces, our friends at Vancouver Public Space Network and Viva Vancouver held a design ideas competition in 2019 for an initiative called Life Between Umbrellas. Open to everyone from professionals to creative youth, it generated a wide array of creative ideas for improving Vancouver’s public spaces during the wet weather months. There were so many inspiring ideas submitted! However, rain-friendly infrastructure in our parks and public spaces can be expensive and require maintenance, so a continuous demonstration of community desire for such structures is necessary to get ideas like these off the page and implemented in real life. City planners are always searching for feedback on park plans and new developments. Keep your eye out for open houses in your neighbourhood, surveys, and opportunities to participate in volunteer community councils and neighbourhood plans.
In the meantime though, get out and play in the rain! You might realize that you actually don’t mind getting a little soggy. Maybe you’ll even inspire your neighbours to slip on their gumboots and follow in your splashy steps.
Some Last Tips
“A rainy day is the perfect time for a walk in the woods” – Rachel Carson
If you are going to be spending your winter splashing around in the rain, here are some tips to help keep you as safe and happy as possible.
- Invest in some waterproof rain gear. The Norwegians have a saying, “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing”. If you can afford it, waterproof rain gear in a city with wet weather is a great investment. However, it can be quite expensive. Keep an eye out for anything that says Gortex on it, in the sale rack, thrift stores, and your local Buy Nothing Project Group. These items are often built to last and you can find them at decent prices as people decide to upgrade or outgrow their raingear. In the meantime, an extra pair of dry socks can go a long way. Pair this with under layers of wool and fleece to keep you warm, but stay away from cotton which traps moisture against your skin.
- Stay visible. It can be really hard for drivers to see in the rain, especially when it gets dark. To stay safe, make sure you’re wearing bright colours with reflectors and lights in case it gets dark while you’re out.
- Stay active. Rainy winters can also be really cold. Make sure you stay warm by coming up with activities that will keep you moving (see examples below).
- Seek covered spaces. While we encourage everyone to embrace the rain, it’s always nice to be able to take a little break while you grab a snack or adjust your raingear. Sometimes you can find undercover spaces under bridges, on school grounds, and under thick tree canopies. Sara Bynoe is keeping a running list of undercover spaces in Vancouver. Feel free to add to her handy list if you make any discoveries, or consider making a list for your own neighbourhood!
- Reward yourself with some coziness. Come up with something to look forward to when you get home. Maybe a hot bath, some hot chocolate, or plans to read by a fire.
Please note: Not everyone has the means to warm up in a warm home after it rains. Please consider donating your lightly used rain gear or supporting a local organization that provides hot meals and shelter for those who cannot always escape the rain.
Do you have any other tips or ideas for rainy day activities? We’d love to hear from you!
Thank you to our generous sponsor
Credit cover picture: Camilla Topola