Between the hotels, restaurants, and awesome attractions to check out, a trip to Vancouver can get a little expensive. If you’re a local you already know that living within Vancouver can be an incredibly costly feat. Luckily for out of towners and year rounders alike, Vancouver has a ton of incredible things to see and do that won’t cost you a penny.
Stanley Park, Vancouver’s largest urban park, is 400 hectares of luscious West Coast rainforest and endless waterfront views. The park has 27 kms of forest trails to explore as well as 8.8 kms of coastline to travel along down the Seawall. You can walk, jog, rollerblade, or bike through these gorgeous routes while taking in the endless views of the trees, flowers, wildlife, mountains, and beaches that surround the park. If you want to take some photos of popular attractions, check out the centuries old, massive Hollow Tree, the Brockton Point Totem Poles, the Lost Lagoon, and the Brockton Point Lighthouse.
When you take a trip to Granville Island it feels like you’ve entered cozy little village that has been hidden away from the rest of the busy city. The island is filled with shops, markets, bars, and restaurants. You can browse the local foods and artisanal wares of the massive Public Market or simply sit by the water and watch the boats cruise back and forth. You’ll often hear live music playing in the evening from the pubs or see buskers performing in the plaza. The Kid’s Market and the free Water Park are both an absolute must if you’re visiting with the whole family.
Day at the Beach
You’ll have plenty of beaches to choose from in Vancouver if you want to go for a dip or work on your tan. Third Beach and Second Beach are located within Stanley Park while English Bay and Sunset Beach are closer to the downtown area. Across the Burrard Inlet you’ll find Kitsilano Beach, with Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks Beach further west as you head down the waterfront. Many of these beaches are great for swimming, playing volleyball, tennis, or setting up for a picnic, but check out the City of Vancouver’s website for more info on each location’s amenities before you go.
There are a few museums in Vancouver that are either free or accessible by donation. You can visit the observatory of the HR Macmillan Space Centre for a small donation or step back in time at the Burnaby Village Museum at no charge. The Hastings Mill Museum and the Pacific Museum of Earth are also both viewable by donation.
If you’re a resident of Vancouver you can grab an Inspiration Pass from the Vancouver Public Library and gain access to a ton of different local attractions for free with the pass. You can get in to the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Aquarium, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, and a whole slew of other places, but you’ll need to sign up for a hold on the pass and there can be quite a long wait for these.
Free Art Galleries
Many of the art galleries around Vancouver provide free admission to view their intriguing and thought provoking exhibits. Some even offer free educational programs to the community. The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Rennie Museum, and Contemporary Art Gallery are all free to enter and the West Vancouver Art Museum is accessible by donation. You can even check out the Vancouver Art Gallery on Tuesday evenings by donation rather than paying regular admission prices.
Take a Hike
Pretty much every hiking trail in Vancouver is free to explore. You can go for an all day excursion with steep, challenging terrain or you can take an easy half hour stroll around a peaceful lake. With so many trails around Vancouver, there is every type of difficulty level, trail length, and elevation gain to choose from. If you’re looking for something super challenging and quite close to downtown, try the Grouse Grind. Once you’re at the top of the trail you can also explore the rest of Grouse Mountain.
Lynn Canyon Park & Suspension Bridge
If you aren’t afraid of heights you and you love breathtaking views you’ll definitely want to check out the suspension bridge in Lynn Canyon Park. The bridge is 50 metres high, 48 metres across, and it bounces and sways as you cross over the canyon. The park is a 617 acre second growth forest with 110 year old trees and an excellent selection of walking and hiking trails. You can swim in the 30-foot pool, marvel at the breathtaking waterfalls, and for a very small donation you can check out the Lynn Valley Ecology Centre.
There is no better place in Vancouver to window shop than in the most historic neighborhoods of the city. Chinatown is filled with Asian bakeries, dim sum restaurants, Chinese grocery stores, and traditional apothecaries. Relax in the Sun Yat-Sen Park, a free park located adjacent to the stunning Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
The Yaletown area, once a warehouse district, is now filled with lofts, cafes, restaurants, and shops all housed within the old industrial buildings that make up this unique neighbourhood. From the cobblestone streets of Gastown you’ll see lovely Victorian architecture, indie art galleries, endless souvenir shops, and the famous whistling Steam Clock that chimes and releases its steam every 15 minutes.
Located on the North Shore, Lonsdale Quay is a unique and wonderful place to simply walk around and take in all the sights, sounds, and smells. The Quay is filled with unique little shops, artisan wines, craft beers, mouth watering food vendors, and a fresh fish market. There are plenty of spots to sit outside by the water and view the downtown city skyline from across the Vancouver Harbour.
Canada Place is home to the iconic 90 foot white sails that have been a major landmark on Vancouver’s waterfront since 1986. You can head down to Canada Place to snap pictures of this notable landmark, admire the Vancouver Harbour, and watch the cruise ships come and go. Pop in to the Port of Vancouver Discovery Centre to learn about the stories and history of this port’s long and interesting past. In the summer you can even catch a free movie under the stars at the Waterfront Cinema.
It’s incredibly easy to spend a week in Vancouver, see all the sights, and spend next to nothing on activities and entertainment. Pack a lunch before you head out for the day, grab your camera, and tour the city from top to bottom on even the smallest budget. You can walk around every corner of downtown and hop on a bus or skytrain to head out into the rest of Metro Vancouver. It’s absolutely free to enjoy the natural beauty of this city so go explore the forests, play in parks, lounge at the beaches, and enjoy the gorgeous waterfront views.