We love this city, and we love free stuff, so it seemed logical to combine the two and compile this list of 25 free things to do in Vancouver. Think of it as the ultimate checklist for year-round activities – all free of charge. Some are indoor, some outdoor. Some are exciting, others relaxing. Take your pick. We know you have plenty to choose from, and at $0, you can do them over and over again.
Don’t forget to check out our blog for lots more things to do in Vancouver!
1. Visit Granville Island
Once home to some serious industry (hence its former name, Industrial Island), Granville Island is now anchored in the arts and crafts community, and is one of the best places for families to experience Vancouver. Read more about it here.
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2. Hang Out in Stanley Park
Stroll along the sea wall, picnic on the greens, smell the roses…it doesn’t get much better than Vancouver’s pride and joy.
3. People-Watch in Vancouver
How do visitors really get to know the city? By hanging out in neighbourhoods and soaking in the vibes. Get the dish on all of Vancity’s ‘hoods.
4. Hike the Grouse Grind
The famous Grouse Grind hike is a must-do for outdoor enthusiasts. Your legs might hate you afterward, but the views at the top are incredible. Hiking up is free, though you’ll need to pay the $10 for the gondola ride down. Get more info about Grouse Mountain.
5. Go Celeb-Spotting
Where, oh where do the stars hang out? Playing celeb-spotting is totally free and surprisingly easy. Hint: get the inside scoop by reading our “Filmed in Vancouver” page.
6. Visit the Christ Church Cathedral
Designed in the Gothic Revival style, the church features ceiling beams of Douglas fir, intricately designed interior arches and a number of stained glass windows – no wonder it’s declared a Class A Heritage site.
7. Mountain Biking on the North Shore
Nothing like getting air and getting dirty to experience the best of Vancouver’s North Shore. Find the best mountain biking trails.
8. Walk Around Canada Place
Downtown’s Canada Place is simply a great place to relax and watch the cruise ships glide into the city, or walk the Canadian Trail. Plus, the photo-ops starring Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains are fantastic.
9. Tour Vancouver’s Art
Vancouver’s art galleries never cease showcasing some of the most cutting-edge art in the country, many of them are free to browse. Try the Contemporary Art Gallery, or stroll down South Granville Street, aka “gallery row.”
10. Visit The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
Staying at The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver might cost a pretty penny, but it doesn’t cost a cent to check out “the Grand Lady,” which has become a verifiable tourist destination for its distinctive history and architecture.
11. Window Shop in Vancouver’s Best Shopping Districts
12. Hang Out at UBC
Is someone in the family getting ready to apply to college? Take a tour of the University of British Columbia – it’s one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.
13. Gaze at the Stars at GMS Observatory
Right next to the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, the observatory is admission by donation and offers public viewings on Friday and Saturday evenings (July 1 to Labour Day), and Saturday evenings (Labour Day to July 1).
14. Take a Scenic Drive
There’s no cost for admission to enjoy gorgeous Vancouver scenery. Take the legendary Sea-to-Sky Highway to get to Whistler and experience glimmering turquoise inlets, old-growth rainforests and craggy cliffs.
15. Explore Olympic Village
Vancouver’s newest neighbourhood was home to athletes from around the world during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. It’s located at the southeast corner of False Creek, just steps from Science World. Grab a snack, explore the nearby habitat island, and check out some interesting public art installations.
16. Richmond Night Market
During the summer, this Chinese night market located in Richmond is free for those under 13 or over 60 ($2.75 for the rest of us) and definitely worth the trip to scope out (and dig into) fried squid, fish balls and Chinese knick- knacks.
17. Play Disc Golf at Queen Elizabeth Park
Get some friends together and play a round of disc golf, free at Queen Elizabeth Park, one of Vancouver’s most popular recreation areas. The course is located near the pitch & putt golf course. If Frisbees aren’t your thing, pick up a tennis racquet and smack the ball around at any of the 18 free courts.
18. Visit Capilano Salmon Hatchery
It may sound strange, but viewing the salmon runs at the free Capilano Salmon Hatchery taps you into the majesty of nature and pulls you into the wonderful life cycle of the salmon that come through here.
19. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park
Not to be confused with the adjacent Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens, which charges $10 admission, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park provides the public with an opportunity to experience elements of a Chinese garden — all free of charge.
20. Visit Vancouver’s Free Museums
The city’s handful of free museums and learning centres offer a great way to spend the day without spending money. On Tuesdays, the Vancouver Art Gallery is by-donation; the Observatory (beside the Space Centre in Vanier Park) is by-donation; and the Burnaby Village Museum offers complimentary admission year-round.
21. Watch the Water at Lonsdale Quay
Perfect for those who want a relaxing afternoon, the quay offers seaside breezes that make this a perfect picnic spot, with an unbeatable view of Vancouver’s downtown.
22. Wander Around Lynn Canyon
This is one of Vancouver’s most popular free activities. Visit North Vancouver to hit the hiking trails, and be sure to brave the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge for epic views.
23. Visit the Beach (and possibly go skinny-dipping!)
Vancouver’s quintessential beach experiences present views of the mountain, water, downtown skyline and forest – all absolutely free of charge. If you’re up for it, strip down to your birthday suit and lounge at Wreck Beach, the city’s official nude beach.
24. Watch the Cruise Ships Go By at Dundarave Pier
25. Tour Vancouver’s Olympic Sites
For future Olympians and Olympic fans alike, a look at Vancouver’s sites from the 2010 Winter Games is a fun way to commemorate these incredible events. Start with the Olympic Cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza in Coal Harbour, beside the Vancouver Convention Centre, then check out some of the sporting venues.
This feature is from Tourism Vancouver.