Vancouver has a lot to offer, from its beautiful mountains, bustling downtown, and multicultural environment there always seems to be something going on here. Unfortunately, many of those things cost money and not just any money $30+. I don’t know why but this seems to be a common theme of almost any attraction in Vancouver. Maybe it’s like this everywhere; I’m not too sure but it can be pricey for a fun weekend in the city whether you’re a local or tourist just popping by. So here’s my list of Top 10 Things to Do in Vancouver with no money. I hope you have good walking shoes. 😉
Vancouver has some of the most amazing parks, 240 actually! Stanley Park is the most popular and was rated one of the top parks in the world last year, and although I’m totally not biased is seriously is! (spoiler alert: I used to work there, so I’m totally biased) Being a 1,001-acre park you could easily spend a whole day wandering around the many trails and exploring both the waterfront and forest. If you’re not interested in crowds just take the trails into the forests rather than the ever so popular seawall. Don’t forget to watch for bikes, and stay on the proper walking trails while in any part of Vancouver. If you are more interested in flowers and Queen Elizabeth Park offers a garden area that is similar to the Butchart Gardens in Victoria. There are plenty of other parks that are within blocks of one another so if you come to Van just walk in any direction and you’ll find one!
Vancouver is known as Hollywood North, so if you want to see some famous filming locations you’re in luck. Once Upon A Time, Supernatural, and The Flash all currently film here, but there are also older shows that have called Vancouver home, such as, Psych and Stargate. Looking for previous filming locations may be a better use of your time than looking for currently filming shows. Out the dozens of times I saw a movie or commercial being filmed in Vancouver I never once saw them actually filming anything, they were always either between takes or setting up. So unless you’re a diehard fan you may be disappointed if you come to Vancouver just for this. But if you’re still really interested I always go to this twitter to see up to date information on what’s filming where in Van, in case I happen to come across a set.
3. Art Walk
If you’re looking for a free alternative to Vancouver’s Art Gallery you can wander around downtown for some amazing art. Not only are there several sculptures by BC sweetheart Douglas Coupland, such as the pixilated whale, but there are other unique art pieces that may go unnoticed if you don’t know about them. If you walk down Granville Street instead of seeing boring grey electrical boxes, you see a diverse amount of art done by local Emily Carr students. The art itself is displayed on this boxes, which is known as the wrap project. Here’s me by my favourite one: [picture] Another interesting downtown sight is the mosaic tile pieces you can see every few blocks. These give you a more historical look at BC and the development of Vancouver. There are 22 of these pieces, but luckily if you want to see all of them it only takes a couple hours and takes you by Canada Place, which a great place for a Vancouver photo opp .The laughing statues near English Bay in Vancouver’s West End has also become iconic here, personally, they freak me out but to each their own.
I know, I know, this is on a million other lists you may have googled. But for good reason. Lynn Canyon offers a free alternative to the popular tourist attraction that is the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The suspension bridge itself isn’t the only thing that makes this a great place to go. There are plenty of paths around the canyon that can lead you straight to the river, so if you’re up for a light hike and a dip in the freezing water then this is a great place to go. If you take the trail north you get to a spot that you’ll often see people cliff diving from. It is super dangerous though, and you’ll be advised not to, so if you choose to do this you didn’t hear it from me. 😉 Heading south seems to be the less popular route from my experience, so if you’re looking for a bit of tranquility then head that way.
The thing about Vancouver is that it isn’t exactly on the ocean, I think some of us pretend it is, but really it’s not. There’s a whole island between us and the real ocean, which actual makes the water ideal for swimming if your not interested in large waves. (sorry surfers) When I worked in the tourism industry many guests though I was crazy for mentioning that we actually swim in the water. Yes people do! It is cold, yes, but that’s why you stick to the summer months for taking a dip in the water. After a hot day the cold water feels like the perfect temperature. Even on a weekday the beach may be a crowded but that shouldn’t stop you from soaking up the sun. If you’re staying downtown I would avoid English Bay and instead take the time to walk a bit further to 3rd Beach in Stanley Park, or if you’re looking for kid friendly hit 2nd beach which has a park nearby as well. Vancouver has a famous nude beach, but it’s also legal to be topless anywhere in Vancouver, no matter your gender, so don’t be alarmed if you see topless people at any beach.
One of the first things I learned after permanently moving to Vancouver was how popular the Meetup app is, I’ve had it recommended to me by people who use it to make new friends, as well as attend professional networking events. Even if you’re just visiting Vancouver for the weekend, this app is a great way to meet people that share your interests or who are up to do activities with you. There are groups that meet weekly for board game nights, as well as hikes, movies, and all kinds of other things you would never think of doing.
Of course I can’t write a list of top free things to do in Vancouver if I don’t including going on a hike. There are many popular places within a short drive of the city, and some even accessible by transit (although you may have to be flexible with your time as the reliability of transit can be questionable) If you’re looking for free, skip the ever so popular Grouse Grind, as you can’t actually go down the mountain without paying for the gondola. As hikes go, my favourite is the section of the Baden-Powell trail that takes you to Quarry Rock, it’s an easy drive to get there a fairly easy hike with amazing views that look out over Deep Cove. I would say my fitness level ranges from long walks to never leaving the house some days so if I can do it, you can too.
8. Neighbourhood Walks
Vancouver offers diverse and unique communities thanks to its multicultural population. Not only are there unique restaurants and stores, but each neighbourhood has a certain vibe that attracts different types of people. The Drive (Commercial), Mount Pleasant (Main Street), Yaletown, Gastown, West End , and Chinatown and Kitsilano (West 4th) all offer something different. Although having money is nice if you want to go shopping or try a local cafe, I find just wandering around my favourite neighbourhood window shopping and browsing bookstores to be a fun way to spend a day off.
Granville Island is always a must visit place in Vancouver, and if you are interesting in local art or fresh food it’s definitely a place to check out. It may be hard to resist spending your money here, but a few dollars are some fresh produce for a nice day out isn’t bad. There also beautiful views of downtown from the island, and street performers outside of the Market that make it worth spending a few hours here.
10. Car Free Day
There are many free festivals in Vancouver, but this one is the best. Car Free Day is essentially a street festival that shuts down entire streets in Vancouver. Last year I walked for hours up and down the street checking out the food trucks, and local businesses. So bring your good walking shoes! Even though this event may is free you may want to bring your money to enjoy some of the goodies, including locally made items and delicious food. This event happens every year in June and is definitely worth the trip to Vancouver just to check out everything we have to offer all at once.