It’s really no secret, Vancouver is expensive! Having lived here for over 6 years, I can honestly say that I spend a lot of money living here. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some free things to do in Vancouver that helps out my bank account and gets me outdoors!
Over the years I’ve met many fellow travelers who comment that they would love to visit Canada, but it’s just too expensive a country to explore, so they mostly stick to just one city when they do visit (if they visit). These cities usually end up being Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver.
In a bid to get more people to come visit me in Vancouver, I decided to put together a list of 10 of the best free things to do in Vancouver, to help offset the costs of everything else you’ll be spending money on while here!
10 Of The Best Free Things To Do In Vancouver – From A Local
Walk around Granville Island Market
Granville Island is a popular year round destination for visitors and locals alike. Home to over 300 businesses, Granville Island has gone from a mud flat, to a man made industrial island, to a very loved cultural hub known for the buskers, festivals, artists, and food.
The Granville Island Public Market was opened in 1979 and here you can find a vast assortment of shops; anything from gifts, fresh produce, fresh seafood, food stalls, hand crafted products, and more! Wandering around the market, picking up some fresh produce, and eating from all the stalls is a fun way to spend a few hours. If you don’t buy anything and just explore, including seeing The Raptors, a group of Biologists and Falconers who bring out various hawks to educate people about them, then this is a free activity! One of my favorite things to do on Granville Island is just wander around and people watch.
Explore Stanley Park
Although be careful and heed current advice, as there have been coyote attacks recently (2021) and a cull of those coyotes, so just make sure to be aware of wildlife and current updates.
Otherwise, Stanley Park is a rainforest in the middle of Vancouver, giving you access to mountains, ocean, the harbor, and the city.
There is so much to do in Stanley Park, including paid activities like the Vancouver Aquarium (Canada’s largest aquarium), horse drawn carriage rides, ride the train, book a time slot at Second Beach Pool, or eat at one of the restaurants.
For free activities though, you can walk or bike along the seawall, hike the trails by downloading a Stanley Park Map, bring a picnic and eat by the water, or walk to the lost lagoon, sometimes otters even come hang out on the rocks!
Hike Lynn Canyon. And walk the suspension bridge.
Dubbed by locals as the free Capilano Suspension Bridge, Lynn Canyon is not only a stunning hike, but also, crossing this suspension bridge is free, unlike the hefty $54.95 fee to cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Open for over 100 hundred years (they opened in 1912) and covering 617 Acres, Lynn Canyon is a great way to spend a day. There’s an Ecology Center to learn about the park, several different hiking trails, the suspension bridge, waterfalls, and the 30 foot pool, one of the most popular swimming spots in the park!
Visit Queen Elizabeth Park
The walk around the gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park may only be 0.41 kms, but the walk takes you up to the highest point of the city, giving you some spectacular views – for free! But there’s more to Queen Elizabeth Park than just the seasonally changing gardens; here you’ll find the Bloedel Conservatory (which you do have to pay for if you wish to check out the exotic plants and birds), the quarry gardens, tennis, golf, have a picnic, or take your dog to the dog park. There’s even a restaurant there, Seasons in the Park.
Relax at the beach. Vancouver has plenty!
There’s Kits beach, Wreck beach, First, Second, and Third beach, English Bay, Sunset, Jericho, and more! You can easily go beach hopping in Vancouver.
Hike Lighthouse Park
Lighthouse Park has numerous trails, all with different levels of difficulty. This park is probably West Vancouver’s most beloved park, with old growth Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir trees for you to walk among.
Here you can rock climb in summer, have picnics, walk your dog, view the functioning lighthouse, and do some bird watching!
Wander Lonsdale Quay
For a view of Vancouver and easy access to Lynn Canyon, head to Lonsdale Quay on the North Shore. The views of the water and city here are stunning, and taking the SeaBus is so much fun!
Admire the waterfront by Canada Place
I love strolling along the water by Canada Place! There are plenty of shops to peruse, and the most beautiful views of the waterfront and Vancouver’s North shore!
Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, there are loads of restaurants in the area, some gorgeous hotels, it’s close to all transit modes, and you can walk the Coal Harbour Seawall all the way to Stanley Park, giving you a gorgeous walk and some exercise!
Recently I visited the Van Gogh Exhibit that was here at the Vancouver Convention Center!
Sun Yat-Sen Park.
Nestled in the heart of Chinatown, this is part park, part museum, part garden, and is modelled after the Ming Dynasty. Fun fact, this was the very first traditional Chinese Garden outside of China! The park is free to explore and even have free guided tours, but the Chinese Gardens have a $16 entrance fee.
Hike Pacific Spirit Regional Park.
Established in 1989, the best part of this park is that it’s open year round, meaning you can get out to enjoy the trails no matter the weather. Located near the UBC campus, this 763 hectare park is a nature lovers paradise, giving you dense forest, cliffs, bog, creeks, and Wreck Beach.
These trails are so green!
I put together this list of 10 of the best free things to do in Vancouver, to give you the chance to splurge on what you want, while still having some free fun! Enjoy your visit to beautiful Vancouver!
What else would you add to this list of free things to do in Vancouver?