Vancouver On A Budget: Best Things To Do That Are Free Or Low Cost
Planning a trip to Vancouver?
I put together this post with activities to do that is either free or low-cost. Along with my favorites, I asked my local pals for their suggestions to come up with the best things to in Vancouver on a budget.
Best of Vancouver On A Budget, in no particular order:
Stanley Park is a favorite of not just myself, my friends, and locals, but also visitors too. The park was voted by readers of Tripadvisor as the best park in the world. Stanley Park is a rainforest within the city and has a seawall for walking, running, or biking that has gorgeous views that you can’t miss. There is an Aquarium, beaches, a water park, restaurants, cultural and historic landmarks within the park. Even during the peak of tourist season, you can still find a quiet zone to enjoy in the park. I always visit whenever I come, each and every single time. I miss it when I’m away.
For more about Stanley Park, head to this post.
Totem Poles in Stanley Park
Third Beach in Stanley Park
Caught a gorgeous sunset from within the park
I love this seawall so much
Granville Island is another favorite place in the city. I go every time I come home without fail. It’s a peninsula under the Granville Street Bridge that is now a shopping district with a distillery, brewery, market, theaters, restaurants, hotel, and more. It’s free to go and spending is dependent on you. I can go there, grab a coffee, people watch, and window shop.
A view from Granville Island
The Aquabus is not free but it’s very cheap. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the city when the weather is nice. It’s a cheap water taxi ride but you get stunning views at the same time for under $10.
For more about the Aquabus, head to my post here.
On the topic of budget boat rides, I do love the Seabus. It is a passenger only ferry that crosses the Burrard Inlet that connects downtown Vancouver with North Vancouver. The Seabus leaves every 15 minutes in the day and 30 minutes at night. I haven’t ridden it from years but am keen to since it would probably give me a great angle to shoot Vancouver’s skyline. The two terminals are Waterfront in downtown Vancouver and Lonsdale Quay in North Van.
Photo credit: Flickr
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge And Hiking
There are two suspension bridges on the north shore of Vancouver. There’s Capilano, or there’s Lynn Canyon. I love both but if you’re wanting a free option, Lynn Canyon Park is your best bet. If you can manage to go early in the day during the midweek, you may be able to score a photo like the one below! The park is gorgeous and if you have time for a hike, do it!
Photo credit: Christy from Ordinary Traveler
If you’re into views and hikes, another place on the North Shore that I love is Deep Cove. Hike up the Baden-Powell trail and go to Quarry Rock for these views! It’s free to hike but I always splurge on a Honey’s doughnut as a reward for the hike haha.
For more about Deep Cove, here.
The view from Quarry Rock
Boats on boats on boats in Deep Cove
Lighthouse Park West Vancouver
I haven’t been here for some time but I love going to Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. Go for a bit of a hike or have a picnic with the family. Please be aware that there are a lot of mosquitos when the weather gets warmer.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Everyone loves Stanley Park but my other favorite park in Vancouver is Queen Elizabeth. It was my mother’s favorite park because of its rose garden and proximity to where we grew up. I love coming here in the spring when the cherry blossoms and flowers are in bloom. The park is free and there is even free parking available.
Pacific Spirit Park
Located on the west side of the city of Vancouver, the Pacific Spirit Regional Park offers a network of trails contained in more than 750 hectares of forest. The 73km of trails in the park are popular with local residents and accessible year-round. The best way to see the park is to view the park map and determine your own route. However, we will follow a common route that will take you on a 3-hour trip through much of the forest.
Photo credit: Kenta Goto
You don’t think about beaches when it comes to Canada but Vancouver is on the coast so there are many beaches in the city. They are busy in the summer but always gorgeous to visit anytime for water views. My favorites are English Bay Beach, Spanish Banks, Wreck Beach (a clothing optional beach), and Centennial Beach in Delta (in the suburbs but super family friendly).
English Bay Beach
Iona Beach in Richmond. I love going here to watch the planes take off and land
Check Out The City’s Free Public Art
Biennale happens in Vancouver, which is a bi-annual public art exhibit that brings sculptures, new media, and performance works but celebrated and emerging international artists. Often the pieces are donated or purchased and remain in the city.
A-Maze-Ing Laughter by Yue Minjun Morton Park which is a tiny park across English Bay
Os Gemeos, Brazilian twin artists pained the silos at Ocean Concrete at Granville Island
Trans Am Totem by Main Street Skytrain Station
Birds (one of them) in Olympic Village
Vancouver Art Gallery on Tuesday Night
Every Tuesday night from 5-9pm at the Vancouver Art Gallery, admission is by donation. The amount is up to you but please do remember the running costs of such places. It’s not a huge gallery but it does get some really great exhibits. The last time I went, there was an exhibit by Douglas Coupland.
Gumhead by Douglas Coupland
Rennie Collection at the Wing Sang
The Rennie Collection is a gallery in Chinatown owned by real estate mogul Bob Rennie. All the exhibits shown here are part of his personal collection. The gallery is free but is only open by appointment unless during the exhibit openings or special events. The rooftop is amazing!
Dr Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Within Chinatown, there is a beautiful garden called Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Part of the garden is free to enter but in another zone there is an admission. Whenever I am in the area, I pop in to have a moment of zen.
I love seeing the contrast of the old and the new
Tour Guys Free Walking Tour
The Tour Guys are a free walking tour company that offer tours in Vancouver (as well as in Toronto and Ottawa). The tours are fun, informative, and free. The free tours take you through different areas in the city and the guides will share interesting facts and a bit of history with you. And even though the cost is free, these guys work solely on tips!!!
I took their Chinatown tour when I visiting Vancouver. From our meeting point at the Vancouver Art Gallery, we walked towards Chinatown. Along the way we visited various historical monuments and markers and he told me different facts about the area as well as about prominent figures in the community. As someone who grew up in Vancouver and frequents Chinatown, it was really interesting for me to learn new things about my hometown.
Free Movies In The Summer
In the summertime, Fresh Air Cinema plays free movies on Tuesday nights at Stanley Park. While I haven’t been, many of my best friends go and love it. I’ll have to make time the next time I’m home in the summer.
Photo credit: FreshAir Cinema
I love a good night market! I think it’s the Asian in me. In Richmond, a suburb south of Vancouver, are two night markets that are held during the warmer months. The one I frequent the most is the Richmond Night Market. It is next door to the Skytrain Station (so you don’t have to deal with parking) and it goes from May through October. It’s a couple of bucks to enter and unless you buy a lot, it’s pretty low-cost. I usually just buy food from the vendors and peruse funny items like socks from Asia and random smartphone accessories.
There is another night market in Richmond called the International Summer Night Market and there is one in North Vancouver called Shipyards Night Market.