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30 Completely FREE Things to do in Vancouver, BC

30 Completely FREE Things to do in Vancouver, BC

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Vancouver consistently ranks as the most expensive place to live in Canada. So it may come as a surprise that there are so many free things to do in Vancouver!

While there are plenty of pricey activities (like a helicopter tour over the city) there are also a great number of fun activities to do in Vancouver that you can do without breaking the bank! You just need to know where to look. In a city that boasts beautiful outdoors, epic hikes, and unique history, you’ll find lots to explore for free.

I have spent a decent amount of living and exploring Vancouver myself, and because of that, I’ve really enjoyed crafting the perfect list of free activities in the area. So, let’s take a look at how you can make the most of your time (and your budget) during your trip to Vancouver!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Check out 5 of my favorite free things you can do here in Vancouver:

  1. Wander (or bike) around the gorgeous Stanley Park
  2. See the coolest clock in Gastown
  3. Drop by the bustling Granville Island Public Market
  4. Take a day trip to explore Whistler and the Sea to Sky Gondola
  5. Conquer Grouse Mountain and enjoy a refreshing drink

Free Things to do in Vancouver, BC

1. Visit Lynn Canyon

Bailey walks on the Lynn Canyon suspension Bridge, Vancouver
So gorgeous!
A waterfall in Lynn Canyon, Vancouver

Lynn Canyon is this stunning natural paradise hidden away in Vancouver. It has a beautiful nature walk which takes you to one of the most gorgeous suspension bridges I’ve ever seen! Explore the forest, gaze down from the bridge at the river below, and enjoy the serenity.

The suspension bridge here is one of the top BC attractions and rivals the Capilano Suspension Bridge – except it’s totally free to visit! (Capilano Suspension Bridge costs upwards of $70 CAD per person).

The one downfall to Lynn Canyon is it can be very busy. During the summer months, there can be several busloads of people turning what’s supposed to be a city escape into an area that’s more hectic than the streets of Yaletown.

Our tip would be to head to Lynn Canyon first thing in the morning to avoid crowds, usually anytime before 9 am is best. When we went at this time, on our way out there was a big line to cross the suspension bridge already!

If you’re planning out a full day of experiences, why not take the hassle out of it on this scenic biking and hiking tour, which also visits Lynn Canyon? This tour is all about getting out of the city and exploring the natural gems that lie close by. Not only do you not need to worry about arranging the itinerary, but you won’t have to worry about transport either, as hotel pick-up and drop-off are included!

Small group tours like this one are our personal favorites, as you really get to know your guide and hear all the stories they have to share. And you’ll surely hear a lot as you ride the Trans Canada Trail, take photos of the beautiful Frasier Valley, and get up to so much more (I won’t spoil it!).

Tickets for this tour cost $150 CAD per person, which includes transport, all equipment use (yup, bike and helmet rental included), as well as lunch. We think this is a great deal and well worth considering if you’re looking for an easy-to-arrange experience from Vancouver. You can check availability and reserve your spot here with free 24-hour cancellation.

2. Explore Stanley Park

Bailey bikes the Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, BC
I love biking the seawall, even as a local, I do it at least once a month!

Wandering around Stanley Park is one of the best free things to do in Vancouver, especially in the summer. Stanley Park is an urban oasis right on the northwestern edge of Vancouver, spanning roughly 1,000 acres (404 hectares), and is filled with things to do! 

Visiting Stanley Park is completely free and you could easily spend a whole day here exploring and ticking off some of the other free attractions in the park. 

There are heaps to see but some of our personal highlights are the Totem Poles, the Nature House, which has exhibits of all of the wildlife you can find within the park, the stunning Rose Garden, and the Nine O’Clock Gun, which is an old cannon that fires at exactly 9 pm every night!

One of the best (and cheapest) ways to really get to know this impressive space is joining this guided walking tour of Stanley Park, which lasts for 2 hours, and by the end of it, you’ll be able to impress your friends with all your new stories.

And speaking of stories, our guide Glenn was an AMAZING storyteller, easily transforming this walk into a complete journey back through time – it was that good! Tickets cost just under $38 CAD, making this one of the most affordable tours in Vancouver. You can book your space on it here.

If your budget can stretch for bike rental (Bikes and Blades Stanley Park is a great choice for rentals), or you are traveling with your own bikes, cycling around the park, especially along Stanley Park Seawall, is such a fun activity!

3. Visit Lonsdale Quay

Bailey walks the Burrard Dry Dock Pier in Lonsdale Quay, Vancouver
I love summer days in Lonsdale!
Inside of the Lonsdale Quay Market in Vancouver
The Lonsdale Quay Market

Lonsdale Quay is located in North Vancouver, meaning you will have to get the Seabus there to explore. Luckily, the Seabus is really cheap, easy to navigate and only takes 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, so you shouldn’t have any problems reaching Lonsdale Quay. 

When you first arrive, it might look like a simple ferry port, but head right when you come out of the terminal, and you will be met with one of Lonsdale Quay’s best attractions, the Lonsdale Quay Public Market! 

The indoor market has a huge selection of vendors, selling anything from street food, flowers, art, trinkets, fresh seafood, and wine. The market is open every day of the week from 9 am until 7 pm, but you should really try to go on Saturdays as this is our favorite time to visit! 

Although busy, Saturdays mean the weekly Lonsdale Quay Farmers’ Market, which takes place just outside the indoor market. While not as big as other farmers’ markets in Vancouver, it’s a great place to pick up some local produce. 

You could easily spend a whole day at Lonsdale Quay, wandering around the stalls, taking in the beautiful views, and enjoying some of the live entertainment if you are visiting in the summer months. 

4. See the Steam Clock in Gastown

The Gastown Steam Clock in Gastown, Vancouver
The old Steam Clock!

Gastown is one of the coolest neighborhoods in Vancouver to explore! It is also one of the oldest areas in the city, complete with cobbled streets and the famous Steam Clock

The clock itself is located on the corner of Cambie and Water Street, but you will probably hear it before you see it, as it goes off every 15 minutes! It is powered by steam and whistles and was originally built to cover a steam grate that used to be part of Gastown’s steam heating system. 

Many local businesses raised funds together to pay for the steam clock to be built in order to attract tourists to the area, which it definitely has. It is one of the few functioning steam-powered clocks in the whole world! 

The Steam Clock is a feature on nearly every one of the Vancouver city tours of Gastown, but you can easily visit yourself for free. Gastown is only a short walk from downtown Vancouver and is a great place to explore and stop for lunch at one of the fantastic restaurants around here

One of the most affordable ways to visit the Steam Clock, as well as many other attractions around Vancouver, is by joining this hop-on hop-off bus tour. We like these kinds of tours, as they let you set your own pace while you travel, plus they tend to be more affordable than fully-guided tours!

Tickets for this experience cost just $65 CAD per person and include stops at Stanley Park, Yaletown, Granville, and more. So if you’re all about seeing the sights and not worrying about transport, this might just be the way to go. You can book your seat on the bus online here.

5. Walk the Seawall

Bailey walks along the Vancouver Seawall
A lady on the Vancouver Seawall

Vancouver’s Seawall is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path, but don’t worry, it’s possible to walk the entire wall in just a day! 

The walk itself is about 25 km (15.5 miles) but it will depend on where you decide to begin your adventure. The Seawall officially starts at Canada Place, which is the large harbor where a lot of the cruise ships come into the city. From here it loops around the coal harbor and along to Stanley Park. 

The Seawall in Stanley Park is the most famous part of the Seawall as it has the best views of the city, mountains, and the ocean. We would recommend stopping off here for a while and soaking in the beautiful views of Vancouver with a hot beverage in hand. 

You will struggle to get lost walking the Seawall as you pretty much just follow the path for the whole journey, but there are a few notable sights along the way. This includes Brockton Point Lighthouse, the Girl in a Wetsuit sculpture, Totem Poles, the Lions Gate Bridge, the Inukshuk monument, Olympic Village, and many more! 

The Seawall ends once you have walked along the stunning Kitsilano Beach, which is a great place to relax with an ice cream cone after your long walk. 

If you are only visiting Vancouver for a short amount of time, we would really recommend walking the Seawall. It’s a great way to see a lot of the city’s highlights and get a real feel for what Vancouver is like. 

6. Vancouver’s Summer Cinema outdoor movies at Stanley Park 

Stanley Park Outdoor Theater in summer in Vancouver
We watched Zoolander!

If you are visiting Vancouver in the summer, you’re in luck! This is because every Tuesday evening from early July through until the end of August, Stanley Park hosts a free outdoor cinema night! 

Stanley Park has heaps of things to do, especially in summer, so be sure to spend a full day here. But their summer movie nights are always a highlight for us. 

They start when the sun goes down, usually around 8-9 pm, but you’re going to want to get there early with your picnic blankets and deck chairs to secure a good spot. The films they show are different every week, but they are always a classic. Think movies like Grease, Jaws, Top Gun, and Indiana Jones!

The movie nights are held in Ceperley Meadow, which is across the street from Ceperley Park, and next to Second Beach in Stanley Park. There are a few food trucks nearby where you can get all your favorite movie snacks like hotdogs and popcorn. 

7. Wander through Pacific Spirit Park

Two people walk along a boardwalk in Pacific Spirit Regional Park'
Bailey walks through Pacific Spirit Regional Park in Vancouver
Move over Stanley Park!

If you’re looking for some peace and quiet after experiencing the hustle and bustle of the city, check out Pacific Spirit Park. Vancouver is home to a number of large parks, but this is one of my personal favorites.

Pacific Spirit is a 750-acre park near the UBC campus. It offers TONS of different walking trails that are among the best easy hikes in Vancouver, and you can spend as much time as you want exploring the dense west coast forest.

The trails are all relatively flat, making them great for any skill level. As an added bonus, the park is also dog-friendly. It’s a super popular place to come with dogs – it gets over 360,000 dog visits every year!

Related Read: If you’re up for a trip to Vancouver Island, it’s also free to wander the trails and see the GIANT trees in Cathedral Grove!

8. Visit the Granville Island Public Market 

Some fruit for sale on Granville Island, Vancouver
Yum fresh BC berries at the Granville Island market!

The Granville Island Public Market is iconic and absolutely must be a part of your Vancouver itinerary. This indoor market has so many different stalls and shops selling seasonal produce, delicious pastries, handcrafted products, fresh seafood, and beautiful gifts!

You can honestly explore Granville Island and the market for hours, checking out all the amazing local products, even if you don’t want to buy anything.

The best way to experience the market is on a Granville Island tour or just wandering on your own. Get yourself lost in there, try some samples, talk to the stall owners, and purchase a few things to eat! It’s also a great place to pick up a souvenir or gift from a local artisan. 

One of the most affordable tours you can take to explore the Granville Island Market is this ‘wok around’ food experience! You’ll have two hours with your guide, Chef Bob, and a small group (maximum 10 people) to explore some of the delicious foods here, including maple-cured salmon, artisanal chocolates, charcuterie meats, and fresh doughnuts (our absolute favorite!).

Tickets for this tour cost $113 CAD per person, so if you’re a foodie like we are, then this might just be the tour to try! You can check availability and reserve your spot online here.

The market is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, and like every activity in this blog, is completely free to visit (although, I doubt you’ll be able to leave empty-handed, so bring some cash!).

9. Watch the street performers 

A street performer on Granville Island, Vancouver
This makes me nervous!

If you’re exploring Granville Island, there’s a good chance you’ll witness some street performers. The island is a pedestrian-friendly area with small outdoor plazas and squares, and crowds will often gather to watch these performances.

There are buskers (regular performers), that perform in the 10+ designated busking locations throughout the island. Chances are you’ll get to see quite a variety of acts! They have magicians, musicians, circus acts like juggling, and more.

If you enjoy the performance you can support their art by providing a small voluntary donation when the buskers send around a basket at the end.

10. Visit Kitsilano

kitsilano at sunset as seen from The Boatshed Restaurant
Sunsets here are epic!
Ramen from Ramen Danbo in Vancouver, BC
The famous Ramen from Danbo!

Without a doubt, my favorite of the many beaches in Vancouver is Kitsilano Beach, or as we locals call it, Kits Beach.

But Kitsilano is more than just a beach. It’s a neighborhood filled with trendy bars, restaurants, and shops. Going for a stroll on the beach at sunset and then heading out for dinner and drinks afterward is a perfect way to spend an evening in Vancouver.

We recommend making sure you visit the beach for sunset, especially in the peak summer months. You’ll find the beach full of locals playing games, drinking, and just having a good time. The atmosphere is electric!

After or before stopping by the beach, consider going for dinner or drinks. If you love seafood and fantastic views, I highly suggest The Boathouse Restaurant. The restaurant has the best view of the beach, and I’ve spent many sunsets up there enjoying cocktails and seafood. The restaurant is reasonably priced, especially for its location.

Another place in downtown Kits, a short walk from the beach, is Danbo Ramen. It’s well-known as one of the best ramen restaurants in Vancouver, and I love it! You need to book in advance, and there is often a 45-minute wait, so plan ahead.

There are also lots of other activities in Kitsilano, including the waterfront public swimming pool, kayaking, biking, the Kits farmers’ markets, as well as the Maritime Museum.

Getting to Kits is also easy with either Uber, the bus, or the Aquabus. False Creek Ferries also operates this route, and you can get here from any of the False Creek stops.

Related Read: Need help planning your trip to Van? Check out our guide on how to spend 3 days in Vancouver for lots of ideas!

11. Road trip to Whistler

Shannon Falls on the road between Whistler and Vancouver
Shannon Falls
A takeaway coffee from Whistler, BC
Coffee in Whistler!

Whistler is a beautiful little town not too far from the city of Vancouver, famous for being a renowned ski destination.

There are heaps to do in Whistler, but the road trip from Vancouver to Whistler is a fun day out in itself! The drive actually only takes just over two hours, but there are some amazing stop-offs along the way that we would definitely recommend you visit. 

When you exit Vancouver, you will drive straight along the Sea to Sky Highway which gets its name from the incredible views of, you guessed it, the sea to sky the whole way along! 

If you set off early and have the time, we definitely recommend stopping off and completing the four-hour hike to Tunnel Bluffs (see #28 on our list for more info!). It has the most incredible views all along the trail, and the peak looks across over to Bowen Island. 

My favorite stop on the road trip from Vancouver to Whistler is Shannon Falls, just south of Squamish. It’s a great stop-off point for a picnic lunch, right next to the incredible 1,099-ft (335-m) tall waterfalls! 

If you want to leave the driving and navigating to someone else, some excellent Whistler tours from Vancouver that let you see the highlights of this mountain town. Our favorite tour on the list is this full-day Sea to Sky Gondola tour, which as the name suggests visits the incredible Sea to Sky Gondola, with plenty of free time to explore Squamish and Whistler Village!

It’s also one of the most affordable day trip tours that visit Whistler, and I think you really get a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to what’s included. Not only does it include round-trip transport and your Sea to Sky Gondola ticket (valued at $71 CAD per person), but you’ll also be joined by an expert guide who will make sure your trip goes smoothly.

Tickets cost $199 CAD and can be booked online here.

Related Read: Whistler really is an all-season destination, so read up on our guides to Whistler in the summer or winter and plan to spend a night in Whistler to see some of the best this place has to offer!

12. Attend an event

Bailey at the Latin Festival Carnival Del Sol
Bailey at the Latin Festival – Carnival Del Sol

No matter what time of year you visit Vancouver, you will likely find there are a ton of awesome free events that you can go to! 

In summer, there are endless events to enjoy, including the incredible Concord Pacific Dragon Boat Festival, which draws in thousands of visitors every year. Similarly, Canada Day on July 1st is hugely popular and the Vancouver Pride Parade is one of the largest pride events in the whole of North America! 

Another one of our favorites is the Latin Festival called Carnival Del Sol. After spending so many years in Latin America, we miss the fantastic food. The Latin Festival fixes this with food from around the region.

Winter in Vancouver brings heaps of markets celebrating the holidays, including the Carol Ships Parade of Lights, where festively-lit up boats fill up Coal Harbor. 

Eastside Culture Crawl is a free event in the fall that brings in a lot of tourists. It’s a unique arts and crafts festival with over 75 buildings to explore! 

Spring brings a celebration of Celtic heritage known as CelticFest, an 8-day-long festival taking over the city right around St. Patrick’s Day! 

13. St. Mark’s Summit

Bailey at the top of St Marks Summit at sunset in Vancouver
The view is so spectacular!

St. Mark’s is located about 45 minutes outside of Vancouver and is one of those hikes that makes you work for the view, but it is so worth it! There is a bit of elevation gain to this one, making it suitable only during the dry months of the year from summer to fall.

The hike is 11 km (6.8 miles) round trip, and will most likely take around 5 hours to complete. It’s part of the Howe Sound Crest Trail, which is a 30 km (18.5 mile) hike. St. Mark’s is one section of the route that starts from Cypress Mountain, which is another local ski hill in North Vancouver.

You will begin the hike in the Cypress Mountain parking lot for downhill skiing and head towards the Howe Sound Crest Trail sign near the chairlift. Follow this until you reach a gravel road, turn left, and continue on to the trail. You will see markers along the way.

As you’re hiking, look out for the Lions – an iconic mountain range in the area – in addition to the Howe Sound, Tantalus mountain range, and on a very clear day, Vancouver Island. There are lots of viewpoints along the way, with the most amazing one right at the top. You will be blown away by the scenery, so make sure to take a picture to remember it!

14. Shop at a farmers’ market 

Mushrooms at a market in Vancouver, Canada
So many BC mushrooms!

Finding a local farmers’ market is one of our favorite things to do when we travel, and luckily, Vancouver has a few of them! 

If you are visiting in winter, there’s an amazing farmers market that runs from November through until March in Riley Park. It takes place every Saturday from 10 am until 2 pm, but if you are after fresh produce, you might want to get there early to grab the best available.

The market is huge and has over 80 vendors ranging from fresh farm foods to baked goods and food trucks. Riley Park also has a farmers market in the summer season from the end of April until October. 

West End Farmers Market is one of the most well-known markets in Vancouver, taking place on Saturdays between the months of May and October. The West End market is a great way to spend a Saturday, picking up a coffee and browsing the endless stalls. Its location on Comox St. makes it an easy walk from most locations. 

The largest of the farmers’ markets is at Trout Lake Park, which is slightly outside of the city center but only a short walk from the SkyTrain. It is held every Saturday between the end of May and the end of October from 9 am until 2 pm. The street food vendors are the best part of this market, making it a great place to stop for an affordable lunch! 

15. Go to the top of Grouse Mountain

Top of the Grouse Grind where the gondola is at Grouse Mountain, Vancouver
Grouse Mountain!
The I survived the grind mist showers at the top fo the Grouse Grind on Grouse Mountain, Vancouver
Once you get to the top, cool down with the water mist station!

When we lived in Vancouver, one of our favorite spots to visit was at the top of Grouse Mountain. Not only are the views incredible but there are heaps to do once you are there. 

You can actually catch the Skyride Cable Car up to the top, but half the fun comes from the climb up! Plus, hiking up is free and you get a little workout in. The trail is called the Grouse Grind but is commonly known as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster” thanks to the 2,800 steps it takes to get to the top.

The trail itself is 2.5 km (1.5 miles) and takes around two and a half hours to complete. It is quite a difficult climb with its 850 meters (2,800 feet) of elevation gain, but once you reach the top, we promise it is 100% worth it! 

Not only do you get a sense of achievement when you reach the end of the trail, but you can also enjoy a cool down at the mist station before you take in the views. 

You will not struggle to find things to do at the top of Grouse Mountain as there are tons of activities, shops, and eateries to fill up your day. For free things to do, one of our favorites, especially if you are visiting in summer, is to go and see the bears.

The mountain has its own wildlife refuge which is home to a few different species, but their two resident rescue grizzly bears, Grinder and Coola are not to be missed! 

16. Explore Deep Cove and hike Quarry Rock

Bailey at Quarry Rock in Deep Cove, North Vancouver, Canada
The hike is easy and the views are breathtaking!

One of the best things about visiting Vancouver is the number of incredible hiking trails in the area. One of our favorite trails is the hike to Quarry Rock in Deep Cove.

The hike to Quarry Rock is a great beginner’s trail, as it’s not too far and is easily mapped out. You can park in the Panorama Park parking lot, head north, and find the sign for Baden-Powell Trail.

There’s a bit of elevation until you reach Cove Creek Bridge, after which there’s a junction where you will want to go straight until you reach the larger bridge going over Francis Creek. From here it’s just a short scramble up to Quarry Rock.

The trail itself only takes one to two hours as it’s only 3.8 km (2.3 miles) long. However, you are going to want to spend some time soaking up the views from the top looking over Burnaby Mountain, Eagle Ridge, and Deep Cove.

While the hike is one of the best things to do in Deep Cove, you should spend some time in the area as it is a beautiful area to explore. Not only are the views incredible, but there are some great eateries including Honey Doughnuts & Goodies, which is an absolute must-try! 

17. Take a trip to the Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf

Bailey and Daniel at Steveston Fisherman's Wharf in Vancouver
Pakos fish and chips at Steveston Fisherman's Wharf in Vancouve

Located south of Richmond, just outside of Vancouver, is the stunning Steveston Harbour. If you rent a car for your trip, then it’s just a short drive away, but if not, it is easily accessible by both SkyTrain and bus. 

Steveston is a stunning coastal town, you really could spend the whole day here soaking up the sun or tasting some of the delicious seafood on offer at Fisherman’s Wharf. Not only is it home to the world-famous Pajos Fish and Chips but there are also vendors serving their freshly caught goods! 

Richmond also has a strong Asian culture complete with some amazing Asian restaurants, one of the largest Buddhist temples in North America, and the Richmond Night Market that’s like a festival and a carnival combined!

18. Spend a day at Alouette Lake

A lady stands in the water at Alouette Lake with mountain views in BC
How gorgeous is this lake!?

A visit to Alouette Lake makes for a superb summer day trip from Vancouver. Why? Well, first of all, it is huge and ideal for swimming, boating, or even fishing. Second of all, it’s only an hour’s drive from the city!

Alouette Lake is located in Golden Ears Provincial Park. Here, you’ll find lots of hiking trails, campsites, and of course, the beach at Alouette Lake. Chances are you will love it and won’t want to leave, so maybe take advantage of the campsites and spend a night or two!

Regardless, Alouette Lake is a very unknown thing to do in Vancouver that’s actually more of a local secret than a tourist attraction. But, take my word for it, this place is so beautiful!

While you’re at Alouette Lake, you might as well tackle a short hike to a waterfall! The Gold Creek Falls hike is fairly short at just over 5 km (3 miles) roundtrip. The minimal elevation gain makes it a fun, family-friendly activity in Vancouver during the summer months.

You can start right from the parking lot and head towards the trail. The views are typical for this area as a west coast rainforest – dense trees and moss-blanketed forest floor.

After 15 minutes of hiking, you’ll see Gold Creek on your left as well as views of the mountains all around. You’ll likely hear the falls before seeing them! Once at the Gold Creek Falls, enjoy the sound of rushing water before continuing on to complete the loop.

19. Play sports

All across Vancouver, you can find really cool public sports facilities, a lot of which are completely free! In Stanley Park alone, you can find free courts to play tennis or badminton, courts where you can play cricket or ultimate Frisbee as well as a running track. 

Vancouver also has a strong skateboarding scene, so if that’s your thing, there are plenty in the area to pick from. UBC Skatepark, Kensington Skatepark, and Vancouver Downtown Skate Plaza are some of the best, and they are all completely free to use. 

There are also a few different basketball and volleyball courts dotted about the city which are free to use, you just bring your own ball! Some of the best are located at Kitsilano Beach. 

20. Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery

Vancouver Art Gallery
Vancouver Art Gallery!

Let’s face it, a lot of the free things to do in Vancouver are outdoors. However, there are a few fun indoor activities in Vancouver that you can enjoy too.

The Vancouver Art Gallery does have paid admission, but on the first Friday of every month, they run a special event where it’s completely free to enter the gallery between 4 and 8 pm. While it’s always free for under 18’s, normally for adults it costs $29 CAD, so if you’re lucky, you can enter without paying a cent! It’s a good idea to reserve your tickets online in order to guarantee entry into the gallery.

You can easily spend a couple of hours here wandering around and checking out all of the different exhibits. They even have rotating exhibits that focus on current events and local Canadian artists. This is one place that you really should check out if you’re interested in art.

21. Explore Commercial Drive

Bailey eats Downlow chicken burger in Vancouver
Chowing down on food from Downlow at East Van Brewing!

Commercial Drive is a neighborhood just outside of downtown Vancouver that you will not want to miss. It has an eclectic array of shops, restaurants, and bars. Even if you don’t want to spend anything, it’s enjoyable just to explore!

Commercial Drive has its own quirky vibe, and you will love popping in and out of the many record shops or vintage clothing stores, old bookstores, new-age spirituality shops, and small grocery markets – definitely one of the more unique things to do in Vancouver.

Even though Commercial Drive’s nickname is “Little Italy,” there are now restaurants from just about every country in the world. If you’re looking to try something new, this is the place to be! A lot of the restaurants and bars have live music and open mic nights, too – check out Café du Soleil if you are into that!

If you love fried chicken as much as us, you have to try Downlow Chicken. It’s a local secret and well-known as the best fried chicken in Vancouver. There is often a line out the door, but it’s worth the wait! There isn’t much seating at the restaurant, so take your burger to East Van Brewing and get $1 CAD off your first beer just for getting Downlow!

Commercial Drive is easily accessible by SkyTrain – just get off at the Commercial-Broadway stop and walk down the street.

22. Go to English Bay Beach or Sunset Beach

Los Amigos Taqueria tacos at sunset beach, Vancouver
Los Amigos Taqueria tacos at Sunset Beach, Vancouver

English Bay Beach (also referred to as First Beach) is simply stunning. It is by far the most popular beach in the city. You can visit here to swim, take in the views, play volleyball, or even bring a picnic to enjoy the sunset.

The great thing about English Bay is it’s in the city so you can easily access it on foot, by bicycle, or public transport. Better yet, if you plan on cycling the Stanley Park Seawall, a short stop at English Bay Beach is a great place to start.

Another beach I love is Sunset Beach. As the name suggests, it’s fantastic for watching the sunset and with its close proximity to Davie Street, you can easily get dinner to go and enjoy at the beach. I love getting tacos from Los Amigos Taqueria – a fantastic Mexican restaurant that has tons of gluten-free options.

Related Read: Not far from Sunset Beach is the trendy neighborhood of Yaletown! This is a great place to walk along the waterfront, catch an event, or grab a bite to eat.

23. Play disc golf

Daniel plays disc golf on Grouse Mountain, Vancouver at sunset
Daniel loves disc golf!
Disc golf net on Grouse Mountain, Vancouver
These are the baskets which are the same as holes in golf!

Disc golf (also known as Frisbee golf) is a fun game, played similarly to golf, but instead of golf balls and clubs, you throw a disc at a chained basket. 

Unlike golf, you won’t need to pay any green fees to enjoy a game of disc golf! Most disc golf courses are completely free and work on a first-come-first-serve policy. 

If you have your own discs that’s ideal, but you can just as easily bring a Frisbee and still have a good go. Real discs used for disc golf are smaller and a bit more weighty than your average Frisbee, but a lot of people use Frisbees all the time. 

There are a whopping 12 disc golf courses in and around Vancouver, most of which are free to play in! 

One of the best disc golf courses in the whole of Canada is Raptors Knoll, which is only an hour outside of the city. It’s absolutely huge and has multiple tees at each hole, making it perfect for both experts and beginners. It’s free to play, but does get quite busy on weekends, so opt to visit during the week if you can. 

If you’re looking for somewhere a bit more in the city that you can play, we would recommend at the top of Grouse Mountain, Queen Elizabeth Park, or Jericho Hill. 

24. Visit Lighthouse Park

A view of Lighthouse Park in Vancouver
The coastline here is stunning!

Vancouver is a beautiful coastal city, and as such, there are plenty of gorgeous beaches that are 100% free to visit. One of my personal favorites is Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver.

Here, you will find lots of trails and walkways. Along the trails, you’ll see the huge Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir trees. Most of the trails are pretty easy too, being relatively flat. You’ll definitely want to do the walk to the lighthouse, which should only take about 10 minutes or so.

It’ll take you about 40 minutes to drive to Lighthouse Park from downtown Vancouver. Parking can also be tricky (especially on weekends) so be sure to get there early to get a spot! If you arrive early enough, you can also snag one of the day-use picnic tables – score!

25. Stawamus Chief

Bailey sits at the top of the Stawamus Chief, Vancouver
A man walks along the summit of Stawamus Chief

Another iconic hike in Vancouver, affectionately known as “The Chief,” is an 11 km (6.8 mile) round trip trail that will take around 6 hours.

The Chief is located in the city of Squamish and is about an hour north of Vancouver. It’s not a bad drive from Vancouver to Squamish though, as it takes you along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway.

From the trailhead off of the Sea to Sky highway, you’ll start the hike on a wide trail. You’ll then see the trail quickly turn into a steep section of stairs. This section is the most challenging, so take rests as needed and push through.

Continue up the trail through a trail junction with the Sea to Summit Trail, and continue towards one of the three peaks of The Chief. The peaks are all marked, and depending on your fitness level, you can do one or all three.

Be ready for a bit of technical hiking! To get up to the viewpoint, you’ll notice a section of ladders you’ll need to climb. Once you’re at the top, you get to enjoy sweeping views of the entire region. Feel the sense of accomplishment and soak it all in!

Climbing the other peaks requires more time and is much harder, so if you’ve found yourself challenged enough, only hike up the first summit and back down.

26. Check out some markets

Bailey takes a bite from her fried chicken Taco, Richmond Night Market
Richmond Night Market!

Markets are a popular thing for locals to do in Vancouver. There are some markets that are seasonal, some that focus on fresh produce, and some that focus on cooked food. There really are plenty of different markets you can choose from around Vancouver, and most of them are completely free to attend!

Granville Island Kids Market is a fun one to explore for families, and since it’s indoors, it’s one of the best things to do in Vancouver when it rains. This market is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm. Expect to find everything from toys to crafts to clothing – all for kids, of course. To get inside, you’ll even have to walk through a “kids’-sized” door!

The Vancouver Farmers Markets pop up all around the city from May to October annually. Each location has its own vendors featuring everything from food, to handmade goods, to even beer! There’s pretty much a different Farmers Market on every night of the week during the summer months in Vancouver.

If you’re visiting Vancouver in December, then you’re in luck! The Vancouver Christmas Market typically opens on November 16 until December 24 between 11:30 am and 9:30 pm (although times do vary slightly depending on the day you visit).

The Christmas Market is located at the Jack Poole Plaza. Once inside, you can explore the many different stalls with treats and handicrafts. I highly recommend treating yourself to some Glühwein (mulled wine) and schnitzel!

Another market that operates from May to October which has become famous is the Richmond Night Market. Every night from 7 pm, dozens of vendors sell food and other goodies. According to locals, the food is just as good (if not better than) the food from Asia itself!

There are also games and entertainment to keep you busy. I love this market, but it is one of the only markets that actually charges an entrance fee, expect to pay $8 CAD per person to attend.

27. Visit Sasamat Lake

Sasamat Lake, Vancouver, BC
The beautiful Sasamat Lake is only an hour from Vancouver

Sasamat Lake is a great place to escape the city for a beach day! Sasamat Lake (also known as White Pine Beach) is located only an hour from Vancouver in Belcarra near Port Moody.

A beach day is easily one of my favorite free activities in Vancouver! If you’re up for it, you can also hike from here. There’s a clearly marked trail that starts from the beach area.

Sasamat is a popular beach during the summer months – the water is warm and excellent for swimming, and the beach is equipped with picnic tables, restrooms, and a concession stand. It’s one of the best things to do in Vancouver for families on a budget looking to explore the outdoors.

28. Tunnel Bluffs Hike  

man sitting at the top of Tunnel Bluffs Hike
What a view!

There are many, many awesome hiking options in and around Vancouver, and hiking is certainly a great free activity.

As far as hikes in Vancouver are concerned, Tunnel Bluffs is definitely worth a stop! This intermediate hike will take about four hours to complete. It’s an 11.5 km (7 mile) roundtrip and has an elevation gain of 470 meters (1,542 feet) – definitely a bit of a challenge! 

The hike is a push, with lots of steep switchbacks. But you will be rewarded by the most amazing views along the way, especially at the top, where you can look out across to Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast!

Tunnel Bluffs is accessible off the Sea to Sky Highway, the road that connects Vancouver with Whistler, at the Lions Bay exit (Sunset Trailhead).

29. Check Out Wreck Beach

Wreck Beach, Vancouver
I myself usually wear clothes but it is optional!

This one might not be for everyone! But for those who are a little more open, you can check out Vancouver’s only clothes-optional beach. This beach is located just off the westernmost edge of the UBC campus, accessible by a steep set of stairs.

This is honestly a beautiful beach, with stunning scenery. But you’ll definitely have to put up with a different kind of scenery too… if you know what I mean!

30. Brandywine Falls

Brandywine Falls, Squamish, BC
It’s one of the most accessible and beautiful waterfalls near Squamish!

This is the perfect stop if you are driving up the Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish or Whistler. It’s a short hike, just 30 minutes (1 km/0.6 miles roundtrip), but will take you to a stunning waterfall. Can you believe these views are free?!

The trail starts from the parking lot, where you will then cross a wooden bridge. Head right across the train tracks and continue on until you reach the platform overlooking the waterfall. The waterfall itself drops 70 meters 230 feet) and is surrounded by dramatic cliffs.

Once you’re finished, turn around and head back the way you came to the parking lot.

Brandywine Falls is a little ways from Vancouver, around a 1 hour and 20-minute drive. For this reason, most people visit it when they are on their way to Whistler. You can book a day trip from Vancouver to Whistler like this Sea to Sky Gondola tour I mentioned earlier that includes a stop at Brandywine Falls if you want – however, it isn’t going to be free!

Where to Stay in Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver city skyline
Vancouver skyline

Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada. The fact is that in the summer and winter, the city books up in advance very fast! Booking your hotel or hostel well in advance is the only way to secure the best place to stay for you!

Some great hotels and hostels in Vancouver that we love are:

Hyatt Regency Vancouver – $$$

Can’t decide whether you’d prefer to stay near Stanley Park or Gastown? Well, the Hyatt Regency might just be right for you, as it’s located right between them! Rooms here enjoy gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows that help to bring in light and there is a small fridge, work desk, and toiletries in the bathroom too.

You can also conveniently enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at their beautiful Mosaic Bar and Grill just off the lobby. As you can imagine, it’s a luxury stay in a large hotel chain that is highly reviewed! So if you’re looking to celebrate something special, or just fancy taking your vacation to a whole new level, then staying here will definitely do the trick.

I’ve seen a one-night stay at the Hyatt Regency going as low as $232 CAD per night, although the rooms here on average are more around the $300-$500 CAD mark. So, for the best price, don’t forget to reserve your room in advance.

Times Square Suites – $$

For a beautiful hotel close to Stanley Park, the Times Square Hotel is a fantastic choice! It’s very hard to fault this hotel, and the location really is perfect. The fully equipped kitchens and gas fireplaces are a nice touch in all of the rooms, plus the suites have living rooms and a washer and dryer.

For being pretty affordable, it has a lot of amenities, which is just one of the reasons we love staying here! You can book a room here from $232 CAD per night, but as this is a popular stay, I recommend checking your dates and booking ahead of time to secure your preferred room type!

The Cambie Hostel Gastown – $

The Cambie Hostel is a great budget-friendly hostel that’s located right in the heart of Gastown and close to lots of bars and restaurants and attached to the hostel is a very lively bar too. The rooms are clean, although the bathrooms are a little on the small side (part of the fun when you’re staying cheap, though!).

It’s perfect for backpackers on a budget and is considerably cheaper than others offering comparable quality. A bed in a dorm here starts at around $50 CAD, and you can book a stay here through Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

Didn’t find exactly what you’re looking for? Click here to browse all hotels in Vancouver!

For more info on the best areas and hotels, check out my complete guide on where to stay in Vancouver. It breaks down everything you need to know before choosing the right hotel!

Getting Around Vancouver 

Aquabus or Water Taxi to Granville Island in Downtown Vancouver
This is a unique way to get around Vancouver!

Transportation and ease of navigating a new city are super important to consider when planning a trip. It will help you determine where to stay and what you’ll be able to visit while in the city. In Vancouver, there are a few different options for transportation in and around the city.

Driving

This is probably the best form of transportation if you want to explore anywhere outside of downtown Vancouver and participate in activities like hiking or skiing, which require getting a bit further away. Traffic in downtown Vancouver can be fairly busy, just like any city center.

There is ample parking available both on the streets and in parkades, though it can be expensive. Some hotels provide parking, so check ahead of time. 

If you can rent a car, you can explore Vancouver with ease! Just be prepared to pay for parking unless your hotel includes it.

Car share

A great option besides renting a car is using a car share service like Modo or Evo. These services allow you to rent a car and pay based on the time it’s used (i.e., pay for 30 minutes, two hours, or the full day, depending on how long you drive for).

You can pick up and drop off the car at specific checkpoints around the city and the best part is they get lots of free parking. This makes it super easy to use a car for just the time that you need it. 

Public transportation

Vancouver’s public transit system is not as extensive as many other major cities, but it is still a good way to get around to main attractions. The SkyTrain provides excellent access to some of the neighboring cities, such as Burnaby, New Westminster, or Surrey, so it offers a good option if you plan on exploring outside of downtown. It also runs from the airport, so again, a good option to get into the city from the airport. 

There are also many buses in the city that run frequently. Note that public transportation options are extremely limited overnight, with only a couple of night buses and no SkyTrian options after around 1:00 am. All public transportation is run by the company TransLink and is fairly affordable; a single trip costs $3.15 CAD, and a day pass costs $11.25 CAD.

Taxis and rideshares

Taxis are available throughout the city, as are Uber and Lyft. These are good options in the downtown core but can get pricey if you are going further outside of that region. For example, the taxi cost from YVR to Vancouver is about $30-50.

Aquabus

The Aquabus is one of the more unique ways to get around Vancouver. These small boats visit 8 locations in the harbor, all the way from The Village to Granville Island. The Aquabus costs $19 for a full-day pass or round trip tickets start at $3.75, but prices vary depending on the route you take. You can check out all their routes and prices here.

Walking and biking

Vancouver is a very walkable city, and it is possible to walk just about anywhere in the downtown core.

Biking is also a good option, as there are dedicated bike lanes throughout most of the city. You can rent bikes all over the city and pretty much ride everywhere you want to downtown. I love doing this, especially on a beautiful day!

Renting a Car in British Columbia

A rural road with Mt Currie in the background
Road trips are the best way to explore Canada!

If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province, and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!

We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.

They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!

Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)

Thanks for reading!

Bailey poses wit her ice cream on our Vancouver foodie tour
Thanks for reading! (Photo of me on a food tour in Vancouver.)

I hope this goes to show that you can enjoy Vancouver without putting too big of a dent in your wallet. Which of these free activities are you most looking forward to taking on during your visit to Vancouver? Let us know in the comments!

If you need more ideas on what to do, check out our guide on spending two days in Vancouver! Also, if you enjoyed this blog, don’t forget to check out some of our other Canada blogs. Here are some others you may enjoy:

ULTIMATE Guide to Visiting Canmore in December

44 MAGICAL Things to do in Banff this Winter Including Hidden Gems

33 EPIC Things to do in Jasper in Winter