The best things in life are free. Literally.
Even when you come to a beautiful place like Vancouver, there’s a plethora of unique things to do that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, our city is full of free attractions just waiting for you to explore. We love the great outdoors and want you to experience Vancouver mountains the way we do – with muddy hiking boots and a Camelbak hydration pack on your back. For all of you architect lovers, we’ve got you covered, too. Heck, the 604 is the perfect place to be thrifty and have fun doing so.
If you want to experience Vancouver like never before – and without breaking the bank – then check out our list of free things to do below!
Bike the Seawall – If you have a bike, or a friend with a bike, borrow that sucker and get pedalling! The Seawall is 8.8 km of gorgeous city views that are completely free to admire.
Stroll through Stanley Park – The iconic park is 400 hectares of beauty – including nature walks, ocean views, beaches and gardens. Be sure to bring some cash if you’d like to check out the Vancouver Aquarium or hop on a Horse-drawn carriage.
Rollerblade through Yaletown – Yaletown sits along False Creek and will definitely grab your attention with stunning waterfront views and quaint shops along the way. Just be careful of other bladers while you admire.
Get your tan on at Second and Third Beach – Summer months are perfect for some bronzed-skin action. If the weather is a bit on the chilly side, bring a blanket and soak up the ocean breeze.
Walk over the Lions Gate Bridge – If you’ve got a thing for bridges, take a long walk along the suspension bridge that brings North Shore folks to the big city. This picturesque bridge offers breathtaking views regardless of the season. Be sure to bring your camera!
Hike The Chief – Hiking in Vancouver will never disappoint. One of our hot spots happens to be on the way to Whistler, in Squamish. The Stawamus Chief features three peaks and a jaw-dropping view from atop the giant rock.
Take a lot of Hikes – Strap on your hiking boots and clear your memory card on your camera – you’ll be overwhelmed with natural beauty from all of the local hikes in the lower mainland. Our favourites include: The Lions, Diaz Vistas and Garibaldi Lake. Each one has a unique view unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Camp at Lindeman Lake – This gem is tucked away in Chilliwack, just East of Vancouver. If you’ve got a tent, then you’re set. Lindeman Lake is home to the clearest glacier water you’ll ever lay eyes on. It’s pretty cold, though. I purchased an Explorer Floaty from Walmart and let the lake take me wherever it desires. Not exactly free, but it was the best $14 I have ever spent.
Get Naked at Wreck Beach – I’m not kidding. Wreck Beach is Vancouver’s only nude beach. And although the thought of hundreds of naked bodies at a beach sounds intimidating, the experience is unlike anything you’ll ever take part in. Just be respectful and don’t take beach selfies – you never know what might photobomb the background.
Watch Airplanes Take Off at YVR – Vancouver International Airport sees many planes arrive and depart daily. Park your car nearby and lay out on your hood – the spectacle is surprisingly soothing and beautiful. I like to pretend I know exactly where each plane is flying to.
Watch the Sunset at White Rock Beach – The iconic ‘White Rock’ is so yesterday. If you’re like me and melt over a pastel sunset, then perch yourself along White Rock Beach and watch the sun drop. Walk along the Pier to get more wicked views of the area.
Picnic at Deep Cove – North Vancouver is home to some beautiful spots, like Deep Cove. Pack a picnic and hang out at the park or bring skip some rocks along the water. This area is so cute and quaint – you’ll never want to leave. Oh, and be sure to check out Honey Donuts – they’re not free, but they’re worth every penny.
Window Shop along Robson Street – “How much is that Michael Kors purse in the window?” Who cares! You won’t need any mula if you like to stare longingly at things you can’t afford, like I do. Robson Street is a must-see. The street has an international vibe to it and truly showcases the variety of shops Vancouver has to offer.
Watch the Gastown Clock Go Off – Sounds weird, but the steam clock in Gastown is truly iconic to the city and can be an interesting sight to see. The clock is surrounded by cobblestone streets and delicate shops that truly bring the area to life.
Get Artsy at Granville Island – You won’t need to spend a dime if you like to admire free art. Granville Island looks like something out of a Picasso painting. The area is home to theatres, artisan workshops and crafting studios. The Public Market is something to admire, too. Be sure to bring some cash for the fudge – it’s to die for!
Contemplate Life While Doing the Grouse Grind – There’s a reason why I didn’t include this in my favourite hikes…The Grind is probably one of the worst hiking experiences of all time. When you get to the halfway mark, you’ll break down and cry. You’ll probably want to just tumble back down the stairs. But there is something so wonderful about finishing the Grind that will make you feel accomplished. It’s a must in Vancouver. Bring some money for the Gondola ride down, though!
Toss a Football around at Kitsilano Beach – What’s better than a little pigskin with sand between your toes? If you want to get fancy, sneak some cold beers in Starbucks cups. Just no Seahawks jerseys allowed.
People Watch on Granville Street – I have learned a lot about Vancouver just by perching at a coffee shop (or pub) along Granville Street and watching the night unfold. Granville is one of the best places to party in the 604, so you can imagine the type of people who come out to play after a few drinks.
Take a Mini Road Trip to Harrison Hot Springs – The road to Harrison can be pretty darn beautiful. And once you arrive, the beach area is the perfect spot to lay back and enjoy the small-town vibe. Stay the night and fall asleep under the stars!
Viewpoint Hop along the Sea-to-sky Highway – Driving along the Sea-to-sky highway is like something out of a movie. Each viewpoint showcases an unreal landscape – it’s hard to believe we have something so beautiful in our own backyard.
Cliff Jump at Aloutte Lake – For any of you country folk out in Maple Ridge, I’m sure you’ve been to Aloutte Lake. Once you park at the lot, walk along the path towards the beach area, but try to find a path down towards the river area before getting there. There are huge rocks that leave just enough room for you to hang out at. And the water is deep enough (and a lovely shade of turquoise blues) for you to jump off rocks without touching the bottom.
Rock Climb at Lighthouse Park – This gem is tucked away in West Vancouver and is completely worth the adventure to get to. Rocky terrain lines the coast along the ocean, where it’s fun to scale the rocks until you find the perfect vantage point to take in the sea.
Be a Tourist at Coal Harbour – The area offers a giant cauldron from when we hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. Need I say more? If you wander the area, you’ll find some pretty cool art pieces and of course, have a wicked view of the city. Bring some money to have a drink at one of the many restaurants along the water.
Watch the Sunrise at Seymour Mountain – It’s a trek to get up there, but damn, the view is a stunner. Just like sunsets, I’m a sucker for sunrises, and Seymour boasts one of the best locations to watch the colours of the sky shape the day.
Play Bocce at Queen Elizabeth Park – This park is completely underrated. There is so much to do, it amazes me that more people haven’t discovered the lovely area. Bring your own balls, or setup a mini tennis tournament. There are 18 free courts to use. If you do want to spend a bit of money, you can play a round of pitch & putt, too.
Have your own “Theatre Under the Stars” at Ambleside Beach – On a clear night, pop the trunk of your car while parked along the beach, set up some big blankets and a fully charged laptop, and watch one of your favourite flicks (I love you, Man is always a winner in my books) while listening to the subtle crashing waves of the ocean. Be sure to bring lots of snacks!
Take your Pup to the Spanish Banks Dog Beach – I absolutely love the ocean. So it’s only fitting that my dog has to love the ocean, too. At one of the furthest beaches in Vancouver sits an area where dogs are free to roam the beach and play in the water. If you don’t have a dog, but love the furry friends, this is a great place to hang out.
Go on a Photography Walk through Downtown – Vancouver has many interesting looking buildings, including the Art Gallery, Canada Place and Science World. Spend the day with a camera around your neck and snap some snazzy angles of all the architecture the city has to offer.
Explore Lynn Canyon – North Vancouver has some pretty amazing trails and outdoor areas. Instead of having to pay for the Capilano Suspension Bridge, just wander through Lynn Canyon and create your own tour. The area is full of scenic walks and areas to picnic.
Enjoy every moment, wherever you may be – Okay, this may be corny, but so often we all get caught up in our busy lives. It’s so refreshing to just stop and take it all in. You may be shopping at your local farmer’s market, paddle boarding at Deep Cove or hiking your favourite trail at Buntzen. Whatever you love to do – do it with passion and as if it’s the first time.
We live in an amazing city. Whether you’re just visiting, or here to stay, there is always something to do in Vancouver.
What are your favorite free things to do in Vancouver? Let us know in the comments below!