It's no secret that Vancouver is an expensive city to call home, but one of the many perks this city has to offer is a long list of free things to do that can be enjoyed throughout the year. From hikes with stunning views to cultural experiences, this city's got you covered.
For a quintessential Vancouver experience, head to Stanley Park. It's here that you can spend an endless amount of time walking through the trails, biking along the Seawall, cooling off the kids in the free water park, hanging out at Third Beach, and exploring the different seasonal attractions and beautiful gardens. If the weather's nice, pack yourself a picnic and take it to the gardens or beach.
There are two suspension bridges in Vancouver and they both offer a totally different experience. Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge is the free version and it's here that you'll find hikes, the freshest of air, and beautiful scenery. If you're visiting in the hot summer months, there are a few different places where you can cool off by swimming.
If it's culture you're after, make your way to the Vancouver Art Gallery on a Tuesday night when admission is by donation. This art gallery houses incredible pieces of art and has a rotating exhibit that changes every couple of months.
HR MacMillan Space Center
This fascinating space museum features a series of hi-tech learning systems and interactive exhibits that include Virtual Voyages and a flight simulator. The Cosmic Courtyard is an exciting exhibit about the solar system, and Ground Station Canada showcases the achievements of Canada's space program. The Gordon Southam Observatory, which is located next to the main museum building, is a planetary complex open for stargazing. General Admission includes unlimited shows in the H.R. MacMillan Planetarium and GroundStation Canada, unlimited time in Cosmic Courtyard, and one ride on the Virtual Voyages Simulator. Getting to and from the observatory is easy by public transportation, car or foot from downtown Vancouver. (604-738-7827)
Located within reach of Vancouver's Main Street, Equinox Gallery isn't your typical gallery; it is an enormous warehouse-like project space with nothing but bright white walls and high ceilings. This large space lends itself well to holding huge crowds for exhibition openings.
Equinox Gallery only represents select artists; the likes of Vancouver's favored painter Gordon Smith, David Hockney, Edweard Muybridge, Fred Herzog, and the estate of Jack Shadbolt have all called Equinox Gallery home at some point. This gallery is considered to house the best of the best when it comes to representing painting, photography, sculpture, and drawings on an international art scale. ((604) 736-2405)
Once Vancouver's industrial manufacturing area, Granville Island is now home to many local artists, restaurants, theatres, a hotel, and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
Granville Island has something for everyone; a children's area, jewelry stores, art shops, a brewery, boat rental offices, and unique clothing stores. Once you have made your away around the shops, head over to the Public Market. There you can treat your appetite to some local smoked salmon, artisan cheeses, local produce, and fresh fudge. Make sure you don't miss the food hall, too. Here, you can grab a bite from one of the many food vendors and sit inside to enjoy your treat, or make your way outside to watch some of the city's finest street performers. Located in False Creek, an adventure to Granville Island is just a boat or bus ride away from Downtown. (604-685-8335)
English Bay Beach
This popular West End beach is a favorite spot where locals come to kick back, relax and enjoy swimming and soaking up some vitamin D. Located right at the end of Davie Street and Denman Street, English Bay Beach is easily accessible by bus, foot and Seawall. Driving may prove to be slightly challenging on busy days as it can be difficult to find a parking spot. The Seawall is a great way to get to and from English Bay Beach; you can walk, run, blade or ride your bike. Packing a picnic is one of the best ways to enjoy lunch at the beach. If you don't have the time or resources, there are a number of cafes, take out restaurants and food stands either on or close to the beach. (604-873-7000)
Kitsilano Beach is one of Vancouver's most popular beaches. It's close proximity to downtown Vancouver and easy accessibility by public transportation, car and bicycle make it easy to get to any time of day. There's plenty of sand to stretch out and soak up the sun, plus grassy areas for those who want to keep sand out of their sandwiches. There are tennis courts, basketball courts, an outdoor salt-water pool for you to enjoy. The facilities also include washrooms, change rooms, and a couple of different dining options on the beach and within walking distance. Kits beach is a popular spot for all ages and a great place to spend the day. (604-731-0011)
Vancouver Art Gallery
The Vancouver Art Gallery is the fifth largest art gallery in all of Canada. The VAG has rotating exhibitions, along with its permanent collection that boasts over 9,100 items. Art junkies will be impressed by the 200 major works by the Group of Seven, Emily Carr and Mark Chagall, which are all housed in the VAG. In 1931, when the VAG was founded, it started out at a different location. In 1983 it was moved to its current address, the old provincial courthouse on Robson Street and Hornby Street. The Art Gallery Cafe is the perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon, grab a bite, sip on a glass of wine or tea and listen to the classical music that surrounds the umbrella scattered patio. (604-662-4719)
Stretching 5.5-miles (8.8km) around Stanley Park, this lovely jaunt is perfect on a sunny day to bike, walk, run and blade around. Going around the Seawall is best enjoyed with a few stops here and there, and fortunately for you, there are benches, beaches, and scenic spots to stop along the way. Wherever you decide to stop, epic views are always within reach.
If the sun is shining and the temperature's rising, pack your towel and swimsuit and take advantage of the sandy beaches and cool ocean waters. No matter what your skill level is, the Seawall is enjoyable for all ages and athletic abilities. (604-873-7000)
This rugged park is located along West Vancouver's Marine Drive and is about a 30-minute drive from downtown. It features several trails that lead to tidal pools and stunning views. The trail from the parking lot to the lighthouse viewpoint is somewhat steep so be sure to wear your hiking boots.
If you don't have a car, you can hop on a bus from downtown Vancouver and it will take you directly to a bus stop right by the park's entrance. When you're ready to go home, simply go to the other side of the street and make your way to the opposite stop. It doesn't hurt to look at Translink's (Vancouver and the Lower Mainland's public transport service) website for schedules. (604-925-7000, 604-925-7275)
Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge
A majestic and lush rainforest set in the heart of North Vancouver is calling. The park is loaded with hiking trails, natural swimming pools, an ecology centre, and a suspension bridge. And, the best part of it all is that everything is free. Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge has been open to the public since 1912 and is a local favorite. The natural beauty is simply stunning.
This easy-to-find park is ideal during the summer months, but can also be explored and enjoyed throughout spring and fall. There are several different trails you can do and they vary in difficulty and some are definitely more challenging than others, so plan your route accordingly. (604) 990-3755)
Located in Downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park offers a green oasis to city dwellers that stretches over 1,000 acres of land, and has plenty of free things to do. Lord Stanley of Preston opened the park in 1888, and at the time it was a haven for gathering various material and food. Today, Stanley Park is home to half a million trees, the Vancouver Aquarium, the Malkin Bowl, carved totem poles, monuments, beaches, a lighthouse, and plenty of trails to take in the fresh air.
If hiking through forests isn't your thing, take advantage of the Seawall where you can run, walk, cycle or Rollerblade the 5.5 miles around Stanley Park. The lush greenery is a welcome escape from the busy city and though it's right downtown, you will feel miles away. (604-257-8400, 604-646-4660)
About Natasha John
Natasha is not born and raised in Vancouver, but is pretty certain it's her spirit hometown. After jumping around Canada, Texas, Arkansas and the UK, she has her feet firmly planted in Vancouver's beaches.
When Natasha's not freelance writing and copywriting, she's either cooking up a storm in her kitchen, kicking back with friends over a glass of wine or exploring the North Shore with her fiancé.
Read more about Natasha John here.
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