Vancouver can be expensive. So how do you avoid the winter doldrums without dropping a lot of cash on entertainment? Here are 10 free things to do in Vancouver in winter. Let one inspire your next local adventure.
10 free things to do in Vancouver in Winter
1. Celebrate Chinese New Year
Vancouver has many free event celebrations and festivals. One of the liveliest is Chinese New Year, which takes place Jan. 31, 2014. Vancouver has the biggest Chinatown in all of Canada, and the vibrant neighbourhood throws down to ring in the Year of the Horse in style. From the free annual Vancouver Chinese New Year Parade (Feb. 2), which starts at Millennium Gate in Chinatown and features over 3,000 performers, to the Year of the Horse Temple Fair at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Feb. 2), there’s no shortage of opportunities to participate without spending cash. Gung Hay Fat Choy, folks!
2. Ice Skate at Robson Square
Ideal for dates, friends and families, the free public ice rink in the heart of downtown Vancouver is a classic, crowd-pleasing Vancouver winter activity. The rink is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays until the end of February 2014. Note: If you do not have your own skates, you can pay $4 for rentals.
3. Visit The Flats: Vancouver’s Cool New Art District
Sure, we all know that Vancouver Art Gallery is admission by donation on Tuesday nights. Art aficionados with insider scoop, however, are frequenting The Flats district in the South Main neighbourhood. The former industrial no man’s land is now home to 15 cutting-edge contemporary art galleries including Equinox, Winsor, Monte Clark and Hot Art, Wet City. And Emily Carr has big plans to move their campus there in 2016. If purchasing art is another 20+ years down the road for you, you can still hide from the rain, browse the shows for free and become a part of the cultured conversation during gallery hours. You might feel tempted to drop some small $ at nearby breweries Brassneck and 33 Acres afterwards.
4. Ski for Free at Mount Seymour
Every Monday evening from January 27 to March 31 (excluding Monday, February 10 – statutory holiday: Family Day), ladies of all ages can receive one complimentary lift ticket by redeeming their Shred for the Cure voucher at Mount Seymour anytime after 5pm. Find details on how to obtain vouchers here.
5. Stalk Movie Stars
This winter, Vancouver is hosting an exciting roundup of celebs. Although rumoured to have left, fear not: Fifty Shades of Grey is still filming in Vancouver. Leading lady Dakota Johnson was recently spotted in Gastown. On February 1, Ben Stiller returns to Vancouver to film Night at the Museum 3. Robin Williams and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens are also in town for this film. In March, Blake Lively will return to Vancouver to film The Age of Adaline. Her husband Ryan Reynolds is a Vancouverite, so we expect him to come to town to support his wife. Use the Entertainment section to find out the latest Vancouver celeb news.
6. Snowshoe Vancouver Mountains
Lift tickets cost a bundle whether or not you own your own ski/snowboard gear. But snowshoeing public trails is free if you own your own snowshoes. It’s a simple sport; if you can walk, you can snowshoe. The benefits – stunning winter wonderland scenery and healthy exertion – are addictive. On Cypress, check out the free public trail up Hollyburn Mountain. This thigh-burning, 450-metre ascent is well worth the glittering views of Vancouver and the Burrard Inlet. On Seymour, try Dog Mountain. Shorter and significantly easier than Hollyburn, Dog Mountain offers a slight yet scenic ascent with all the Dr. Seuss-style, snow-covered, curling trees and scenic water views.
7. Get Free Stuff Online
Maybe you’re suffering from the winter doldrums and want to apartment therapy your space on the cheap. Perhaps there simply isn’t enough love in your life; you need a puppy. The Vancouver online classifieds have tons of free stuff that only requires pick-up. From furniture and home appliances to pets, you have a decent chance of finding what you’re after. The oft overlooked swap/trade section is excellent for quirkier deals. Trade a motorcycle for a boat; a book you’re done with for one you can’t wait to read.
8. Cultivate Smarts at a Vancouver Public Library Event
Become a self-taught genius Good Will Hunting-style or simply improve your dinner conversation skills by attending any of the free public events at the VPL. They’ve put some awesome effort into creating a novel line up (pardon the pun). Free fun: You can rent a human expert from their “human library,” learn the ins-and-outs of blogging with WordPress, join a book club, and so much more.
9. Go Green at the Vancouver St. Patrick’s Day Parade and CelticFest
This massive, free public event celebrates its 10th anniversary this year on Sunday, March 16, 2014. More than 200,000 Vancouverites will don green and line the downtown parade route to cheer on 2000+ participants including award-winning pipe and drum bands, Scottish and Irish dancers, acrobats, stilt walkers, vintage cars, the Vancouver police motorcycle drill team, mounted horse drill teams and more. Meanwhile on Granville Street, there’s a Celtic Village March 15-16 with more free live entertainment.
10. Cruise the Exhibits at Vancouver Maritime Museum
The Vancouver Maritime Museum is another stimulating indoor destination for avoiding Vancouver rain and boredom. Ever since their erotic and highly controversial “Tattoo and Scrimshaw” exhibit last spring, it’s been clear that this venue is not just for the kiddos. The time to visit on the cheap is Thursdays from 5pm to 8pm when admission is by donation- i.e. whatever small change you have in your pocket.
Looking for more free things to do in Vancouver? Use our comprehensive round up of “Free Tours, Activities and Attractions in Vancouver.”
Have one to add? Help out by commenting below!
Lead image: scazon