Best free things to do in Vancouver this summer

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Rennie Museum

Even though Vancouver has been voted one of the most liveable cities in the world, it doesn’t make it the most affordable.

We’ve all uttered the phrase, “there’s nothing to do in Vancouver,” or “I want to do that, but I have no money.” Now you have no excuses.

Here is a list of FREE (or nearly free) activities, tours and attractions to do around Vancouver. Not only will this keep some money in your wallet, these are unique and things you may not have been to or tried before.

Make this your summer bucket list.

Free Guided Activities & Tours

Salsa and Ballroom Dancing Lessons at Robson Square

Robson Square Salsa Dancing

Image via Flickr

One of Robson Square’s biggest annual attractions is not only its free wintertime outdoor ice skating, but its summertime free dancing lessons. DanceSport BC is returning to Robson Square this year with extended hours for its free ballroom dancing lessons and performances!

They are excited to continue with the extended hours – dancing starts at 7:30 p.m., and the night ends at 11:30 p.m. With the longer hours, they will be extending the duration of the lesson from 30 to 45 minutes. Lessons from 8 to 8:45 p.m.

Complementing the ballroom dancing lessons is free salsa lessons on alternate evenings. Stephen and Jennifer Dancey of SalsaVancouver.net, Dancey Ballroom, Dance Studio along with with help of volunteers host free salsa lessons at Robson Square on nine Sundays.

  • Location: Robson Square, Vancouver
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Salsa Dancing Dates and Times: Sunday nights June 29; July 6, 13, 20 & 27; August 3, 10, 17 & 24. Lessons are at 3 p.m. and last 30 minutes. Performances are at 5 p.m. and last 15 minutes.
  • Ballroom Dancing Dates and Times: Friday nights – June 27; July 4, 11, 18 & 25; August 1, 8, 15, 22, 29. Dancing begins at 7:30 p.m. with lessons starting at 8 p.m. and running for 45 minutes. General dancing practice for all participants and performances by professionals will be follow and run until 11:30 p.m.
  • Websites: sundayafternoonsalsa.com / dancesportbc.com

Vancouver Convention Centre

Vancouver Convention Centre / Shutterstock

Convention Centre image via Shutterstock

The building was built in time for the Olympics and for the growing demands of the local tourism industry. It was the International Broadcast Centre during the 2010 Games and has been designated as the venue for the official TED Conference.

The convention centre is a certified LEED Platinum building and it boasts some of the most advanced green building technology available.

  • Location: 1055 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Tour Duration: 1 hour
  • Dates & Times: Tours on select days are subject to building closures. During busy convention periods or building maintenance, tours will not be available. Book a public and see the dates available
  • Website: vancouverconventioncentre.com

Tour Guys

Image: Tour Guys

With five solid stars and hundreds of reviews on Trip Advisor, Tour Guys is one of the top activities in Vancouver – and it’s free by Trip Advisor.

This tour will teach you more about the buildings you know and love. Tours to choose from include: Downtown & Waterfront, Granville Street & Gastown, Chinatown, Granville Island, Olympic Village & False Creek, and West End & English Bay.

Learn more about Vancouver’s environmental initiatives and unique style and history. See the list of tours, times and availability (available May 16 to September 14, except July 1).

  • Location: Different meeting locations depending on tour.
  • Cost: FREE! (but tips for the awesome Tour Guys are highly recommended)
  • Tour Duration: 50 to 100 minutes, varies between tours.
  • Dates & Times: See website schedule.
  • Website: TourGuys.ca

Free Museums

Burnaby Village Museum

Burnaby Village Museum

Image via Flickr

The Burnaby Village Museum is a free attraction that include a behind-the-scenes look of the 1912-built carousel, guided tours of the village, vintage mechanics, and lessons about Burnaby’s farming communities. The village also provides various craft-making and demonstrations for guests.

While you’re there, be sure to also check out the newly restored Interurban #1223 tram!

  • Location: 6501 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby
  • Cost: FREE from May 3 to September 1, 2014. Extra charge of $2.50 per ride on the carousel.
  • Dates & Times: Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Website: burnabyvillagemuseum.ca  

Vancouver Art Gallery on Tuesday nights

RHImage / Shutterstock / http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-117429013/stock-photo-lion-sculpture-at-the-vancouver-art-gallery-in-vancouver-british-columbia-canada.html?src=2mmCOesT8IpWotCmQiwKRg-1-1

Vancouver Art Gallery lion image via Shutterstock

Visit the largest art gallery in Western Canada and admire the collections that include pieces by Jeff Wall, Emily Carr and Marc Chagall. The 41,400 square foot exhibition space is located in the old courthouse and was designed by Francis Rattenbury who also designed British Columbia’s Parliament buildings and the Empress Hotel in Victoria.

  • Location: Robson Square (750 Hornby Street, Vancouver)
  • Cost: FREE! (donations are welcome)
  • Dates & Times: Tuesday nights from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Website: vanartgallery.bc.ca

Rennie Collection at Wing Sang

The Rennie Collection

Image by Rennie Collection

The Rennie Collection is located inside Chinatown’s oldest building, the Wing Sang. This historic 1889-built structure is not only a heritage site, but it’s also one of the largest collections of contemporary art in Canada.

The building formerly housed the Wing Sang Company and was owned by Yip Sang, a Chinese-Canadian businessman who succeeded during a time when discrimination was rampant in Canadian society. The building also held a schoolroom, which is still there to this day and is the oldest schoolroom in Vancouver.

Bob Rennie of Rennie Marketing Systems, Vancouver’s largest real estate marketing firm, owns the property and has spent over $10 million in a span of four years to restore the building.

Book a tour and visit the rooftop garden and schoolroom. Limited space available.

  • Location: 51 East Pender Street, Vancouver
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Dates & Times: Select dates and times in June and July.
  • Website: renniecollection.org

Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory

Image: Jeff Hitchcock

This observatory is located right next to the HR MacMillan Space Centre and Museum of Vancouver building at Kitsilano’s Vanier Park, so make sure you go to the right building. The observatory features a 1/2 metre Cassegrain telescope to explore the skies surrounding Vancouver.

It was built in 1979 and the drive system of the telescope is now computer controlled. This is a great way to view Vancouver’s sunset and night sky.

  • Location: 1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver
  • Cost: Admission by donation
  • Dates & Times: Saturdays from 8 p.m. to midnight (call in beforehand to ensure opening times)
  • Website: spacecentre.ca/gms

Engine 374 Pavilion

Engine 374 Pavilion

Image: James Cridland via Flickr

Vancouver’s historic steam locomotive Engine 374 can be viewed is fully restored and can be viewed on the corner of Davie Street and Pacific Boulevard.

In 1887, the CPR Engine 374 arrived as the first transcontinental train into the city. It was retired in 1945 and placed in Kitsilano Park, but due to the sea salt and Vancouver’s typical wet weather it started to deteriorate.

In 1983, a restoration project for the locomotive was funded by the Heritage Brick Program and its results were showcased during Expo ’86. Come visit the historic Engine 374 and be witness apart of history – it’s a great activity for young children!

  • Location: Roundhouse Community Centre (Davie Street and Pacific Boulevard)
  • Cost: FREE! (donation appreciated)
  • Hours: Open daily (except holidays) and year round. See schedule on website.
  • Websitewcra.org

 

Outdoor Activities

Disc golf

deepspacedave / shutterstock / http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-38738257/stock-photo-a-frisbee-golf-target-with-discs-in-the-basket.html?src=vObf5tK8bDX5DfZSLdjQmw-1-9

Disc golf image via Shutterstock

Disc golf, or frisbee golf, is a game where players throw their disc at a specific target. The purpose of the game is to complete the course with the fewest number of throws of the disc as possible. The game is free, but discs can be either rented or brought to the course.

  • Location: Queen Elizabeth Park – 4600 Cambie Street, Vancouver
  • Cost: FREE (but disc rental or purchase required)
  • Date & Times: Available year round
  • Website: www.dgcoursereview.com

Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

Image from Flickr

Lynn Canyon Park has much to offer nature lovers – it’s the free alternative to the Capilano Suspension Bridge! You can walk along the 50 metre high suspension bridge that overlooks the entire canyon. After walking along the bridge, you can hike down various trails, including routes that lead you to see Twin Falls – two waterfalls that will lead you to Baden Powell trails, which crosses the entire North Shore mountain range and links multiple parks.

  • Location: 3993 Peters Road, North Vancouver
  • Admission: FREE!
  • Date & Times: Open daily all year (except Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day). June to September from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and October to May from noon to 4 p.m.
  • Website: lynncanyon.ca

Cleveland Dam

Cleveland Dam

Image from Flickr

The Cleveland Dam is a concrete dam at the head of the Capilano River in North Vancouver and stores around 40 per cent of the Lower Mainland’s drinking water. The dam was completed in 1954 and named after Ernest Cleveland, the first chief commissioner of the Greater Vancouver Water District. The public can walk across the whole length of the top of the dam.

  • Location: Capilano Road and Prospect Avenue, North Vancouver
  • Date & Times: Daily

Capilano Salmon Hatchery

Capilano Salmon Hatchery

Image via Flickr

Learn how fish develop from eggs to juvenile stage at the Capilano Salmon Hatchery with a self guided tour. During spawning season, you can closely see the salmon make their way upstream. Hiking trails and picnic areas available too.

  • Location: Capilano Salmon Hatchery – 4500 Capilano Road, North Vancouver
  • Date & Times:
    • April & October – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • May & September – 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    • June to August – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • November to March – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Website: www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca

New Westminster Pier Park Sand Courts

Wisut Boonyasopit / Shutterstock / http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-153123569/stock-photo-volleyball-on-empty-beach-in-twilight.html?src=SK6T70l-BfKk3pTGKhmI1w-1-10

Beach volleyball image via Shutterstock

The unveiling happened on September 7, 2013 and is a fairly new athletic playground to New Westminster. The two 9m x 19m sand courts are on a first come first serve basis. There is no cost, but be sure to bring your own volleyball. This is a great way to connect with friends, old and new.

  • Location: Westminster Pier Park. Access from Begbie Street via parking lot adjacent to the Fraser River Discovery Centre
  • Date & Times: Available year round
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Website: www.newwestpcr.ca

 

Night Markets

Richmond Night Market

Image: Richmond Night Market

Richmond Night Market

The Richmond Night Market features over 80 food stalls and over 200 vendors, and is well known for its amusement park rides and a zip line. $10 and $20 “Zoom Passes” are available for purchase for those making repeat visits.

  • When: 7 p.m. to idnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 7 to 11 p.m. on Sundays from May 16 until October 13
  • Where: 8351 River Road, Richmond
  • Cost of Admission: Regular admission: $2.25 for adults, children 10 and under: free
  • Parking/Transit: Free parking is offered. For transit, take the Canada Line to Bridgeport Station and walk.

North Shore Shipyards Night Market

The “new kid on the block”, the Shipyards Night Market features products from local farmers and artisans, a wide variety of food, plus live entertainment in the picturesque setting of the historic Wallace Shipyard.

The location of the market – the Shipyards Plaza – makes this a perfect destination to bike, walk or rollerblade, and is just minutes away from the SeaBus Terminal, 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver.

  • When: 5 to 10 p.m. on Fridays from May 2 until September 26
  • Where: 15 Wallace Mews Road, North Vancouver
  • Cost of Admission: Free
  • Parking/Transit: Free parking is available at the nearby ICBC parking garage, while transit riders can take the SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay.

International Summer Night Market

The International Summer Night Market is a foodie favourite, featuring everything from “sno-cones” to “hurricane” potatoes. Plus, belgian waffles! Make sure to come on an empty stomach.

  • When: 7 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 7 to 11 p.m. on Sundays from May 9 until September 14
  • Where: 12631 Vulcan Way, Richmond
  • Cost of Admission: Regular admission: $2; children under 48 inches tall and seniors over 65 years of age can enter for free.
  • Parking/Transit: Parking at the market will cost you $5 – $6, but there is a free shuttlebus running to and from Bridgeport Skytrain Station. Neighbouring lots (Home Depot, Sears, JSY Furniture) will charge $4 and the Night Market will give one free admission per vehicle.

Surrey Night Market

The inaugural Surrey Night Market will be held at the Cloverdale Exhibition Grounds as an multicultural event that celebrates community inclusion.

  • When: 6 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays from July 4 to August 30
  • Where: Across from Agriplex, Cloverdale Exhibition Grounds, 6050 176 Street, Surrey, BC
  • Cost of Admission: TBD (free for seniors 75+ and children under 10 years)
  • Parking/Transit: On-site parking will be free for attendees

 

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers market image via Shutterstock

A farmers’ market is a great place to buy healthy, fresh and locally grown produce. It’s also an opportunity to talk directly to farmers, and the reassurance that you will be eating nutritious and ‘ethically sourced’ food.

See our full list of farmers’ markets in Vancouver.

 

Free Outdoor Movies at Stanley Park

Image: Fresh Air Cinema

One of the most popular summertime events in Vancouver is back! The Chevron Summer Cinema Series at Stanley Park – “in the park after dark” free outdoor movies – returns every Tuesday from July 8 to September 2.

Second Beach’s Ceperley Meadows will be outfitted with a four storey inflatable movie screen, transforming it into an outdoor cinema. Their crews transform Stanley Park’s Ceperely Meadow (between Second Beach Pool and the children’s playground) into a magical custom made outdoor movie theatre in a matter of hours.

See more details, including the list of movies.

 

TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival

Georgia Stage-Downtown Jazz - Photo: Chris Cameron

Image: Chris Cameron

For 12 days starting June 20, Vancouver will be filled with the sweet sound of jazz. There are a few hundred performances happening throughout Metro Vancouver and half of them are free. The four big free events:

  • June 20 and 21 – Downtown opening weekend
  • June 28 to 29 – David Lam weekend
  • June 20 to July 1 – Daily performances at Granville Island
  • July 1 – Canada Day at Granville Island

See more details about these free events.

 

Featured Image: Rennie Marketing

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Katrina Pedersen Editorial Intern at Vancity Buzz.

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