7 Fun & Free Things to do in Vancouver, BC

From game night to epic hikes, discover Vancouver’s best free activities

free things to do in Vancouver

You might have heard that Canada is an expensive country to visit and that Vancouver is at the top of that list. But it is possible to do Vancouver on a budget! Read this post by a Vancouver local to get creative ideas for free things to do in Vancouver — that are tons of fun too.

This is a guest post by Lesley from Freedom56 Travel. She is an aspiring nomad who currently makes her home in Vancouver.

With a dizzying array of indoor and outdoor activities to try, Vancouver is a playground for locals and tourists alike. If your wallet is fat, there is no end to the exciting restaurants, events and parties awaiting you in this world-class city. 

But, maybe your wallet’s a little slimmer or you prefer to spend your time more sustainably? Or maybe you’re saving for a life of nomadic adventure, like I am? The good news is, there are plenty of fun things to do in Vancouver that cost very little or are completely free.

Grab my suggestions below for budget Vancouver fun, from free yoga, to great game nights, to extreme hiking!

Read on to discover the best…

Free Things to do in Vancouver

Also don’t miss these posts:

Vancouver Bike Routes to enjoy the city →
17 things to do in Vancouver in the summer
11 best things to do on Vancouver Island

If you’re heading to Vancouver, don’t miss our guides to Vancouver bike routes, Vancouver vegan food, and the best things to do in Vancouver in summer. You’ll also want to check out what to do on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

1. Test Your Mettle in Vancouver’s Mountains

BCMC Trail

Free, open June–September, daylight hours

One of the best things to do in Vancouver is to get outside into the extraordinary nature surrounding the city.

You might have heard of the Grouse Grind, that famous Vancouver hiking trail where locals secure bragging rights for the fastest time and post sweaty selfies at the top, high-fiving their friends. 

But have you heard of the BCMC Trail? This 4.5km trail offers a less busy, less touristy alternative to the Grouse Grind with the same potential for sweaty selfies and high-fives. Both these hikes are very challenging and steep, so only suitable for fit and experienced hikers with proper shoes!

Open from June to September, the BCMC (BC Mountaineering Club) Trail starts off at the same place as the Grind, which is easily accessible using the local bus. 

The BCMC soon diverts to the right onto the Baden Powell trail. This trail is well marked and leads you to the same destination as the Grind — the Grouse Mountain Chalet.

The BCMC trail is a more technical route than the Grind, with more roots and rocks to navigate, but the terrain is less monotonous than the never-ending stairs of the Grind. You can bring your dog (no dogs are permitted on the Grind), too! The BCMC is slightly longer than the Grind, averaging 10 minutes longer on ascent, around 1.5 hours in total. You can also descend the BCMC, although most opt to take the Grouse gondola on the way down.

The best part about climbing the BCMC trail is that the usual Grouse Grind crowd is absent. It is more of hiking trail and is not marketed as a tourist attraction. 

Both the Grouse Grind and the BCMC trail offer a great workout, but if you’re looking for a more traditional hiking trail without the crowds, try the BCMC trail.

2. Enjoy the World’s Longest Waterfront

Vancouver Seaside Greenway

Free, always open, perfect for a sunset stroll

inline skaters on the seawall overlooking vancouver
You’ll get exceptional views walking the seawall in Vancouver.

Vancouver’s Seaside Greeway is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path! It’s a great option for walkers, cyclists, and even roller bladers.

Now 28km long, the Seaside Greenway encompasses the famous Stanley Park Seawall, the Vancouver Convention Centre, and Spanish Banks Park. You can stroll your chosen section or rent a bike to explore the entire path.

(Note: Biking in Vancouver is one of My Five Acres’s favourite activities!)

Be aware that the Seawall is divided along its length to give cyclists and inline skaters their own space. If you’re walking, stay on the pedestrian side of the path. Cyclists should go slowly and watch out for stray pedestrians!

Starting from the beginning at Canada Place in Coal Harbour, you can stroll into Stanley Park and join locals and tourists out for their daily exercise. You’ll get to see the beautiful Lions Gate Bridge and the North Shore mountains, passing by Second Beach and HMCS Discovery along the way.

Leaving Stanley Park 9km later, you’ll find yourself on the English Bay side of downtown, passing by Sunset Beach Park. If you’re looking for romantic things to do in Vancouver, an evening stroll along this section of the seawall, with the city lights twinkling on the water, is ideal.

From here, you can hop on the Aquabus to go Granville Island. 

Or, keep walking and the route will take you all the way past Science World and into the new Vancouver neighbourhood that was the Athletes Village for the 2010 Winter Olympics. 

If you’re still feeling keen and energetic, continue past Granville Island and into Vanier Park and Kits Beach. Here, you can try beach volleyball, bake in the sun, and swim in the ocean or the iconic Kits Pool. The bike route continues beyond Kits Beach through to the UBC area and Pacific Spirit Park.

3. Walking Meditation in a Greek-Style Labyrinth

St. Paul’s Anglican Church Labyrinth 

Free, Tue–Fri 8:30–9:30am, Sun 10am–noon, 2nd and last Friday each month, 7pm–9pm

St. Paul’s Anglican Church Labyrinth
The St. Paul’s Labyrinth in Vancouver is based on this traditional style of labyrinth.
Photo by David Clay Photography, own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

If you Google “labyrinth” these days, you’ll find results that include films, artwork, operas, TV mini-series, card games and more.

However, in Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Anglican Church, you’ll find a Labyrinth that adheres to the original meaning of the word — an ancient pattern first found in Greek mythology and widely used all over the world in the decorative arts.

The Labyrinth at St. Paul’s Church is a 13m replica of the medieval labyrinth found at the 13th century Chartres Cathedral in France.

Opened in 1996, the labyrinth is used for a form of walking meditation. 

Painted on the gym floor and almost 500m from start to finish, the labyrinth is open to the public and is used for a variety of purposes, which include reflection, healing, celebration and more.

On the last Friday of every month, there is live music to enjoy while you experience the serenity of walking meditation. Recent guest artists have included cellists, pianists, throat singers, and harpists.

On my recent visit to the Labyrinth, I really fell in love with the experience! There was a soothing atmosphere in the Labyrinth space and the physical movement of walking through the labyrinth seemed to calm my mind. I’ll definitely be returning.

4. Test Your Board Game Chops Against Local Gamers

The Storm Crow Tavern

Mon–Sat, 11am–1am, Sun, 11am–12am 

people playing board games at storm crow tavern
The Storm Crow Tavern in Vancouver is like a sports bar, but for geeks. Photo via Storm Crow Tavern.

The original Nerd Bar in Vancouver, the Storm Crow Tavern on Commercial Drive has a low-key environment that welcomes everyone from gob-smacked tourists to nerdy metalheads. 

You’ll never see a hockey game on the TV here. Instead, you’ll find Game of Thrones, Star Trek or other science fiction and fantasy shows.

The Storm Crow encourages guests to play board and card games, and has literally hundreds of different games available, divided into appetizers (less than 30 minutes), light fare (up to 60 minutes), and main course (more than an hour). 

Nerd Heaven

Everything from backgammon to Carcassonne to a Lord of the Rings Trivia Game is on the menu. If you’re keen to try something new, you’ll find it at The Storm Crow.

This is technically one of the almost free things to do in Vancouver, because you will need to order something. But the staff won’t mind if you just get a coffee and play a game with your friends. If you’re coming alone, there will be plenty of friendly people (Canadians are the friendliest!) looking to add another person to their game.

The Storm Crow often hosts special event nights, too, so check their Facebook page for all the latest. A visit to the Storm Crow is one of the most fun activities in Vancouver.

5. Move Your Body at a Karma Yoga Class

yoga in vancouver bc
You can always hold your own yoga session right on Vancouver’s amazing beaches.

If you’ve always wanted to try yoga, or just want a welcoming place to practice while on holiday, there are plenty of places for free yoga in Vancouver.  

Lululemon, which was born in Vancouver, offers complimentary yoga at several locations in and around Vancouver. Confirm with the store if you plan to attend. 

8:45am at Robson Street
9:30am at Oakridge

8pm at Kitsilano

6:30pm at Lulu Lab (Cambie)

7:30am at Robson Street (ESL focus)

Some stores also have running and guided meditation classes, so if you’re looking for other active free things to do in Vancouver, check in with them.

Unity Yoga Tea house on Commercial drive offers weekly Karma Classes that only require donation of non-perishable item for the food bank. 

For a very “Vancouver” experience, try Rooftop Yoga in downtown Vancouver. This is a donation-based studio, with an emphasis on embodiment of self-hood, offers two evening classes alternating weekly. 

(Don’t miss: Our guide to Vancouver’s very best vegan food) →

6. Take a Free Walking Tour

Various Locations Around the City

Free, a tip is expected if you enjoy the tour

vancouver public library
You may well stop by the exceptional Vancouver Public Library on your free Vancouver walking tour.

Central Vancouver is a relatively small area and a great place to walk. There are lots of local walking tour companies offering tours to some of the best Vancouver tourist attractions. While there is no fee upfront, the tour guides welcome tips at the end of the tour if you enjoy it. 

Vancouver’s original free walking tour company is the Tour Guys. They host a variety of tours of downtown Vancouver and Granville Island that run seasonally from March to September. Their walking tour of Chinatown is particularly popular, as Vancouver’s original Chinatown was the largest in Canada, and second only to San Francisco in North America.

Another well-rated free walking tour operator is Freetour.com, who offer a great All-Canadian Free Walking Tour. This 3-hour tour hits all the highlights of downtown Vancouver, including the Gastown Steam Clock, the Terry Fox Memorial, and Dr. Sun Yat Sen park. This introductory tour to Vancouver runs daily (except Mondays).

7. Get Involved in Volunteerism

Various Locations, Go Volunteer Website

Free, choose a time that suits your schedule

golden retreiver dog
There are plenty of people and animals you can meet doing volunteer work in Vancovuer.

If you want to get to know some Vancouver locals while helping others and developing your own skills, try volunteering in Vancouver. Volunteering is a great non-touristy thing to do in Vancouver!

Finding volunteer opportunities in Vancouver is easy thanks to the Go Volunteer website.

You can sort volunteering opportunities by your interests and location, the type of skills required, as well as keywords. If you’re interested in volunteering in a particular sector, like children’s activities or horticulture, search using those terms to find opportunities that interest you.

Short- and Long-Term Gigs

I’ve found both short- and long-term volunteer gigs on Go Volunteer. 

If you’re in Vancouver for a short time, opportunities like volunteering as an usher at the Vancouver Fringe Festival might be for you. If you’re into non-traditional live performances, this is a great gig. Other Vancouver festivals such as the Vancouver Film Festival also use this site as a resource for finding their volunteers. 

If you’re warm-hearted soul, senior’s homes always welcome visitors to help with recreational programming or just sitting down with a resident for a cup of coffee and a chat. 

vancouver beaches from burrard street bridge
Visiting Vancouver’s beaches is an exception free activity in Vancouver.

About the Author

lesley freedom 56 travel

Lesley is a travel enthusiast, avid motorcyclist and aspiring retiree! She has traveled extensively while working 9 to 5 and is looking forward to making traveling her full-time job. With Vancouver as her home base, Lesley seeks to share her travel adventures with the world! She writes about travel from a mid-life perspective on her blog, Freedom56 Travel. You can follow her there and also on Pinterest and Facebook.

Despite its reputation as an expensive city, these fun and free things to do in Vancouver prove that you don’t need to rely on a big budget to have fun in Canada’s most beautiful city. We hope our suggestions help you have an amazing time in Vancouver.

♥  Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen

We’re not going to lie, it takes a LOT of work to create travel guides like this. But it’s easy to help us out! If you book or buy something using one of our personal links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J

Want to visit Vancouver on a budget and still have a great time? Then grab our list of fun and free things to do in Vancouver! #vancouver #britishcolumbia #canada #travel #mindfultravel #myfiveacres
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