Vancouver is an expensive place to live, but there are still hundreds of affordable, cheap and even free ways to enjoy the Lower Mainland on a budget.
Affordable Vancouver Activities
Vancouver’s best places on a budget include the region’s beaches, parks and free attractions. Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, Vancouver can still be an amazing place to visit.
Below is a list of some of Vancouver’s best things to do on a tight budget and, as you’ll see, some of these are also ranked as best places even if you do have lots of money!
2019 & 2020 COUPON DEALS!
The Entertainment Coupon Book features hundreds of 2-for-1 coupons that are good for Lower Mainland restaurants, attractions, retailers and other places of interest. Both the 2019 and 2020 editions include Vancouver Island too!
Note: As of early November 2019, the Entertainment Coupon Book is on sale online for just $22 (US). That’s a great deal (especially considering that it isn’t even 2020 yet)! This is a limited offer, however, and will end at any time.
Special Seasonal Things to Do
- Cheap Movie Night – on Tuesdays at most theatres throughout the Lower Mainland.
- Edmonds Festival of Light – a community event at Burnaby’s Edmonds Community Centre from 2:30 until 5:30 pm. (November 23)
- Family Favourites Movies – child-friendly movies show at select Cineplex theatres on Saturday mornings for just $2.99.
- Heritage Christmas – first day of the holiday season for the lights and Christmas activities at Burnaby Village. Open between 1:00 and 9:00 pm. (November 23, 2019 to January 3, 2020)
- Highstreet Holiday Show – pre-show festivities starting at 4:30 followed by a 30-minute multi-media light show at Hightstreet Shopping Centre in Abbotsford from 5:00 until 5:30 pm. (November 23)
- Jazz Vespers – church services that include free concerts featuring some of Vancouver’s top Jazz musicians take place at a number of venues throughout the Lower Mainland. Admission is by donation.
- Lights by the Lake Opening Night – beautiful Christmas light displays with a Sasquatch theme from dusk until 11:00 pm at Harrison Hot Springs. This evening there is also live entertainment and free hot chocolate. (November 23, 2019 to January, 2020)
- Surrey Christmas Tree Lighting – a free community festival with festive illuminations, live entertainment and other activities in the Plaza at Surrey City Hall. (November 23)
- Winter in the City – at Port Coquitlam’s Leigh Square. (November 23)
- Click Free Events in Vancouver in November for a list of other free and inexpensive things to do this month.
Starting in November there are Christmas Craft Fairs which are great places to find high quality products at reasonable prices. An especially good event for budget-minded folk looking for vintage products is the Olde Farmhouse Market which features over 100 vendors selling antiques, collectibles and unique second-hand goods at Tradex in Abbotsford on November 23rd and 24th.
For other seasonal free things to do, see the Festivals & Events Calendar. Some festivals have admission costs, but most are free.
Half Price Show Tickets
Want to see a live show at a discount? Check out Ticketstonight.ca as they often sell last minute tickets on the day of the show for half price.
Best Places on a Budget
The following are some of the best places in the Lower Mainland that don’t cost anything to visit, or only very little.
- Beaches: English Bay, Kitsilano, Jericho, Spanish Banks and Stanley Park (Second and Third Beaches)
- Beaty Biodiversity Museum – admission at the UBC attraction is between about $10 and $14 depending on your age, but free for children ages 4 and under. On the third Thursday of most months, however, it has its Beaty Nocturnal event when it’s open by donation between 5 and 8:30 pm.
- Burnaby Village Museum – this is an attraction you would expect to have to pay money for, and you did have to up until recently, but now it’s free. It’s a great place to bring the family. (Note: open only seasonally and in the summer.)
- Bill Reid Gallery – a Northwest Coast First Nation art gallery that offers free admission on the first Friday of the month from 2 to 5 pm.
- Coal Harbour – a great area for walks, jogs and cycling along the seawall.
- Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden – the classical Chinese garden isn’t normally free, except for BC seniors every third Wednesday of the month. It is half price during the last 30 minutes of each day for everyone, however, and Sun Yat-Sen Park right next door includes some of the same views and is free.
- Flea Markets
- Vancouver Flea Market – on Saturdays and Sundays at 703 Terminal Avenue (just a few blocks from Science World).
- Cloverdale Flea Market – a large market with second-hand goods for sale at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds in Surrey on Sundays between 6:00 am and 3:00 pm.
- Abbotsford Flea Market – a giant year-round market on Sundays at Abbotsford Exhibition Park in Abbotsford.
- Gastown – the old part of town with lots of interesting shops and restaurants, which makes it a great place to just look around.
- Granville Island – it’s got lots of art shops and a market to explore, plus amazing views of the city and False Creek. Even the parking is free (or at least some of it).
- Grouse Mountain – it’s normally expensive, but if you like brutal treks up stairs you can walk up the Grouse Grind in the summer and then pay a reduced rate for the Gondola back down.
- Hastings Race Course – a horse-racing venue at the PNE Fairgrounds. Admission is free and betting starts at $2 per bet.
- H.R. MacMillan Space Centre – the Space Centre’s observatory is open Saturday evenings from 8 pm to midnight by donation. It’s just the observatory with admission by donation, not the Planetarium, but it’s an affordable way to see the stars on a clear evening.
- Lynn Canyon Park – want to cross a free suspension bridge and climb hundreds of stairs through the forest at one of the region’s best parks, then visit Lynn Canyon. It’s comparable to places you pay a lot of money for.
- Museum of Anthropology – at $18 for admission it isn’t ideal for people on a budget. It’s good to know though that on Thursday evenings between 5 and 9 pm the cost drops to just $10.
- Museum of Vancouver – admission is by donation on the last Thursday of each month in the evening, from 5 pm to 8 pm.
- Nitobe Memorial Garden and UBC Botanical Garden – entrance to both is usually by donation from November until mid-March (so it might not be the prettiest time to visit, but it will be the cheapest).
- Rice Lake – a beautiful lake for walking around in North Vancouver.
- Roedde House Museum – a heritage site in Vancouver’s West End. They offer admission by donation on the last Friday of the month, plus “pay-as-you-can” Jazz concerts in the summer.
- Queen Elizabeth Park – one of Vancouver’s largest and most famous parks.
- Stanley Park – this is one of Vancouver’s most famous tourist sites and it’s free to explore.
- Surrey Museum – admission to the museum at 17710-56A Avenue in Surrey is free.
- Vancouver Art Gallery – admission is by donation on Tuesdays from 5 to 9 pm.
Places on a Budget WITH A CAR
The following are some of Vancouver’s best places to visit if you’re on a tight budget, but you also have a vehicle to get you there as they aren’t so accessible otherwise.
- Alice Lake – a great place to spend the day and an excellent place for affordable overnight camping up the Sea to Sky Highway.
- Mount Seymour – this is a great place in the winter if you have a vehicle (as it’s a bit expensive to get to otherwise) and your own pair of snow shoes (which will make the trip really cheap as there are free snow shoe trails in the provincial park right beside the ski hill).
- Stawamus Chief – a great place for some semi-serious mountain climbing located halfway up the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway.
- Shannon Falls – just minutes from Squamish and the Stawamus Chief (see above), this park has gentle walking trails and a beautiful waterfall (which is especially striking in the spring or after a major rainfall).
Other Best Places on a Budget
- Robson Square offers free ice skating – but you’ll need to rent skates if you don’t have your own – from mid-November until the middle of February, weather permitting.
- IKEA isn’t really a “best place” to visit, unless you’re looking for home furnishings, affordable cafeteria food and a place with free child care while you shop.