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!
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. The edition includes Vancouver Island too! And guess what? As of late October 2020, the 2021 edition of the book is on sale for just $22 US when purchased online (including free shipping)!
Special Seasonal Things to Do
As a result of the COVID-19 virus and attempts to contain its spread, many attractions and places of interest in the Lower Mainland are currently closed.
Normally we list best places to visit on a budget this time of year in this part of our article. With many things still closed presently, however, and most upcoming festivals canceled, the main places to be on a budget currently are at Vancouver Parks and Places in Nature or Vancouver Beaches. Many playgrounds and outdoor spaces, although previously closed, are now open, which is great news for young families.
Some other free things to do this time of year include the following:
- Dundarave Festival of Lights – free Christmas trees on display at West Vancouver’s Dundarave Beach. (Dates to be confirmed.)
- Granville Island – admission to the shopping and entertainment district is always free (although you obviously have to pay for what you buy and eat). Between November 12th and January 3rd the neighbourhood is also one of the Lower Mainland’s best places to see free Christmas illuminations.
- Holiday Lights at Granville Island – the shopping, restaurant and entertainment district is decorated with Christmas lights at night. Parking at the venue is also free for the holiday season.
- Lights by the Lake – free Christmas light displays and ice skating at Harrison Hot Springs. (November 21st, 2020, to January 10th, 2021)
- Lower Mainland Parks – if it’s nice out, then one of the best places to be is in one of the area’s parks and places in nature. Many of the region’s provincial parks are still operating their day pass system though, so keep that in mind before heading out on an adventure.
- Lumiere Vancouver – illuminated art displays at English Bay and Jim Deva Plaza on Davie Street in downtown Vancouver.
- Skating at Shipyard Commons – free ice skating (and not-free skate rentals) from noon until 7:00 pm on the giant rink at Shipyard Commons in North Vancouver.
As the weather gets colder, check out some of Vancouver’s Rainy Day Activities. Some are also free and all are fun places to visit. Wherever you go though, remember to wash your hands frequently and maintain appropriate physical distancing.
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)
- Bear Creek Park – a popular park in Surrey with a large kids’ play area and free outdoor swimming pool.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Kitsilano Beach and Pool – a popular and relatively inexpensive place to swim in the summer in Vancouver.
- 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.
- New Brighton Pool – an outdoor swimming pool at New Brighton Park in Vancouver near the Second Narrows Bridge.
- 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.
- Second Beach Pool – a popular and reasonably-priced outdoor swimming pool in Stanley Park.
- 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.