Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in Canada so it is only natural that you would think twice before planning a trip there. However, there are ways around this. If you do not care about shopping, aquariums and zoos (let’s be honest, you can find these in other places), Vancouver can be enjoyed on a budget! Also, why spend your time in shopping malls when you are in one of the greenest cities in Canada?? Here are a list of things you can do in Vancouver if you are on a budget. Shout-out to broke students, backpackers and nomads: this list is for you!
1. Lynn Canyon
So We have all heard of Capilano Suspension Bridge. North Vancouver seems to have created a huge buzz around it but only casually throw in the important details: it cost around $70 to enter! Remind yourselves that this is mostly nature and enjoying nature, in my opinion, should not come with such a heavy price tag. So, skip Capilano altogether and discover beautiful, green and fresh air North Vancouver at Lynn Canyon instead! Lynn Canyon Park is a FREE (yes, FREE) park in Lynn Valley (North Vancouver) that is open to public and tourist all year round. It boasts a number of trails, some easy and some more challenging, and has different points of interest including its own suspension bridge and amazing waterfalls and raging rivers. Lynn Canyon will definitely impress the adventurous souls out there.
2. Grouse Grind
Did you know that the Grouse Grind was dubbed one of the most treacherous hikes on Earth according to Outside Magazine? I made the mistake of reading about this the night before heading out there with some friends and nearly bailed out! In all honestly, it is not at all a treacherous hike, but it is definitely a long and hard one. This hike is definitely a grind as it is on constant elevation and you will never be walking on flat earth for the next 2 hours (the hike is about 2.9 km). By maintaining a steady pace and taking a few breaks, you will be able to do this even if you are not at your fittest.
If you are seriously unfit or suffer from joint problems, then consider preparing yourself prior to trying the Grouse Grind at it may be very challenging for you. At the top of Grouse Mountain, you will be welcomed by one of the most breathtaking views of Vancouver! There are also other activities you can do for free including the Grizzly Bear Viewing, the Birds in Motion Show and the Lumberjack Show. Note that you will have to take the Skyride Tram ($15) back down as you are not allowed to hike down the mountain. It is a beautiful view while riding down so it is well worth the money!
Vancouver has a number of beaches around the city that you can enjoy during the long hot summer days. My favourites are Spanish Banks Beach and English Bay Beach. In the summer, the beaches get crowded with people sunbathing, picnic-ing or playing beach volley. Some summer nights, you can even enjoy lovely fireworks at English Bay. The beaches are kept clean and have public washrooms and shower areas. There are many restaurants and bars around as well where you can enjoy happy hours and specials. Beaches are a really fun and cheap way to enjoy your summer trip in Vancouver.
4. Walk around Gastown and other Downtown Streets
Vancouver is a beautiful city to just walk around. If you are more of a hipster, you might find Gastown more to your liking. Gastown is known for its beautiful Victorian architecture, cobblestone streets and the iconic Steam Clock. You will really feel like you traveled back in time while wandering through Gastown and might even feel inclined to dress the part. Also, you can enjoy eating and shopping around. The streets are lined with boutique shops, cocktail lounges and hipster brunch places. I tried some sweet and tasty french toasts and hot chocolate at Nelson the Seagull . Another nice area to walk around is Robson Street where you will find all the big outlets, souvenir shops and restaurants.
Don’t forget to stroll down to English Bay via Davie Street, also known as Vancouver’s gaybourhood 😀 Other places you can check out in Downtown Vancouver include Canada Place (see those cool cruise ships in the summer!), and the UBC campus (this place feels like a town on its own!)
5. Stanley Park
Vancouver City is well-known for its 405-hectare public park that attracts tourists from all around the world. Not only is this huge park home to centuries old trees, lakes and streams, it also leads you to the seawall. The seawall is a waterfront where people jog, walk and cycle while admiring the beautiful Vancouver skyline.
Stanley park is a great place to go to on a first date, with your family and friends or as a solo trip. There is plenty of space for picnics or meditation. It also leads to Second Beach where you can take a dip in the outdoor pool during the hot summer days. If you do have some money to spare, the Vancouver Aquarium can be found in Stanley Park (but, again, this list is for cheap visits, so I skipped it. I did catch a glimpse of the Sea Lion Show over the bushes though! :P).
6. Bloedel Conservatory
If you fancy a stroll in another nice park in Vancouver, head to Queen Elizabeth Park. As many parks in Vancouver, it provides nice paths to wander around, pretty flowers and plenty of space for picnics. However, the reason I like it is that it is home to the Bloedel Conservatory. The conservatory, where different exotic bird species live, has an amazing glass dome that stands out in the park. The birds are free to fly around among all the exotic plants and flowers. It truly feels like you have walked in another world and it costs only $6! You can grab one of the info sheets and tick off all the species of birds you find. The birds are not shy: they will fly around and even talk to you! One of them said hi, laughed and then bye as we walked away!! This place is definitely great to bring children to.
7. Granville Island
Another cool area to discover in Vancouver is Granville Island. Gradville Island is very popular with locals – or Vancouverites as they like to call themselves- for strolling, jogging, shopping and having lunch with friends. Here, you will find a beautiful public market with all sorts of produce ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, artisanal cakes, jams and chocolates and plenty more. My dad, a fruit-lover, happily announced that he tasted his biggest and sweetest apple here. If you have children, you can also find unique toys at the Granville Island Toy Company a massive building hosting over 30 independent toy shops! Beer lovers can head the Granville Island Brewing to taste some of the finest handcraft beers in Vancouver.
8. Burnaby Village Museum
The Burnaby Village Museum is definitely a hidden gem in Vancouver! I had never heard of it and only found it while scrolling through “things to do near me” on google maps. This place has free entrance, which makes it a must-see. Jump back in time and discover what Canada used to be like in the 1920s. You will find houses, shops, banks, schools and even a train station from that era! All the buildings have a guide who wears costumes from those times and will show you around and explain how things used to work back then. My favourites were the kitchens and the schools. It was really fun to walk around and have a very immersive experience here. I even got to pull the steam whistle in the train!
That’s a wrap on all my favourite budget-friendly things to do in Vancouver. If you want cheap food, definitely head to the China Town or try a nice Middle Eastern Kebab: Vancouver is paradise for foodies!
Until next time,