Let’s be honest, the lists of free things to do in Vancouver that are available on the internet are boring. Most of these “20 free things to do in Vancouver!” articles are full of lame suggestions and ideas that include a lot of looking at trees or enjoying nature. Well, what if you don’t want to head to Stanley Park to walk around the sea wall? What if your idea of torture is spending the day outside having a nice picnic at Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge? Booooring.
It’s time to start a list of free things to do in Vancouver that are interesting, fun, entertaining and–obviously–easy on the wallet. This list will be added to over time, so feel free to check it regularly.
1. The Art Gallery on Tuesday Night.
From 5pm to 9pm every Tuesday night, enjoy the exciting exhibits inside the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG). If you are lucky, you will get to see really cool art on exhibit by an exciting, influential artist. If you’re not lucky, you can walk around pretending to understand what you are seeing. In any case, it’s a “by donation night” which (in our case) will mean… whatever spare change you have in your pocket. Thus, free!
2. Free Tasting events at private liquor stores.
You know it’s going to be a great day when you head into your favourite liquor store and a “wine/alcohol expert” hands you a complimentary taster of something that is free. There is nothing more satisfying than free booze, especially at lunch time. You can rely on luck to win you some free samples, or you can check out the Everything Wine Store which offers free samples from 2-6 daily. There is also a convenient list of Tasting Bar free events that you can use to mark on your calendar at this site.
3. Stalk your favourite actor/actress.
It seems as if there is always a movie set in Vancouver that pops up in a location that typically screws up your daily commute. Now, you can turn this annoyance into a fun thing to do when you are desperately bored. Check the Creative BC Film List to figure out which movies are being filmed in your area. Head down to the set and become an annoying, star-crazy fanatic. Hunt down which stars are most famous on the set and make it a mission to GET THEIR AUTOGRAPH. Then, when you get home, SELL THAT AUTOGRAPH ON EBAY. Do people still buy autographs? Probably!
4. Go star gazing at the Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory.
Space is an interesting place and perhaps you’ve found yourself gazing upwards at the moon or the Milky Way. Maybe you’ve even pointed out the big dipper to your friend. Now, instead of using your naked eye, you can view all these cool things in space with a big ass telescope. The Observatory is open on Friday and Saturday from 8:30pm and you pay by donation… Start looking at the star calendar for the next meteor shower and view it up close and personal!
5. Get Stuffed with Costco’s Free Samples.
If you have ever shopped at Costco, you have probably noticed the ginormous amount of product that you can get for minimal prices. However, the most important factor about Costco is the wonderful array of free samples you can enjoy whilst shopping (or whilst dropping in for a walk-around). In one go I received an appetizer (crackers with cheese), a second appetizer (hummus dip), a main course (sausage on a stick), a second main course (lasagna) and finally, desert (chocolate cake)! So what if it’s in a small paper cup with a tiny wooden spoon, it’s free dammit! Saturday is the best day to go – you’ll need a membership card or a friend with a membership card to get in)
6. Volunteer in the Downtown Eastside.
Vancouver’s most infamous neighbourhood gets a pretty bad rap. Yes, it’s full of drugs, dealers, people with mental health issues, but it’s also full of people trying to help this situation. Instead of standing and staring, how about spend some time helping out? There are lots of volunteering options available in the Downtown Eastside, why don’t you give it a try? There’s food serving, women’s shelters, and plenty of other options for volunteering.
7. Get a gang of girls and head to Brandi’s Lounge & Strip Club.
Guess what girls, Brandi’s Exotic Nightclub is COMPLETELEY FREE to get in. That’s right, you pay no cover to watch some super talented women get naked and dance around on a pole. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re celebrating, bored, or just curious, why not head to the classiest stripper joint in town? Guys, you could always try creating a fake identity and investing in a really good wig, but good luck trying to get through the ride in the elevator with the bouncer. By the way, if you want to make it a fun night, get drunk ahead of time. Unless guys are buying you drinks (which is unlikely as you’re not taking off your clothes), you’re going to be paying around $9 a drink. Ouch. (* This may not be free anymore, currently trying to get in contact with a Brandi’s representative)
8. Board Game Nights at your local Comic Book store.
Chances are, the games & hobbies store that you’ve popped into from time to time hosts a free board game night each week. Typically held on Friday or Wednesday nights, free board game nights are great for meeting new people and trying out new games. Check out this site for a complete list of the Greater Vancouver area board game stores. Their individual websites announce free games nights and any other upcoming events.
9. Get a free makeover at Mac or Sephora
Have a special evening coming up or just feel like experimenting with a new look for your face? Get to MAC, Sephora or virtually any other makeup store for your free makeover. Technically, these stores are offering “trial runs” of the makeup that you are supposed to buy immediately after. But there’s no rule against getting your face all done up and then making up an excuse to jet. It’ll be hard to get past the guilt trip given to you by the professional makeup artist who is more than likely going to get a commission from your new makeup gear, but it’s possible. Ask for something new, wild, and exciting. Pretend you don’t like it, and storm off to celebrate your awesome new look. (Or buy the makeup, it’s up to you).
10. Take a trial lesson in something new.
There are tons of schools, classes, dance studios and more that offer free trials of their services. By scanning through a search engine or online classified listings, you can find some great options for a fun-filled day of learning a new thing. For example, you could take a free Mandarin Lesson, 2 free classes of mixed martial arts, free clinics on Saturday for water polo, free healing seminars, etc, etc, etc…
11. Get some free stuff on Craigslist.
If you are ever bored at work, home or school, try your hand at getting some good quality free stuff from the Craigslist online classifieds. As they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Shopping through the Craigslist free zone is a bit like scoping out garage sales or flea markets. Except you get to do it in your pajamas. Things go fast, so it’s a good idea to keep constantly refreshing the page in hopes that you’ll be the first one to see the newest, most awesome free listing. The best stuff usually comes just before the end of the month.
12. Plan ahead and find all the free stuff you can get on your birthday.
Birthdays are pretty special, they are the one day in a year when you–and only you–can get showered with gifts, money, appreciation and more. Problem is, because it only happens once a year, you forget all the free deals you can get on your day of birth. So start making a list of what you can get away with for free on your birthday. I’m talking: free pancakes at Denny’s, free sushi roll from that place down the street, free cake, free extra game of lazer tag, etc. etc. etc… Start asking around and making notes so you and your friends can exploit your birthday for everything it’s worth! (Take note, most places need I.D. to confirm). Check out this huge list of free birthday treats from across Canada.
13. Festivals & Events in Vancouver
There are usually tons of free events happening in and around Vancouver over the weekend. Visit EventShop.com for all the events around you.
14. Explore the Capilano Canyon in North Vancouver
The Capilano Canyon is a haven for dogs, nature-lovers, runners, and bears. It’s a huge, forested area with multiple paths, a fish hatchery, a freezing river and more. Best of all, it’s a great place to explore on a hot, summer’s day. Escape the heat by exploring the Capilano Canyon– Choose a random path and discover the largest tree in North Vancouver. Find great cliff jumping places like Granny’s Cove. Stumble upon a movie being filmed, or film your own. Meet some fishermen or fish for your dinner. Located on Capilano Road in North Vancouver, with easy transit access, Capilano Canyon is a great place to enjoy nature for free. (Or enjoy nature for a price at the neighboring Capilano Suspension Bridge.)
15. Go to a nightclub during the week.
Alright, so there are a few nightclubs on Granville Street that are successful and packed full on a Tuesday night (ie. Celebrities), but for most other cases, nightclubs are deadzones on weekdays. If you’re ever buzzed, bored and aching to go downtown without spending a ridiculous amount of money on cover, it’s a good idea to head to Granville. Walking up and down the street will get you tons of little tickets from club promoters that give you “free entrance” to nightclubs that typically charge $20 to get in. Granted, these clubs are usually empty, but sometimes you may get a free, watered-down shot for providing your email address. Or, if you’re good at chatting up the bored bartender, a few free drinks.
16. Play with the wild bunnies at Jericho Beach.
If you’ve ever found yourself walking around Jericho Beach, you may be in for a surprise – nearly every 5 minutes or so, out of the corner of your eye, you will see a dark shape run by. These are the wild bunnies of Jericho Beach. They live in the thicket (?) of bushes near the walkway, sleep amongst the sailboats at the sailboat club and eat carrots from your hand if feeling daring. In case you’ve ever wanted a bunny but never wanted to deal with the hassle of actually raising one – this is the perfect place for you. Stock up on some delicious carrots that may tempt bunnies to come closer to you. Head down to Jericho Beach, and go on a bunny hunt to find the cutest one.
17. Watch our justice system in action at the Vancouver Law Courts
Love watching Law & Order or Judge Judy? Forget reality TV, it’s time to take in the real thing at the Vancouver Law Courts in downtown. Pop into the law courts and watch lawyers defend or accuse people who are hoping to be proven “not guilty” in cases of murder, illegal entry into Canada, sexual interference, and more. Click here to find a list of the day’s trial listings. It’s truly an eye-opening experience to just how interesting (or boring) a real life court case can be.
18. Hike the BCMC Trail instead of the Grouse Grind
If you’ve ever hiked the Grouse Grind you know the pain of walking behind a slow, sweating mass of people who stop every 5 minutes, talk loudly and smell like… you know. Ugh. It’s horrible. There’s a way to escape this pain and get the same amount of exercise by hiking up the BCMC trail, which runs parallel to the Grouse Grind. It’s basically the same thing with less steps, less people, and the occasional dog. Best of all, you can walk down the BCMC, which is a big deal for those of you who don’t feel like paying the $10 dollars just to ride a tram back down the mountain. Yes, $10 doesn’t seem like that much, but it -used- to be $5. So how do we know it’s not going to be $20 to ride down next year? So, if you want to hike the Grind but don’t want to pay the fee, just head over to the BCMC trail and walk down (even if it kills your knees).
19. Play a round of disc golf
While not as fancy and cool as some disc golf courses around BC (*cough*Pender Island*cough*), disc golf in Vancouver is rising in popularity. There are three to four disc golf courses that we know about in Vancouver, the obvious one in Queen Elizabeth Park, the more hidden one next to the army base on West 4th on the way to UBC, and the one on Grouse Mountain (free if you hike up and down the BCMC trail!), the other one is hidden in the Lynn Valley area. Apparently it’s accessible by entering the forest between the upper levels hwy and 22nd street east. Park and enter at the northern termination of Queensbury Avenue. Good luck hunting for that one! You’ll need a disc golf frisbee in order to play, but if you’re really cheap, a normal frisbee might be okay for the time being.
20. Play Pokemon Go in Vancouver
The hottest new game that’s taking the world by storm! The app is free to download and easy to understand. It gets you outside, walking and is a fun scavenger hunt. Doesn’t matter if you’re super serious or just out to get the cutest jigglypuff of all (guilty), any kind of player can enjoy Pokemon Go. Some of the best places to play Pokemon Go in Vancouver include Canada Place, Metrotown, UBC, BCIT, Minoru Park, and other hot spots around the city. You’ll end up going for a pleasant walk and getting exercise by accident!
Know of any other fun, free things to do in Vancouver? Let us know by leaving a comment below!