There are countless awesome things to do in Vancouver BC. With mild winters, beautiful summers, and a ton of places to explore, Vancouver is without a doubt, one of a kind. While it goes by many nicknames, including Vansterdam, Hollywood North, Vancity, and the somewhat inappropriate “Hongcouver“, whatever you want to call it, there’s countless things to see and do for everyone. From world class restaurants, some of the most amazing hiking trails in Canada, and a tremendous arts and music scene, you’re going to be in for a treat in your upcoming visit to Vancouver.
Tablet of Contents
- Budget things to do in Vancouver
- Free things to do in Vancouver
- Tours in Vancouver
- Best food in Vancouver
- Drink Specials in Vancouver
- Live Music in Vancouver
- Hiking Trails in Vancouver
- Hotels in Vancouver
- Hostels in Vancouver
Budget things to do in Vancouver
If you’re visiting Vancouver on a budget, whether you’re a backpacker, a student, or just traveling on a shoestring. Vancouver has countless budget things to do. While I recommend ensuring you plan ahead and do yourself and wallet a favour by picking up some discount cards, even without there’s ample opportunity to see and do some amazing things in Vancouver without putting you back too far in the hole.
Walk north along Commercial starting around 4th Ave.
Once called “Little Italy,” this varied neighbourhood is home to some colourful mixture of hippies, immigrants and families. In the late 1800s, the place was a thoroughfare with stores as the nearby region became residential springing up along Commercial. The Drive’s present nature was, led to by succeeding waves of immigrants following both world wars, many from Italy and Southern Europe. It’s a perfect place for people watching or finding unique cafes and restaurants.
Lynn Canyon / Suspension Bridge
Lynn Canyon Park formally opened in 1912 to the general public and continues to be a favourite destination among tourists and local residents. Lynn Canyon Park is an excellent place to pack a picnic for, you will find lots of excellent spots to relax for the day and there’s also an excellent cafe in the park entry.
There are several trails through the park to pick from to get a leisurely hike such as the Baden Powell Trail, which is my personal favourite. In addition, there are many popular swimming holes and breathtaking waterfalls. It’s the perfect stop in the summertime months.
Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Center
The Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre provides a wide selection of choices from rentals to lessons and guided day and weekend paddles. They have high quality ocean kayaks, canoes and surf skis which may be leased daily, hourly and for multi-day use. Paddling Indian Arm provides a unique chance to look at native wildlife and the mountains from sea level. Knowledgeable guides show the natural beauty of Canada’s southernmost fjord and can interpret the local history.
No visit to Deep Cove is complete without a stop at Goodies Honey Doughnuts, a favourite for visitors and locals alike. In addition , there are several hiking trails nearby, including Quarry Rock hike, which features wonderful views of Indian Arm.
Rent a motorboat from Sewell’s Marina in Horseshoe Bay
Make some waves with Vancouver’s longest serving boat lease business! You can rent 17 foot speed boat or your own 15 foot motor board and explore the islands, islets, and coves of Howe Sound. As you depart the pier a unique experience awaits. Whether you would like to go sightseeing, fishing, or simply relax out on the water – it all can happen with your own boat rental. There’s plenty of wildlife to photograph, so be sure you don’t forget your camera!
Visit the enchanting Bowen Island hamlet in Snug Cove. In the event that you want to escape from city live, go north to Pam Gambier Rocks or Anvil Island to the quiet green waters waiting to be found. Or see with marine parks which can be reached only by water and enjoy a picnic on the board or relaxing on a pier. Visit Sewell’s Marina for booking details!
Skiing Blackcomb Glacier
Whistler Blackcomb boasts the longest snow season in Canada. The Horstman Glacier supplies two t-bars, while a terrain park features boxes and jumps perfect for expert and advanced skiers and riders. Don’t forget your sunblock! Blackcomb is a quick drive out of Vancouver. While it may not be the most budget friendly thing to do, I felt it was worth including. At $66 per day pass, it’s not going to break the bank, though rentals will likely add a bit on top of that. Visit Whistler Blackcombs website for more details. Or check out our complete trail guide to Whistler Blackcomb.
Granville Island Public marketplace
A fascinating assortment of exceptional home made products and food in colourful booths. All fresh from the oven, the ocean or the field, there’s something to take home for everyone. Picture a huge farmers market, with abundant smells permeating in beautiful waterfront building. Shimmering seafood, plump fruit, warm baked goods. Just be warned, it can get busy later in the afternoon. You’ll have a better time if you can make it before 11am, which is when it starts to get quite busy.
Vancouver Trolley Hop On Hop Off Tour
$45 per individual
Take a flexible, guided tour update to include entry to Vancouver Lookout for panoramic views of town and its own spectacular natural backdrop, and expertise. The Hop on hop off tour gives you a great sense of direction and is a superb way to get your bearings if you’re new to town.
Electricity Pedal Tours Vancouver
$89 per individual
Power Pedal Tours offers a unique experience for those keen to be outdoors and experience bicycling in Vancouver. The big perk here is that their bikes are Electric, ensure you can still walk and take in more tours after completing this one. On the ride, you are going to be given a brand new bottle of water, and at English Bay will take a quick break to grab a coffee and take photos. There’s a late lunch when you arrive at Granville Island. Water, Coffee, and Lunch is supplied in your purchase price.
Bookings are accepted by them with all leading bank cards. Visit Power Pedal Tours for more info.
Kayak Rentals at Kitsilano Beach
Single Kayak Rental: $25 plus tax, $15 for each additional hour
Double Kayak Rental: $35 plus tax, $20 for each additional hour
Vancouver is a paddler’s heaven. Vancouver Water Experiences at Kitsilano Beach has double and single kayaks available, and conventional sit on top kayaks. Vancouver Water Experiences can get you set up and on the open water in minutes from Kits beach. Exploring Vancouvers amazing shoreline is must-do activity. Lessons can also be accessible if you’re new to the sport. It’s super easy to pick up and a great way to spend a couple of hours on a warm day.
Stand Up Paddleboarding at Kitsilano Beach
1 hour SUP Rental: $20, plus tax
2 Hour SUP Rental: $30, plus tax.
During the summer months, the same outfitter above, Vancouver Water Experiences at Kitsilano Beach rents Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) to those who want to get out on the water, take in the sun, and paddle their way into the zen beauty of Vancouvers beautiful shoreline. During the warmer months your SUP acts as the perfect diving board to take in the cool Pacific Waters. SUP tours and SUP yoga are also available during the summer months.
Free things to do in Vancouver
Nothing beats the price of free. While Vancouver can be expensive, particularly if you plan on renting a place. Despite the high costs of Vancouver, it’s also home to a ton of great free things to do that will keep a hole from burning through your wallet. Free things to do can help offset the typical price of a trip to a bigger city. If you try to include at least one free thing to do per day on your itinerary you’re in for some superb savings, and best of all will see some unique parts of this incredible city.
Explore Stanley Park
Located in the northwestern corner of downtown Vancouver. Stanley Park is one of the city’s most popular tourist stops. Despite it’s popularity, the size of Stanley Park tends to spread people out that you never feel like you’re in a typical tourist trap. It’s the perfect escape from the glassy downtown views. With amazing beaches, kilometres of paved trails and dirt trails, a pool, waterpark, mini railway, and coastal views. It’s the perfect place to spend on a rest day.
Bicycle, Walk, or Rollerblade the Vancouver Seawall
The Vancouver Seawall is proud to boast the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path. With over 28km of seaside paved paths, this path system is a popular local destination for walkers, joggers, bicycling, rollerbladers, and inline skaters. It sports breathtaking views, and countless spots to pull off for photo ops. The seawall construction was officially completed in 1980. It’s become a point of pride for Vancouverites, and is a great place to burn some calories.
Hike the Grouse Grind
A list of free things to do in Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Grouse Grind. Though be warned, it’s an extremely popular tourist stop and if you’re not a fan of large crowds slowing down traffic on the hike up, you might want to avoid this one. Despite this, if you’re able to wake up early and beat the crowds you should be fine.
Grouse Mountain rises 1250m (4100 ft) and is only 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver. The views are awesome, and is very popular with the sporty types. Your legs may not forgive you after the hike up. If you’re pooped by the time you get to the top, you can spend $10 to take the Gondola down. Worth a stop if you’re in Vancouver for long.
Capilano Salmon Hatchery
It might not sound like the worlds most exciting stop. But if you’re a biology geek, or just like to see new things, the Salmon Hatchery is a great place to wander around and learn about the lifecycle of Vancouver’s patron fish. The salmon runs are a great free thing to do in Vancouver and great for people of all ages.
Vancouver’s Free Museums
Vancouver has a few free museums that are worth a wander through. They’re a relaxing way to spend a half day without dropping any dough. On Tuesdays, the VAG (Vancouver Art Gallery) is open “by-donation”, as is the Space Centre in Vanier Park. The Burnaby Village museum is open to the public year round and gives a great summary of the Burnaby region.
Lynn Canyon Hiking Trails
North of Vancouver, Lynn Canyon is a much more quiet option for a gentle hike than the Grouse Grind. There’s a ton of things to see and do around Lynn Canyon. While you might not be hiking up nearly as high, I personally prefer Lynn Canyon over Grouse. Lynn Canyon’s Park is 250 hectares (615 acres) of beautiful coastal rainforest. There’s a great trail system as well as an ecology centre. Don’t forget to check out the 30 foot pool and Twin Falls.
Tours in Vancouver
Vancouver is an amazing city to visit if you plan on squeezing in a few tours. There are tours for families, couples, singles, lovers of wildlife, beer, wine, you name it! While some of the tours in Vancouver are seasonal, there’s something worth checking out just about any time of the year.
Bear Tours in Vancouver
If you’re visiting Vancouver and hoping to catch a photo of wild bears, you may luck out while driving along the highways. But you’re much better off chatting to the folks at Whistler Bear Tours, who specialize in seeing these majestic creatures from a safe distance for both you, and the bears. Don’t forget to bring your long camera lenses! Visit Whistler Bear Tours for more info.
Whale Tours in Vancouver
While there’s some debate whether East coast vs West Coast whale are better, it’s no doubt that when you’re in a beautiful coastal city like Vancouver, nothing beats spotting whales in the wild. Personally I have to give the medal to Vancouver. Whales just seem like they’re more entrenched in the local culture out west. Check out Vancouver Whale Watch for more information on tours.
Helicopter Tours in Vancouver
Take to the skies, and book a helicopter tour of the lower mainland and coastal Vancouver. While they’re not cheap, they’re one of the best ways to take in the topography of Vancouver. The two most trusted helicopter tour company’s in Vancouver are Grouse Mountain Heli Tours, or for more a more destination approach, check out Helijet.
Stanley Park Tours
While Stanley Park is free to explore on your own, if you want a more detailed history or to learn about the local flora and fauna, a Stanley Park tour is a great option. The Drop in Discovery Walking Tour through Stanley park is a great overview on the park in its entirely. While the Van Dusen Garden Tours is hands down the best way to learn about the Gardens, and are the best people to ask about any questions regarding Fauna.
Vancouver Wine Tours
Backyard Vineyard Tour
From a quick $4 wine tasting tour, to the premiere $40 per couple Premiere tour for Two tour. Backyard Vinyards showcases their very best to show you what sets them apart in the world of winemaking. Private Wine Tours are also available. Backyard Vineyard is a local favourite. Visit Backyard Vineyard for more information.
Chaberton Estate Winery Tour
Chaberton Winery is proudly celebrating its 25th year. They offer budget friendly tasting fees at $5 per person, which are waved with the purchase of a bottle of wine. From March through November (2pm – 4pm daily – weather permitting) and December – February at 3pm only. Chaberton Winery is open for group tours, where you’ll learn about their winemaking process. Visit Chaberton Estate for more information.
Vista D’oro Farms & Winery Tours
Vista Doro Farms & Winery is a culinary agritourism destination, popular amongst foodies and wine lovers. Located in South Langley on ten acres. This beautiful farm, located only 45 minutes south of Vancouver is a must visit destination for experiencing this unique farm and winer. Visit Vista D’oro Farms & Winery for more information.
Vancouver Brewery Tours
DIY Brewery Tour
If you’re looking to save some money and drink at your own pace. The Evergreen Line Sky Train is conveniently located to four amazing craft brewers. The stations is right next to Port Moody’s Brewery District, and within a four block walk, you can easily stumble to Yellow Dog Brewery, Twin Sails Brewery, and Dageraad Brewery. That saves you a bit of dough to spend on a couple extra pints.
Vancouver Brewery Tours
Looking for a hands-off approach to experiencing the craft beer culture in Vancouver? Vancouver Brewery Tours takes you to the very best locations, ensuring a safe and easy way to sample west coast IPA’s, rich stouts, and delicious blonde ales. Visit Vancouver Brewery Tours for booking information.
Best food in Vancouver
Vancouver is a foodies dream come true. Home to a diverse multi-cultural food scene, you’re able to eat your way around the world from within Vancouver. Award winning sushi, hip food carts, high quality seafood, vegetarian/vegan, and every type of ethnic food you can imagine. Throw in a healthy shake of pubs, pizza, and burger joints and you’ll quickly discover that Vancouver has something for everyone.
/r/Vancouver’s foodie compilation list
I could spend hours writing about the best food and restaurants in Vancouver, but fact is, I’d be at it for days. So let’s check out this handy crowd sourced post on Reddit’s /r/Vancouver. Browse restaurants by style and get out there and chow down.
Quick shoutout to Steamworks Brewing Co – one of my favourite pubs in Vancouver and home to some amazing Fish Tacos and rockin’ IPA’s.
Drink Specials in Vancouver
Fancy finding a good deal on some wobbly pops? Or perhaps after something more high end such as cocktails and highballs? Nobody likes to drop a ton of money on a night out. Fortunately there are several superb drink specials throughout Vancouver. Let’s explore some great places to find a drink that’s going to keep our night out on a decent budget.
For up to date information on drink specials visit Van City Drink Specials. The best source of information on drink specials in Vancouver!
- 5-6:30pm & 10:30pm-Late (Daily)
- $7.50 Classic Cocktails (2oz)
- $6 Red and White Wine
- $5 Tiger Lager
- 5-6pm (Mon-Fri) 2-6pm (Sat-Sun) & 10pm-late (Daily)
- $5 Draft Beer (20oz)
- $5.50 Duke’s Cider (20oz)
- $6 Craft Cocktails (2oz)
THE KEEFER BAR
- 5-7pm – (Sun-Fri)
- $5-$8 Craft Cocktails
- 3-6pm – (Daily)
- $4 Driftwood Fat Tug and Steamworks Pale Ale sleeves
- $3.50 House Wine
- $10 Cariboo Lager pitchers
- 3-6pm – (Mon-Fri)
- $4 Draft Beer Pints
- $6 Wine on Tap
- $6 New York Cocktails, 2oz
- 3-6pm – (Mon-Fri)
- $3 GI Honey Lager or Steam Whistle
- $3 Jamesons Irish Whiskey
- $3.65 House Wine
- 3-6pm – (Mon-Fri)
- $3 Draft Beer
- $3 Highballs
- $3 Wine
CACTUS CLUB CAFE
- 3-6pm – (Mon-Fri)
- $4 Sunset Soda
- $4 Udder Ale
- $4 Bellinis
- $6 Wine
CHEWIES STEAM & OYSTER BAR
- 9pm-close – (Sun-Thurs)
- $5 Craft Beer, 20oz
- $5 Boutique BC Wine
Live Music in Vancouver
Vancouver is home to a ton of great venues to catch live music. Whether you’re after a trendy indie band you heard on CBC Radio, or trying to catch the latest mega-star act, Vancouver is a very popular stop for all bands and musicians of every genre.
East side Vancouver
Since 1911, this builder on Main & Prior has been through a lot. This music venue is all brick, all wood beams, with a superb vibe. The Cobalt features live music, dance parties, drag shows, and more. It’s a great place to catch indie bands and singer-songwriters of every genre.
The Vogue Theatre
The Vogue Theatre is one of the last theatres from the old Vancouver theatre district. Locally owned and operated, The Vogue features Comics, and medium sized bands. This sit down venue ensures everyone’s got a good view of the act. It’s a historical building that hosts some of the biggest traveling acts.
The Commodore Ballroom
This award winning venue has a long reputation for showcasing high end acts. While it may only seat 1000, it’s a the vibe of this place that truly makes it memorable. Watch out for updates from them, due to the smaller venue size tickets sell out fast. So make sure you’re on top of watching when tickets go on sale!
The Bilmore Cabaret
Prince Edward Street
This 50 year old public house has been a pivotal part of the local Vancouver music scene. During the revitalization of Mount Pleasure, this bar re-opened as the Biltmore, aiming to focus more on the music. If you’re after a local intimate venue, this is a great one to check out.
Guilt & Company
If you’re a music lover, chances are you’d prefer to stand up and shake those hips to your favourite song, rather than tap your toe from a seat. Guilt & Co is popular local venue for music. It’s the kind of place you can watch an intimate acoustic show, or dance your face off to the latest DJ, indie band, or funk show.
Hiking Trails in Vancouver
If you’re new to Vancouver, you’ll quickly discover that hiking is an extremely popular pastime for locals. Rain or shine you’re going to see people along the trails putting in their miles. There are countless hiking trails in Vancouver and just outside of the city. There are hiking trails of all skill level, from easy beginner trails save for all ages, to the more extreme trails for the die-hards. Overnight Hiking trails are also nearby, as well as trails along the coast and in the mountains. Don’t forget your hiking boots, you’re going to have your work cut out for you!
Admirality Point Hiking Trail
1.5 hour hike – 5km – open year round
A nice beginner friendly hike with views of Deep Cove, Mountain Seymour, and Burnaby Mountain. While a bit tucked away, once you’re on the trail it’s a nice light hike. The trail is a well maintained dirt trail that follows the shoreline. Admirality Point is a great little escape from busy downtown. View Trail Details.
Boundary Bay Regional Park Hiking Trail
2 hour hike – 5km – open year round
This mostly easy 2 hour hike doesn’t have much of an incline, making it a great option for beginner hikers. The trail is located in the Regional Park of Boundary Bay, found just south of Vancouver, hugging the border with the United States. This area is a birders mecca. Bring binoculars if you fancy yourself a bird lover. The views of Boundary Bay are nice, and while it’s about a 50 minute drive out of downtown Vancouver to get to this trail. It’s a nice dog friendly trail perfect for getting in some extra steps for the day. View Trail Info.
Baden Powell Deep Cove to Lynn Canyon Trail
5 hour hike – 12km – open year round
This 5 hour hike is better suited for intermediate and more seasons hikers. Located 30 minutes north east of downtown Vancouver, this hike is a great option for those wanting to work up a sweat. You’ll hike through Quarry Rock, a short trail that takes you to a large rock with a beautiful view of Deep Cove & Indiam Arm. The trail climbs, crossing wooden bridges and some beautiful coasting rainforest. The first part of the trail has a bit more incline, it flattens out quite a bit once you start the Baden Powell trail. If you can make it all the way to Lynn Canyon and the Ecology Centre, most people will have friends, or Uber, or a cab pick them up from there. View Trail Info.
Lighthouse Park Hiking Trail
2 hour hike – 6km – open year round
Another fairly simple hike in the Greater Vancouver area. Located along the shorts of West vancouver, Lighthouse Park has a variety of trails that take you past old growth western red cedar with views of the water at nearly every turn. The hike will take you up to the lighthouse which is just above the tree line. It’s a great spot for photo opportunities and the choices in trails make it a safe choice if you’re traveling with beginner hikers. View Trail Info.
Hotels in Vancouver
As with any city in Canada, you’re bound to find countless hotels in Vancouver. However, finding a hotel that’s nearby public transit, or better yet, near some of the places you have on your list of things to do in Vancouver is crucial in making your trip to Vancouver a pleasant one. Let’s look at some of the best hotels in Vancouver.
The Sylvia Hotel
This historic hotel is a designated heritage building, located on English Bay, beside Stanley Park. This beautiful building is only 5 minutes from downtown Vancouver and is a great option for weekend stays downtown. Old fashioned character meets high end rooms, the Sylvia is a bit of a hidden gem. Make sure you book in advance to get your room!
St Regis Hotel
Located above Granville Stations Expo and Millennium Line SkyTrains, this luxury boutique hotel is a short walk to some of the best pubs, restaurants, and clubs in downtown and in Gastown. The rooms are high end, and the showers get my certified thumbs up. Make sure you wake up early enough to catch their complimentary breakfast. I recommend staying here if you want to experience Vancouver’s nightlife and are flying in for the weekend. The Airport Skytrain drops you off a block away.
The Y has a surprinsingly nice hotel for budget concious travelers. The downtown hotel is open to men, women and children and is conveniently located downtown. Rates start at $75 per night. This social enterprise hotel helps generate revenue for YWCA Metro Vancouver’s community service work.
The Buchan Hotel
Located beside Stanley Park, this small and intimate 3 storey walkup hotel, is an affordable way to stay near Stanley Park and downtown without the exhorborant fees often associated with downtown accommodations. It might not be the flashiest, and its certainly not the newest, it’s got character!
The Chain Hotels
If you’re after more well known hotel brands, Vancouver has its fair share of Marriott hotels, Ramada’s, Sandmans, with all of the expected ammenities.
Hostels in Vancouver
Located downtown, Samesun Vancouver Hostel provides everything a backpacker needs to get started on planning their trip through Canada. Samesun is a widely trusted hostel brand in Canada and the United States.
This downtown Vancouver Hostel is located on the lively Granville St, in a well-maintained heritage building from 1908. Free breakfast, daily activities, Free wifi, all at an affordable price.
The Cambie Hostel Gastown
Located nearby trendy pubs, restaurants, and clubs, this is a great hostel choice for those planning on spending a night out on the town. The attached Cambie Pub, located in the building is a great stop for cheap beers before you head out. Free wifi, luggage storage, on site laundry, as well as dorms of varying sizes and private rooms. The Cambie Hostel in Gastown is a great budget friend spot to stay to enjoy the nightlife of Vancouver.
HI Vancouver Downtown
The HI Hostel downtown location is located within walking distance of Stanley park and every downtown location. A quick two minute walk from English Bay beach, and the False Creek Ferries to Granville Island, it’s a great choice for staying in the center of the downtown to experience the sights and sounds of Vancouver.
Hi Vancouver Jericho Beach
If you’re the beach bum kind of traveler, this beach front hostel is going to be your best chance at experience as much of Vancouver’s coastline as possible. The HI Vancouver Jericho Beach location has views of Stanley Park, and is a great spot to setup if you plan on partaking in the big outdoor activities everyone does in these parts. Cycling, wind surfing, hiking, kayaking, the Jericho Beach staff can help you set up just about everything you plan on doing outdoors.
What are your favourite destinations and things to do in Vancouver?
Comment below and share what you love (or hate) about Vancouver. If you can provide any additional “must-know” information for those setting out to explore Vancouver please leave a note and share your knowledge about one of the greatest cities in Canada.