This undated image provided by Vancouver Tourism shows strollers on Vancouver's Stanley Park seawall in British Columbia

5 free things in Vancouver, from parks to Gastown

5 free things to see and do in Vancouver, from parks to historic sites

  • Dec. 18, 2014 8:00 p.m.

By Jeremy Hainsworth, The Associated Press

VANCOUVER – Vancouver is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most livable cities. The city offers diverse ethnic neighbourhoods, old and new, and lots of options for shopping and dining. But many of the west coast Canadian port city’s most beautiful attractions are free. Public art dots the urban landscape and there are miles of beaches and forested walks readily accessible by transit bus or train.

STANLEY PARK

One of the world’s largest urban parks, Stanley Park is named for the British lord for who gave his name the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup.

Stroll along the English Bay sea wall from the trendy West End neighbourhood, under the Lions Gate suspension bridge, and watch freighters and cruise ships passing beneath with mountains as a backdrop. Or cut through the park’s forested centre and meander along fern-lined paths as old-growth rain forest cedars tower above, cutting past Beaver Lake as herons fly overhead. At Brockton Point, majestic west coast aboriginal totem poles rise among the trees. Not far away is a children’s water park at harbour’s edge. The park, Vancouver’s gem, also boasts rose and rhododendron gardens with some 8,000 plants.

GRANVILLE ISLAND

A favourite with locals and visitors alike, bustling Granville Island rests on the south shore of False Creek with views of downtown, English Bay and 2010 Winter Olympics venues.

Its centre is the Granville Island Public Market, several buildings of hawkers, artists and a tantalizing selection of food from meat and vegetables, to chocolate and bagels bound to stop any dieter in their tracks. A vast outdoor deck looks onto False Creek where visitors feed seagulls and enjoy performance artists.

The island’s Rail spur Alley is home to a wide array of artisans, glassblowers and craft shops. It’s also just a good place to sit back and watch the world pass by over coffee – and remember, drinking coffee here is a sport.

DR. SUN YAT-SEN PARK

Visitors can relax in a pagoda at the edge of a lily pad-filled pond, where a turtle might poke its head above the water as giant carp swim idly by in the dark green waters. Filled with stonework and bamboo-lined trails, the garden rests behind moss-covered, tile-topped Chinese walls amid the bustle of downtown Vancouver. Yet it remains an oasis of peace in the eye of the urban storm.

Across the street is the Rennie Gallery at Win Sang boasting a collection of contemporary art. Tours are free by appointment. Parts of the collection are regularly on loan to New York’s Guggenheim and Metropolitan museums, the Pompidou in Paris, Smithsonian in Washington and Tate in London. Nearby is Vancouver’s Chinatown, small compared to others but an interesting melange of sights, smells and sounds.

GASTOWN

Gastown is the heart of old Vancouver. With evocative street names like Gaoler’s Mews and Blood Alley, Gastown revolves around the statue of “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a colorful rogue credited with being one of Vancouver’s pioneers.

Stroll down the tree-lined, cobbled sidewalks of Water Street from Waterfront Station and enjoy buskers, pop into a west coast aboriginal art gallery.

But take care if you wander two blocks south to the heart of Vancouver’s skid row at Main and Hastings. There’s an ornate library endowed by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie as well as an open street drug market.

MACMILLAN SPACE CENTRE

Explore the mysteries of the night sky at Vancouver’s H.R. MacMillan Space Centre on Vanier Point in the Kitsilano neighbourhood. The facility’s Gordon Southam Observatory features a half-meter (1.6-foot) Cassegrain telescope. The observatory dome, 10 metres (33 feet) in diameter, was built in 1979 and is open to the public Saturdays 8 p.m. -midnight.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Drifting sailboat runs aground on White Rock beach

Vessel dragged anchor in high wind, no environmental damage sustained

Peace Portal Seniors Village staff member tests positive for COVID-19

Staff member currently in isolation at home, enhanced control measures in place

Increased border enforcement curbs cross-line parties at Peace Arch State Park

Gatherings between U.S. and Canadian citizens ‘a daily carnival’ – resident

Virtual challenge to benefit Delta-based guide dogs charity

Funds raised to help BC Alberta Guide Dogs provide people with free guide dogs, autism and PTSD service dogs

Sullivan Heights, Tamanawis each report second COVID-19 exposures

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

BC Liberal Leader talks drug addiction in the Lower Mainland

Drug addiction and public safety a top priority says Andrew Wilkinson

Pandemic derails CP Holiday Train

Canadian Pacific will work to get donations to food banks while also producing an online music concert

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Mounties cleared by watchdog in fatal shooting of man with schizophrenia in Maple Ridge

Kyaw Din was killed by the RCMP during a mental health incident in August 2019

Local councils important, Horgan says as municipal conference ends

B.C. NDP leader says ‘speed dating’ vital, online or in person

Penticton woman sentenced to one year in prison for manslaughter of teen boyfriend

Kiera Bourque, 24, was sentenced for manslaughter in the 2017 death of Penticton’s Devon Blackmore

Most Read