50 free things to do in Vancouver this summer

Jun 18 2016, 4:12 am

It’s summer in the city – time for tacos on the patio, beercycling tours of the Eastside, and hot, hot music festivals.

Except, all that can leave your wallet feeling a little light.

But never fear, Daily Hive is here! Here’s a carefully curated list of fun, free activities that will keep your summer cheap and cheerful – enjoy!

Outdoor Movies in Stanley Park

  • What: The Evo Summer Cinema Series of free outdoor movies, shown on a four-storey inflatable movie screen in Stanley Park. This year’s schedule includes Purple Rain, Dirty Dancing, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens!
  • Where: Ceperley Meadows (Second Beach), Stanley Park
  • When: Every Tuesday from July 5 to August 23, movies start at dusk
  • Schedule: Free outdoor movies Vancouver 2016 at Stanley Park schedule

Free PNE Admission Days

  • What: You may think The Fair is overpriced and far too small for a metro region of 2.5 million, but it’s hard to say no when admission is free. Expect long lineups if the weather cooperates. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
  • Where: The Fair at the PNE – 2901 East Hastings Street, Vancouver
  • When: Tuesday, 23 August and Tuesday, 30 August, from 11 am to 1 pm

Honda Celebration of Light 2016

  • What: Vancouver’s pinnacle summer event, as fireworks galore are launched off a barge in English Bay. Of special note, the Walt Disney Company will produce this year’s display for the United States.
  • Schedule and nations:
    • Saturday, July 23: Netherlands, represented by Royal Fireworks
    • Wednesday, July 27: Australia, represented by Howard’s Fireworks
    • Saturday, July 30: United States, represented by the Walt Disney Company
  • Time: 10 to 10:25 pm (25-minute duration every night)
  • Location: English Bay, Vancouver

Canada Day

  • What: Western Canada’s largest Canada Day Celebration is a jam-packed day filled with fun for the whole family and is capped off by an impressive Burrard Inlet Fireworks display. This year’s party is going retro to mark the 30 years since Expo too.
  • Where: Canada Place, Jack Poole Plaza and the seawall near the Convention Centre
  • When: Friday, July 1, all day, fireworks at around 10 pm

Pride Season

There are loads of great Pride events in Vancouver this summer, celebrating our LGBTQ community – and lots of them are free, so join in the party!

East Side Pride

  • What: Kick off the Pride Season at the site of the historic Stonewall Festival! Meet local artisans and groups doing important work in and with the LGBTQ community – and be serendaded by some of the East Side’s top drag performers.
  • Where: Grandview Park – Commercial Drive & Charles Street, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, June 25, from noon to 6 pm

Davie Street Party

  • What: Take back the streets for Pride Weekend in the heart of the Davie Street Village! The party will spill out from the Community Stage at the historic Rainbow Crosswalk, where you can pound the pavement to some of the city’s hottest talent and witness the annual Wimple-In ceremony of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
  • Where: Davie Street between Burrard and Jervis, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, July 29, 6 pm until midnight
  • Tickets: This is a free event, but if you want to buy alcohol, you’ll need to pay $5 in advance or $10 on the door for a 19+ wristband.

Pride Festival at Sunset Beach

  • What: Browse more than 100 exhibitors in the Pride Market, including local artisans and community organizations. Bands, drag performers, and speakers will be featured on the main stage, with DJs spinning in the beer garden throughout the day.
  • Where: Sunset Beach Park – 1204 Beach Avenue, Vancouver
  • When: Sunday, July 31, at 11 am

Vancouver Pride Parade 2016

  • What: Attracting crowds of more than 650,000, the annual Pride Parade is the city’s largest parade and is renowned on the international stage as on of the largest and most successful events in the world, in support of LGBTQQ+ communities.
  • Where: West End, Vancouver
  • When: Sunday, July 31 at noon

For more information about all of the above events and Pride in Vancouver, check here: vancouverpride.ca

Surrey Pride Parade 2016

  • What: Surrey will be hosting its first ever Pride parade this year, although unlike Vancouver it will be smaller scale, with no parade floats, but plenty of people marching in solidarity and support of people in the LGBT community.
  • Where: Starts at Surrey City Hall, goes along University Boulevard, and finishes at Holland Park
  • When: Sunday, June 26 at 11:30 am


Enjoy the arts

Sunday Afternoon Salsa

  • What: Salsa dancing returns to Robson Square for the Summer 2016 season, offering free lessons, performances and social dancing. Swing by and check it out – it’s fun just to watch if you’re too scared to hit the dancefloor!
  • Where: Robson Square – 800 Robson Street, Vancouver
  • When: Every Sunday in July and August; lessons at 3 pm, performances at 5 pm, social dancing all afternoon

Jazz Workshops and Talks at Tom Lee Music

  • What: To help celebrate the 31st annual TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society is offering a variety of free educational programs for budding musicians and music lovers of all ages.
  • Where: Tom Lee Music – 929 Granville Street, Vancouver
  • When: Every day between June 27 and July 3, except July 1

Symphony in the Park

  • What: The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra will play popular classics from a host of composers including Gershwin and Tchaikovsky, plus the themes from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Trek: Into Darkness – all for free.
  • Where: Deer Lake Park – 6450 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby
  • When: Sunday, July 10 at 7 pm

Indian Summer Festival

The Indian Summer Arts Society organizes the Indian Summer Festival every July, to showcase provocative artists and visionaries from Canada, South Asia and beyond.

While most events are ticketed, there are a couple that are free this year:


  • What: Novelist/activists Karim Alrawi and Monia Mazigh will respond to renowned artist Ai Weiwei’s little known Vancouver work, F-Grass, and speak about the Syrian refugee crisis, an issue Ai Weiwei has been focusing on of late.
  • Where: Harbour Green Park – 1199 West Cordova Street, Vancouver
  • When: July 16, at 4 pm


  • What: Internationally acclaimed writers Sandip Roy and Minal Hajratwala respond to ‘Engagement’ –  the sculpture of two giant rings that sits on Sunset Beach – with their own thoughts and provoke a discussion around the work and the issues it raises.
  • Where: Sunset Beach Park – 1204 Beach Avenue, Vancouver
  • When: July 16, at 6 pm

Robson Square Summer Dance Series

  • What: It’s back! Dance the night away for free as DanceSport BC brings back the Robson Square Summer Dance Series. Free lessons, shows, and social dancing. No partner or experience required – just show up and have some fun.
  • Where: Robson Square – 800 Robson Street, Vancouver
  • When: Every Friday from Friday, June 24 through September 2, between 7:30 and 11:30 pm

Cates Park Concert Series

  • What: Original bands and artists will be performing free, outdoor concerts in Cates Park again this summer, so bring a picnic and spend your Saturday afternoons enjoying the immense local talent that Vancouver has to offer.
  • Where: Cates Park – Deep Cove, North Vancouver
  • When: Every Saturday from July 16 to August 27, exact times TBA

CBC Musical Nooners

  • What: A series of free, live concerts at the CBC Plaza, every weekday at lunchtime. The lineup this year includes The Tourist Company, Jordan Klassen, Big Little Lions and for the kids, Will Stroet, co-creator and star of the musical TV series Will’s Jams.
  • When: From July 8 to August 19, Monday to Friday, noon to 1 pm
  • Where: CBC Plaza – 740 Hamilton Street, Vancouver


Get sporting or be a spectator

Hockey Night in Canada’s Play On!

A man and woman playing street hockey at Hockey Night In Canada's Play On! in 2015 (Play On!)

A man and woman playing street hockey at Hockey Night In Canada’s Play On! in 2015 (Play On!)

  • What: This is the the largest annual sports festival in Canada, where local wannabe players and teams of all ages, genders and abilities will face off in a whole weekend of 4-on-4 street hockey tournaments. Free for spectators.
  • Where: YPK Integrated Training Centre – 18200 Ford Road, Pitt Meadows
  • When: June 25 and 26

Community Day at Dragon Zone Paddling Club

  • What: If you’ve ever wanted to try kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, or dragon boating, now’s your chance. Reserve a spot and on Community Day, knowledgeable paddlers will provide you with coaching before you head out on to the water.
  • Where: Creekside Community Centre – 1 Athletes Way, Vancouver. Meet outside, by the sea wall, just southwest of Science World and the Main Street SkyTrain station.
  • When: Saturday, July 9, from 12:30 to 3:30 pm
  • Reservations: For dragon boating, online at dragonzone.ca/community, for kayaking and stand-up paddling, call 604-616-7453 or email [email protected]

Gastown Grand Prix

  • Where: For one day, the charming cobblestone streets of Gastown are transformed into one of the fastest, best-loved and most challenging cycling race courses in North America – and it’s totally free to watch.
  • When: July 13, youth race at 5:30 pm, opening ceremonies at 5:55 pm, women’s race at 6:15 pm, men’s race at 7:30 pm.

Free yoga at Dude Chilling Park

  • What: Get out your yoga mats and put away your wallets, free yoga is back for another year! Two sessions, twice a day, seven days a week. All abilities welcome.
  • Where: Dude Chilling Park – 2390 Brunswick Street, Vancouver
  • When: Now until fall; from 10 to 11:15 am and 6 to 7:15 pm

Hastings Racecourse

  • What: Cheer on those jockeys and their steeds at the horse racing track in Hastings – entry is always totally free. The race schedule runs through October.
  • Where: Hastings Racecourse – 188 N Renfrew St, Vancouver
  • When: Mostly Saturday and Sunday afternoons with 1:50 pm start times. In August, Friday night races start at 7 pm, while two Monday afternoon races start at 4 pm.
  • More info: hastingsracecourse.com

Stroll the public markets

With the sunshine comes a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables – and plenty of public markets full of unique stalls full of homegrown, homemade produce.

Farmers’ Markets

Popular among chefs, home cooks, and local gastronomes, farmers’ markets have become an integral part of Vancouver’s food landscape. Not only do these community events grant local farmers, growers, and bakers the opportunity to connect with urban folk but they also provide them with a space to show off their seasonal favourites. Here’s a quick list of a few – for full details check our guide to Vancouver farmers’ markets.

Night Markets

In addition to a variety of farmers’ markets, the city and surrounding areas boast a collection of night markets that showcase the city’s best food trucks, bakers, and artisans. These night markets bring together communities for entertainment, shopping, and wonderful food:

Granville Island

  • What: One of the biggest attractions in Vancouver, Granville Island is a great place to go for free. Enjoy the hustle, bustle and bounty of the Public Market and marvel at the island’s unique arts and crafts, while enjoying the spectacle of street buskers.
  • When: Granville Island Public Market is open seven days a week, from 9 am to 7 pm, most other retail stores are open seven days a week, from 10 am to 7 pm

Il Mercato Italian Market

  • What: Vancouver’s only Italian market, Il Mercato is about bringing together the tastes of Italy with the produce grown in local farms. Come and enjoy a vibrant assortment of fresh fruit and vegetables, and handmade products from local artisans.
  • Where: Italian Cultural Centre, Vancouver
  • When: Third Friday of every month, starting June, ending August – this year that’s June 17, July 15 and August 19 – from 4 to 8 pm


Go hiking

Sun Spot

We’ve all heard the excuses before. You don’t have the right shoes, you can’t drive to the trailhead, you won’t get out of bed for less than $1,000…

Well, it’s time for Vancouver’s lazy ramblers to take a hike, literally.

So strap on some runners (or even better, actual hiking boots) and try out these five easy hikes for lazy people on Vancouver’s North Shore.

Quarry Rock

  • What: A classic North Shore hike, up wooden stairs, over tree roots and small creeks, among Douglas Fir and Hemlock trees, to a rocky outcrop and beautiful views of Deep Cove.
  • How long: 1.5 hours or 3.8 km
  • Where: Starts and ends at the Baden Powell Trailhead – Panorama Drive, Deep Cove.
  • Get there: A 30-minute drive from downtown, or take the Seabus plus buses 239 then 212 instead.

Lighthouse Park

  • What: Lots of short, easy trails offering breathtaking ocean views, huge, old-growth Western Red Cedars and the picturesque picnic spot of Starboat Cove.
  • How long: Up to 2 hours or 6 km
  • Where: Starts and ends at Lighthouse Park parking lot – Beacon Lane, West Vancouver.
  • Get there: A 40-minute drive from downtown, or take bus 250 all the way there instead.

Capilano Pacific Park

  • What: This trail follows the Capilano River, taking you from pavement, rocky shores and beaches past steep cliffs and through thick rainforest to the imposing Cleveland Dam.
  • How long: 2 hours or 7.5 km
  • Where: Starts at Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver, finishes at the Cleveland Dam in North Vancouver.
  • Get there: A 15-minute drive from downtown, or take bus 250 or 251 to a stop nearby instead.

Lynn Loop

  • What: Enjoy a forest hike among Cedar and Hemlock trees, with views of Vancouver Island and some of the Gulf Islands, then stroll back along the gushing waters of Lynn Creek.
  • How long: 1.5 hours or 5.1 km
  • Where: Starts and ends in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park – Lynn Valley Road, North Vancouver.
  • Get there: A 40-minute drive from downtown, or take the Seabus then 228 bus instead.

Cypress Falls

  • What: This easy hike takes you along Cypress Creek, through forests of moss-covered, old-growth trees, past views of two gorgeous waterfalls as they pour into the canyon below.
  • How long: 1.5 hours or 3 km
  • Where: Trail starts and ends at Cypress Falls Park – Woodgreen Place, West Vancouver.
  • Get there: A 30-minute drive from downtown, or take bus 253 Caufield all the way there instead.

Do the Grouse Grind

Get your hiking legs ready, it’s time to tackle Mother Nature’s Stairmaster for another year. The Grouse Grind trail at Grouse Mountain is now open for hiking from 6:15 am to 7 pm.


Party in the street

Vancouver has a huge number of street festivals and parties in the summer, and rather magnificently, they’re usually free. Here are some to inspire you:

Carnaval del Sol

  • What: This festival celebrates Latin culture by hosting a mix of events from free salsa dancing lessons to a street soccer game. All events are under the sun and completely free.
  • Where: Concord Pacific Place – 88 Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver
  • When: July 9 and 10
  • More info: carnavaldelsol.ca

Khatsahlano Street Party

  • What: This free annual festival will take over 10 blocks along Kitsilano’s 4th Avenue, with main stages at both Burrard Street and MacDonald Street. Hannah Georgas, Mounties, We Are The City and Jordan Klassen are among a huge lineup.
  • Where: Along 4th Avenue between Burrard Street and MacDonald Street
  • When: Saturday, July 9, from 11 am to 9 pm

Saint-Jean Baptiste Day

  • What: A celebration of French Canadian culture and heritage with live music, children’s entertainment, traditional Francophone cuisine, and more.
  • Where: Front Plaza of Canada Place – 999 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, June 24, from 11 am to 4 pm

Greek Day

  • What: A five block stretch on Broadway, from McDonald to Blenheim, is closed off to traffic to make room for this award-winning festival, offering a world of delicious Greek food and drink, market vendors, entertainment, and live music.
  • Where: 3200 West Broadway, Vancouver (between McDonald and Blenheim)
  • When: Sunday, June 26, from 11 am to 9 pm

Bastille Day Festival

  • What: A fairly new festival, Bastille Day brings a piece of Paris to Vancouver. For one unique afternoon, Granville Island’s Public Market Courtyard will turn blue, white and red and transform into a typical quartier français – French neighbourhood.
  • Where: Roundhouse Community Centre – 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver
  • When: July 14

Powell Street Festival

Katari Taiko at the Powell Street Festival (Jeanie Ow)

Katari Taiko at the Powell Street Festival (Jeanie Ow)

  • What: Vancouver’s annual celebration of Japanese culture and the largest event of its kind in Canada. Headliners include Australian koto virtuoso Miyama McQueen-Tokita and Tutchone-Japanese Tlinget-Scottish folk singer Diyet – all totally free.
  • Where: Oppenheimer Park and surrounding streets and venues – Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, July 30 and Sunday, July 31, from 11:30 am to 7 pm

Aldergrove Fair Days

  • What: Aldergrove Fair Days have been running for more than 100 years. With traditional agricultural and prize exhibits, a whole fairground full of garden displays and the World Zucchini Luge Championships, there really is something for everyone.
  • Where: Aldergrove Athletic Park and the Aldergrove Kinsmen Community Centre – 26770 29 Avenue, Langley
  • When: July 15 to 17

Surrey Fusion Festival

  • What: The ultimate celebration of music, food and culture, right in the heart of Surrey, with musical performances across six different stages, and 40 cultural pavilions offering culinary delights from all over the world.
  • Where: Holland Park – 13428 Old Yale Road, Surrey
  • When: July 23 to 24, from 10 am to 10 pm

Caribbean Days

  • What: A weekend of tropical rhythms and cuisine organized by the Trinidad & Tobago Cultural Society of B.C.. The massive outdoor party includes a multicultural street parade, an island and international food fair and a sound stage to get you grooving to calypso beats.
  • Where: Waterfront Park – Lonsdale Quay, North Vancouver
  • When: July 23 to 24

Vancouver Chinatown Festival

  • What: A celebration of the area’s heritage and culture, with tea ceremonies, calligraphy demonstrations and a Hong Kong-style outdoor bazaar. Vendors sell traditional handicrafts, while hawkers serve up a range of culinary delights.
  • Where: Chinatown – Columbia and Keefer streets, Vancouver
  • When: August 13 to 14, from noon to 6 pm

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