A coastal city in southwestern British Columbia, Vancouver is both environmentally and culturally diverse. Surrounded by both the ocean and the mountains it is a popular filming location and has thriving art, theatre, and music scenes. Vancouver offers a variety of things to do, so whether you are looking to relax, explore nature, or enjoy a night out the city has you covered. Below is a list of just a few of the things that you can do during a free day in Vancouver.

Vancouver is the unceded traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

Touring Around Vancouver

Ocean views, city life, and majestic mountains

Cultural Aficionados  

A natural history museum located on the campus of the University of British Columbia the Beaty Biodiversity Museum opened to the public in 2010.  With over 500 exhibits and interactive activities, you can learn about the interconnectedness of all life and our role in preserving these delicate systems.

The largest public art museum in western Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery debuted in 1931 with a collection of British artworks and 7 Canadian works. The gallery now houses more than 10,000 Canadian pieces. There are a variety of tours and lectures offered each month, most complimentary with admission, but some lectures require bookings. Additionally, FUSE is an adult event that is offered six times a year.

Located on the University of British Columbia campus, the Museum of Anthropology displays world arts and cultures and works by the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest. The museum also offers special exhibitions, public programs, and free guided gallery walks.

One of the oldest neighbourhoods in Vancouver, Gastown grew from a single tavern that was established in 1867. Souvenir shops, indie art galleries, and décor stores can be found in Victorian buildings, and it is a great place to find trendy food and drink options. The highlight of Gastown, however, is the whistling steam clock. Originally built in 1977, the clock whistles every 15 minutes and is still partially powered by steam.

Vancouver’s Chinatown is not just the best place to enjoy some dim sum, but also home to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. This is the first garden to be built outside of China and has been open since 1986. You can also go to the Chinatown Storytelling Centre, located on Pender street, where you will discover the history of Vancouver’s Chinatown and better understand the Chinese Canadian experience.

Chinatown is marked by the red light poles that are adorned with Chinese lanterns and dragons, and it is good to note that you will want to visit early in the day as many of the restaurants and stores close by 17:00.

Outdoor Enthusiasts

The largest park in Vancouver, Stanley Park is a 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest and offers a wide range of activities for visitors. You can take a loop around the park on the 8.8 km, or 5.5-mile, paved route along the Vancouver Seawall. Created in 1917 originally to stave off erosion, it took 60 years to complete and is a great way to enjoy the scenic views. For those who want to relax, there are multiple beaches. English Bay Beach, Second Beach, and Third Beach are where you should head if you want to swim, and all three offer concessions and basic services.

The Vancouver Aquarium, the largest in Canada, is also located in Stanley Park. Not only a great way to spend an afternoon, the aquarium is also home to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Their focus is on the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine mammals along the British Columbia coast.

Home to 300 businesses, studios, and facilities, Granville Island is best known for the Public Market. Here you can buy fresh fruits, veggies, and seafood, or eat at the food court. While you will often find street performers, the island is also host to different festivals, such as the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and Winterruption.

You can access Granville Island through the ferry service, Aquabus. They have thirteen vessels that make stops up and down False Creek every 15 minutes.

The VanDusen Botanical Garden is a 55-acre garden with over 7,500 plant species, a hedge maze, and an award-winning visitor centre. You can enjoy a relaxing afternoon here with a picnic or dine at either the Shaughnessy Restaurant or the Garden Café.

A part of the Coast Mountain Range in North Vancouver, and only 15 minutes from the downtown core, Grouse Mountain is Vancouver’s most visited year-round natural attraction. Included with admission to the mountain you get access to the Skyride from Valley Station to the summit, the Lumberjack show, the grizzly bear habitat, birds in motion, the theatre in the sky and more.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park offers visitors a chance to explore a temperate West Coast rainforest ecosystem, both from the forest floor and the treetops. The name Capilano comes from the Squamish word Kia’palano, which means beautiful river. Of course, the highlight is the suspension bridge itself. First erected in 1889, the bridge is 140 metres long and 70 metres above the river.

The Queen Elizabeth Park is home to the Bloedel Conservatory, which opened in 1969 and houses more than 100 exotic birds and 500 exotic plants and flowers. This 130-acre municipal park is also home to the Quarry Gardens, the Arboretum, the Rose Garden, and the Painter’s Corner. You can also dine at the restaurant Seasons in the Park.

Sports Supporters

A multi-purpose arena, the Rogers Arena, located near BC Place, is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a night of entertainment. The home of the NHL team the Canucks and the NLL Warriors, you can enjoy two of Canada’s national sports – hockey and lacrosse. There are also special events throughout the year, such as tennis matches, basketball games, and concerts.

For those who have a craving for peanuts and crackerjacks, you can head to the Nat Bailey Stadium to catch a minor league baseball game (MiLB) at Rogers Field. Cheer on the Vancouver Canadians for as little as CAD $20.

If you would like any other suggestions on what to do on a free day in Vancouver you can contact us at [email protected]

Tours Highlighting Vancouver

Ask us about adding one of these options to your Canada Rail Vacation