10 Free Things to Do in Vancouver This Fall

Giants by Os Gemeos public art on concrete trucks at Granville Island

As a hub of lively urban activity, a thriving arts and culture scene, and a beautiful natural setting, Vancouver has much to offer both locals and visitors. A lovely time in the city can be had on a budget, with plenty of attractions, neighbourhoods, and outdoor excursions that don’t require spending any money.

Here are 10 free things to do this autumn in Vancouver:

Festivals and Events

eastside culture crawl 2019

Image sourced from the Eastside Culture Crawl

During the fall, Vancouver has numerous free events and festivals to attend (note: you have to pay for food and artisan goods). Some highlights are the following:

The expansive Eastside Culture Crawl returns November 16 to 19, 2023. During this multi-day event, artist studios across East Vancouver open their doors, inviting visitors to get to know their artistic practices. Mediums represented include weaving, sculpting, painting, printmaking, and glassblowing.

The Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival takes place October 12 to 17, 2023, spotlighting the work of artists who are not often recognized by mainstream art institutions. The festival programming features free events and workshops, including a screening of works by four film-makers from Finland (October 16 from 5:30pm to 7pm) and a Collaborative Character Design Workshop (October 14 from 2:45pm to 3:45pm).

BC Culture Days returns from now until October 15, 2023, with a plethora of free events and workshops to attend, ranging from a Life Stories Painting Workshop at Gordon Neighbourhood House on October 13 from 5pm to 6pm, to a self-guided Vancouver Art Walk on October 7 from 11am to 5pm. As part of a nation-wide initiative, join this vibrant celebration of the city’s arts and culture scene.

A new Vancouver Night Market launches September 29 from 6pm to 10pm at the Vancouver Art Gallery Robson Plaza, with food, vintage clothing vendors, as well as music. It’s free to attend, with contests to enter on site. Stay tuned for future markets after their inaugural one.

Vancouver Farmers Markets continue into the fall and winter, with markets open across the city, primarily during the weekends. They each are distinctive, with different vendors each week, but share a community atmosphere where you can often enjoy live music as well as browse artisan goods, produce, and specialty food items. Food trucks are usually in attendance as well.

Museums and Galleries

Photo: Museum of Vancouver

There are numerous galleries and museums in the city that are either always free or offer special times when you can visit without having to pay.

The city’s primary gallery, the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), offers free admission for youth (13-18 years old), children (12 and under) gallery members, as well as caregivers to visitors with disabilities. In addition, the first Friday of every month (from 4pm to 8pm), the VAG provides complimentary admission. It is recommended to reserve a spot in advance; as well, there is a limit of 2 free admissions per group. Current exhibitions include Conceptions of White(until February 4, 2024) and Parviz Tanavoli: Poets, Locks, Cages (until November 19, 2023), which focuses on the work of an Iranian-born Vancouver artist.

The Museum of Vancouver in Vanier Park provides free admission for children 5 and under, as well as for those self-identifying as Indigenous. As well, the first Sunday of every month is pay what you can. Current feature exhibitions are Ghetto: How Can We Live Together? (until November 12, 2023), Reclaim + Repair: The Mahogany Project (until August 7, 2024), and Dressed for History: Why Costume Collections Matter (until November 2023).

There are also numerous smaller galleries that are free and have days that are complimentary. The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art offers free admission for children 12 and under, SFU students, gallery members, and Indigenous peoples. They host a free community access day the first Friday of each month from 2pm to 5pm. Other complimentary galleries in the city include the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at UBC, Equinox Gallery in East Vancouver, and Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery in Gastown.

Granville Island

Granville Island Public Market exterior; Destination Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic

Regardless of the season, there’s always plenty to do on Granville Island for free. First of all, the Public Market—its main draw—is amazing for getting acquainted with fresh produce and local artisan food products, like cheeses, sausages, pickles, and chocolate. There’s also a Kids Market with lots for the kids to explore and be entertained by. Other highlights of Granville Island include the Net Loft building with plenty of specialty vendors, the Artisan District, and the many artists studies found throughout the area. Singers and performers give free shows at key spots, and there are tons of shops for browsing.


Photo credit: Destination Vancouver / Nelson Mouellic

Vancouver most historic neighbourhood, Gastown, has plenty to explore without it costing you anything. Start with the Steam Clock, which whistles every quarter hour, and then make your way to other landmarks in the area. These include the beautiful Waterfront Station, which was constructed in 1914 by the Canadian Pacific Railway in neoclassical style; the Angel of Victory outside Waterfront Station; Maple Tree Square at the intersection of Water, Powell, Carrall, and Alexander Streets; Hotel Europe (Flat Iron Building); and Gaoler’s Mews, the site of the city’s first jail.

While you’re in Gastown, you can also browse its many shops and visit the Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery and other galleries such as Choboter Fine Art and CICA Gallery (free for seniors, students, pass holders, and children).

Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Photo: Mount Pleasant BIA

Vancouver’s urban geography is divided into a series of neighbourhoods, each with their own unique characters and charm. In addition to Gastown, other popular areas to visit include Chinatown, Punjabi Market (south Main), the West End, Downtown, Coal Harbour, Davie Village, Yaletown, Mount Pleasant, Commercial Drive, Kitsilano, South Granville, Kerrisdale, and Cambie Village. For example, Mount Pleasant features numerous heritage buildings and many public murals to appreciate.

Visit these areas to soak up their atmosphere, browse their shops, and take part in any free festivals and activities happening on their streets. Many of them have very active Business Improvement Areas/Associations that organize events to bolster community connection.


Quarry Gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver

Quarry Gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park. Photo: Destination Vancouver / Nelson Mouellic

Vancouver has an extensive system of parks and gardens, with the majority of them being free. Fall is a particularly gorgeous time to visit them, with the changing leaves and slightly cooler temperatures. Stanley Park is undoubtedly the most iconic and extensive, with a seawall and numerous landmarks, including Lumberman’s Arch, Siwash Rock, and the Hollow Tree. There are many gardens to explore (e.g., Shakespeare Garden), monuments and sculptures, and Indigenous art and totem poles. And, of course, visitors can marvel at a variety of trees, such as red cedar and Douglas fir, and the wildlife that populates Stanley Park.

Queen Elizabeth Park is another free park, with numerous gardens such as the Quarry Gardens, an arboretum, public art, and a Dancing Waters fountain. They also have recreational facilities that can be used for free, such as their tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts.

Although admission to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden requires payment, Sun Yat-Sen Park is free. The Park is a tranquil spot for sitting on a bench and soaking up the beauty of the ornamental trees, water, and pagodas.

Other popular parks in the city include Vanier Park, Pacific Spirit Regional Park, and Trout Lake (John Hendry Park).

Capilano Salmon Hatchery and Cleveland Dam

Looking towards the Lions from Cleveland Dam in North Vancouver

Looking towards the Lions from Cleveland Dam above Capilano Canyon. Photo: Roy Wang/Unsplash

Located in the Capilano River Regional Park, the Capilano River Hatchery offers free admission. There, you can go on a self-guided tour of the fish hatchery interpretative centre where you can learn about the life cycle of salmon, from eggs to juveniles. You’ll also be able to see salmon and trout in display aquaria and on the fish ladder, depending on the time of year. In the fall, you’re more likely to be able to see chinook adults and coho juveniles and adults. While in the park, you can go for a hike as well as visit the nearby Cleveland Dam, the source of the city’s and surrounding area’s drinking water.

Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre

Person in a rain jacket walking across Lynn Canyon suspension bridge in North Vancouver, BC

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. Photo credit: Vancouver’s North Shore Tourism

Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver is home to the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and the Baden Powell Trail. Both are free to use. Before or after the bridge, you can visit the Ecology Centre (admission by donation), whose building is in the shape of a dogwood, the province’s provincial flower. The Centre consists of four interactive galleries—a plant, animal, human, and children’s gallery—all devoted to exploring interrelationships in the natural world. The Centre provides a thoughtful sense of local natural history and questions related to sustainability and ecology.

Britannia Shipyards and Steveston Village


Richmond’s Steveston was once the site of numerous canneries and boatyards. The Britannia Shipyards, a national historic site, has been preserved and is free to visit. Travel back in time and visit the Shipyard Building, which was once a cannery and then a boat repair site. Other historical buildings on the eight-acre site include a Chinese bunkhouse where cannery workers lived, Murakami house (which belonged to a Japanese Canadian family up until the government interned them during World War II), and historic stilt houses. The Shipyards are close to the main Steveston Village, which is also great to explore for free. The Village features a boardwalk, shops for browsing, and other complimentary historic sites, such as the Steveston Tram, the Steveston Museum, and the Japanese Fishermen’s Building.

Shopping Centres

Photo: McArthurGlen

The primary malls in Metro Vancouver include Pacific Centre, Metropolis at Metrotown, Richmond Centre, Park Royal, McArthurGlen Designer Outlet, Tsawwassen Mills, and the Amazing Brentwood. If you’re looking for a free activity, especially on a rainy day, Vancouver shopping centres offer numerous things to see and do, in addition to boutiques for browsing. For example, Metropolis at Metrotown, the region’s largest mall, offers until October 26 free Zumba and cardio classes through Fitness at the MET. The shopping centre also has fall displays for viewing until October 31, a pumpkin carving show on October 14 from 11am to 3pm, a pie-eating contest on October 21, and Halloween activities on October 31 from 2p, to 6pm.

In Richmond, there are also shopping centres, such as Aberdeen Centre and Parker Place, where you can browse Asian specialty goods and food stalls.

These are just 10 free things to do in Vancouver. With the city and surroundings areas’ many beaches, hiking trails, and forested spots, there are many other things to do in Vancouver that don’t cost anything.

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