Walking along the Vancouver Coal Harbor: A free thing to do with kids

35 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Vancouver BC with Kids

Vancouver’s expensive, I’ve heard families complain. I beg to disagree. With the right attitude and approach, you’ll find tons of affordable, family-friendly fun in and around Vancouver.

Here are 35 free and cheap family-friendly things to do with kids in Vancouver, BC:

  1. Shoot your sister (or someone else’s) with a water cannon at the Variety Kids Water Park, Vancouver’s largest outdoor spray facility, according to the Vancouver Park Board.
  2. Ride a Miniature Train in Stanley Park.
  3. Sail aboard the SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay Market and jump in the ball pit.
  4. Eat a Japadog and walk along Robson Street for people-watching and shopping.
  5. No fear! Cross a (free) 50-metre-high suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon, then learn about the Lower Mainland’s wildlife and plants at the Ecology Centre.
  6. Ride the multicolored, tugboat-style Aquabus around False Creek. It’s like a mini-cruise, without the buffet, swimming pools or expense.
  7. Pop your toddler into a trailer and ride the Seaside Bicycle Route.
  8. Go for a pony ride at Maplewood Farm.
  9. Time travel to in Burnaby Village Museum on half-price Tuesday.
  10. Chat with a parrot (and over 100 more birds) at Bloedel Floral Conservatory, located in Queen Elizabeth Park — the highest point in the city, with killer views
  11. Nibble on locally grown goodies at a Vancouver Farmers Market (multiple locations).
  12. Take a dip in the heated, sunny saltwater at Kitsilano Pool.
  13. Enjoy one of the awesome festivals on The Drive (don’t forget to order your scoop of gelato from one of the Italian gelaterias).
  14. Visit the Vancouver Maritime Museum and meet a pirate or seven. Not a bad price, but a real family deal with the coupons you’ll find on the museum’s site.
  15. Go on a North Shore family hike for incredible views and kid-friendly trails.
  16. Pick up Pokemon cards and egg tarts in Chinatown. Better yet, head there during the Chinatown Night Market.
  17. Chill out on rainy or very hot days in the children’s area of the Vancouver Library, then walk among the library’s architecture, a harmonious blend of Roman and contemporary structures.
  18. Jump on the bouncy castle and crawl through an inflatable obstacle course at the West End Community Centre’s enormous Kidz Zone.
  19. Meander through the Nitobe Memorial Garden, one of the top five Japanese gardens outside of Japan.
  20. Shop for saris and sweets at the few-blocks-long Punjabi Market.
  21. Introduce your preschool Picasso meet modern art at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Tuesdays between 5-9 p.m., when admission is by donation.
  22. Play in the toddler pool at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre.
  23. Make your own lapel pin with a typewriter, paper, markers and the helpful staff at Regional Assembly of Text.
  24. Share a basket of fish and chips and enjoy Steveston Village’s seaside charm.
  25. Go on a bat or bird walk with the Stanley Park Nature House.
  26. Watch Harbour Air seaplanes take off and land in Coal Harbour while the kids play at the Coal Harbour Community Centre playground.
  27. Watch an outdoor Movie in the Park or another free outdoor movie.
  28. Ride the futuristic SkyTrain to an Asian-style mall in Richmond.
  29. Walk among peaceful bridges and ponds at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden during the last half-hour of the day, when admission is by donation.
  30. Play in the sand, barbecue hot dogs, splash in the heated pool and make new family friends at Second Beach.
  31. Fly a kid’s kite in Richmond’s reliably windy Garry Point Park.
  32. Take your photos in front of the cool, iconic sails at Canada Place.
  33. Check out the Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory with starry-eyed children on Saturday evenings, when admission is by donation.
  34. Take your little engineer to Burnaby Central Railway for a ride on a mini-train. Kids actually sit on top of your train car  — not in a train car.
  35. Shoot down a water slide at Granville Island Water Park. If the kids work up an appetite, you’re lucky to be on Granville Island, where the Public Market‘s cheap treats are just around the corner.

Looking for more inexpensive, fun family-friendly things to do in Vancouver? Check out Kids Vancouver’s post on summer activities or read my book, Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver(and order from my link, please?).

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Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.


  • Jill Seman

    Love this list! Will bring this with me on my next visit – what a beautiful city. Stanely park and Granville Island are my personal favorites.

  • Allison Bay

    We’ve been going to Vancouver with our kids a few times a year for a while now and have barely hit a fraction of these. This is great! I can’t wait to go back and check out a bunch of these things. Thanks for this list!!

  • Allison Bay

    We are up in Vancouver now and really appreciate this list. We are stayin in Burnaby this time and took the SkyTrain to Science World where we caught an Aquabus to Granville Island. All our kids loved it and the boat ride can’t be beat on a beautiful day. The Granville Island Water Park was a lot of fun, too. The day before we made the mistake of trying to drive in Vancouver to go to Stanley Park. It took us at least 45 minutes in traffic, but the SkyTrain today got us to town in ~15 minutes. In the future we will definitely use the SkyTrain more and keep the car parked where ever we are staying. My advice would be to seek out a hotel within walking distance to a SkyTrain station if possible. We still have so much to explore. Thanks again for this article!

  • Bouncy Castle Hire

    Sounds like there is plenty to do in Vancouver. I’ll bring the list with me on my visit, cheers. The Kids Zone sounds like a good idea for my kids, as they love bouncy castles, despite me hiring them out myself!