Vancouver is an increasingly popular tourist destination for Americans who want to experience a foreign country without having to travel overseas. The British Columbia seaport is Canada
's third-largest city and has been called "Canada's San Diego
" because of its pleasant climate, beautiful setting and wealth of activities. If you're traveling on a budget, there are any number of things to do in Vancouver for free. And some of them are the best things to do in Vancouver, anyway!
Stanley Park is an absolutely stunning 1,000-acre urban park bounded on three sides by water. A 5.5-mile seawall and walking path encircles the park, with each step offering more gorgeous views than the other. Stanley Park has been ranked as the sixth best park in North America by the Project for Public Spaces. Popular sights include the totem poles at Brockton Point, long a symbol of Vancouver on postcards and other souvenir merchandise, and the many beaches that dot the seawall walkway, which are great for beachcombing and shell-collecting. Stanley Park also is home to several impressive gardens. If you're limited for time, don't miss the Rose Garden and the Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden.
Grouse Mountain is a 4,039-foot mountain just north of Vancouver. It's a ski resort in winter and a popular tourist attraction in the summer, with lumberjack shows, a grizzly bear preserve and myriad hiking trails. Riding the tramway to the top costs money; hiking up the mountain is absolutely free, along a rather grueling hiking trail known as the Grouse Grind. The trail takes you up 2,799 feet over the course of just two miles, earning it the nickname "Mother Nature's Stairmaster." It's a great workout, and it doesn't cost you a cent.
A 37-acre island adjacent to downtown Vancouver, Granville Island used to be an industrial zone but is now one big shopping bazaar. Just walking through the vast public market is a treat; there are vendors selling everything from homemade jellies and jams to handcrafted jewelry and designer clothing. Oh, to be sure, you'll be tempted to spend, but the beauty is, you don't have to.
The birthplace of Vancouver has been brilliantly and beautifully restored to its Victorian-era splendor, with towering gaslamps bedecked with flowers baskets, cobblestone streets and a litany of historic buildings. You can even take a self-guided walking tour--there are informational plaques everywhere--and learn all about the town that "Gassy Jack" Deighton built.
Thomas K. Arnold is the publisher and editorial director of "Home Media Magazine" and a regular entertainment contributor to various publications including "USA Today," "The Hollywood Reporter" and "San Diego Magazine." He has written travel stories for "San Diego Magazine," the "San Diego Union" and the Copley News Service. Arnold attended San Diego State University.