You might also enjoy my list of 5 best restaurants in Vancouver.

  1. Walk along Coal Harbour. Head across the plaza—noticing the Olympic Flame Cauldron from the 2010 Winter Olympics (still lit on special occasions), go down the steps and walk northwest along the ocean, and enjoy a stroll past the seaplane terminal (the 2nd busiest airport in British Columbia), gleaming steel and glass condo towers, and the marina full of yachts. You can walk all the way to Stanley Park in about 30 minutes.  There are a couple of great spots to stop for an al fresco drink along the way, notably the Mill Bistro and Cardero’s (photo) Price of walk: Free. Price of drinks or snacks…up to you.
    Vancouver Coal Harbour Restaurant Cardero's

    Cardero's patio is a great place to stop for lunch along Vancouver's Coal Harbour. © Randall Shirley

  2. Take the Seabus to North Vancouver and back. It’s the cheapest cruise in Vancouver, and from the water, the views in both directions are stunning. Unfortunately, the vessel is completely indoor. Try for a seat at the very front or back. The fare allows you 90 minutes to go over and back (plenty of time). If you stay longer, you’ll have to pay again to come back. Price: $3.75.
    View of Vancouver and cruise ships from the Seabus

    View of Vancouver and cruise ships from the Seabus. © Randall Shirley

  3. Enjoy a uniquely-Vancouver coffee. We’re a coffee-crazy bunch, and while Starbucks does, indeed, have two shops kitty corner from each other at the corner of Robson and Thurlow streets, go for a more local treat at the nearby location of Caffe Artigiano, 740 West Hastings Street. Price: $3.00 or so.
  4. See the “most beautiful building in Vancouver.” It’s called the Marine Building, and it’s just a couple of blocks away. Built in the 1930s, it’s a Deco masterpiece. If it looks familiar, you’re likely a fan of the TV series Smallville, where it plays the role of City Hall. 355 Burrard St. Price: Free.
  5. Explore Canada Place. The unique “five sails” structure was built for Vancouver’s Expo ’86 World’s Fair, and has passed the test of time for visually stunning architecture. The complex houses the cruise ship terminal, Convention space, and the Pan Pacific Hotel. A walkway (free!) surrounds the complex and it’s great for up-close views of cruise ships (look down at the massive amounts of food being put aboard!) and for seeing the distant workings of the big cranes at Vancouver’s shipping terminal. The walkway includes many signs interpreting Vancouver’s harbour history. If it’s raining, there’s an excellent Port of Vancouver interpretive center inside the far end of the complex. Price: Free.
    Vancouver Canada Place Cruise Terminal and Celebrity Cruise Ship

    Vancouver's Canada Place "Five Sails" and Celebrity Cruise Ship. © Randall Shirley





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2 Responses to “Best cheap or free things to do near the Vancouver Convention Centre”

  1. Informative post Randall! I’m a local and enjoy these sites often, especially Coal Harbour. I’ve yet to circle Canada Place and find the ‘orca’ but it’s on my list:)

  2. Jessie says:

    Great list! Not sure if my additions are right near the Convention Center as I was there 2 summers ago and my memory is a little foggy by hiking in Stanley Park and doing the Seawall walk! :)

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