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It’s my third summer in Vancouver, BC and boy, oh boy am I looking forward to it. It’s not even like the winter in Vancouver was that rainy this year! But Vancouver in the summer is something special. The city truly comes alive, everyone’s out of hibernation and the seawall is bustling with people skating, cycling, rollerblading and hanging out on the beach. The mountains begin to thaw out and those long summer days mean lots of hiking and exploring. It doesn’t get much better than summer in Vancouver! If you’re visiting Vancouver in summer, or are a local who’s just looking for new summer activities in Vancouver to do this year then be sure to check out this pretty extensive list of things to do in this summer in Vancouver!
In 2020 some of the annual events listed below may not be happening. Please check the relevant websites in advance.
Outdoor things to do in Vancouver in summer
Looking for outdoors and fun things to do in Vancouver, Canada? Look no further! These fun outdoors activities include some adventure and activities that just take place outside.
Backpacking near Vancouver
Dust off that camping gear and load up your backpack! Summer in Vancouver means getting outside and soaking up enough sun to last us through the winter. One of the best things to do in Vancouver, BC this summer is to go backpacking. We’re lucky enough to be surrounded by beautiful mountains (with the closest only 30 minutes away!) so make sure you make the most of it!
Here are a few of my favourite backpacking trips near Vancouver (expect the list to grow!)
Go car camping near Vancouver
We love our van Elvis but you don’t need a van to go car camping. Just roll down those back seats and put your sleeping pad and bag on top! There are plenty of legal car camping spots near Vancouver and just across the border in Washington.
If you’re wondering how to find them check out this post on how to find places to sleep for free in Canada and the US.
Go on a sunset hike
Longer days mean it’s easier to get out hiking after work and getting outdoors has to be the among every locals’ favourite Vancouver activities.
Pack some dinner and a headlamp (as well as your other 10 essentials) and you’re reading to catch an incredible sunset. The hike to St Mark’s Summit is great if you’re a pretty fast hiker. Otherwise, you can catch the sunset from Bowen Lookout which is quite possibly my favourite easy hike near Vancouver.
A sunset hike is also a pretty romantic thing to do in Vancouver too.
Go on a day hike
Why limit yourself to just sunset? One of my favourite activities in Vancouver is to go hiking and I’ve been rather impatiently waiting for the snow to melt for the last month or so now so that I can tackle some of the longer hikes on my (even longer) to-hike list!
If you don’t yet have the gear to or aren’t keen on camping, then doing an all-day hike means you can still get some of the incredible views but go back to your comfy bed afterwards.
Here are some of my favourite day hikes near Vancouver
Catch the sunset on the beach
Still wondering what to do in Vancouver, BC? This is one of the top free things to do in Vancouver! In fact, I’m just going to throw it out there and say it’s a must do in Vancouver.
Vancouver sunsets are often pretty spectacular and they’re even better when they’re watched on a sandy beach. I guess you could say that the beaches are one of the top attractions in Vancouver – you’ll see what I mean!
Go to the drum circle
Another great free thing to do in Vancouver in summer is to go to the drum circle.
The “Brahm’s Tams Drum Circle” has been getting together since 2006 every sunny Tuesday in English Bay around 6 pm. Third Beach is one of the main places to go in Vancouver on Tuesday evenings!
Meet at 3rd Beach in Stanley Park on Tuesday evenings and jam along with tons of other enthusiastic music-lovers. Simply bring yourself or any instrument that you desire.
Swim in an outdoor pool
How’s this for a cool thing to do in Vancouver? There are two great outdoor pools in downtown Vancouver. Both the Kitsilano Pool and Third Beach Pool outdoor pools open only in the summer months and have incredible views of the mountains and the sea. They’re heated too so if you’re not ready to brave the sea itself then this is a great alternative.
Go kayaking in Deep Cove
Wondering where to go in Vancouver (& nearby) for kayaking? You could just kayak off English Bay but kayaking and Deep Cove go hand in hand. If you don’t have your own kayak or paddle board you can hire them from Deep Cove Kayak but be sure to book in advance because they book up very quickly.
We bought these kayaks last year for $100CAD and used them loads. They pack away pretty small (we store ours in our wardrobe) and are great if you plan to kayak a few times.
For some other great places to kayak near Vancouver see this post.
Hire a paddle board
Seeing Vancouver from the water is quite a unique experience and a fun way to see some of the top Vancouver attractions. You can rent kayaks and paddle boards from Vancouver Water Adventures. They have a stand on English Bay and Kitsilano beaches or you can rent from their main location on Granville Island.
Learn to play Spikeball
Spikeball, also known as Roundnet, is a sport that’s a little like volleyball only you don’t need to put up a net.
It’s played on a little round net-trampoline type thing which you bounce the ball of off rather than over.
I’d never seen or heard of Spikeball before coming to Vancouver but you’re sure to see it being played on the beach.
Go on a bike ride
I ride my bike basically everyday rain, sun or snow. I think Vancouver is a great city for cycling thanks to all the cycle lanes and cycling is a much quicker way to tick off all those places to see in Vancouver on your list.
If you’re visiting Vancouver then you have to cycle around the Stanley Park section of the seawall (it is one of the top Vancouver tourist attractions after all!) or, if you’re local just grab your bike and cycle to the bar or beach instead of driving.
Watch movies outside
The Evo Summer Series is back this summer! This means every Tuesday from July 2nd to August 30th you can catch a movie classic in the open air in Stanely Park, FOR FREE!
This is one of the top things to do in Vancouver for free in summer.
This year’s movies include Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sleepless in Seattle and Shrek. Full line up here.
Play beach volleyball
I’d never played volleyball before we moved to Vancouver and now it’s not summer if I haven’t spent at least a few evenings out on the beach playing volleyball with friends.
There are lots of places you can play volleyball in Vancouver. There’s space for nets on Sunset Beach, English Bay Beach, Concord Park near Science World and loads over on Locarno-Jericho beaches!
Go to a drive-in cinema
Did you know there’s a drive-in cinema near Vancouver? If you’re looking for things to do in Vancouver at night then add this one to the list and it’s also a good idea for things for couples to do in Vancouver too.
The Twilight drive-in cinema shows two films every week. In the summer it’s open 7 days a week and tickets cost $13.50. Take some snacks and tune in your radio!
Try climbing outside
We’ve yet to try climbing outside but have been climbing in the gym. There are loads of places to climb outside and if you climb I’m sure you know about them already.
If not, then maybe this year is the year to take a climbing course up in Squamish?
Swim in a lake
There are a lot of great lake hikes near Vancouver and summer means they’re finally thawed out from under the snow. Some great lakes near Vancouver for a dip include Mystery Lake, Cabin Lake and Brohm Lake (although there are plenty more!)
Picnic whenever you get the chance
Food tastes better when it’s eaten outside with friends. Head to the store and buy some snacks or make dinner at home and take it down to the beach. A personal quick picnic is a rotisserie chicken from the store with some salad and good bread!
Find a new park to hang out in
One of my (many) favourite things about Vancouver is how green it is. There are SO many parks and they’re some of the top places to visit in Vancouver too!
I live in the West End so tend to go to Stanley Park and Sunset Beach most of the time but sometimes I’ll break the habit and go to another beautiful park. Crab Park near Gastown has great views if you’re over that way and Queen Elizabeth Park is popular for a reason!
Take a road trip
You know by now that I love a road trip! And, with our van Elvis, we’re always ready to go. These road trips to places to visit near Vancouver are perfect for a weekend to weeklong trips.
- 7 Day road trip to Banff and Jasper from Vancouver
- Where to stop on BC’s Sea to Sky highway
- A Kelowna Winery Road Trip
- How to spend a weekend in Tofino and Ucluelet
- How to spend a long weekend in Harrison Hot Springs, BC
- 12 of the best Vancouver weekend getaway ideas
Do yoga at the top of Grouse Mountain
Be a real Vancouverite and do some yoga outdoors this summer. Grouse Mountain, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver, has free 60-minute yoga classes led by YYOGA instructors, every Saturday morning from 10 – 11 am in July and August. If you’re really after a Saturday workout then do the Grouse Grind beforehand!
Attend free yoga on the beach
And if you’re looking for more regular free yoga classes then check out Mat Collective who hold free yoga classes in Vancouver daily during summer.
Join the swimming club in Kitsilano
For the past few years, I’ve been going to the Vancouver Open Water Swimming Association practice swim on Kitsilano Beach on Monday and Thursdays. It costs $5 per session and they have a 1.6km course in the sea. Lifeguards are on hand during these swims which always leave me feeling invigorated!
Rent skates or a skateboard and hit the seawall
I tried skateboarding for the first time last year and while I definitely feel a lot cooler than I look, I had a great time. We rented longboards from Flatspot Longboards and practised on quieter sections of the seawall and empty car parks before going around the seawall.
You can also rent rollerskates or rollerblades if that’s more your thing.
Salsa dancing in Robson square
Want to know how to dance? Learn how to salsa dance for free in Vancouver this summer with Sunday Salsa in Robson Square. It’s got to be one of the more unusual things to do in downtown Vancouver!
This year Sunday salsa runs from July 7th to August 25th. Lessons run from 3 pm to 3.30 pm followed by social dancing and performances.
Vancouver festivals in summer
There are a lot of Vancouver summer events, from food festivals to fireworks there are fun festivals in Vancouver every weekend! They’re great if you’re looking for things to do in Vancouver in the summer. Oh, and most of these festivals are free, so add them to your list of cheap things to do in Vancouver.
Car Free day
Car Free Day happens every summer in Vancouver and celebrates the diverse neighbourhoods in the city. It’s an arts and culture festival where you can enjoy artists, performers and producers. There are currently car free days in the West End, Main Street, Commercial Drive and there are Kits Block Parties too.
Il Mercato Italian market
Il Mercato Italian Market is the place to go if you love everything about Italy. The summer market takes place on June 14th and admission is free. There are more than 30 vendors selling olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pasta and more! Feast on great food while enjoying live music on a (hopefully) sunny afternoon.
Vancouver Mural Fest
Vancouver Mural Festival is the cities largest free annual public art celebration. It happens around Main Street and you can watch the murals being painted and enjoy some music and an arty vibe.
You can see a map of the festival here.
Vancouver Folk Music Festival
The Vancouver Folk Music Festival runs from July 19th-21st on Jericho Beach so you get great views and music! Even if you don’t know much folk music, it’s always enjoyable Tickets start at $47.
One of the biggest things to do for free in Vancouver is the big Khatsahlano Stree Party. This huge free music and arts festival on West 4th Avenue has several stages with over 50 top musical performances across 10 blocks from Burrard to MacDonald Street.
There’s also plenty of food, giveaways and licensed beer gardens! This year’s street party is happening on 6th July from 100 am to 9 pm.
Kits Fest is a sport and healthy living beach festival that takes place for a week in August. This year it’s from 9th August to 11th. There’s basketball, sunset yoga, bathtub races, volleyball and more!
Canada Day is on July 1st every year and cities all over Canada celebrate it. Vancouver holds the Canada Day celebrations at Canada Place and this year will see food, live entertainment plenty of activities and more. It’s a great free event in Vancouver this summer but it does get super busy so not something if you don’t like crowds!
Honda Celebration of Light
The Honda Celebration of Light, or Festival of Lights, Vancouver, happens every year in July. Over the course of three evenings (rain or shine), you can watch amazing fireworks set to music. The fireworks are launched from a boat in the sea and it’s best watched from one of the beaches.
A different country does these Vancouver fireworks each night and this year its Canada, India and Croatia. It’s completely free to watch unless you want to book tickets to the VIP/stage area on English Bay beach.
Take a radio down to the Vancouver festival of lights with you to tune into the music or strategically place yourselves next to someone else with one. It’s much better when you can also hear the music at the fireworks on English Bay!
Vancouver food and drink things to do
Lover of food and drink and wondering what to do in Vancouver in the summer to satisfy your tastebuds? Be sure to check out these food & drink inspired events in Vancouver.
Go wine tasting in Fraser Valley
Did you know you can go wine tasting in the Fraser Valley? You don’t have to drive all the way to The Okanagan for wine tasting, there’s some great wine right in our back yard.
We recently explored some of the wineries near Langley but there are some all over the Fraser Valley. It’s a great sunny day activity near Vancouver if you can decide on a designated driver!
Do a beer crawl
If beer is more your thing than wine then head out to Port Moody or East Vancouver or the Main Street area. The best things about this beer crawl in Vancouver is that they’re accessible on public transport. I guess you could just say its a different way to go sightseeing in Vancouver..?
Some of our favourites are along Main Street like Main Street Brewing and Brassneck Brewing.
Go patio hopping
Now the sun’s out it’s time to explore the patios in Vancouver too. Vancouver does pretty well on the patio front, I guess it’s easy when the scenery is so good pretty much everywhere you look…
Some of the best patios in Vancouver are:
- Cactus Club English Bay or Waterfront (get super, super busy though)
- Tap Shack under Burrard Bridge
- Local, Kitsilano
- Joe Fortes
- Mahony & Sons
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Yeah, it’s full of sugar but it’s also super tasty. Frosés from Cactus Club only appear on the menu in summer and these pink, sweet drinks made from rose wine, strawberries and some vodka just go down waaaay too easy. Get them during happy hour and you won’t regret it!
Go to Richmond night market
The Richmond Night Market is the largest night market in North America. It runs from mid-May to mid-October and is packed full of street food eats, shops, entertainment and people.
It’s easy to get to on transit as it’s just a couple of minute’s walk from Bridgeport station.
The market is open Friday-Sunday and holidays entrance costs $4.7.5 Be prepared to queue!
Browse the farmers’ markets
Most of the farmers’ markets go into hibernation in the winter months with the exception of a couple of them. But in the summer you’re sure to find a market in your local Vancouver neighbourhood.
If not, there’s also the Berry Mobile that springs up along the seawall selling fresh, local fruits and veg.
Find a rooftop bar
Vancouver has a few rooftop bars that are great for a summer drink. A few of the best rooftop bars in Vancouver are:
- Reflections Garden Terrace
- Joe Fortes
- Joey on Broadway
- Vij’s Restaurant
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Tour Vancouver’s ice creameries
Is there’s one thing that Vancouver has in spades, then it’s ice cream places. There’s everything from vegan ice creameries to ice cream made with liquid nitrogen and places that only do ice cream sandwiches. Our favourite is D’oro Gelato & Caffè on Denman for some real Italian ice cream.
Go to Shipyards Night Market in North Vancouver
The Shipyards Night Market in North Vancouver is one of the best night markets near Vancouver. I personally prefer this to the Richmond Night Market as it has a more varied choice in food and absolutely beautiful views. This Night Market runs from Friday Nights 5-10pm – May 3 to September 27.
Attend a summer sporting event in Vancouver
If you’re from outside of North America, catching these sports can be a great way to explore a new destination.
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Gastown cycling race
If you’re visiting Vancouver in July don’t miss out on the Gastown Grand Prix, it’s one of the very cool things to see in Vancouver.
During this race, cyclists take to Gastown’s cobbled streets and do super fast laps. You can watch for free on July 10th. Don’t miss out on one of North America’s most historic and prestigious road cycling events!
Cheer for the Vancouver Whitecaps
Vancouver Whitecaps are the local football/soccer team and they play at BC Place in downtown Vancouver. Tickets aren’t too expensive compared to football tickets in Europe so if you’re looking for a fun afternoon then go cheer them on.
Watch the BC Lions
The BC Lions are Vancouver’s football team. They also play at BC Place and Vancouver gets very busy around the stadium during their games. They’re one of the better sports teams in Vancouver having won 13 Western Division regular season championships, 10 Western Division championships and six Grey Cup championships.
Support the Vancouver Canadians
My favourite summer sport to attend in Vancouver is baseball. Yeah, I don’t know all the rules but the atmosphere is usually pretty good. The Vancouver Canadians play at the Scotiabank Field and Nat Bailey Stadium. There are also firework extravaganza nights where you get a firework show for free after the game and special dog days where dogs are allowed too. I’d definitely add attending a game to your “what to see in Vancouver” list.