Ah yes December, that magical time of year when we have an insatiable desire to do fun stuff, but also have holiday gift shopping to worry about. If you’re hoping to have a laugh on a budget this month, we’ve rounded up some amazing free and cheap things to do in Vancouver in December. Go ice skating, get cultured, or enjoy some amazing attractions, all for under $20!

Here are some of the best free and cheap things to do around Vancouver this December.

Check out a meteor shower

That’s right folks! Fingers crossed that Vancouver has some clear nights, because the Geminids Meteor Shower has returned! All you need to enjoy this completely free experience? A clear sky and a friend to share it with. Our advice? Head to a local park to avoid light pollution, if you can.

When: Peaks December 13th and 14th
Where: All around Vancouver

Shipyards Skate Plaza

Here’s something that’s more than worth the SeaBus over there. The Shipyards Skate Plaza, the largest ice skating surface in the region, has reopened for the winter! Take in gorgeous views of the city’s skyline and enjoy a bunch of nearby amenities. Plus, if you bring your own skates, it’s free!

When: Open throughout the winter
Where: 125 Victory Ship Way, North Vancouver
Cost: Free to visit, $7 for rentals

Polygon Gallery

This admission-by-donation gallery on the North Shore has two exhibitions to check out this month. One focuses on the city’s punk subculture, while the other is a solo exhibition from the world-renowned artist Steven Shearer. Plus, their holiday gift shop features some amazing options. It’s an easy add-on if you go to, you guessed, the skate plaza!

When: Open throughout December
Where: 101 Carrie Cates Court, North Vancouver
Cost: By donation

Bright Nights Christmas Train

All aboard! If The Polar Express is your favourite movie (good on you for overcoming the CGI), then this Christmas train option is sure to be a hit. Winding through the already beautiful Stanley Park, you’ll get to see a variety of different light displays while you leisurely cruise along.

When: On until January 2nd, 2022
Where: Stanley Park
Cost: $6+ for GA

Heritage Christmas

If you’re willing to drive a little bit, then the Heritage Village Museum in Burnaby is a great choice. Not only is this already impressive heritage village worth a trip in and of itself, but it’s been transformed for the holiday season with light installations. The best part? It’s free!

When: Open until January 3rd, 2022
Where: 6501 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby
Cost: Free to attend!

Eastside Flea Holiday Markets

The Eastside Flea is back, baby! This beloved collection of vintage curators and local artisans has made a return just in time for the holidays. Not only is this a must-visit option for bargain hunters, but it’s also going to be open right up until the week before Christmas. Perfect for those looking for a last-minute gift.

When: December 11th/12th and 18th/19th
Where: 550 Malkin Ave
Cost: $2

Bloedel Conservatory

Wanting to take a break from all the holiday/winter options? Your best bet is the Bloedel Conservatory, which houses hundreds of tropical plants and birds. That’s right, this is your own local oasis, and it’s sure to help you overcome those rainy day blues.

When: Open throughout December
Where: 4600 Cambie Street
Cost: $7.05

Robson Square Ice Rink

We have to admit that between the downtown location and all the nearby amenities, the Robson Square Ice Rink is among the best free and cheap options on this list. Like the Shipyards, rentals are cheap, but if you bring your own skates you can enjoy it for free!

When: Open throughout December
Where: 800 Robson Street
Cost: Free to visit, $5 for rentals

Vancouver Christmas Market

An absolutely classic holiday option, the Vancouver Christmas Market has got something for just about everyone. Enjoy some seasonal treats and drinks, browse the local vendors, and enjoy free live entertainment while you’re at it!

When: Open until December 24th
Where: Jack Poole Plaza
Tickets: $12.99+

Rio Theatre

Like Halloween, we think there’s something to be said about seeing a Christmas movie in theatres than cooped up at home. The Rio, naturally, is showing some all-time greats, including our favourite holiday movie- The Muppet Christmas Carol featuring Sir Michael Caine as Scrooge. Seriously, it’s a mashup for the ages.

When: Showtimes throughout December
Where: 1660 East Broadway
Cost: $13+

Rolla Skate Club at the PNE

Here’s a completely new option for the sporty folks around the city! Rolla Skate Club has found a permanent home at the PNE, and they’ll be hosting weekly roller skating parties for kids and adults alike! If you’re looking for some outside-the-box fun, this is it.

When: Saturdays throughout December
Where: 21 N Renfrew Street
Cost: $15+

VanDusen Festival of Lights

Our most expensive option this month is also the one we think you need to see the most. The VanDusen Festival of Lights transforms the already beautiful garden into a veritable winter wonderland. No matter who you go with, this is a great option.

When: Open throughout December
Where: 5251 Oak Street
Tickets: $17.50

That’s what we have in mind for the best free and cheap things to do in Vancouver this December! Hopefully, a couple of these are right up your alley for a nice activity out!