The official start of summer is upon us, and we couldn’t be more ready to eat, drink, bike, climb, hike, and swim our way through Vancouver’s best season. With that said, summertime makes spending money all the more easier – which means finding free ways to keep ourselves entertained is key. Fortunately, Vancouver has plenty to offer by way of free concerts, annual festivals, and local events. So with that in mind, here are 20 free things to do in and around Vancouver this summer.

Honda Celebration of Light


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We’re starting off with a bang. Every year, the beloved Honda Celebration of Light draws thousands of local and international visitors every year, and this summer will be no exception. This year’s competition will kick off with representation from Australia (Howard & Sons Pyrotechnics) on Saturday, July 22nd, followed by Mexico (Grupo Avacon) on Wednesday, July 26th and The Philippines (Blue Peacock Fireworks) on Saturday, July 29th.

When: July 22nd, July 26th, and July 29th
Where: English Bay

Chow Down Chinatown 

The Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver presents “Chow Down Chinatown,” a chance for Vancouver residents to order takeout from any Chinatown eatery they desire, and bring it to a free show and evening of Kung Fu Movies, Sax with Eric and Chynatruckerfunk.

When: Friday, July 14th
Where: 50 East Pender Street

Shipyards Night Market

The beloved Shipyards Night Market is now in its prime after a three-year hiatus, and there are plenty of summer dates to check out for it’s 10th anniversary. Visitors can once again enjoy their iconic beer garden and outdoor market, and peruse the many mouthwatering food trucks in attendance. As well, the market is bringing back live music and DJs – so consider your Friday night plans made.

When: Every Friday from May 12th to September 15th
Where: The Shipyards, North Vancouver

Check out a free jazz concert

It’s hard not to get jazzed up about the return of the Vancouver International Jazz Fest this summer, especially when it comes to the free concerts and performances popping up around town. Now in its 37th year, the Vancouver International Jazz Fest is a great opportunity to enjoy both local and international talent.

Here are the free concerts you can check out this summer:

  • Wednesday, June 21st: Band on a Boat: Murphy and the Cats
  • Friday, June 23rd: See You Now
  • Friday, June 23rd: Bill Coon Trio
  • Friday, June 23rd: The Fits
  • Friday, June 23rd: Hayley Wallis and The Bright Futures
  • Friday, June 23rd: Late Night Open Jams
  • Saturday, June 24th: Anthem Sounds of Youth Stage
  • Saturday, June 24th: Jesse James Bonanza
  • Saturday, June 24th: Nazih Borish with Joutou / Silk Road
  • Saturday, June 24th: Mali Obomsawin Quartet
  • Saturday, June 24th: Brekky Boy
  • Saturday, June 24th: Will Clements’ Compass
  • Saturday, June 24th: Storry
  • Saturday, June 24th: Lido Pimienta
  • Sunday, June 25th: Steelin’ in the Years
  • Sunday, June 25th: Robyn Lane & the Rhythm Makers
  • Sunday, June 25th: The History of Gunpowder

When: Friday, June 23rd to July 2nd
Where: Venues around Vancouver

Car Free Days Vancouver 

Much like the popular Car Free Day Surrey, Vancouver will soon be getting three of its own, with each community-wide festival taking place in a different neighbourhood. And visitors can expect to enjoy a ton of local eats, live entertainment, and cultural programming.

Each of the following Car Free Days will take place from noon until 7 pm:

  • Commercial Drive (North Grandview Highway to 1st Avenue) – September 9th
  • Main Street (10th Avenue to King Edward Avenue) – September 16th
  • West End- Denman (Davie Street to Robson Street) – September 24th

When: September 9th, 16th, and 24th
Where: Commercial Drive, Main Street, West End
Cost: Free admission

Take a free class at the VPL 

You’re never too old (or young) to learn, and there are a ton of classes at the Vancouver Public Library that prove exactly that. From sound editing to STEAM (science, technology, art, engineering, and math) courses for kids, there are plenty of options to fit any age or skill set. Best of all? All of them are free to attend!

Where: Branches across Vancouver

Catch an outdoor movie

Whether it’s Thursday night Deckchair Cinema on Cates Deck (June 29th to August 31st) or Sunset Cinema at The Shipyards Commons, there are plenty of outdoor movies to check out this summer – and all of them are free to watch! Below are the two lineups:

Deckchair Cinema:

  • June 29th – Fantastic Planet, 9:30 pm
  • July 6th – Interstellar 5555, 9:30 pm
  • July 13th – What We Do In The Shadows, 9:15 pm
  • July 20th – Whale Rider, 9:15 pm – Celebrating Squamish Amalgamation Day
  • July 27th – Big Trouble In Little China, 9 pm
  • August 3rd – Xanadu, 9 pm – Celebrating North Shore Pride Week
  • August 10th – Lovers Rock, 8:45 pm
  • August 17th – Moonstruck, 8:45 pm
  • August 24th – No Bears, 8:30 pm
  • August 31st – Bullitt, 8:30 pm

Sunset Cinema:

  • August 2nd: Jumanji (1995)
  • August 9th: Mama Mia 2 – Here We Go Again 
  • August 16th: Encanto 
  • August 23rd: E.T.

When: Multiple dates this summer
Where: Cates Deck and The Shipyards
Cost: Free admission

Discover a hidden beach 

Whether you’re looking for a quieter alternative to Kits Beach or Ambleside – or just want to check out a lesser-known spot in BC, there are lots of beautiful hidden beaches scattered across Metro Vancouver to discover.

Where: See our picks above

Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival  

The Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF) is celebrating Canadian Multiculturalism Day with a full day of family-friendly fun. Check out some award-winning mountain films, live performances, and fun outdoor activities like a group mountain bike ride and community run, for starters!

The festival will also feature a beer garden, food trucks, a climbing wall, and plenty of other activities, so prepare to spend the whole day at the Shipyards if you want to learn more about mountain culture.

When: Saturday, June 24th
Where: The Shipyards, North Vancouver

Free nights at Vancouver Art Gallery 

Thanks to a new partnership with BMO, the Vancouver Art Gallery has launched free admission to the public on the first Friday of every month, from 4 pm to 8 pm. The next free Friday night will be on July 7th  so mark your calendars and get ready to enjoy some after-work art!

When: Friday, July 7th and every first Friday of the month
Where: 750 Hornby Street

35th annual Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival

The largest dragon boat fest in North America is back this month with new cultural programming and expanded food trucks and vendors. The highly-anticipated races in False Creek will be accompanied by free concerts from local names like Sabai and Dear Rouge. Oh, and it’s free to attend!

When: June 24th and 25th
Where: Concord Pacific Place, Creekside Park, and False Creek, Vancouver
Admission: Free


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Festival Afloat


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Speaking of boats: Who’s ready for a summer concert on the water? A mobile concert series is setting sail this July, and it’s coming to Jericho Beach (Iy̓ál̓mexw, ʔəy̓alməxʷ). Slated to perform at Festival Afloat 2023 are returning artists like Juno-nominee Desirée Dawson and Renee Layla, who guests can paddle out to listen to or enjoy from the beach. As well, there will be some new performers in the mix – so stay tuned!

When: July 9th
Where: Jericho Beach
Cost: Tickets are by-donation

Check out a free Canada Day celebration 

From the Shipyards to Fort Langley, there are tons of Canada Day celebrations happening across Metro Vancouver this year. Want to catch some fireworks? We’ve got you covered there, too!

Where: See our picks above

Symphony in the Park 


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Picture this. You’re laying on a picnic blanket in the middle of summer. The sun is shining, the air is breezy and full of fragrant flowers – and the sounds of violin strings in a beautiful symphony. Yes, we’re talking about Symphony in the Park! On July 15th, the 34th-anniversary performance will take over Deer Lake Park in Burnaby.

When: July 15th
Where: 6450 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby

Go on a waterfall hike

It goes without saying that BC is home to some of the most scenic hikes in the country – but there happen to be some particularly striking waterfalls you can check out on many of them!

Where: Click the link above for more info

Play Disc Golf at Queen Elizabeth Park

If you’re looking for a way to hang with your friends outdoors in a socially distanced manner then disc golf might just be for you. And what’s even better is that the course at Queen Elizabeth Park is completely free! So grab a frisbee and your friends and try it out.

Where: 33rd Avenue and Cambie Street

Picnic at a park

We all love a good beach BBQ (before wildfire season, that is), but if you’re trying to avoid the possibility of sand mixed in with your food, you’ll probably want to opt for one of Vancouver’s many parks instead. Thankfully, there are plenty of prime picnic spots in and around Vancouver that boast stunning views, and large, grassy areas to sprawl out on.

Want to make it a boozy picnic? Check out these alcohol-friendly spots around Vancouver – including these year-round public plazas.

Where: Click the link above for our picks

Check out Vancouver Mural Festival

Fans of the beloved Vancouver Mural Festival are in for a treat this year! Not only will visitors get to check out an open-air gallery of new murals across the city, but they’ll get to enjoy a 10-day festival that goes beyond the iconic City Centre Artist Lodge.

From guided walking tours to food trucks to block parties – there will be a little something for everyone.

When: August 4th to August 13th
Where: Mount Pleasant
Cost: Free and ticketed events

So there you have it, Vancouver! If you’re looking for some summer fun while on a budget, this list is a great place to start.