cheaper and less touristy attractions in vancouver

Sightseeing in Vancouver, one of Canada’s most expensive cities, can easily break the bank.  While entertaining a friend one day I spent over $100 on attractions alone.  Sigh.  She was the guest.  Most of the time, however, it’s completely unnecessary and totally avoidable.  Below is a list of some of the top tourist attractions in Vancouver, and why you should avoid them and check out my suggested alternatives.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Marketing itself as Vancouver’s top attraction, this enormous suspension bridge in North Vancouver definitely gets people’s legs shaking.  It’s also exceptionally ‘touristy’, and designed entirely around squeezing money out of you.  They recently added the Tree-Tops Adventures, which only added value to watching your afraid-of-heights friends squirm.  Honestly, I’ve had to go to the CSB twice and neither time was it worth its admission fee of $22 CAD for students and $28 CAD for adults.

Alternative: Go to the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge instead.  It’s free and in the middle of a beautiful park with loads of other things to see like the Baden Powell hiking trail, Twin Falls, and other great stuff to explore.  It’s also far less touristy, and, once again, free.  For a tree top adventure with a guide and a more personalised touch, check out the Greenheart Canopy Walkway at the UBC Botanical Gardens ($20 for adults and $15 for students). 

Grouse Mountain

The middle of the three North Shore Mountains, Grouse Mountain is the most popular with tourists, which is why the prices are as sky high as its peak.  Admission will cost adults $40 per round trip on the gondola, and while there’s some free stuff to see up there, like the massive view, everything else, like Ziplining, costs more money.  Your wallet will spend more time open than you’d like, and you may be left wondering whether or not it was worth it.

Alternative: If you really want to see the view, do the Grouse Grind, a 2.9km (1.8mi) hike up the mountain.  Warning: it’s not for the un-fit, or the not-so-fit, because it’s really, really, tough.  Not interested in hiking?  Drive up neighbouring Cypress Mountain – the view is just as spectacular, and only costs you a touch more in gas for your car.

Vancouver Lookout

Requesting $15 per adult and $10 for students in admission, this so-called first stop for Vancouver tourists is actually kind of pointless.  It really only offers a good view, which you can get from a lot of other places in the city, especially the mountains and some city restaurants.

Alternative: Cross the bridge and venture up one of the mountains.

Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides

With beautiful horses, excellent views, and guides with interesting anecdotes and stories, these tours are good, especially if your mobility isn’t fantastic.  However, if you’re not going to be restricted by mobility, you’re better off skipping the carriage rides and check out my alternatives.  The carriage ride only takes you around half of Stanley Park, and costs $29 for adults and $27 for students.  I also don’t love seeing horses struggle to pull our carriages.

Alternative: Rent a bicycle for about half the price and cycle around the entire park in half the time, or just take a walk or jog around the park on the seawall.

Van Dusen Botanical Gardens

Okay, so I’m not a garden person.  If you are, you may really like to hang out at Van Dusen.  However, to me, it’s big and a little boring, and costs $10 in the summer…which is a lot for a garden.

Alternative: Head up to the University of British Columbia to the Nitobe Japanese Memorial Garden.  At $6 for adults and $4.50 for students, it’s more affordable and is gorgeous and intriguing in all four seasons.  Also, all of the elements and structures in the garden have symbolic meanings in Japanese garden design, and tea ceremonies are conducted throughout the summer.

Vancouver doesn’t have to break your wallet

Admittedly, Vancouver can be a very expensive city to vacation in, especially if you get sucked in by all the tourist traps.  While there are many more affordable, budget-friendly, and must-see things in this city, this quick guide is intended to help visitors make better decisions when it comes to the big tourist attractions.  Vancouver doesn’t have to be the most expensive city you ever visit, especially if you let these tips guide you to some great experiences that won’t make your wallet want to run away from you. 

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