Vancouver on a shoestring


In Vancouver, you can enjoy million-dollar views from many vantage points without paying a thing. (Katie Marti/

Story by Katie Marti

With all that Vancouver has to offer, it’s no wonder so many flock to the city for work and play. However, in an economic climate as dark and dreary as a coastal winter, letting off steam without blowing the budget can be difficult. Here are a few low-cost suggestions to help you spend your time, not your money, in and around Vancouver.

Under $10
One of the perks of living in an urban centre is the steady stream of live acts that roll through town. For those who live and travel on a shoestring, however, having so many tempting entertainment options can also be a curse. A quick skim through Vancouver’s event listings becomes an exercise in self-restraint as concert tickets battle lunch money for priority in the monthly allocation of funds. Fortunately, there are Sunday nights at the Biltmore Cabaret. Kitty Nights of Vancouver is a smart and sassy burlesque and comedy show hosted by Burgundy Brixx and The Purrrfessor, featuring DJ Teddy Smooth. The show starts at 9 pm and tickets are a wallet-friendly $7 at the door. This has become a popular event among locals, regardless of gender or marital status, and seats go quickly so be sure to get there early. Remember: the closer you sit to the front of the stage, the better your chances of getting hit in the face with a pair of tassels.

If burlesque shows aren’t for you, then you may enjoy an evening of cultural enrichment at Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology, where admission is only $9 from 5-9 pm every Tuesday. Here you will find permanent collections of iconic northwest art, as well as fascinating temporary exhibits such asひろしま hiroshima by Ishiuchi Miyako, a collection of photographs and artifacts from the 1945 bombing, on display through Sunday, February 12. The museum offers guided gallery walks at no extra charge and has a newly renovated café and gift shop that are certainly worthy of breaking a twenty.

For those who prefer comfy seats, salty treats and surround sound, Vancouver’s Festival Cinemas also drop their prices on Tuesday nights. For a teeny-tiny $8.50 you can see new release blockbusters on the big screen and, with three locations to choose from, there is bound to be a theatre within reach. Festival Cinemas are independantly owned and operated, and have a real small-town, family feel when compared to corporate mega-theatres like Empire and Cineplex. Plus, they use real butter on their popcorn at no extra charge and give free refills on fountain pop. It’s basically like going to the movies in 1985 but with less hairspray and a better soundtrack.

$5 or less
What’s better than a cheap night out in downtown Vancouver? The potential that, at some point in the evening, you will stand up and yell BINGO in a room full of strangers and go home with money in your pocket! At Planet Bingo on Main Street, $5 buys a 10-page book of game cards guaranteed to keep you dabbing all night long.  There are two large floors, a full service restaurant and the facility is smoke-free. This is not your grandma’s bingo hall, folks!

If gambling isn’t quite your bag of tricks, there are plenty of ways to have fun and unwind for no more than the price of a bus ticket. Ride the Aquabus to Granville Island and walk among the artisan shops and studios, then take a stroll along the seawall to your heart’s content. Take the bus to Lynne Canyon or Deep Cove and hike among giant cedars. Once a ticket is purchased, it is valid for 1.5 hours and can be used for travel by bus, train or seabus. Hit up TransLink, the city’s transit system, for all your public transportation needs, including routes, schedules and a handy little trip planner that will make you wonder why anyone actually owns a car in Vancouver.

Even with all these deals and discounts, sometimes the best things in life really are free. Watching the sun dip behind the Coast Mountains from one of the city’s urban beaches, going for a bike ride in Stanley Park or wandering through Gastown’s historic cobblestone streets are all free and easy ways to enjoy some of Vancouver’s most unique and picturesque attractions.  The city is full of vibrant, diverse neighbourhoods, each with their own feel and flavour, whether it’s bustling Chinatown, laid-back Kitsilano or funky Commercial Drive, there is an abundance of sights and sounds to take in without spending a dime. Grab a map, explore and enjoy.

Despite Vancouver’s reputation for having a high cost of living, there really are plenty of hidden gems to entertain even the tightest of purse strings. A visit to the city is sure to be time, not money, well spent.

Leave a Reply