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by John Harris
For Travel Writers' Tales

I like free stuff: fresh air, mountain views, river walks and bike rides. Everybody loves freebies, too so here are ten things to do this summer with your loved ones, or on your own, that won't cost you a cent.

1. Visit Granville Island:

There are really too many tempting bakeries on Granville Island for this to be fair, but there is genuinely free stuff, too-especially in the summer. Musicians play in the plazas, ferries scurry up and down False Creek and the people watching is second to none. Drop in to the market and watch the fudge makers use their big marble slab to coax you to reach for your change purse. Or just enjoy a small free sample.

2. The Marine Building:

At the corner of Burrard and Dunsmuir is one of Vancouver's most iconic buildings. You're free to wander and explore the art deco detail with fascinating and beautiful images of sea life: crabs, turtles, seaweed and seahorses. Take the elevator up to the second floor and you'll get an even closer look at the amazing art deco detail. Keep your eyes peeled for a movie star - the building has been used for many films and TV series, including Fantastic Four and Smallville.

3. Stanley Park:

Well, we have to include the jewel of the city in our list of free activities! Stanley Park remains unique in the world as a patch of rainforest in the middle of a busy port city. Whatever the weather a walk around the seawall is a great choice. Stunning views, great people watching, sea life ranging from starfish to sea birds to whales. Bring snacks or a picnic and enjoy the viewpoints. Along the North seawall, you'll find a clever copy of Copenhagen's Little Mermaid represented here as A Girl In A Wetsuit, complete with diving mask and fins.

4. Public Art:

Vancouver has dozens of interesting public art pieces, not counting its many totem poles. Visit the giant sparrows that perch in the plaza of the Olympic Village on False Creek. They were part of the surge of art installations during the 2010 Olympics. Further west at the end of Spanish Banks beach is a huge anchor marking the first anchorage for the Spanish explorers in the 1700's. The City of Vancouver website has a registry of the dozens of other examples that can be looked at and even climbed upon. See

5. Queen Elizabeth Park:

More public art pieces and some very jolly water parks and fountains are in QE Park. The free fun includes the easy trails that run through the forests and some of the most beautiful public gardens in the city. Originally a quarry, the park with its wonderful views, is the highest point in the city.

6. Vancouver Art Gallery:

Okay, I know that two adults with two kids is $52 to get into the VAG, which isn't free. But if you go between 5 pm and 9 pm on a Tuesday, you get in for a donation. Bring along the pennies you saved and enjoy.

7. Go To A Movie:

Free movies? Well, yes, if you go when they're first being made. A recent check of the film list at the BC Film Commission website showed 13 movies and TV series shooting in the city. Each listing includes an e-mail address and phone number for the production as well as the main stars. Call ahead for the latest location and enjoy watching the stars of Hollywood North in action.

8. Macmillan Southam Observatory:

Speaking of stars, it's amazing but true that you and the kids have access to one of the best space telescopes in Canada and it's by donation.. Every Friday and Saturday after 8:30 pm, you can join other fans of the cosmos.

9. Bus Ride:

Want to take in one of our ideas and can't fit everyone in the car? Ride the bus for free. TransLink lets monthly pass holders take along a small group on any bus for free on Sundays. The limit is 2 adults and 4 children 13 and under but there's no limit to where you can go or what time you ride. Tally-ho!

10. Capilano Salmon Hatchery:

If you want to use that Sunday bus pass idea, here's a great free location for the whole family. You'll join the half a million people who visit every year to tap into the mystery of the salmon migrations.

PHOTOS: Courtesy Tourism Vancouver

1. Granville Island
2. Marine Building
3. Stanley Park
4. Vancouver Art Gallery
5. MacMillan Space Centre
6. Another view of the Vancouver Art Gallery

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