Five Free (or cheap) Things You Have to Try in Vancouver

I am still buzzing after my recent trip to Vancouver. It's such a beautiful city and I can't wait to go back! A lot of travellers lament that big cities are expensive, but I find the opposite to be true. With a bit of  research and exploration, you can often find a host of completely free - or pretty darn cheap - things to do in a city. So if you're considering Vancouver as a travel destination, or are lucky enough to call it home, here's a round up of a few things I discovered on the cheap.
Cycle, walk or jog The Seawall
I decided to be adventurous one morning and hop on my borrowed bicycle to cycle along The Seawall and up through Stanley Park. Armed with recommendations from locals, including advice on how to get there, I was ready to meet this athletic challenge. (Take the Burrard Bridge if you're south of False Creek and on a bicycle. I was in good company and felt perfectly secure cycling across this bridge.) The views were breath taking, and the distance is more than reasonable on a bike. In fact, I cycled around Stanley Park twice. Not because it was so amazing that I simply couldn't help myself, but because, despite others' warnings, I took the wrong way around and wanted to get it right so I could tell you the right way to do it.

If you're coming up to Stanley Park on a bicycle from the southwest side, do not, I repeat, do not continue up along the English Bay. Instead, you'll need to cycle through the playground with the swings and basketball court that you'll see to your right and underneath the little bridge. If you don't see the First Nations totem poles on your left within the first few kilometres, you've gone the wrong way; go back and try again. 
But seriously, as long as you get that part right, unlike me :), you'll enjoy some amazing views, stumble on some great picture-taking opportunities and get some exercise. (After enjoying dessert and alcohol every single day, I sure needed it.) And if you're on foot, you can go any way you want, so no worries there.

Unwind in Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's Classical Chinese Garden
According to their website, you have to buy a ticket to gain admission, but when I arrived on a Wednesday morning, I walked in for free. Regardless, the garden is a gorgeous repose from the sights, sounds and smells of downtown Vancouver. Wander through the tiny, winding trails, watch coy fish lazily circle the pond or simply cool off in the shade.
If you want a bite to eat after the gardens, New Town Bakery & Restaurant is nearby, and they serve absolutely delicious baked goods. I tried a coconut roll-type thing (that I can't remember the name of) and it was sweet, chewy perfection.

Sample from a food truck
I know food trucks are already becoming old hat in some cities, but there are some seriously amazing ones in Vancouver. While doing some shopping downtown, I impulsively decided to try watermelon water and a lamb kebab on pita from Mangal Kiss. Both were sensational. The watermelon water was cool and refreshing, sweet, but not too sweet, and the pita was to die for. My best food experiences are usually when the food and atmosphere combine into one delicious moment; and sitting by the fountain on Georgia with the sun on my shoulders, savouring every bite of that pita, I was in food heaven.
Listen to and/or watch street performers
Some of my more memorable moments in Vancouver come from simple pleasures, like watching street performers. Be it the violinist playing in a Skytrain station downtown, or the dancers exhibiting Latin American culture on Robson, being on vacation offers you the leisure to stop and smell the roses. So pause and soak up the culture and talent this city has to offer. It won't cost you more than a few coins in a basket and a smile.

Sip an artisanal coffee
There is some truly amazing coffee to be had in Vancouver. I tried 49th Parallel and Revolver. Both did not disappoint. Not only was the coffee exceptional, the atmosphere and design were warm and modern (although that may sound like a contradiction of terms, when you get it right, it really isn't). You'll find little coffee shops all over the city, so pop in, take a break, and sip some brewed energy.
This is just a quick round up of some of the cheaper (or completely free) things you can do during your time in Vancouver, however long or short that may be. More posts on my trip to British Columbia to follow :)