SFU Student’s Staycation Guide

Enjoy being a tourist in your own city? Vancouver is a great place to explore

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By: Jennifer Low, Features Editor

Bummed that classes, work, and other things have kept you in town this summer? To combat the sadness of seeing your friends’ beautiful Hawaii photos plastered all over Instagram, consider a Staycation in Vancouver. According to an online dictionary, a staycation is a portmanteau of “stay” and “vacation,” that involves “a vacation spent at home or near home, doing enjoyable activities or visiting local attractions.” Vancouver is a great spot for students on a budget to keep the joy of a summer vacay without the hassle of air travel or spending a ton of money. Without further ado, here are the top student-friendly staycation destinations in Vancouver.

Granville Island

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  • What is it?: Granville Island is considered Vancouver’s hub for the arts and crafts community and provides a wondrous, timeless environment filled with good food, great music, and beautiful scenery. Whether you’re interested in window shopping, actual shopping, playing skee-ball at the Market place Adventure Zone arcade, or watching a play, Granville Island offers a large variety of different activities to suit all interests.
  • Tips for broke students: A fantastic date or outing idea, visiting Granville Island can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. The view, lovely scenic walks, and outdoor performances are free!
  • When to go: According to Granville Island’s website, it plays host to the Vancouver International Jazz festival in June, the Canada Day Parade in July and a number of comedy shows running throughout the summer.
Image courtesy of Unsplash

Stanley Park

  • What is it?: One of Vancouver’s most popular tourist destinations, Stanley Park has everything one could ask for including beaches, lakes, restaurants and the seawall! Bike riding and relaxing strolls through the trees are just a few things one can do while exploring Stanley Park.
  • Tips for broke students: A little known free pastime in Hollywood North is celeb spotting. Websites, such as YVR Shoots, can help fans keep track of what is being filmed in the city and where. Many times, this includes Stanley Park! Even if you don’t find a celebrity, you can still go visit the set of your favourite film or TV series. For example, fans of the CW show Arrow fundraised to get a bench in Stanley Park dedicated to their favourite TV couple, Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak who were wed in that very location!  
  • When to go: Did you know that Stanley Park hosts a weekly drum circle? Even if you don’t own a drum, you are free to join in on the drumming and dancing every Tuesday (provided it’s good weather) at Third Beach from after work to sunset. Stanley Park hosts a variety of different events throughout the year. If you’re interested, check out the 2019 Stanley Park Events Calendar.  

The Grouse Grind

  • What is it: Are you the outdoorsy type? The Grouse Grind hike is exactly the adventure you’re looking for this summer.

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  • Tips for broke students: Although your legs might hate you, the view from the top is priceless. On that note, hiking up the Grouse Grind is free, but it’s a $10 gondola ride to get back down, so remember to keep some money with you. To make the most of your visit, consider going on a Saturday morning. From June 29 to August 31 and with the purchase of an admission ticket or Grouse Mountain Membership, if you can make it to the top before 10 a.m, you can enjoy 60–minute yoga classes for no extra charge! Yoga mats are available to borrow for the first 50 yogis!
  • When to go: The Summer Music Series at Grouse Mountain presents  live music on Altitudes Deck, every Wednesday evening from June 26 to August 28.

The Beach

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  • What is it: I know that Vancouver is also known as Raincouver, but let’s not discount the fact that, on a good day, our city offers beautiful beach experiences and there are many to choose from (Some of which are dog-friendly!). Kitsilano Beach offers the ultimate family beach experience, while Jericho Beach is ideal for sailing, windsurfing and sea kayaking. If you’re looking to relax and take some amazing photos, consider heading to Spanish Banks. Sand castles, water fights, sun bathing and if you’re feeling it, skinny-dipping! According to Tourism Vancouver, Wreck Beach is  “Canada’s first and largest, legal, clothing-optional beach.”
  • Tips for broke students: Guess what? It is absolutely free to enjoy these amazing places!
  • When to go: Make sure you do a little research before you go. Check the weather conditions and  prepare accordingly.

Canada Place

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  • What is it: Downtown Vancouver’s Canada Place is a great place to sightsee and watch the cruise ships in the harbour for free. For a bit more money, you can explore much more than Vancouver with the FlyOver Canada ride. Another free activity? Paying the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver a visit. It might cost a fortune to stay there, but it is absolutely free to explore the hotel’s architecture.
  • Tips for broke students: This summer, Canada Place will also host Waterfront Cinema, a free movie viewing experience, on Thursday evenings from July 12 to August 30. You can get a couple of friends together to watch a movie out on the water beneath the stars and feel just like you’re on vacation.
  • When to go: Canada Place is also the location of “the largest Canada Day celebration outside our nation’s capital” according to their website.

Vancouver’s Shopping Districts

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  • What is it: Robson Street, Yaletown, Commercial Drive… need I say more? Get together with some of your pals to roam the racks and window shop! Find purses that cost more than you will ever make in your lifetime and look at them for absolutely no cost at all. While this trip may make you feel like a peasant amongst nobles, it’s fun to play pretend. There’s nothing like the thrill of trying on a sweater that you’re pretending to consider purchasing even though it costs more than the rent you can barely afford.
  • Tips for broke students: Yaletown is Vancouver’s first Wi-Fi district. If you’re window-shopping in the area join YALETOWNFREE. This way if you spot something you love you can always try to find it for cheaper through online shopping!
  • When to go: Vancouver’s shopping districts are a fun activity rain or shine!

UBC

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  • What is it: SFU is awesome, but sometimes it’s fun to see how the other half lives. Go undercover and take a tour of UBC. While SFU students can brag that we never have to walk in the rain, in the summer, it’s actually nice to walk outside for a while. UBC’s got beautiful gardens and beaches, lovely art museums and very cool architecture. Some words of caution: UBC is also known as the University of Building Construction, so no matter what you do, there’s no escaping that horrible jackhammer noise.
  • Tips for broke students: Just like SFU, UBC has a ton of cheap museums to check out. For example admission to the Pacific Museum of Earth is by donation while other museums such as the Museum of Anthropology have student rates for admission.  
  • When to go: UBC always has a large variety of events going on as it is a university and there’s always something happening. You can check out these events at the UBC events website. If you’re planning on heading to UBC’s pub, The Pit, it is only open on Wednesdays from 7pm – 3am so plan accordingly.

Richmond Night Market

Photo courtesy of Richmond Night Market
  • What is it: Can’t afford that trip to Asia? During the summer, the Asian night market located in Richmond is fairly cheap and worth every cent of admission. Beyond the gate, try amazing food and shop for interesting knick-knacks that you never knew you needed, such as cool phone cases and cute socks!
  • Tips for broke students: Remain calm! This is not a drill! Richmond Night Market has a coupon book! Save money at many of the retail and food vendors by picking up the Richmond Night Market Summer 2019 Chill Party coupon book at either the main entrance or at the information booth.
  • When to go: The market is open Friday – Sunday (7 p.m. – 12 a.m.) during the summer. On stat holidays, hours vary. See their facebook page for updates.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

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  • What is it: According to their website, visitors have been coming to this Vancouver landmark since 1889, which has further expanded to include a cliff walk, treetop adventure and other activities. There is no better way to get in touch with nature than to climb around in the treetops like a squirrel or face your fear of heights by walking across the popular swinging bridge.
  • Tips for broke students: Yes, Capilano Suspension Bridge is a bit on the pricey side, but thankfully they have a student rate! Also, specifically for summer, Twilight rates (30% off all admission rates) are in effect for tickets that are purchased at the gate from 5 p.m. everyday!
  • When to go: Only open everyday during the summer, check out Raptor’s Ridge, an “educational facility dedicated to public education of raptors and conservation of wildlife,” from June 1 to September 2!

Museums

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  • What is it: It’s easy to write off museums as a place for only Art and History students, but this is far from the truth. Perfect for a rainy Vancouver day, there are plenty of museums in Vancouver to explore including Science World, The Museum of Vancouver, the Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Vancouver Police Museum & Archives.
  • Tips for broke students: Cheap stuff? We, students, love when things are cheap. Vancouver offers a variety of museums for little to no cost, for example, The Observatory (beside the Space Centre in Vanier Park) is by-donation and the Vancouver Art Gallery is by-donation on Tuesday evenings from 5–9 p.m. One can take a trip to the past by exploring the Burnaby Village Museum, which is open seasonally to the public and offers complimentary admission! If you’re willing to spend a little extra, one of the real gems of the Burnaby Village Museum is their 1912 C.W. Parker Carousel, which costs $2.65 a ride.
  • When to go: Not only does Burnaby Village Museum host a Canada Day party, but it also hosts events for Mother’s Day (May 12), Victoria Day (May 20), Father’s Day (June 16) and BC Day (August 5)!  

Interested in finding more Vancouver events? Check out these resources:

  • Need to Know, Need to Go: A recurring Arts segment at The Peak where we list the top artistic events happening at SFU.
  • Eventbrite: a platform to find and share  various exciting events happening in the Vancouver area.
  • Tourism Vancouver’s Events page: Tourism Vancouver is a marketing organization and business association that compiles a list of interesting events to check out.
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