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Sights to SeeVancouver

Cheap and free things to do in Yaletown

Originally, Yaletown was an industrial area, but like much of the False Creek waterfront, it has gentrified. Today, Yaletown, located on the south-east side of the downtown peninsula, is a trendy area for condo living, boutique shopping and visiting bars and restaurants. What else can you do in Yaletown?

Visit the seawall

Yaletown Vancouver Seawall
The Vancouver Seawall Yaletown

Yaletown is on the southeast part of the seawall overlooking False Creek with views of Granville Island and Science World. It’s great for strolling, running and biking. You can follow it all the way to Stanley Park. However, the Stanley Park bike route is one-way, so if you’re on two wheels, you’ll need to take a detour to the other side of the park to continue. If you go east, you’ll wrap around False Creek and start going west on the other side towards Kits Beach and Spanish Banks. One of the best things about Vancouver life is being able to enjoy so much of the waterfront on foot or bike. At 28 kilometres it’s the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path.

Aquabus and False Creek Ferries

False Creek Ferry arrives at the dock in Yaletown.
False Creek Ferry arrives at the dock in Yaletown.

The small ferries that run across False Creek are not only cute, but they are also the cheapest way to get a sightseeing cruise in Vancouver. They are used  by both tourists and commuters. Both companies will take you to Science World and Granville Island. False Creek Ferries, is the older of the two companies and goes farther west to the Maritime Museum, which is near Kits Beach and the Museum of Vancouver. In the Yaletown neighbourhood, you can catch either ferry at David Lam Park or at the foot of Davie Street. Staff are friendly and will give a narration during your trip. Ferries run every 15 minutes. 

Engine 374 Museum at the Roundhouse

Yaletown Roundhouse
Yaletown Roundhouse

Engine 374 was part of the first transcontinental train to make it to Vancouver in 1887 shortly after the city was formed. It was retired in 1945 and spent decades outdoors at Kitsilano Beach where it had begun to deteriorate. It was saved by the West Coast Railway Association, which restored it in time for Expo 86. 

Rail is a big part of the history of the Yaletown neighbourhood. Before the boutiques and eateries there were rail yards and warehouses. In fact, the area got its name when the Canadian Pacific Railway moved its operations from the town of Yale in the Fraser Canyon. In the 1950s the industry started to decline as warehouses started to move closer to highways. Urbanites started to move into the area in the 1970s looking for inexpensive downtown commercial and residential space. The rest is history. The pavilion is staffed by knowledgeable volunteers and, yes, climbing into the display is allowed.  

The Roundhouse is built in a horseshoe shape with (at one time) bays for 11 engines. The current building (and since-demolished surrounding buildings) were abandoned and fell into disrepair. Heritage and railway enthusiasts stopped the demolition of the remaining building in the early 1980s and it was used as a pavilion in Expo 86. The turntable that directed the engines into the bays is still a feature of the building’s plaza, although it has been paved. 

In addition to housing the heritage display, which is free or by donation, the Roundhouse facility is a community centre with fitness programs and cultural events. 

David Lam and George Wainborn Parks

Relax, check out some sculptures, or experience one of the many cultural events that are held in David Lam Park (primarily in the summer), such as the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Keep strolling to the neighbouring George Wainborn Park, which is also along the Seawall. 

Contemporary Art Gallery

Contemporary Art Gallery in Yaletown, Vancouver
Contemporary Art Gallery

Yaletown has a lot of private art galleries where you can browse. However, there is also the non-profit Contemporary Art Gallery, which helps to educate and develop appreciation of contemporary art. The exhibits here are free and tours are available. Check the website for what’s happening. 

Vancouver Public Library

Not quite in Yaletown, but close enough is the Vancouver Public Library. This is a major gathering place for Vancouverites in an architecturally significant building. Enjoy a coffee in the atrium. Curl up with a good book at one of the seats with a window view or check out free community activities such as author talks, movies and cultural events. There is also a recently opened rooftop garden. 

The Canada Line Skytrain route will take you to the heart of Yaletown right across the street from the Roundhouse Community Centre. The Stadium-Chinatown station on the Expo line is also an option. 

Shella Gardezi

Shella Gardezi is a writer and editor living in Vancouver. She loves to travel and created this site to share her love of British Columbia.

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