All Canadians should get out and explore our home and native land this summer as the country celebrates its 150th birthday, but that doesn’t mean paying through the nose. For proof, check out this spectacular sampling of fun things to do from coast to coast that will cost you little — or nothing at all!
1 / 14
Vancouver: Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
While North Vancouver's Capilano Suspension Bridge is larger and better known, the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is free! Located in North Van's 617-acre Lynn Canyon Park (where there are numerous hiking trails to enjoy, including the popular Baden Powell Trail), the 50-metre-high suspension bridge stretches across a stunning canyon that hosts waterfalls, deep pools and raging waters.
2 / 14
Victoria: Beacon Hill Park
Victoria boasts no shortage of stunning gardens, but it's free of charge to stroll the gorgeous gardens of the B.C. capital's Beacon Hill Park. In addition to the year-round gardens, the 183-acre park — located in downtown Victoria — also includes a playground, duck ponds, a seasonal water park, an 18-hole putting green and a 160-foot-tall cedar totem pole, which is officially the world's tallest. There's also a charming petting zoo, open from spring to fall, which can be enjoyed with a nominal entry fee.
3 / 14
Calgary: Rafting Bow River
A favourite nearly-free activity for Calgarians is to rent a tube or dinghy and raft down Calgary's Bow River, a phenomenal and fun way to gently cruise down the river while taking in the downtown scenery from a unique vantage point. It's recommended to pack a lunch, plenty of water and sunscreen — along with a lifejacket.
4 / 14
Regina: Royal Saskatchewan Museum
The Royal Saskatchewan Museum, located in Regina, hosts three main galleries, dedicated to earth sciences, life sciences and First Nations history. From geological history to dinosaurs and numerous hands-on exhibits to murals and displays, the museum truly has something for everyone. The best part: admission is by donation (a suggested donation for a family, for example, is $15), making for a fun, affordable made-in-Canada activity.
5 / 14
Winnipeg: The Forks
The Forks — located in downtown Winnipeg at the spot where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet — remains one of the city's most popular tourist attractions, and for good reason. Admission is free, and it's a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon browsing the work of local artisans at Johnston Terminal, sampling some regional cuisine at the Forks Market, catching a concert at the Scotiabank stage or even just taking a relaxing stroll by the side of the river.
6 / 14
Toronto: Bata Shoe Museum
Anyone with even a passing interest in footwear will find much to enjoy at Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum, which displays more than a thousand unique (and sometimes downright bizarre) shoes from a collection numbering more than 13,000. In addition to new exhibits, the permanent collection ranges from Chinese foot-binding shoes and ancient Egyptian sandals to roller-skating clogs to celebrity shoes, spanning 4,500 years of history. On Thursday evenings between 5pm and 8pm, admission is pay what you can (with a suggested donation of $5).
7 / 14
Niagara Falls: Niagara Falls Botanical Garden
While the iconic falls remains the predominant tourist attraction, Niagara Falls Botanical Garden boasts 99 acres of beautiful foliage that can be enjoyed free of charge. In addition to a permanent collection of perennials, flowering trees and shrubs, there are also themed seasonal displays that are changed three to four times each year.
8 / 14
Ottawa: Changing of the Guard
One of the most spectacular ceremonies offered in our nation's capital, Ottawa's Changing of the Guard ceremony has grown to become a large-scale production that includes a regimental band and pipers. The ceremony takes places each morning at 10am on Parliament Hill, from June through until late August, and costs nothing to enjoy — although it's recommended you arrive at least 15 minutes early in order to stake out a prime spot offering a good view of the spectacle.
9 / 14
Montreal: Musee des Beaux Arts
Founded in 1860, Montreal's Musee des Beaux Arts is Canada's oldest museum, host to some of the country's most prestigious artwork, ranging from iconic Canadian artists to European masters, as well as items from ancient Asia, Egypt, Greece and South America. Admission is free on the last Sunday of each month.
10 / 14
Quebec City: Notre-Dame-de-Québec Basilica
It's impossible not to be awestruck by the stunning Notre-Dame-de-Québec Basilica, with its bold neo-Baroque interior, gilded in glittering gold leaf, along with taking in the array of historical religious paintings and treasures that date back to the French-colonial period. Don't neglect to pay a visit to the crypt, the final resting place for archbishops, cardinals and governors and other historical figures. Admission to the basilica itself is free; visiting the crypt is past of the Notre-Dame de Québec Museum, which has an entrance fee of just $5.
11 / 14
Saint John: Reversing Falls
A natural phenomenon that appears downright supernatural, the Reversing Falls are located just west of downtown Saint John, New Brunswick. As whirlpools and rapids flow one way with the incoming tide, an outgoing tide creates an oddity as water also flows in the opposite direction, a unique anomaly that really must be seen to be appreciated. The Reversing Falls can be viewed from either Fallsview Park or Reversing Falls Park, and can also be watched from a nearby rooftop viewing platform. There's also a zip line that will take you right up close, but that'll cost you — all of the other options are completely free. Mark Goebel/Flickr Creative Commons
12 / 14
Halifax: Halifax Public Gardens
Described as one of the finest surviving examples of the traditional Victorian gardens on display in North America, the Halifax Public Gardens were founded in 1836 by the Halifax Horticultural Society and designated as a National Historic Site in 1984. Admission to view these stunning gardens: free! In addition, there are also weekly horticultural and historical tours (also free) as well as a free concert series, taking place each Sunday throughout the summer.
13 / 14
Prince Edward Island: Bottle Houses
Among the many fabulous tourist attractions in PEI, easily one of the most fascinating — and arguably quirkiest — are the Bottle Houses, constructed by iconoclastic artist and builder Édouard Arsenault. Using more than 25,000 glass bottles to form the walls, Arsenault constructed a six-gabled house, a hexagonal tavern and a chapel, complete with glass-bottle pews and altar. Admission is only $8 per person, and just $3 for children aged six to 16.
14 / 14
Newfoundland: Visit Bell Island
From St. John's, a short hop a ferry to nearby Bell Island. Stroll the beach, take a chilly swim (you may even see an iceberg or two!) and tour the abandoned Grebbe mine. Supernatural legends abound of ghosts of miners, as well as fairies, extraterrestrial visitations and the like, and there's even a "Ghosts of Bell Island" sunset walking tour. The cost of taking a ferry (including a car) is a mere $6.88.