It's summer, and that means it's time for all those fun things that come along with the season - from backyard barbecues to road trips to weekends at the cabin.
It also means it's time to watch the bills mount up as you pay for the food, gas and tourist attractions attached to all that fun.
But the good news is, New West is full of things to do that don't cost anything - or at least, not much. You just have to know how to find them.
Never fear, you don't have to look far, because we've done your homework for you and compiled this list of the Top 10 Free (or Dirt-Cheap) Things to Do in the city this summer.
Without further ado, here are our ideas. Have fun!
1. Spend some time at River Market.
What's not to love about this gem on New West's riverfront? It's a foodie hub and a community gathering place with something new happening every day. Yes, there's a lot of food to try (we could spend hours just sampling the many flavours of gelato from Tre Galli, and don't get us started on all the crepes ... and the barbecue ... and the Thai food ... and the Mexican ... and the burgers ...) But the market is also gaining a reputation as one of "the" places to hang out, and it's obvious why. There are affordably priced drop-in classes at the Vancouver Circus School and Music Box, there are free family events like a nursery sing-along on Fridays and a tots' baking class on Tuesdays, and there are a host of special events all the time like artisan fairs, zumba classes, ArtStarts presentations and oh so much more. Oh, quit reading and just head down to the market to find out for yourself.
It's at 810 Quayside Dr. See www.rivermarket.ca or call 604-520-3881 .
2. Make a day of it at Queen's Park.
Though the park is now facing some competition from its newier, sparklier sister Westminster Pier Park, we're still elevating this one to second spot because it's a classic family hangout for good reason. This park has something for everyone - picnic shelters, barbecues, the rose garden, free performances at the bandshell, the water park, playgrounds for kids of all ages, a concession stand and, of course, the ever-popular petting farm. Playground leaders are on hand throughout the summer to offer crafts and activities for kids - look for them in the hut at Rainbow Playland, next to the spray park. And, of course, the park is also home to the arena, Arenex, Bernie Legge Theatre, tennis courts and a network of walking and running trails. If you can't have fun at Queen's Park, there's no hope for you.
Check out tinyurl.com/QueensParkNW.
3. Enjoy the waterfront at Westminster Pier Park.
Yes, we'll give the next spot on the list to the above-mentioned shiny, sparkly new park, which has won all sorts of awards for the city - and most deservedly so. The setting on the Fraser River is simply unmatched for beauty, and the park's design is proving that you can take an old piece of land and turn it into something appealing for all ages. There's a playground for the kids, benches and lounge chairs for relaxing, picnic area for enjoying a meal, a concession stand (run by Wally's Burgers!), sand courts for volleyball (bring your own ball) and, of course, a beautiful riverfront stroll to occupy your time.
Check out tinyurl.com/NWPierPark.
4. Browse, buy and eat at the Royal City Farmers Market.
The market is back for the summer season, running Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m.in beautiful Tipperary Park (next to New Westminster City Hall). The market is everything a market ought to be, with all sorts of offerings of organic and conventional produce and prepared foods - from breads and baking to jams, jellies, cheese, meat and fish - plus jewelry, crafts, flowers and more. There are also plenty of options for eating and drinking on site (mmmm, perogies ...) and weekly entertainment and fun for all ages.
5. Get dancing in the square!
Get your whole family or a group of friends together and head on down to Hyack Square for some Friday night dancing fun. TGIF Dancing in the Square is back, running Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m. Each Friday through July and August features a different (free) dance night - you can try your hand (er, feet) at zumba, ballroom, Latin, Egyptian belly dance, jive and more. Bring your own lawn chair. Keep an eye on the weather, and check out www.dancewithmenewwest.com on event day to be sure it's still running. (The photo above is from Dance With Me Studios' website.) Call 604-521-2772 for more.
6. Take in a movie under the stars.
Nothing says summer more than an outdoor movie - and this season, New West residents have eight outdoor movies at Queen's Park Stadium to choose from. The City of New Westminster has partnered with Derrick Thornhill of Park Georgia Realty and the G&F Financial Group to offer the movie series, which runs Friday nights (July 11, 18, 25, Aug. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29). The movie nights kick off with Frozen and continue with a variety of family favourites both old and new. Admission is free. The stadium opens at 7 p.m. and movies begin at dusk (around 8:30 p.m.) Call 604-515-3775. Check out the details on Facebook – search for "Frozen at Queens Park Stadium."
Not to be outdone, Queensborough is also getting in on the outdoor movie action this year. As part of the New West Cultural Crawl, there will be an outdoor movie in Port Royal Park on Saturday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. Call 604-525-7388.
7. Enjoy free entertainment in the parks.
There's a full roster of entertainment throughout the summer at both the Queen's Park bandshell and Ryall Park. At Queen's Park, you can enjoy free Sunday afternoon concerts (Sundays at 2 p.m.) and free Poetry in the Park sessions on Wednesday evenings (Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.). Shadows and Dreams Theatre Company is also bringing its Shakespeare in the Park back to the Queen's Park stage, with Saturday and Sunday performances of Love's Labour's Lost on July 20, 26 and 27 and August 2 and 3. In Ryall Park, you can enjoy a family-friendly series of performances on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. Check out the exact schedule of performances in the city's Active Living Guide (page 77) - pick it up at any city facility or see it online at www.newwestpcr.ca.
8. Experience Pecha Kucha New West - outdoors.
Most of this list is made up of ongoing events and experiences, not one-time events, but we're willing to make an exception for Pecha Kucha. Pecha Kucha, a concept that started in Tokyo in 2003, was brought to New West by Melinda and Neal Michael (pictured above with daughter Mila). Pecha Kucha events feature 10 to 12 presenters who live, work or play in the city, showing 20 slides for 20 seconds each (six minutes and 40 seconds in total), offering the audience a glimpse into their personal passion, whatever it happens to be. The summer Pecha Kucha night is a special edition at Westminster Pier Park on July 19 (starting at 4 p.m.) that will feature food, DJs and a beer garden - and as many as 500 attendees. Why not be one of them and experience it for yourself?
9. Enjoy one of the city's summer festivals.
It's not summer until you've enjoyed the great outdoors at a festival - and fortunately, New Westminster has plenty on offer. There's the Key West Ford Show and Shine on July 13 (www.facebook.com/KeyWestFordShowAndShine), the 12th Street Music Festival (www.facebook.com/12thStreetMusicFestival) on July 27, the New West Cultural Crawl Aug. 9 and 10 (newwestculturalcrawl.com), Uptown Live on Aug. 10 (http://uptownlive.ca), the eighth annual Quayside Community Boardwalk Festival and Sale (http://www.quaysideboard.com/htm/QSBevents.htm) and the Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Fest on Aug. 23 (www.facebook.com/downtownnewwest) - just to get you started. And, on the don’t-miss-it list, it’s a big year for New West Pride. The festival is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, running Aug. 8 to 16, with daily events to offer something for everyone. A highlight, of course, will be the Columbia Street party on Saturday, Aug. 16 from 3 to 8 p.m. Check out all the details at www.newwestpride.ca.
10. Take a hike. And another. And another.
Yes, New Westminster is small in size, but within its geographic boundaries there is an abundance of natural beauty. For a short stroll, Sapperton Landing offers a beautiful walk along the river. For a longer river walk, check out the waterfront from Westminster Pier Park past the Fraser River Discovery Centre and River Market to the end of the Quayside neighbourhood. And don't overlook Queensborough - there are several sections of trail that offer beautiful views from the "other" side of the river. (Check out www.tinyurl.com/QBtrails). Or why not choose the trails in Queen's Park - or, our personal favourite, the tucked-away gem that is Glenbrook Ravine (pictured) - which now has access not only from the Jamieson Court side but via steps from Victoria Hill or by ramp from Glenbrook Drive.
Check out www.newwestpcr.ca for all about the city's parks.
We know there's a lot to do out there in new West. Got a free summer idea of your own? Share it with us - email Julie, email@example.com.