Vancouver, BC Family Attractions
The family can enjoy activities like cycling
Hiking is another fun activity to enjoy exploring Vancouver

A Vancouver resident shares her favorite family activities in this exciting Canadian city.

Vancouver, Canada is a safe, clean, and fun family-friendly paradise. Mind you, I may be a tad biased – our family has lived here for over 20 years. Vancouver is a beautiful city, bordered by lacy inlets of the Pacific Ocean, with snow-capped mountains rising to the north. It also basks in enviably mild weather. That, coupled with many outdoor recreational activities, makes for a great family holiday, especially in summer when the weather is typically warm and sunny. So when you come to visit, here’s a list of my favorite outings to enjoy as a family.

Stanley Park
Georgia Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6 Canada?
604/873-7000
Walk, rollerblade, or cycle the 5.5km seawall encircling this majestic 1,000-acre woodland park in downtown Vancouver. We always marvel at the views of the downtown skyline and the seaplanes skimming over the Burrard Inlet. When our son was younger, he enjoyed checking out the occasional cyclist carrying a ferret or poodle in a backpack. If the kids are tired, explore Stanley Park in an old-fashioned, horse-drawn carriage. A must for younger children is the petting zoo and a ride on the miniature railway. And for the swimmers in your family, don’t miss the outdoor heated pool at 2nd Beach overlooking English Bay (it’s safe for toddlers, too.)
*Bike, rollerblade and toddler-trailers available at rental shops on nearby Denman St. One-hour horse-drawn tours depart every 30 minutes Mar.-Oct. The Ferguson Point Tea House is a beautiful fine-dining restaurant for that special evening out.

Vancouver Aquarium
845 Avison Way
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6G 3E2 Canada
604/659-3400
The largest aquarium in Canada and one of the five largest in North America, the Vancouver Aquarium is not to be missed.  In the simulated, noisy, underwater world of Arctic Canada, watch Beluga whales swim and play. When our son tired of viewing the whales, he usually made a beeline for the sharks in the Tropic Zone and the giant octopus in the Treasures of the BC Coast Gallery.  New is Clownfish Cove, an interactive play area for small kids who can get hands-on (but oh-so-gently) with horseshoe crabs — those weird, wonderful, pincher-free, naturally blue-blooded crustaceans that date back to the Jurassic Period, about 200 million years ago.   Celebrating a birthday?  Call ahead to arrange for a party complete with cake and hands-on activities.  One of the top aquariums in North America, it has seen 867,000 visitors in a year. 
*Located in Stanley Park, so if time is short, combine a visit with a park tour. 

Museum of Anthropology 
6393 N.W. Marine Drive
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6T 1Z2 Canada
604/827-5932
About 170,000 First Nation people live in B.C. The Museum of Anthropology honors their culture by displaying one of the world’s largest collections of Northwest Coast aboriginal art. Kids learn about potlatch ceremonies and other aspects of the Indian way of life from bowls and dishes, totem poles, canoes and other exhibits. They might even appreciate the collection of art by internationally-acclaimed Haida artist, Bill Reid!

*If young ones get restless, have them run outside where they can see the carved Haida family house and mortuary chamber. 

Staying a few days? My Favorite Outings

Bowen Island
One of our favorite outings is a day trip to pastoral Bowen Island. Part of the fun is getting there — you board a small ferry for the 20-minute, scenic sail across Howe Sound to Snug Cove. Grab a café latte or Coke at one of the little cafes, then set off for an easy, 45-minute walk through the forest to Killarney Lake. Allow two hours to loop around the four-kilometer lake, including time to dip your toes in at the small picnic area. Along the way, have the kids watch out for ducks, kingfishers, Canada geese, and swallows that inhabit the marshes around the lake. In summer, you can end the day at Doc Morgan’s Restaurant overlooking the ferry dock and marina. While you sit out on the deck, your children can burn off extra energy playing with other kids on the lawn.
*Hike portion best for kids 6+. B.C. Ferries leaves for Bowen Island from the Horseshoe Bay Terminal in West Vancouver approximately every hour. Avoid car line-ups by going as a foot passenger. 

Science World
1455 Quebec Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada V6A 3Z7
604/443-7440, V6A 3Z7
For kids of all ages, a visit to Science World is particularly good on a rainy day. Housed in the giant ‘golf ball’ (actually a geodesic dome), Science World is host to fascinating hands-on exhibits and live demonstrations in five exciting galleries. As a young child, Sasha always had to stop and blow gigantic bubbles at one of the physics displays. And in the gallery of natural history from B.C., he liked to crawl inside their beaver lodge. Special temporary exhibitions might include a giant LEGO building- block party or wacky inventions such as a rocking-chair hair dryer. Don’t forget to take in a show at the Weyerhaeuser Science Theatre or the Omnimax Theatre.
* Accessible by SkyTrain. It has a neat gift shop; budget 2.5 -3 hours in total.

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
3663 Park Road
North Vancouver, British Columbia
V7J 3G3 Canada
604/990-3755
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is better known, but we prefer stepping out onto the suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon. And not just because it’s free. The setting is more natural — you’ll find only hiking trails through 100-year-old cedar forest, the canyon, and the suspension bridge swinging 20 stories above the wild river below. There’s also a nifty Ecology Centre. In the children’s wing, kids can manipulate hands-on displays like animal puppets and play with discovery drawers (guess the scent from various bottles, identify the different birds’ eggs, etc.)

* From downtown, the 13-minute SeaBus across Burrard Inlet is the quickest and most scenic route (linked by local bus). Wear sturdy shoes or runners. The Lynn Canyon Café provides sit down and take out food service.  
  
Lighthouse Park
Itching for a taste of wilderness? Hike this forest park on the edge of West Vancouver. Children love exploring the many trails, forging ahead and figuring out which fork they should take. Stop at various rocky overhangs to soak up the sun and catch breathtaking ocean views. An historic working lighthouse is perched on Atkinson Point. It’s very scenic but you can’t visit the interior. Not a suitable excursion for kids under 6. Allow 2-3 hours for the trip; pack water and snacks, and be sure everyone wears running shoes or hiking boots. 

Granville Island
Here’s an island in the middle of the city, a thriving urban montage of seafood stalls, bakeries, kayak and boat rentals, artists’ studios, craft shops, theaters and restaurants. The youngsters’ hub is the ‘Kids Only Market’. Showcasing toy, games and kids’ clothing stores, it’s also home to wandering magicians, clowns and face painters. A stone’s throw away, the free supervised water park (open Victoria Day to Labour Day) entices hundreds of kids a day. On weekends, we often head to the island to pick up fresh Coho salmon and watch the street entertainers juggling eggs or riding unicycles. Later, we sip cappuccino on the dock where toddlers terrorize the seagulls.
From downtown, take a frequent water taxi for the two-minute ride across False Creek. This is the most fun way of getting there, but you can also drive across the Granville Street Bridge.  
 
Jericho and Ambleside Beaches
A visit to Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without relaxing at one of our beaches. Families head for Jericho Beach or Ambleside Beach. A relatively quiet beach, Jericho has plenty of shade for picnics and a boardwalk for strollers. Kids feed the ducks at great ponds and search out families of rabbits in neighboring shrubs. The sandy beach at Ambleside Park boasts a popular snack bar, playground, grass playing field, a paved seawall and, of course, the ocean for a swim on very hot days. It’s also a great spot for viewing the cruise ships and freighters that pass by under the Lions Gate Bridge.

My Tips for the Best Hotels & Dining in Vancouver

Welcome to one of Canada’s most friendly cities. And to top it all off, it’s great value — the value of our Canadian dollar, though steadily rising, still means savings because Vancouver is like visiting one of Europe’s cultural capitals for a fraction of the price.

Here are some recommended places to stay and eat while you’re in Vancouver.

Sutton Place Hotel
845 Burrard Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6Z 2K6
604/682-5511, 800/961-7555
Lovely traditional hotel with smallish, twin-bedded rooms. Better for families (minimum 7N) are the hotel apartments with full kitchen, including dishwasher. Centrally located, gourmet restaurant. Bring your beloved pooch or kitty too! VIP pet program offers steak and caviar room service!

Earl’s and Red Robin restaurants (both with several locations around the city) have great burgers, salads, nachos, margaritas, kids’ menus, family prices and fun atmosphere.

My Trip Planning Tips for Visiting Vancouver

I know I’ve given you a long list of fun things to do, but some of my guests have been here before and are looking for the newest offerings. I tell them to pick up a free Kids’ Guide to Vancouver from the hotel or the nearest Tourism Vancouver office. 

There’s also a fun website developed by some Vancouver families with descriptions of over 200 of their favorite activities, plus a current family events calendar for the region at www.findfamilyfun.com

And last but not least, because you’re always welcome to visit, Vancouver’s weather is best from May to September, particularly August and September. But it can still rain! Bring raincoats and be prepared for showers.

 

Photos courtesy of Vancouver Tourism

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