Vancouver is one of Canada’s best cities. I should know. I literally wrote the book on the best places to visit in Canada with your family. With a vibrant night life, amazing restaurants, top museums and sublime shops, Vancouver is a no brainer for a couples or girls/guys weekend getaway. But what if you’re on a family vacay? Yep, it scores top marks in that area, too! Follow along as I take you through the must visit attractions and top things to do with kids.
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Vancouver Old Growth Forest
Why Here: Where else can you traipse through an old growth forest that resides within a major city? North Vancouver is home to first-growth douglas fir trees 400 to 800 years old at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Walk among these giants (plus fir, hemlock and cedar) on the Treetops Adventure 110 feet above the forest floor. It’s also a hoot to rush across the super long, slightly swaying suspension bridge. If you ever wanted to make more of an effort to connect kids to nature and you don’t have time to leave the city, this is the place to go.
Make a point to: Pick up a Rainforest Explorers Program for kids. That way they can pretend to be research scientists and collect data through the forest. Sneaking in a little extra education never hurt anyone, right?
Best to: Take advantage of the free shuttle service that operates from several downtown locations. There’s not a lot of parking here. And if you’re driving, be sure to check out this Calgary to Vancouver road trip. There’s more old growth forests en route!
Find out more: www.capbridge.com
Why here: Never seen an iceberg? How about Niagara Falls or the Rockies? There’s almost no need to travel across the country, not when you can experience all the highlights (without any travel hassle) on this 4D flight simulation ride. It had all the trappings of an over-hyped tourist attraction. Except it wasn’t. It’s a full on sensory experience that turned out to be one of the best family attractions I’ve ever experienced.
Don’t worry about: Where you sit. The way this experience works, nobody will end up sitting in front of you. There’s nothing that gets between you and Canada’s most iconic landmarks.
Find out more: www.flyovercanada.com
Vancouver Marine Life
Why here: Got a marine lover on your hands? One of the world’s best aquariums, where you can explore all kins of local marine life is found at the Vancouver Aquarium. More than an aquarium, it’s also a not-for-profit conservation and research centre. From the Arctic to the Amazon, a staggering 50,000 aquatic creatures live here, so it’s a good bet you’ll get to view your favourite fish.
Make a point to: Visit Clownfish Cove. This play area replicating an animal rescue centre encourages role play with lots of vet equipment and stuffies caring kids can nurse back to health.
Go ahead and skip: The lines. The Discover Rays touch pool can get very busy. If getting up close and personal with the funky, flat fish is on your bucket list, make a beeline for this section upon entry. Better yet, swap off and have one parent wait in line, while the other plows through the other zones.
Best to: Come here as soon as it opens or the hour and a half before closing. Did I mention this place gets super busy?
Find out more: www.vanaqua.org
Granville Island Kids
Why here: Granville Island is sure to hit all the right buttons with every member of your family – especially kids. Case in point, they have a market specific for the under 12-set. The Kids Market is comprised of lovely indy shops who well understand the needs of their top customers. You’ll find puppets, crafts, costumes and an excellent selection of children’s books. There’s an indoor play area and outside is a life-size play boat on the banks of a duck pond. Walk around the back of the market to find an ideal green space for picnics, plus a splash park. For families with young kids, Granville Island is probably my #1 Vancouver rec.
Best to: Come hungry. Wander the stalls and eat your way across cultures thanks to the vibrant variety of food stalls.
Don’t forget: To bring towels and a bathing suit in case someone decides to hit the splash park. Though they do have a full body dryer…
Find out more: granvilleisland.com
Stanley Park Activities
Why here: There’s so much go-go-go on family holidays, it often pays to step away from all the activities and straight chill. Look to Stanley Park to calm down overhyped ankle biters. But there’s still plenty of low key activities to do at Stanley Park. There are beaches to comb, towering trees to hide behind and playgrounds to explore. In summertime, Second Beach Pool (outdoor and heated) is in full swing with waterslides and a sloped entry for wee ones.
Make it better: Don’t drive through and pay for parking. Rent bikes and pedal your way through this city gem.
Don’t forget: To bring a towel at the very least. Some members of your squad might get too close to the water’s edge or want to zoom through the splash pad.
Find out more: Stanley Park
After all that activity, your brood will likely be famished. Vancouver is filled with amazing restaurants for families, including these recommended spots for eating with kids. And if you’re a legit foodie, check out this Vancouver foodie itinerary.