While the thought of Canadian climate usually elicits bone-chilling shivers down most people’s spines, Vancouver has the mildest climate of any city in Canada. And with summertime starting, now is the perfect time to visit. With the Pacific Ocean, Rocky Mountains and countless rivers and lakes all in close proximity, Vancouver city is the perfect location for any outdoor adventure holiday or beautiful backdrop for those seeking to appreciate both the great outdoors and all the excitement of a thriving metropolitan city. Here is the suitcases&strollers travel guide to Vancouver with kids.
The Destination: Vancouver With Kids
Also known as Hollywood North, Vancouver is one of the largest film production centers in North America so not only can you enjoy the natural beauty and well-developed city, but you may run into a star or two on-site filming.
Consistently rated as one of the most “livable cities” worldwide, Vancouver not only provides majestic scenery but also a diverse mix of people (over 50% of its residents do not speak English as their first language), food and activities to appeal to any age, budget and pace of holiday. Whether it’s a ski or snowboarding holiday, whale watching or shopping trip, Vancouver has something for everyone.
Attractions in Vancouver With Kids
Home to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Vancouver has invested significantly in making its attractions accessible for all.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a must-see. 70 metres above the river, it is a very special way to enjoy mother nature at her finest. The experience is particularly magical if your kids are at least 5 years old as not only is the bridge super cool, there kid-focused tours, a massive treehouse to play in and several opportunities to interact with some of the local wildlife. If you have young kids, leave the stroller at home and pull out your baby carrier to maximize your ability to roam around this great location.
One of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park is smack in the middle of the city where you and your family can enjoy mountain views, a swim on the beach, a quick bite or formal dining and endless trails and playgrounds.
Depending on the time of year of your visit, Grouse Mountain is a perfect family fun spot. A steep 850 metre hike called the Grouse Grind is not what one would normally associate with kids but you’ll be surprised – you might see local kids as young as 8 years old asking you to move out of the way as they blow past up the mountain! Still, the hike excluded, there is a ton to do with kids including a gondola ride up the mountain and a wildlife refuge. The summer months are best for a visit as there are numerous shows and programs for kids of all ages. For the more adventurous, there are helicopter tours, ziplining and paragliding.
Other noteworthy places to visit in Vancouver include the Aquarium (great kid-friendly environment with loads of viewing and interacting options with many animals under the sea) and Granville Island which has a large public market, huge marina area, tons of shopping and eating options, and various performing art theatres. Nominated as one of the world’s top city gardens by National Geographic, The Chinese Garden is a beautiful place to visit at any time of year as it has covered walkways and shelters throughout. A visit to the garden will also allow you some time in Chinatown which is a must see in Vancouver given the large proportion of Chinese immigrants in the country. Last, but not least, you should also take advantage of one of the many harbour tours for breath-taking views.
[For more travel tips on things to do in Vancouver with kids, see the suitcases&strollers insider's guide here.]
Shopping in Vancouver For Kids
If its shopping you are looking for, head to Robson Street which is lined with both mainstream and high-end designer brands with plenty of eateries to rest your tired feet and have the kids recharge on food!
Family Friendly Eateries in Vancouver For Kids
There is no lack of food options in Vancouver – be it a quick bite at a fast food chain or the ultimate in foodie experience. Due to its ethnically diverse population, all types of cuisine can be enjoyed in this city at all price ranges from the Punjabi market to Chinatown. Some note-worthy places for families include Stefos (Greek) and Cazba (Persian). Both are downtown and offer huge portions for budget conscious family travelers. The Tea House in Stanley Park is a great brunch location but watch out for massive queues – it’s best to get there early.
The Practicalities of Vancouver With Kids
Vancouver has four distinct seasons which results in a very different experience depending on the time of year you travel. To experience the full buzz of Vancouver, its best to travel during the summer months but prepare yourself for a lot of tourists and long queues.
If looking for a winter getaway, you will have full access to all the amazing ski locations including beautiful Whistler while still enjoying the other attractions. (Do note that precipitation is high during this time of the year – almost 50% of days between November to March have rainfall).
The SkyTrain is a public transportation system with 47 stations on three lines and can easily get you around centrally and to many of the surrounding boroughs. You will need to arrange for separate transport (be it the highly networked bus system or a private car) to many of the tourist sites (but keep in mind that in 2012, Vancouver was identified as having the worst traffic congestion in Canada and the second highest in North America, behind Los Angeles).
Family Friendly Accommodation in Vancouver With Kids
Vancouver has everything from hostel type accommodations to full five-star service with a variety of boutique, chain hotels and serviced apartments. As Vancouver is rather large, you should spend time thinking about the kind of holiday you want and where you will be spending the majority of your time. Once you identify a location (be it central or closer to some of the out of town attractions), then refine your search based on your given budget. For a luxurious stay with great views of the mountains and Pacific Ocean and central to several attractions, check out the Four Seasons hotel.
For more ideas on family holiday destinations in Canada, see the suitcases&strollers story Toronto.
By Saba Hasanie; Images: Steph Wong