Vancouver with kids is chock full of family friendly activities, says local Tara Cannon of Pint Size Pilot – Survival Skills for Travel with Kids. The scenery is stunning, there are plenty of indoor and outdoor options and the list of family friendly eateries is endless! The mum of Lucas (10) and Ella (7) gives suitcases&strollers her insider city secrets to the ideal Canada family holiday in Vancouver with kids.
Why should parents plan a family holiday in Vancouver with kids?
What makes Vancouver unique is its stunning Pacific coastal location. Within minutes of the downtown core you can be walking in the mountains or collecting sea shells on a beach.
Where is your favourite place to take kids in Vancouver?
I love Granville Island Market because it is a place that both parents and kids can enjoy. For little ones there is the Kids Market full of fun stores and entertainment with a nearby playground and seasonal water park. As a parent, I love that we can grab a yummy gourmet lunch or snack from the fresh food market and enjoy it in a picturesque setting on the water. On a perfect day, we might even have time to peek in on some of the local artisans at work.
Where are your kids’ favourite place in Vancouver to hang out?
With interactive exhibits and shows that change frequently, they simply never tire of visiting.
What is the best free activity to do with kids in Vancouver?
Having a picnic in Queen Elizabeth Park is one of our
favourite free things to do in nice weather. There is a large fountain that
kids can play in, beautiful gardens to stroll through and gorgeous views of the
On rainy days, the Bloedel Conservatory within the park provides a welcome refuge from the weather (small fee applies). This greenhouse is full of leafy trees, tropical flowers, chatty parrots and colourful koi.
[For more family
travel tips on free activities for kids available in most cities, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Where is the best place to take kids in Vancouver when the weather is bad?
Other rainy day trips that my kids enjoy are visits to the antique train at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown and riding the SkyTrain to Oakridge Mall to frequent the only LEGO store in the city. This SkyTrain line also carries on to the airport. When my son was a busy and active toddler we would sometimes turn our LEGO store trip into a full day adventure which included a stop at the airport to watch the planes taking off and landing.
[Do your kids love LEGO? Then check out the suitcases&strollers insider photo tour of LEGOLAND Malaysia.]
What are some of the city secrets that tourists might not know about but shouldn’t miss on a family holiday in Vancouver with kids?
In the summer the Jericho Sailing Club on the West Side is a fantastic place to visit. You can grab a bite to eat at the Galley restaurant, followed by an ice cream cone and a play on the beach. All this can be enjoyed with gorgeous views of sailboats, the North Shore Mountains and the city of Vancouver as your backdrop. My kids like to save the lettuce from their dinner to feed the plentiful rabbits in the boat yard.
Olympic Village in False Creek (so named because it was the athletes’ village during the 2010 Olympics) is also a nice place to visit with kids. You can reach it easily by the SkyTrain or by Aquabus and it is within walking distance of the Telus World of Science. This up-and-coming area has many restaurants and is home to one of my kids favourite parks, Hinge Park. Hinge Park was designed to incorporate historical elements from the area (there is a nod to the rail yards), natural elements (ponds, native grasses, ducks) and also has a modern children’s playground. It is a lovely refuge within the city.
What’s the best way for children to have an authentic Vancouver experience?
For an authentic Vancouver experience I think a child should run through the native B.C. forests at Capilano Suspension Bridge or Pacific Spirit Park and build a sandcastle on one of Vancouver’s many beaches, all in the same day.
[For more family travel tips on things to do in Vancouver with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Where are your top 3 places for family-friendly restaurants for kids in Vancouver?
My criteria for a good family friendly restaurant is a place that you can comfortably take children without compromising on food quality. Note: There are more than 3 here…I couldn’t stop.
· Cactus Club This casual dining restaurant has various locations around Vancouver and has a menu crafted by Executive Chef and American Iron Chef winner Rob Feenie. Although they do not have a specific kids menu, there are plenty of things that children will enjoy on the menu including mini burgers, yam fries and chicken tenders. Their restaurants also have high chairs and booster seats.
· Burgoo This restaurant is where you go for comfort food. Think hearty stews, soups, gourmet grilled cheese and fondue. They have a kids menu, colouring activity, high chairs and boosters.
· Rocky Mountain Flatbread As a parent I was thrilled when this pizza restaurant opened in my neighbourhood. They make it very easy for parents with a children’s play area, kids menu, colouring and high chairs. Their menu offers many healthy options and uses locally sourced ingredients when possible.
· Although fine dining can difficult with little ones, The Yew at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Vancouver does an amazing job with kids. [For more family travel tips on how to eat in expensive restaurants with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
· Vancouver has excellent seafood There are too many good sushi restaurants to mention here, but make sure you get to one. Just west of Granville Island Market, there is also a little seafood restaurant called Go Fish (150 W 1st Ave., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. +1 604 730 5040) that serves the most amazing fresh-off-the dock fish and chips. Go early because the line can be long and the restaurant closes when they run out of fresh fish. Insider tip: You can call in your order ahead of time so that when you arrive it is close to being ready.
· To sample British Columbia’s bounty of locally grown food, check out one of Vancouver’s many farmers markets. These markets are very welcoming to families, often setting up in a park and offering live entertainment.
· Vancouver has an abundance of tea houses that offer special menus for children. Our personal favourite is the afternoon tea at the Xi Shi lounge in the Shangri-la Hotel. Along with a special fruit tea, children get to enjoy a selection of little treats including a mini burger, a mini grilled cheese and a Belgian waffled drizzled with chocolate sauce.
· For gelato or ice cream, there is a very unique place in East Vancouver called Casa Gelato that my kids adore. While I wouldn’t call it the best gelato in the city (that accolade I will reserve for the award winning creations at Bella Gelateria downtown), Casa Gelato is the most fun for kids. Think 218 flavours, homemade waffle cones, Italian music and cotton candy colored decor.
What are your tips for kids' shops in Vancouver?
Kids Books in Kitsilano has a very well curated assortment of books and toys. It is worth checking their calendar of events for special guests and book signings (such as an occasional visit from astronaut Chris Hadfield!).
For toys, visit the Granville Island Toy Company and The Toy Box in Kitsilano. For creative and environmentally responsible toys from around the world, visit Dilly Dally or Dandelion Kids. Both of these can be found on Commercial Drive – or “The Drive” if you would like to sound like a local.
For kids clothing pop into Redfish Kids in downtown Vancouver with its gorgeous locally made frocks in beautiful prints. Also nearby you will find the latest and greatest in kids fast fashion at Zara (Robson St.) and H&M (Pacific Centre).
Which is the best place to find family friendly accommodation if you are on family vacation in Vancouver with kids?
You cannot go wrong with the family-friendly Fairmont hotels in downtown Vancouver (there are 4). The newest and swankiest is the Pacific Rim Fairmont and the most historical is the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (which hosts a children’s afternoon tea and is home to two yellow labradors that you can take for walks).
For families looking for a vacation rental or enjoying more of a neighbourhood experience, I would explore homes in Kitsilano or near Main Street. Both are only minutes away from downtown but are very family-friendly neighbourhoods.
What is the ideal time frame for a holiday to Vancouver with kids?
You need a minimum of 3 days to enjoy the top sights of the city but you could easily spend a week in Vancouver if you want to live more like a local.
When is the best time of year to visit Vancouver with kids?
May to September are the best months because it is warm and sunny.
What is the best way to move around Vancouver with kids?
Fortunately Vancouver is not a huge city. The SkyTrain rapid transit system is effective, but limited in its reach, so sometimes taking a bus or taxi can be easiest. Vancouver also has extensive bike lanes and this can be a lovely way to see the city on sunny days. There are a number of bike rental shops near the entrance to Stanley Park.
What are your top 3 tips for families travelling to Vancouver with kids?
1. Spend an afternoon at one of Vancouver’s waterfront playgrounds or splash parks. The views of the ocean and mountains are so pretty that you will forget that you are doing something for your kids.
2. Seek out local festivals and events. Vancouver has very large Chinese-Canadian and Indo-Canadian communities and attending one of their events can give you a peek into Vancouver’s vibrant multiculturalism.
3. Keep an umbrella handy. Vancouver is a delightfully green city for a reason.