By Lisa Kahan
With its laidback Pacific Northwest vibe and incredible scenery, Vancouver is generally considered to be one of the best places in the world to live. It’s also a wildly popular place to visit, especially for families. In the same day, you can find yourself building sandcastles on the beach, taking a gondola to the top of a snow-covered peak, and feasting on the best sushi found outside of Japan. And that’s just day one. With so much to see and do, great public transportation and plenty of kid-friendly amenities, you’d be hard-pressed to find another city as family-friendly as this coastal wonderland.
This incredible 1,000-acre oasis, smack in the middle of downtown, is an urban park unlike any other. Here you’ll find beaches and playgrounds, splash parks and trails, all on a gorgeous tree-filled peninsula. Rent bikes just outside the entrance and enjoy incredible views of English Bay as you pedal along the Seawall, the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path, or visit the ever-popular Vancouver Aquarium, home to over 50,000 amazing creatures. If that’s not enough, there’s also the Stanley Park train and the nine beautifully carved totem poles at Brockton Point.
VANCOUVER WEST END
Vancouver’s artsy neighborhood, West End, is filled with cafes, galleries, boutiques and bars. Lots of families live here, making it an especially kid-friendly place to spend an afternoon strolling the tree-lined streets or taking in a classic movie at the Cinematheque. Be sure to stop by the Bill Reid Gallery, a gem of a museum that showcases Northwest Coast Art. Indigenous artists can often be found working in the Great Hall and kids love the magical creatures and bold patterns on display. Afterward, if the weather’s nice, head down to English Bay where you can rent a kayak or paddleboard for a sunset tour.
Buzzing with activity, Chinatown is a blast to explore with kids. From buckets full of wiggling crabs to the warm pork dumplings that melt in your mouth, they’ll be blown away by the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells. When you’re ready for a break, find your way to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, where kids love to watch the golden koi and hop along the pebbled walkways. Make sure to stop in the Hall of One Hundred Rivers, where families are invited to play mahjong and try their hand at Chinese calligraphy.
Only 15 minutes from downtown, Grouse Mountain is where the locals go for outdoor adventure. Regardless of the season, this spectacularly beautiful mountain has incredible views of downtown and the Pacific Ocean and offers something for everyone. From zip-lines and aerial ropes courses to skiing and snowboarding, and even the longest aerial tram in North America, Grouse Mountain is one of Vancouver’s must-do experiences.
Hop aboard one of the colorful little water taxis that run every few minutes from downtown and you’ll soon find yourself on Granville Island, Vancouver’s cultural and foodie hub. Once an industrial wasteland, this charming little island has transformed itself into a mecca of art studios, small shops, and, of course, the much-celebrated Granville Island Public Market. There’s even a multi-floor jungle gym, the Adventure Zone, perfect for expending excess energy on a rainy day.