We are a Seattle family. My kids’ blood is the requisite blue/green for Sounders, Seahawks, Mariners and our one day Seattle hockey team. I think when the hockey team finally gets here, I’ll be the one most torn about who to cheer for because I grew up in Vancouver and my childhood self would be horrified at the idea of me cheering for anyone but the Vancouver Canucks. Hopefully I still have a few years before I finally need to make that decision. And thankfully I have an easier time making a decision about the must-sees in my hometown, especially for Seattle families who live so close to Vancouver and want to make the three-ish hour drive up north with their kids.
I’ve been asked a lot about going to Vancouver with kids over the years. If you’re new to visiting Vancouver, this post lists some of my favorite things to do and the places we’ve stayed. Because Vancouver is such a huge metropolitan area, you might also consider staying in Richmond, North Vancouver and Burnaby as each of these nearby cities are rapidly growing and add a unique perspective for families traveling to the area too. If you have more time, then stopping in Whistler or heading to Vancouver Island is also something you might like to add to a Vancouver trip, but even just hanging out in Vancouver BC, you won’t run out of things to do with kids. Most of the time we drive but we’ve also taken the Amtrak and Quikshuttle. There have been a few new Tesla chargers added in Vancouver (like the one that opened on Burrard st) in the past little while that help if you’re driving electric up there too.
My top 10 best Vancouver spots with kids
- Bike or rollerblade around Stanley Park-This is one of our favorite things to do and if you need bikes you can rent them at a place like Spokes nearby. We used to bring rollerblades in our days before kids, but we might start doing that again now that they are confident bike riders. There are many scenic places to stop along the 5.5 mile stretch as well lots of playgrounds in the park. In the summer the waterpark is something that kids absolutely love.
- Science World – Seattle families who have a Pacific Science Center Membership have free entry into this museum and it’s an incredible science museum for the whole family. There are interactive exhibits both inside and outside. There is also a really cool playground nearby. If you love chocolate and fun cream puff desserts, you cannot miss Beta 5 chocolates if you’re in the area.
- Vancouver Aquarium – this aquarium in Stanley Park is the only part left of the zoo that used to be here when I grew up. If you have little ones in tow, try and get here for opening and you’ll probably have the Clown Cove area to yourself for at least 30 minutes. A tradition we have is to stop at the White Spot nearby for lunch or to ride the Stanley Park Bright Nights Christmas train if we’re here during the holidays. Since this spot is in Stanley Park, you can also pair it with a bike ride and make it a whole day activity.
- Terra Nova Park in Richmond – many out-of-towners know Richmond for Vancouver’s airport but it is also an incredible city to visit. You can head to Richmond to eat dumplings along the “dumpling trail” and then head to this incredible park where kids can climb giant structures and walk along the dyke. If you are already here, you might also want to stop by Larry Berg Park where you can watch planes fly about your head while you run down a mini-runway. The Richmond Public Market is also a really cool spot where families can choose a variety of foods from different places to try and share.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge – even if you’re in the city and don’t have a car, there is a free shuttle service that can help you get to this area. In the winter it’s all lit up and the pacific northwest views from the Cliff Walk and bridge are always incredible. If you do have a vehicle you can get to Lynn Canyon Park that has a free suspension bridge if you don’t have a ton of time or want a similar experience without paying the steep fees.
- Ride the SkyTrain – Any chance my guys get to ride the skytrain means it’s going to be a good day. A good route might be from downtown Vancouver to Metrotown Mall where there are shops and eateries and lots of stores. In the wintertime if you ride the Skytrain all the way to Lafarge Lake in Coquitlam you will find the biggest free light show in the area.
- Ride the Seabus – the Seabus connects North Vancouver to downtown and on the North Vancouver end is Lonsdale Quay. There are lots of shops and eateries, like the Soup Meister and there are often seasonal markets along the pier and lights at Christmastime
- Granville Island – this is my ultimate stop in Vancouver and has been since I was a little kid. Here you will find the Kids Only Market, artsy shops, and delicious eateries. In the summer this is a great place to rent kayaks and explore Vancouver by sea. We always eat near the Blue Parrot Cafe-my kids love getting perogies and I usually get soup from the Stock Market or bagels from Siegels.
- Ride an Aquabus – You can use this as transportation between different Vancouver sites or just ride for sightseeing and they are fairly reasonably priced. These water taxis are adorable and fun to ride and I wish we had something like the Aquabus or False Creek Ferry to get around Seattle.
- Museum of Anthropology at UBC – this is such a gorgeous museum and since UBC is my Alma Mater, I love any excuse to visit. University Campuses are so good for kids anyways because there are plenty of free spaces to roam around. If you spend a whole day here, you will find good food in the SUB and if the weather is decent make sure to also check out the botanical gardens and Tree Walk too.
And here are a few seasonal honorable mentions that shouldn’t be missed:
Vancouver Canucks Game – during the hockey season, heading to a Canucks game with kids is a blast. There are family packs that you can only buy if you have a kid in tow and this is usually a good savings over buying regular priced tickets.
Aurora Winter Festival in Vancouver – Vancouver finally has a downtown Winter Festival with skating and snow tubing this year. Last year we drove out to Glow in Langley and that was fun too but a little out of the way if you’re staying downtown. Seattle also has a new winter festival called Enchant at Safeco field with ice skating and it’s nice to see fun events like this rise out of our Instagram culture-this would make a great experience gift!
Pop Up Adventure Playground in Coquitlam – This is a park that opened up in the summer of 2018 that focuses on unstructured play and risk-taking. It was a pilot program that Canadian friends raved about on facebook so I am watching to see if it comes back for 2019.
Fly over Canada during the holidays- If you go to Fly Over Canada during the holidays, the experience has a North Pole theme that is pretty magical and if it’s nice outside you can walk near the Christmas Market and through all the festive lights in the city an maybe even skate at Robson Square.
Ocean Concrete’s Annual Open House: This usually happens every year in April and if you have a kid who loves trucks this is an incredible event at Granville Island. We’ve only made it there once over the years but our kids absolutely loved it.
Have you been to Vancouver BC? Do you have any tips or places here to visit that you love?