Vancouver is known as Canada’s coolest city — and with quick connections to major U.S. hubs, especially on the west coast, it really should be on your (easy-to-reach) travel bucket list. And bring the kids along with you, because traveling to seriously family-friendly Vancouver with kids is not going to be a hassle. Explore the great Canadian outdoors right in the city at Stanley Park, an urban rainforest park complete with seawall and totem polls, or take a wobbly walk across Capilano suspension bridge. From kid-approved activities and attractions to hotels that understand just how to treat their youngest guests, Vancouver will quickly become your new favo(u)rite family vacation destination.
What to do
Vancouver proudly lays claim to the longest uninterrupted waterfront path in the world, which you can tour by bike or on foot. Stop by Spokes Bike Rental and Cycle City Tours to gear up with bike trailers or kid seats and ensure even the smallest travelers get to see the city in style.
It takes about an hour to cycle the entire seawall. You might want to make a day of it, complete with stops to marvel at indigenous Squamish peoples’ house posts and time for kids to play at the park or dig in the sandy beach.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
A free shuttle from Canada place gets you to the Capilano river and the suspension bridge built in 1889. There are so many activities for kids at this attraction, including a Kids’ Rainforest Explorer program and the cliff walk, a series of suspended walkways on the edge of the granite rock face. Children will marvel at the sheer size and age of the Douglas firs at this coastal forest, especially in the “Treetops Adventure,” in which they get to experience the forest from the point of view of a squirrel!
Kids under six go for free, but be prepared to part with some cash; adult tickets are a little pricey (and the gift shop is tough to resist).
The journey is half the adventure when you hop on the cute, rainbow-coloured Aquabus to get to Granville Island. A huge range of artisan shops, restaurants, bars and artist studios await you, including some unexpected finds such as The Granville Island Broom Co. a company that handcrafts brooms in the Shaker style. Foodie kids will appreciate a tour around the food stalls and market with Vancouver Foodie Tours; you can enjoy more than 20 tastings from eight vendors. The tour culminates with a visit to Lee’s Honey Dipped Donuts where you can watch the delicious donuts being made before having a taste.
When the weather won’t cooperate with your outdoor plans, take everyone to Science World for a day of fun and learning. Before heading inside this innovative museum (which boasts a very cool body-positivity exhibit), check out the free playground right outside. Bend your mind inside the puzzles and illusions gallery, where nothing is quite what it seems, before taking a seat at the world’s largest OMNIMAX dome theatre.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Grouse Mountain, which is world-renowned as a ski resort, might be off-limits once the snow melts. But actually, it’s a four-season attraction. Besides the usual winter activities (skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and tubing), in the summer months you’ll find a mountain ropes adventure aerial course and can check out 360-degree views of Vancouver inside the viewPOD. Warmer weather is also a great time to see Grouse Mountain’s grisliest residents as it’s when the bears come out of hibernation. Attend a ranger talk, included in the price of admission, to learn all about grizzly bears and other mountain wildlife — and hopefully catch a glimpse of the animals in their natural habitat.
Where to eat
Vancouver is a multicultural city, with thriving communities bringing their food flavors from around the world. All over the city, you’ll find affordable sushi, farm-to-table fare, and plenty of restaurants that welcome kids while still appealing to parents’ taste buds. One of the best examples of the latter is Honey Salt, part of the Parq Vancouver resort, which also features two hotels, a casino, and seven other restaurants and lounges. This spot makes a perfect date-night venue — but with its all-day fare and kids menu, everyone feels welcome. Kids can choose from pizza toast, hamburgers and veggie plates before crafting their very own ice cream sundae.
For a touch more elegance, The Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel has an amazing omakase raw bar in the open, modern lobby, as well as more relaxed Italian-inspired options at Giovane cafe.
Take a walk through Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, Gastown, where you’ll find lots of restaurants and pubs that welcome children — as well as souvenir shops and art galleries. Be sure to check out the whistling steam clock and the statue of “Gassy Jack.”
Granville Island Market epitomizes the variety of different global cuisines available in this coastal city. Everyone can select their favorite market stall and then bring all the dishes to one of the tables to share picnic-style either indoors or out.
Where to stay
The Parq Vancouver complex, which features the JW Marriott hotel and The Douglas, is perfectly situated as a luxury crash pad for families attending events and concerts at BC Place. However, if you want a little more room to spread out — and your kids need a pool to keep them entertained — The Sandman suites may appeal. They offer kitchenettes (so you can prepare snacks and family-friendly meals) and a seasonal outdoor swimming pool with great city views.
Traveling with babies and kids can be stressful, especially if you have to cart around a lot of gear like strollers and travel cribs — so check out WeeTravel to keep your packing light. They rent out commonly needed baby and small kid products, like high chairs and car seats, across Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto.
Now that the details are all covered, go enjoy your Vancouver family vacation and make some sweet Canadian memories.