Vancouver is known in Canada for all the outdoor adventures you can possibly imagine. I’ve lived there, gave birth there, and ventured out every day with a child in tow to discover something new and awesome to do. (Bonus: It is a breastfeeding friendly city — your boob can pretty much hang out anywhere, and no one will say anything, or even look twice, which is pretty awesome.) Here are ten of my favorite tips for a trip to Vancouver with kids…
1. Who doesn’t love cheap places to burn your child’s energy? The Roundhouse is in Yaletown and is the local community center and has the train museum attached to it. Why a community center – mostly because downtown is dense, and it rains a great deal in Vancouver. The drop-in – If you look on the program of events, every day except Fridays and Sundays there is a 2 hour window for play time in the gym. It costs $2 and there is even a bouncy castle, the drop in is for 6months- 7 yrs. Drop in, play, have fun. Then check out the coffee shops around the area, look down at #7! Coal harbour Community Center has a massive gym that is also open every day for a play time. The gym is cleaner and so are the toys, but not as many kids live in this area, so it isn’t as busy. It costs $2 and is open every day but Sunday.
2. Along Coal harbour there is a fantastic sea wall, you can sit and watch the sea planes going up and down. No other city has a sea plane airport in the downtown core. You would be surprised how many families picnic and play on the green space while watching the sea planes.
3. The Vancouver public library downtown location is massive and absolutely brilliant for young ones. You might think I am nuts, but when it is pouring with rain, the library is awesome to hang out in as a last minute backup option. The children’s section is big, and separated from the rest of the library. There are crayons out, a play area for young one’s, and everyday there are various reading times, including Chinese, French, English and Spanish, there are reading times for newborns to school age children. The librarians are just about the greatest group of people you can come across, plus, if you are stuck and don’t know what to do with your kids, they will Google stuff for you and give you recommendations – way better than any hotel recommendation. Depending on the day there are really fun interactive sing alongs, the baby time is really fun if you are visiting with your baby. It is free, kids love it!
4. The Vancouver Aquarium is a little pricey but is worth it. It is interactive and very family and stroller friendly. It is easy to get to, especially if you are staying downtown, and you just walk through Stanley Park. You can spend most of the day there and your kids will love it.
5. While you are in Stanley Park, you have to check out the train, yes, you can take a ride on the Miniature Train in Stanley Park! This is such a popular activity, that you might have to reserve a ride early on. Depending on the season, there are decorations to see and activities to do. The Christmas lights are a blast, kids LOVE it.
6. Granville Island is easily a day out! While most tourists know this for the food (which I would never recommend eating at any of the restaurants; they are boring, and the service is shit.) The whole point of going to Granville Island is to get on the Aquabus – a network of little boats that takes you all over the falsecreak area! On the island, there is a massive children’s area that is indoors as well as a huge outdoor park. There is a children’s theatre. You can buy tickets on site. Don’t worry, your child can scream and the show will go on. Plus, you can also watch a totem pole being carved, and listen to awesome buskers on a nice day. Since you want to avoid eating in any of the restaurants – check out GoFish, it is a fish shack. It is every Vancouver locals’ favorite place to grab the best fish tacos on earth. All the fish is caught that day and they stay open until everything is sold! If you get there by 11:30 you are likely to get food without more than a 20 minute wait. Here is the catch: you pretty much have to picnic somewhere along the water as there is nowhere to sit but a tiny patio with heat lamps. It is well worth it, nobody cares if your kids are screaming, and hey, no rude waiters.
7. Since I lived in the Yaletown area, there were many coffee/bakeries to choose from. Living in a small apartment, also means you tend to go out more, socialize outside of your home. I love good coffee, and a lovely pastry as a treat. The Scieu Italian Bakery on Davie Street not only had a fantastic owner (I actually really miss this place), but great staff. Six of us with strollers and babies would often come in at once. The owner would always accommodate us by moving everything around, and never once complained about any of us breast-feeding (obviously with a cover on us) in his establishment. As my child got older, there was always a high chair for him (no other coffee shop has that) and great food like pizzas etc to choose from. The coffee is superb. I also should note, that they serve an incredible brunch on the weekends; their waffles were on par with the ones that I had in Belgium!
8. The Yaletown Brewery on Mainland Street is, by far, one of the most relaxed restaurants you will come across. The service is fantastic (we always went on a Sunday for a pint and a pizza special), there are high chairs, a kids menu, and a kids little play package when you get seated. The manager is fantastic and there is a magician that roams around on the weekend a.k.a the manager. And the food is good and actually gets served quickly. Try one of their phenomenal local brews if you are a beer drinker. Make sure you don’t try to venture out to this place during a hockey game as it is packed, and I mean packed!
9. Not many museums are good for all ages, but Science World has done an awesome job of making it interactive for everyone. Since it is along the Sea Wall, you can enjoy a walk with a coffee, and then hang out at the museum, or you can take the aquabus and enjoy the scenery by boat. The great thing about this museum is that a 1 year old loves it, I don’t know how many museums we have avoided, all because it was too boring for a little one, but this one has music, mirrors, and a great crew who go around playing with the kids. There is even a baby area, for parents who have small ones!
10. Grouse Mountain – winter or summer, this is a really fun place to go visit. Best known for the Grouse Grind – a straight up the mountain stair master, it is part ski hill, skating rink in the winter, and in the summer becomes a playground of ziplines, and hikes. It is well worth the cost going up and down. We preferred going in the summer with an active toddler. It is easily accessible to get to on public transportation. You can bring a picnic as well as buy food up there. The line ups can be long, but go in the middle of the week and in the morning.
Have fun in Vancouver!