Five places in Vancouver where little kids — and their parents — can have a blast and enjoy a vacation.
Travel with little kids? You’ve got to be kidding, said almost every parent ever.
No, traveling with kids under age 6 or so won’t be anything like travel before kids. But you can do it. Just be sure to do it in Vancouver, where there’s tons of outdoor space, good food, and activities that will please the kids without boring the adults to tears.
Here are five picks for things to do up north (where, yes, the exchange rate is still awesome).
Head to this nearby ski hill for a perfect day’s worth of summertime fun. The Lumberjack Show is silly enough for kids and action-packed (and hunky) enough for parents. There are also bears, a great birds-of-prey show and, if kids are old enough (fiveish or older), a chairlift to The Eye of the Wind — a wind turbine you can go up into. The best part for my kids was the ride up from the parking lot in the Skyride, a gondola that goes up 2,800 feet in just a few minutes in a very impressive climb.
Tips: Go as early in the day as possible, and plan your time around the Lumberjack Show. Send at least one person there early to snag good seats. If you have a child who’s too small for the chairlift (or there’s fear of heights issue), get the “Alpine Experience” family pass for two adults and two children for $114. But if everyone is big enough, the $140 for the “Ultimate Experience” is worth it.
Stanley Park is the park every parent dreams of. There’s beachfront, an outdoor pool (Second Beach Pool, open in the summer), Ceperley Playground with a full-size fire truck, a train ride, cool totems and an outstanding aquarium.
Get to the aquarium (need I say it?) early, and center your visit around the dolphin/porpoise training and beluga whale training shows. All the animals are rescues that cannot be released back into the wild, and are trained for their needs, not just human entertainment.
Tips: Get a day-long parking pass for Stanley Park so you can drive between attractions. The park is walkable for adults, but not for little kids. If kids are older, you can try biking.
At the aquarium, the beluga whale show is best viewed inside. There is a trainer who brings the whales down to floor-to-ceiling glass windows — and right up to your kids’ faces.
If you need another indoor activity, or if the aquarium’s entry price gives you sticker shock, visit Science World British Columbia, where you can get in free with your Pacific Science Center membership.
Kid heaven: That’s the Kids Market on Granville Island. It’s an entire building of children’s toy stores, with a small play area and café upstairs. Just looking through the Playmobile, Lego, books, costumes, stuffies and other toys is lots of fun — and picking something out is a great reward for cooperative behavior. Nearby, there’s a free seasonal water park at the False Creek Community Centre where they can blow off any steam still left in them.
Tips: Fuel up at the Public Market before the Kids Market opens at 10 a.m. (this also avoids the crushing crowds at the market later in the day). Be sure to hit Lee’s Donuts and JJ Bean for coffee to fortify yourselves.
At the Kids Market, give plenty of notice before leaving to avoid meltdowns.
If kids still have some good behavior in them, eat at Edible Canada located nearby. It has a nice kids’ menu and great adult food. Be sure to stop into their attached shop, which sells made-in-Canada packaged foods like artisan syrups, salts and jams, and get 10 percent off with your receipt.
It’s not the newest or fanciest Four Seasons in the world — and that’s a good thing if you’re not a high roller. With the exchange rate and regular specials, the hotel becomes a pretty good deal, especially with kids, thanks to the indoor/outdoor pool and outstanding location. The pool is heated and comfortable year-round, and the indoor half makes it usable rain or shine. There were always lots of other kids to play with, as well as parents with dining advice. Rooms, of course, are lovely and comfortable.
Tips: One parent can hang at the pool with the kids while the other power shops Pacific Centre mall right below the hotel, or at the new Nordstrom across the street. The hotel offers kids tours of their kitchens, which end with fresh-baked cookies. I don’t recommend trying to eat at upscale YEW with little kids, but there is a handy food court in the mall with amazing people-watching opportunities.
Vancouver is an international city, with scores of fun, energetic Asian restaurants that offer lots of food options for picky eaters. One of our favorites is “Japanese tapas” place Kamei Baru, downtown, which is casual and bustling enough for loud kids to fit right in. Our salmon-lover can load up on fish and rice, while our red-meat fan can get thinly shaved beef. The adults always get the combo dinner of nigiri, rolls, steamed shellfish and more.
Tips: Café Crepe is another kid-friendly option downtown. Everyone recommends the White Spot chain, but we found it to be lacking in personality for the price. For dessert, hit Beard Papa’s on Robson Street for cream puffs and people watching.