With so many outdoor attractions, cool ways to get around the city, and kid-friendly restaurants, Vancouver is a fantastic destination for families. Whether you’re exploring a rainforest park, riding a ferry, or following the Dumpling Trail, this 5-day itinerary for visiting Vancouver with kids serves up plenty of family-focused fun. Tip: Always ask about special family rates or discounts when you’re buying tickets to any sights or attractions.
Day 1: Stanley Park
Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day in Stanley Park, Vancouver’s rainforest green space at the end of the downtown peninsula. Visit the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre first (it’s less crowded in the mornings), then enjoy your picnic near Lost Lagoon.
After lunch, rent bikes to explore more of the park; there are several rental shops just outside the park’s West Georgia Street entrance. Follow the Seawall to see the majestic totem poles at Brockton Point, stop to cool off in the splash park near Lumberman’s Arch, and let the kids play in the sand or go for a swim at Second Beach, where there’s a large pool, restrooms, and snack bar.
For dinner, try one of the Asian restaurants downtown. Most kids enjoy watching the dumpling makers at work at Dinesty Dumpling House, or you can dig into Japanese-style hot dogs at Japadog.
Day 2: Granville Island and False Creek
Buy a day pass for the Aquabus ferry, so you can hop on and off these cute little boats as you travel around Granville Island and False Creek. Take the Aquabus to Science World and spend the morning exploring the hands-on exhibits. When it’s time for lunch, cruise over to Granville Island, where there are plenty of family-friendly food options in the Granville Island Public Market.
Don’t miss the Kids Market, with its kid-approved shops and indoor playground. Check out Sea Village, too, to let the kids imagine what it would be like to live on a houseboat. When you’re done exploring the island, rent kayaks for an excursion along False Creek.
Have an early dinner at Go Fish (it’s a short stroll along the waterfront from Granville Island), then catch the Aquabus to Yaletown for dessert at Bella Gelateria Yaletown.
Day 3: Canada Place and the North Shore
Start your day at Canada Place with a virtual flight across the country at FlyOver Canada. You even feel the spray as you soar (virtually) over Niagara Falls.
In front of Canada Place, catch the free shuttle to Grouse Mountain. Ride the Skyride tram to the top, where you can visit the grizzly bears at the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife, watch the falcons soar at the Birds in Motion demonstration, and get some chuckles at the Lumberjack Show. Go for a hike, and have lunch overlooking the city and water below.
Your next stop is the Capilano Suspension Bridge (from the Grouse Mountain entrance, take bus 236 down Capilano Road). Give the kids a thrill as they look from the bridge to the canyon way below. Explore the Treetops Adventure, too, where you follow a network of gently swaying wooden bridges to eight treehouse platforms in the forest. When you’re ready to go back downtown, catch the free shuttle.
For supper, let the kids play with the jukeboxes at retro diner The Templeton or slurp up a bowl of ramen at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. The Korean shaved ice dessert called bingsoo, served at Snowy Village Dessert Café, makes a fun after-dinner treat.
Day 4: UBC and Point Grey
Today, you’ll tour the museums on the University of British Columbia campus, check out another rainforest park, and then have time to relax at Jericho Beach.
From downtown, catch any UBC-bound bus to the campus bus loop. Walk over to the Museum of Anthropology, where there’s a fantastic collection of First Nations totem poles and other artifacts.
Another short walk takes you to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, which has more than two million specimens of bugs, fish, plants, and fossils that the kids can explore, as well as a massive blue whale skeleton. One more campus attraction, located at the UBC Botanical Garden, is the Greenheart TreeWalk, a network of aerial bridges that takes you high into the rainforest canopy.
Catch bus 99 to Point Grey Village (get off at W. 10th Ave. at Sasamat St.), where you can have a sandwich and a sweet at Mix the Bakery. After you’ve refueled, walk south to West 16th Avenue, where you can go for a stroll in the rainforest at Pacific Spirit Regional Park, which has more than 40 miles (70 kilometers) of hiking trails. The trails are fairly well marked, but the park is large, so you’ll need to pay attention to your route.
If the kids aren’t too tired, you can walk down to the Jericho Sailing Centre (it’s 1.25 miles, or two kilometers, straight down Trimble Street); if you’d rather go by bus, it’s fastest to take bus 25 or 33 on 16th Avenue back to the UBC Bus Loop, then change to bus 84, which will drop you on West 4th Avenue just above the beach. Have dinner overlooking the sand at The Galley Patio and Grill, go for a sunset kayak paddle, or simply sit on the beach and watch the sunset. When you’re ready to go back downtown, take bus 4 from West 4th Avenue.
Day 5: Richmond
Plan a whale-watching cruise today. Several operators run trips from Steveston Village in the suburb of Richmond, and most will include transportation from downtown. Spend the morning on the water looking for orcas, sea lions, and other aquatic life. Back on land, check out the fishing boats and vendors along the wharf, and stop for a fish-and-chips lunch at Pajo’s.
Richmond is the center of Vancouver’s Asian community, so instead of heading straight back downtown, catch bus 402, 407, or 410 from Steveston to Richmond’s Golden Village, where you can choose from countless Chinese restaurants for dinner. The kids might enjoy mapping out their route along Richmond’s Dumpling Trail (get a map at www.visitrichmondbc.com) or choosing from the long list of bubble teas at Pearl Castle Café. If you’re in town on a weekend between mid-May and mid-October, wrap up your day at the Richmond Night Market, where there’s plenty of Asian food to sample, before catching the Canada Line back downtown.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Vancouver.