I’ve been a little absent from this blog over the past few weeks, and that’s because my family and I spent the entire month of April out in Vancouver. My husband was headed out there for work, so it made sense for all of us to go. For those of you who follow this blog you may already know I am originally from Vancouver. All of my family is still there, and I love the city (except for the crazy housing prices…seriously it’s bananas).
April seemed like a good time to go. Everything is green out west, it’s cherry blossom season, and we would still make it back to Ottawa in time for the Tulip Festival (one of my favourite times of year in Ottawa).
So seeing as we spent AN ENTIRE MONTH there, I figured I would put together some of the highlights of our trip and my favourite places to take my kids in Vancouver. So, I hope you enjoy my photos, and if you’re planning a trip out to the West Coast anytime soon, then please let me be your tour guide!
The thing I miss the most about Vancouver (other than my family and close friends) is most definitely the ocean. I grew up just a few minutes from the beach and no matter what time of year, I love going there. So over the course of our month on the coast, we hit up the beaches A LOT.
My favourite beach is Spanish Banks. It’s massive and gorgeous. If you go online you can search “vancouver tides” and find out when the tide is at its lowest point every day. The tide goes out so far, you can walk almost out to the freighter ships anchored in English Bay.
It certainly wasn’t sunny for the whole month of April. But we went rain or shine.
When we weren’t at Spanish Banks, we were hitting up Locarno Beach. It’s just east of Spanish Banks, and it is a great place for beach volleyball and playing in the water. There is also a lovely wharf to walk out on, where you can watch people setting crab traps. It’s also right next to the Jericho Sailing Club, which is a favourite patio stop for food, drink and ice cream!
And of course I have to mention Kitsilano Beach. Kits is another favourite for me. For years I lived just across the street, and it was fabulous. Kits is the place to watch the best beach volleyball players the west coast has to offer. It also has a great pool for families just along the shoreline, as well as a wonderful playground and tons of restaurants.
Granville Island is one of the biggest tourist destinations Vancouver has to offer…but it’s also a favourite for locals. I grew up frequenting Granville Island. I loved it as a child, and I still love it.
Granville Island is a huge public market, with so much to offer. The produce is gorgeous, although a little on the pricier side.
My kids love Granville Island too….Lucas in particular loves the many candy and dessert options available.
Every time we visit Granville Island we make sure to hit up Lee’s Donuts. They are probably my favourite donuts in the world, and my kids agree.
We always grab a bunch of food to eat and head outside to the market’s outdoor eating area. There are fabulous buskers who perform all over the market. You can enjoy your food while taking in the free entertainment. It’s also a great place for the kids to run around. There are a ton of pigeons and sea gulls who hang out in the courtyard, and children chase them around the whole time (not a good place, however, if you have a fear of birds!)
And of course the kids always want to visit the children’s market known as Kids Only Market. Kids Only is a smaller market on Granville Island that houses a ton of toy and childrens book stores. There are also a number of children’s clothing stores, arts and crafts stores, and a large arcade and play area for families. It’s a place where you can lose a lot of quarters, but kids have a blast. Just outside the kids market there is a nice playground, and a water spray park (open in the summer).
A really fun thing to do with the kids is to take one of the aqua ferries that leaves from Granville Island. They are small boats that can take you around False Creek. There are two aqua ferry companies. Aquabus and False Creek Ferries both leave from docks on Granville Island. They operate on slightly different routes, but both can take you for a fun ride downtown and past the Olympic Village and Science World (another amazing place for kids).
Stanley Park and The Vancouver Aquarium are other must-visits for families vacationing in Vancouver. Stanley Park is a 400 hectare natural west coast rainforest. You could spend days exploring the park. There are wonderful trails for hiking. fun playgrounds. countless beaches, an outdoor pool, a pitch and putt course, tennis courts, a water spray park, a miniature train ride, totem poles, the aquarium, restaurants and of course the gorgeous sea wall that wraps all around the park (you can walk, run, and bike all the way around.)
We love visiting the Vancouver Aquarium. It is a pricey visit – tickets are not cheap, but it is a wonderful treat for the family. It’s not as flashy as Toronto’s Ripley’s Aquarium (no moving walk ways or big play structures). But there is a fabulous selection of sea life including penguins, seals, otters and dolphins in the outdoor section of the exhibit.
The Vancouver Aquarium is a rescue and research centre, so all of the larger sea animals at aquarium have been rescued and are being re-habilitated.
After you’ve visited the aquarium, taking a walk or bike ride around the sea wall is a must. There are so many beautiful corners of Stanley Park to explore along the way. Your family will love visiting the beaches and playgrounds right along the sea wall route. And if you’re not into walking, Stanley Park also offers horse drawn carriage tours around the park (very fun and informative).
Queen Elizabeth Park between Cambie and Main Street in Vancouver is another great place to visit, especially during cherry blossom season!
It’s a quieter, more low key park. The kids and I loved checking out all of the cherry blossom trees but there were a ton of other flowers and plants just starting to blossom.
The park features waterfalls, gorgeous gardens, a pitch and putt course and even a zip line (it’s pretty new, and I haven’t tried that one out yet.) There is also a lovely restaurant, and because the park is perched up on a hill, it offers gorgeous views of the city.
For a small admission price you can also visit the Bloedel Conservatory. The conservatory isn’t big but it features a gorgeous array of tropical plants and birds. Parrots, cockatoos, macaws and dozens of smaller birds fly all around as you stroll along paths and small bridges. The warm climate inside the conservatory is a great escape from a rainy Vancouver day.
These are just a few of my favourite spots in Vancouver to visit with the kids…but there really are so many more I didn’t necessarily get to visit this time (but I will make a point to visit next time). Here is a list of a few other favourites you should check out when visiting Vancouver.
For a super complete list of the best Vancouver has to offer, with kids or without, you must check out The Crazy Tourist’s Top 25 Things to do in Vancouver.
We also had some wonderful mini trips out of Vancouver to Kamloops, Whistler and Victoria. There isn’t room in this post to include them all, so stay tuned for a separate post on visiting Victoria. I can’t recommend it enough!
There is so much fun to be had during the season of fall in Ottawa…