Vancouver is a west coast seaport city in British Columbia, Canada – a province well known for its mountains and skiing, It is an amazing place to explore when traveling with your big family. Full of sights, scenery and plenty of areas to walk, it caters to almost every age group.
Although most people will take a brief respite in Vancouver on their way to the mountains, it is worth staying for a few days and experience the diversity that this city has to offer.
We arrived in Vancouver via a flight from Toronto and after a brief stop in the downtown core at our apartment for the weekend, walked downhill to the shores of False Creek, a short inlet of water that separates downtown Vancouver from the Greater Vancouver area. Up and down the creek is the very popular ferry taxi system that helps transport people from one end of the downtown to the other or across the water to Greater Vancouver. Our destination was Granville Island, a shopping and eatery district across the waterway.
The Aquabus flew us across the inlet in five minutes and we disembarked ready to shop and eat. What used to be a manufacturing district in the early 20th century, has turned into a hotspot for residents and visitors alike to partake in art, culture, food, and shopping. With a huge indoor market reminiscent of a food market we visited in Tel Aviv, Israel the entire family walked around wondering what treats to purchase and where to look first.
The best way to experience Granville Island is to start and finish at the open market. One walkthrough will give you an idea of the multitude of food, groceries, butchers, candy and cheese stalls and finishing there will ensure you are not carrying all your goods with you the rest of the time. You can follow the market out to the shopping area where cute boutique and tourist stores beckon, stopping along the way for refreshment at the restaurants and breweries that continue to pop up on the island.
The best place to go if traveling with younger children? The Kids Market – 25 shops, services, and an activities pit stop for children or the young at heart. From there, it’s best to wander through the winding streets to view all the artist studios, or specialty coffee shops to the other side of the island, before heading back down to the water and the market.
The market is open until 7 pm when most things start shutting down, except the restaurants.
Port of Vancouver/Vancouver Harbour
The next day, we took advantage of the partly cloudy weather and took a walk through the downtown core towards the Port of Vancouver that overlooks Vancouver Harbour. We ended up at Canada Place is a ferry terminal with a great view of the harbor. Grab a drink, stroll along the waterfront boardwalk and soak in the breathtaking mountains across the water. Sometimes the best way to find things is to simply take a walk.
As we came upon the harbor, the kids found a unique tourist attraction called FlyOver Canada located on the far side of Canada Place. FlyOver Canada a virtual flying tour taking you on a whirlwind tour of Canada from coast to coast. The ride was a lot of fun and even better was the sunshine as we departed from the ride to continue our stroll along the harbor. We found interesting art sculptures and stopped to eat at one of the many harborside restaurants.
About 2 miles from the downtown core is Vancouver’s urban oasis, Stanley Park. This 400-hectare forest has majestic trees, walking paths and the well known Seawall.
In the park, there is a train for little ones, an Aquarium, totem poles and beaches throughout the park easily accessible by foot or on one of the rental bikes available. Restaurants, cafes, and snack stands pepper through the park and are open seasonally. The seawall is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path that extends from Stanley Park for 17 miles. The path is divided into two sections, one for walkers/joggers and the other for bikers. Walking along this path allows for amazing photos of the city line of Vancouver at any time of the day.
Science World, or the Telus World of Science, is a not-for-profit science center at the end of False Creek in Vancouver’s downtown. Easily accessible by the ferry system, this was easily one of the family’s favorite stops. With interactive exhibits and Omnimax theatre, it was a kid playground with some interesting things for the adults as well. There is a fast-food restaurant there serving typical fare, but also areas if bringing in something to eat. Lockers provide an area to leave jackets and bags.
The kids really enjoyed most of the exhibits and had a lot of fun in the Eureka area and Bodyworks.
Across the bridge to North Vancouver is the urban mountainous playground of Grouse Mountain, the Peak of Vancouver. It is a perfect place for first-timers in British Columbia.
Grouse Mountain is a 1,200-metre mountain offering activities such as skiing & hiking with sweeping views of Vancouver. With Grizzly Bear sanctuary, guided eco walks, ropes course and ziplines through the forest, there is something for everyone in all seasons at Grouse Mountain during the summer and fall months. Winter is ski season in most of British Columbia, and Grouse Mountain offers ski packages for every level.
After taking the Skyride cable car to the top, (in lieu of trying the Grouse Grind, a 1.8-mile hike up the mountain), our family started the day with a guided Eco Walking Tour that told us a bit of the history of the mountain. After some pictures with a fabulous mountain view, we took the ski lift chairs to the summit of the mountain where we followed a brief hiking trail to the Eye of the Wind, a 360-degree glass wind turbine pod observatory. It was well worth the extra cost for the view of Vancouver and the coast.
After opting to hike down from the summit, the family enjoyed viewing the two orphaned Grizzly Bears at the Wildlife Sanctuary. Grinder and Coola were two adorable orphaned grizzly bears and the rangers were always on hand to answer any questions. Post lunch at the local restaurant, we headed to our last activity of the day, Mountain Ropes Adventure.
There are five different levels or a Kids Tree Canopy course for those nine years and under. Full of challenging tightrope walking and ziplines, it was a great activity for our entire family to finish the day at Grouse Mountain before taking the Skyride back down to the parking lot.
No matter what season your family travels to Vancouver, British Columbia – take a few days and experience excellent samples of culture, fun and outdoor activities in western Canada.