Help me make the most of Vancouver this August
May 5, 2016 7:43 AM   Subscribe

My SO is teaching a summer course at UBC this August. I'm tagging along with our two kids, 7 and 10. Help me make this an amazing month for all of us.

We've never been to Vancouver, and are super excited about this.
My SO is going to be teaching at UBC, and I have so many questions:
- Where would be the most convenient for us to live?
- Do we need a car?
- Where should I look to find cool things to do with kids? Day camps, fun activities we can do on our own, outdoor activities, etc my kids are at an age where they prefer to do things with other kids, and they're pretty much always up for but their English is minimal (we live in Paris)
- What are things we must do/ places we must see while there
- Are there some good places to cowork from ?
- Any particular things we should pay attention to that'll make our stay more enjoyable?
- Any good fiction set in Vancouver to read ?
- (For my 10yo) Any recommendation for places to play Magic The Gathering?

Thanks in advance for all your recommendations
posted by motdiem2 to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, BC (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely visit Granville Island. Huge market of local produce, art galleries, stores... all sorts of lovely stuff. Various events happen there too.

Check out Vancouver Island for a couple days if you can afford a hotel. The beaches at Tofino are beautiful, Butchart Gardens is glorious.

Drink Island Farms chocolate milk because it is THE BEST chocolate milk from coast to coast.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:34 AM on May 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Science World seems to be a pretty big hit with the kids if it's a rainy day. The Aquarium in Stanley Park, too. Granville Island has a lot of fun stuff too, including a spray park that is a good place to bring the kids on a hot day. I would recommend looking at this for day camps and stuff. The community centres are pretty great. A couple of them -- the one on Denman street and another in Kerrisdale do a lot of bouncy castle type setups in the summer months.

Regarding a car, that really depends on where you are planning to live. Vancouver is pretty easy to get around without a car. the downtown area is not very big. But if you're going to be out by UBC, you are probably going to have to rely on the 99 B-Line bus to get in and out of that area without a car. It can get very crowded.

There are a lot of nice neighbourhoods to live in Vancouver. If you're here for a short time, I'd suggest something central and near transit. It's expensive for a North American city so if you can avoid the added expense of a car, it's not a bad idea. The West End is nice for families/kids, so is Kitsilano and Fairview and the UBC area. Something near the seawall. Maybe pick up some cheap used bikes for you and the SO and kids and you can commute a lot of places by bike along there.

Things to watch for? I think the main draw here is the natural beauty. You're not going to find old buildings or a lot of historical sites. So I'd say just wander around the many parks and trails, sit under the shade of the enormous trees and relax whenever you get the chance. There's not a lot of secrets about this city so many of the main attractions will be easy to find by browsing the internet.
posted by Hoopo at 9:57 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

According to Yelp, THE place for Magic the Gathering is Magic Stronghold.

There are various French immersion summer camps for kids, which might be fun. There's one called Camps Virgule that's held by Le Centre Culturel Francophone de Vancouver: and they have lots of other Francophone activities.
posted by mysprocketisborked at 10:01 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kitsilano is a great neighbourhood and close to UBC, alternatively anywhere near Main Street is wonderful.
There is lots of transit to UBC, but it is the most congested transit route in Vancouver so you may well be happier with a car to get there.

As for things to do in the summer:

Walk or Bike the Stanley Park seawall. That is fantastic and free and you'll see SO much cool stuff.
Swim in the Kitsilano outdoor pool
Do the Grouse Grind if your kids are old enough to literally climb a mountain (If not, you can take the Gondola up the mountain for a fee and there's LOADS to do up there on a nice sunny day)
Spend a day on Commercial Drive taking in all the quirky shops and sights and sounds
Book a camping weekend away, there are some wonderful campsites quite close to the city
TONS of hikes
Yes, Granville Island - take a little boat taxi around False Creek to get from one place to another
You can easily spend a sunny day in the West End or around English Bay
Vancouver is an outstanding city - I highly recommend the "Fly Over Canada" experience down at the Convention Centre.
There is loads to do in the summer time in the city, or plenty of places close by that you can explore for a weekend (Vancouver Island, Seattle, Portland, the Okanagen etc)
posted by JenThePro at 10:23 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

- Where would be the most convenient for us to live?
For UBC, Kits or Point Grey are particularly convenient, especially along Broadway or 4th (or even 33rd), since there are express buses that run with pretty high frequency. City Hall or Fairview (along Broadway) are also convenient. Dunbar or Kerrisdale are also close, but further from other stuff. There's also housing on campus and it's a public transit hub. Lots of young families.

Downtown core can be walked to from Kits/Fairview/City Hall (about half an hour, if close to Broadway), as is Granville Island. These are all walkable neighbourhoods with everything you'd need contained within each one.

- Do we need a car?
If you're living in those areas, a car isn't strictly necessary. However, consider getting a membership with one of the car-sharing services; Modo, Car2Go, &c. I think the car insurance monopoly also offers a car-sharing service. Taxis are notoriously expensive.

- Where should I look to find cool things to do with kids?
Expo/Science world (take the Aquabus!). Lynn Canyon (in North Van; lots of outdoors stuff to do in North Van; there's a free suspension bridge in Lynn Canyon, the one in Capilano has fees). Fort Langley (long car ride). There are a bunch of kids-oriented yoga/gymnastics everywhere. Lonsdale Quay (North Van) and Westminster Quay (New Westminster) are neat, accessible by Skytrain. Granville Island. Chinatown (in Vancouver; it's next door to the Downtown East Side but it's perfectly safe). The Downtown Library is pretty awesome. Lots of parks everywhere. There is/are the Chinese Nightmarkets during the summer. "Rec(reation) Centres" offer a large variety of paid (reasonable $) day camps for kids. Whistler has non-skiing stuff during the Summer. Stanley Park/English Bay/Kits Beach/Jericho Beach/Vanier Park. You can rent bikes/rollerblades close to Stanley Park.

- What are things we must do/ places we must see while there
All The Foods. Seriously, Vancouver has excellent and highly varied restaurants (except Mexican). Vancouver is a mecca for Japanese and (many different styles of) Chinese food.

- Any particular things we should pay attention to
Bring an umbrella and sunglasses with you when going out. The rain isn't nearly as bad as people make it out to be, and we've been seeing a 'new normal' in climate; the last few years have been drier and hotter than usual and buildings weren't designed with that in mind (poor insulation/little consideration for solar heating). Almost nobody has air conditioning, but you might want to look into that (I've had one for years and it's awesome). Some rental places allow gas-grilling on balconies. This can be awesome unless you're aversive against neighbours bbqing all the time. Some of the express buses, you can enter in any one of the three doors providing you don't need ticket validation.

- Are there some good places to cowork from ?
The Downtown Library. It's great.

- (For my 10yo) Any recommendation for places to play Magic The Gathering?
Drexoll Games? It's in Kits.
posted by porpoise at 11:52 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Vancouver has excellent and highly varied restaurants (except Mexican)

I'm no Mexican food expert but The Mexican on Granville and La Taqueria on Cambie and Broadway are pretty great
posted by Hoopo at 12:49 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

It wouldn't probably be particularly fun for the kids, but I visit Vancouver each summer to see Bard on the Beach. The productions they do are really great.
posted by Shanda at 1:04 PM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

are pretty great

Agreed - for Vancouver (I like La Taqueria downtown location better than the Cambie location, and Sal Y Limon is pretty good). I spent some time in the Midwest USA and have been spoiled. Other cuisines in Vancouver can be as good as their native counterparts, but the Mexican isn't up to snuff.

I have no idea if we're having a fireworks festival this year (it's usually end of July/Aug) but Bard on the Beach has a play and outdoor dinner in the past on fireworks nights; the spot they have on Vanier Park is one of the best for fireworks viewing.
posted by porpoise at 1:12 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mexican isn't up to snuff.
I'd concur. If you're interested in seafood, regional Chinese cuisine or Japanese food - you'll have loads of selection. Few other places in Canada can match Vancouver for that.

If you have access to a car, we enjoyed a family trip several years ago to the interior of BC. We stayed in Penticton which is a cute town, it has some nice beaches and wineries in the hills.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:18 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Enroll in a daycamp at one of the local French Immersion elementary schools or one related to the francophone system. Your kids will get to meet kids who speak both French and English, which might be nice. There are a few schools in Kits, which is halfway between downtown and UBC. It's an easy bus ride and you're near the beach, museum, planetarium, Granville Island, etc. I think Tennyson, General Gordon, Hudson and maybe Queen Elizaebeth Annex, Jules Quesnel all have daycamps. They probably run the camps in English, but at least you would know some of the kids would speak French, which might make it a bit easier on your kids. Kids in those areas are also used to international students and English Language Learners and people popping in short-term.

I would get a membership with Modo or ZipCars or Evo and use that, rather than renting a car. Transit and foot options are good in the Kits and Point Grey Areas. Check routes and schedules before you commit to a location.

UBC also runs daycamps, including things like paddle boarding and skimboarding. There's a good chance a large number of kids will have been through French Immersion programs, so they can probably at least understand basic stuff, if your kids feel stuck.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:19 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thank you so much for all your answers - you've given me a lot to think about, and I am now compiling lists of things to do, places to check and activities !

Now onto finding a house for the summer - Vancouver looks almost more expansive than Paris !
posted by motdiem2 at 11:35 AM on May 6, 2016

Ouch, yes, housing is difficult. Do see if anyone at UBC can help; regardless, housing on campus can be reasonable especially if your spouse is a visiting prof.

If cost is an issue, renting around "Commercial Drive" still presents an ok commute to UBC and is still a cool area for the rest of the family.
posted by porpoise at 3:55 AM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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