Vancouver with Kids
June 23, 2019 6:49 AM   Subscribe

My family has booked a flight to Vancouver for August 3rd - 10th. We have never been and are looking for suggestions on where to stay and what to do. My kids are 8 and 10. A friend who lives there said with that time frame, he would spend half the time in the city and half the time in Whistler. Looking for alternative suggestions with specific answers on neighborhoods and lodging options. We are open to hotels or Airbnb.

Our family is pretty adventurous so staying in treehouses, or taking boats or challenging hikes is in play for a suggested plan. I don't mind spending extra money here to have an amazing experience for the kids. We are really up for anything.

My friend suggested we rent a house in Kitsilano for half the time and then get a place in Whistler Village for a few days. I have no idea if this is a good idea or not so looking for alternative points of view. We do like the idea of renting a house as the hunt for food is always a headache ( particularly breakfast ) and gives you a little flexibility. But if a hotel in a location that isn't too hectic to eat and get around, we are open to that.

Simply looking for suggested lodging and itinerary for an amazing trip to an amazing city.
posted by jasondigitized to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, BC (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park was really lovely, and just a short bus ride away from downtown.
posted by hijinx at 6:54 AM on June 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have never been here (or to BC at all) but this kangaroo farm which includes little goaties frolicking with patient capybaras has been on my list since I heard about it. 8 and 10 sound like the perfect age to enjoy something like this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:07 AM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

The science center is fantastic! Kitsilano would be a good choice if you want a trendy area close to things. Other suggestions:

You can rent bikes & bike the seawall. Last time we were there our favourite thing other than the science center was getting out of Vancouver. There are some great hikes and beaches in the immediately surrounding area. Lynn Canyon Park was a hit with the kids, it has hiking and a suspension bridge (and unlike Capilano is free).
posted by DTMFA at 8:22 AM on June 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

A house in Kits sounds good for a family. It's close to beaches (Jericho, Spanish Banks, Kits Beach), and walking in Pacific Spirit Park and the UBC Endowment Lands is great (old forests, huge trees). If Kits is too out of the way for you, a house in Mount Pleasant would also be great. Both are beautiful parts of the city. Kits is hippy, Mount Pleasant is hip. English Bay would also be nice – neither hippy nor hip, but the seawall is nice and it's close to the park.

My friends with kids have season's passes to Science World and the aquarium (the latter is in Stanley Park, which has other kids stuff). Seconding Lynn Canyon suspension bridge – it's the equal of Capilano, but free and much less mobbed.

Whytecliff Park near Horseshoe Bay has a great view and a nice stop on the way to Whistler.
posted by Beardman at 10:05 AM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

2nd that Capilano is worth the visit.

Whistler is a ski resort with all that that entails - basically Vegas on the side of a mountain, with slopes instead of casinos. I got a two-day lift ticket which was enough to do all the hiking available - if you're into mountain bikes it would be a different story, as that was the main activity when I was there (summer, but not August IIRC).

As for alternatives, I'd pitch the Sunshine Coast. It's the coastline opposite Vancouver Island, reachable only by ferry. The ferry ride itself is spectacular. There are multiple provincial parks for hiking and such, as well as activities like whale watching which I couldn't say much about. The towns aren't much to speak of, but there is your usual mix of breweries and antique shops etc. for a rural area trying to survive on tourism. For us it's a nice slower pace than you get in Vancouver, although we've only been during the off-season, so August may be a different story.
posted by five toed sloth at 10:12 AM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Sunshine Coast in August is still pretty chill.
posted by Beardman at 11:17 AM on June 23, 2019

I always have to recommend the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. It's an incredible space and good for kids. Kits is pretty close to UBC (~15-20 minutes by bus), so that would be a nice trip.

I also nth biking the seawall, the aquarium and the science center. Granville Island is a fun time, too. Oh, AND you'll be in town for the last day of the Celebration of Light! You don't have to buy tickets -- you can just head down to English Bay, Second Beach or Kits/Vanier Park and watch some really nice fireworks and eat food from food trucks by the ocean!
posted by thebots at 3:30 PM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've been to that kangaroo farm! Last summer on a trip to Kelowna - we go most summers but hadn't been to the farm before.

That being said, and it's pains me to have to mention it here, we only went (though it was pretty cool) because the forest fire smoke made nearly every active outdoor activity uncomfortable. Most of my photos from last august are variations of you-won't-believe-how-bad-the-smoke-is-now. Including several where the sun simply disappears entirely. Not, not like a really big cloud covered the sun, more like an eclipse.

So, yeah, pretty much everywhere south of Alaska and west of Regina has summers that have become smoke mediated. It might be a good idea to keep that in mind. BC alone saw fires last summer that burnt areas basically the size of Connecticut. Closer to Vancouver the Sea to Sky highway (the only route north from Vancouver to Whistler) was closed due to a fire today.

If you have the flexibility you may want to keep options open for visiting the pacific coast of Vancouver Island. Prevailing winds off the sea keep the air pretty clear. Victoria is easier to get to and will likely reap much of the same benefit.
posted by mce at 3:42 PM on June 23, 2019

Kits is a great neighbourhood. Last time my family went to Vancouver we got an airbnb off Commercial Drive, close to a park, which worked well and was cheaper than Kits. With our kids we have done the Kitsilano pool (outdoor, salt water), Science Centre, wandered through Granville Island Public Market, caught the Skytrain and Seabus over to Londsdale Quay, gone up Queen Elizabeth Park to the quarry (admittedly this is mostly nostalgic for me because I grew up right next to that park and spent tons of time there, but the gardens are really lovely), spent the day moving through Stanley Park - not just the beaches/bike path, but walking through the forest trails, waterpark and mini-train (more nostalgia), walked through/along Spanish Banks to Jericho Beach, especially fun in the rocky areas and visited Lynn Canyon. I agree that the Museum of Anthropology is worth a visit, I'm sorry we missed that last time. If your kids are ok for fairly intense hiking there is the Grouse Grind, or hike up Mount Seymour. The Capilano Salmon Hatchery was always a favourite of mine when I was a kid. There are nice trails, bridges across the river and far less people than at the nearby Capilano suspension bridge.
posted by Cuke at 4:28 PM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

+1 for hopping on a ferry to one of the small islands. They each have equal amounts of unique charm so you could probably choose based just on scheduling/cost/duration. Sea kayaking is quite nice in the gulf islands.
If money isn't an issue, float planes are another way to island hop, unforgettable for the kids.

For whistler: mountain biking is fantastic. If that's a fit, find a tour company that will meet your adventurousness or go it alone.

And if you do Stanley Park in Vancouver, way better on foot or bike.

Smoke mentioned above is worth keeping an eye on.
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 9:38 PM on June 23, 2019

If you do head out to UBC to see the MOA, consider making a day of it. The Botanical Gardens are quite lovely and varied. The TreeWalk is probably the most adventurous option if you want action, and Nitobe is beautiful all year (they do tea ceremonies as well, but I don't think there will be any happening during your visit). A variety of tours are offered, but you can also just enjoy things on your own.

You can do a bundled admission pass good for the Gardens and MOA (plus gift shop discounts and 10% off TreeWalk tickets). There's also the underrated -- and free! -- Pacific Museum of Earth. And Rain or Shine Ice Cream has an outpost right near the major campus bus depot, for a treat afterwards. You could even go to the beach (though fair warning: Wreck Beach is clothing-optional).
posted by halation at 10:43 PM on June 23, 2019

Oh, one other point: you'll be visiting during BC Day, which is a statutory holiday. Ferries may be overbooked on that long weekend, and popular hikes / beaches / the Stanley Park seawall / etc. might be extra-crowded. Places may be closed or have abbreviated opening hours on Monday the 5th, including restaurants, and transit will be on a holiday schedule -- so be sure to factor that in to your plans.
posted by halation at 10:54 PM on June 23, 2019

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