My family and I chose to live in Sidney, BC because it’s less rainy than Vancouver, but we love the latter city and are lured to it several times a year by its spectacular setting— on the sparkling Pacific beneath snow capped mountains—great Asian food and inexpensive activities that our whole family enjoys.
If you’re headed to Vancouver, here are some of our favorite things to do—and none of them will break the bank.
What To In Vancouver With Kids
Walk the seawall
Created in time for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, a 13-mile seawall and walking path stretches from the cruise terminal at the foot of Burrard Street all the way around Stanley Park, the largest public park in North America.
The seawall walk features fantastic views of the North Shore mountains and busy Burrard Inlet, Canada’s largest port. A walk along it will take you toward the Vancouver Aquarium, nestled among the enormous old-growth cedars and fir trees of Stanley Park.
This is an especially handy excursion if you’re in town to depart for an Alaskan cruise (or if you’ve just come from one).
Explore All of Robson Street
Robson Street is the city’s main tourist way. You’ll find plenty of souvenir shops and hot dog stands on upper Robson, but many visitors turn around before they reach the end of the street (at Denman). Those who venture all the way up will find a residential neighborhood with cafés, restaurants, and in particular, a thriving cluster of Japanese and Korean pub-style restaurants.
We always opt for Korean food during our visits, but if it seems too exotic, a Safeway at Denman and Robson is a great place to stock up for a picnic. Take your provisions and walk south along lively Denman Street. You’ll find the English Bay swimming area near the edge of Stanley Park.
Take the Seabus
This is a bona fide local experience, and what an experience it is.
Visitors to Vancouver often make the trek to the North Shore to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge or to take the gondola up Grouse Mountain. When we do either of these activities, we take the scenic route via the Seabus ferry.
Part of Vancouver’s inexpensive public transit system, it departs from the docks across from Waterfront Station on Burrard Inlet (about 2 blocks east of where the cruise ships berth) and goes to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. Our kids are always awed by the busy harbor as the Seabus slips between gigantic freighters, cruise ships and sometimes even navy cruisers. We can’t get enough of the fantastic views of the North Shore mountains, which are central to the lives of the locals with their ski hills and backcountry hiking trails. It’s a great experience for C$2 or C$3 per person.
At Lonsdale Quay there’s a market with local produce and plenty of places to eat. We prefer it to the more too-touristy Granville Market on False Creek. From there it’s pretty simple to arrange transportation to the Capilano Bridge or Grouse Mountain (you can return to downtown Vancouver via shuttle bus).
Hang out at Granville Island
Granville Island is in pretty much every guidebook to Vancouver, but as home to Emily Carr University (Canada’s preeminent school of art and design), it’s also a genuine community hub for Vancouverites. Parking can be a challenge so we typically take a water taxi from the north side of False Creek (fares top out at C$6.50 for adults and C$3.25 for kids).
Our kids love riding in the water taxis, and it puts them in a good enough mood to tolerate the stroll my wife and I love to take through the city’s small but thriving fashion district in Yaletown. Also, they know that if they’re good they’ll likely be rewarded with a trip to Telus Science World, further up False Creek and reachable via another water taxi.
Richmond is not listed as a destination in most guidebooks. But we find incredibly interesting and fun. Roughly 25% of Richmond’s residents hail from Asia, so it’s really easy to find authentic (and cheap) Hong Kong and Shanghai-style food. We think it’s the best Chinese food in Canada.
We take the Canada Line to Brighouse Station (on No. 3 Road in Richmond). That puts us near Aberdeen Mall with its excellent food court full of Asian specialties like congee, and dumplings that you won’t find at your average Chinese take-out shop. Half a block to the north, Yaohan Centre has more Asian restaurants, plus a supermarket with Japanese baked goods.
It’s on that sweet, if unconventional note, that we always head (a little reluctantly) back home to Sidney.
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Nevin Thompson lives in Sidney, BC with his family. He’s a marketing writer for the Cedarwood Inn and Suites, a hotel in Sidney.