Vancouver

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familt travel Vancouver

Concept restaurants on almost every block. Third wave coffee culture. A cutting-edge arts scene. Craft beer galore. A population of homesteader urbanites. Stunning ocean and mountain scenery.

Hyped for its glass skyline set against a dramatically rugged backdrop, Vancouver has really come of age since it hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010. The locals still play hard outside. But the rewards for doing so have become especially tempting.

We like this laid-back, West Coast city for family travel because of its hipster-meets-outdoor-adventure vibe, and its uncommonly friendly residents.

When to go:

Spring, summer or early fall. Spring is cherry blossom season. The weather is more often than not cooperative for a bike along the seawall. Summer is blissful beach life, with outdoor festivals galore. Fall is often a glorious, with rain holding off until the leaves change and the incredibly sophisticated cafe/bar/restaurant theme coming up with impressive local, seasonal food and drink – from craft brews to pumpkin donuts — showcasing BC bounty.  Winter in this temperate rain forest is a messy, drippy affair, unless you have big plans to head to Whistler and ski.


Family base camp: The West End

family travel Vancouver

Image: tdlucas5000

Vancouver has many distinct neighborhoods which spread out into what was once suburbs. While the it-neighborhoods for young families are far from downtown Vancouver attractions, the West End is a classic, if not “cool” central choice.

Bounded by water on three sides, it’s main allure since 1900 or so has been English Bay Beach, where endless views and glorious sunsets charm. Another compelling reason for setting up camp in the West End is extremely easy access to downtown and the remarkable 1,001-acre Stanley Park with its stands of old growth trees, the Vancouver Aquarium, and the seawall.

Vancouver is known for having the best Asian cuisine (in particular Chinese and Japanese) in North America. The West End is the best neighbourhood for encountering a dense selection of ramen, izakaya and sushi restaurants.

More fun facts: The West End is home to Davie Village,  (Davie Street between Burrard and Jervis) Vancouver’s strong, and proud  LGBT community known as “The Gaybourhood”.

The old-school highrises (built starting in the 1960s)  here are Vancouver’s first. If you keep an eye peeled you’ll see they’re  mixed in with a few heritage wooden homes built  1900-1930, and pretty low-rise deco buildings during the first condo boom in the 1930s-1950s.

Robson Street which connects the West End to downtown Vancouver is Vancouver’s main shopping drag with all the big box brands. Alberni, the parallel two streets over to the north east, is the upscale brand-name shopping thoroughfare.

The Sylvia

family travel Vancouver

Image: Blake Handley

We usually rely on Airbnb apartments because the self-catering aspect is so essential in family travel. But in Vancouver we book at The Sylvia in the West End because it’s front and center on English Bay, and adjacent to Stanley Park. This historic, ivy-covered hotel has unpretentious, family-friendly apartments with kitchens at decent rates.

Built in 1912, old shakes for a pioneer town, it’s a city landmark and also Vancouver’s first cocktail bar. More trivia: the famous Sylvia Hotel cat, “Mr. Got To Go”, has inspired two popular children’s books by Lois Simmie and illustrated by Cynthia Nugent. If it’s booked up, which it frequently is, check out Vancouver hotels and apartment rentals via Booking.com.

1154 Gilford St., Sylviahotel.com

Field trip 1: Exploring Stanley Park and tasting Vancouver’s renowned Asian cuisine

Greenhorn Espresso Bar

family travel Vancouver

Image: Commons/Takeaway

Take the whole family to breakfast at this attractive cafe meets flower shop, bakery and art gallery. Vancouver coffee culture is highly evolved and Greenhorn is an example of the best of the espresso school (as opposed to the siphon, aeropress, pourover). In addition to less common espresso drinks like dark and stocky cortados and perfectly creamy flat whites made with Moja hand-roasted espresso beans, they serve kid-size hot chocolate, fresh juices, crisp-outside, tender-inside Belgian waffles, tortillas, tiny croissants and other tempting breakfast fare for you and your small folk.

Grab a seat in the bright tile and wood interior, or the roomy patio, and eat well. You’re exploring Stanley Park next. It’s a short walk from Greenhorn to the many bike rental spots near the entrance to Stanley Park.

994 Nicola Street, Greenhorncafe.com

Stanley Park

Image: forester401

Image: forester401

The soft spot in the heart of all Vancouverites is a 404-hectare (1,000-acre) emerald green Stanley Park situated on a peninsula just off the northwestern edge of downtown Vancouver. Founded in 1888, this is not a fussy, manicured park; it’s a rugged, magical space meant to preserve the Vancouver the pioneers first encountered.

Inside, stands of stands of old growth trees rub shoulders with BC First Nations totem poles. The Vancouver Aquarium educates visitors on 9,000 species of marine life; a heron colony roosts near Beach Avenue. On the perimeter, the siren call of the sea and spectacular views beckon. The views of English Bay, North Shore Mountains and temperate rain forest will get you in that contemplative vacation mind-set.

Vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/stanley-park.aspx

Stanley Park Seawall

family travel Vancouver

Image: Dave King

The only feasible way to truly explore the wild beauty in one day is to rent bikes with kid seats or  a bike trailer from the rental shops near the Georgia Street entrance, and cruise the 8.8 kilometre seawall perimeter. Technically, this should take you an hour or so, but you’re going to be getting off an on for photos and small adventures, so the timing is in your capable hands.

Of the hundreds of things to do, the most interesting and easiest things to encounter on the seawall from east to west are:

  • The First Nations Totem Poles at Brockton Point — a good reminder that the land once belonged to someone else.
  • The view of the Lion’s Gate Bridge and North Shore from Prospect Point, which also has a cafe and grill (fish and chips, craft beer, coffee, maple ice cream) if you need a refuel.
  • 32-million-year old Siwash Rock jutting up from the water between Lion’s Gate Bridge and Third Beach is another breathtaking sight. Nearby you’ll also find Hollow Tree, a 700- to 800-year-old Western Red Cedar tree stump you can walk inside. Vancouverites, tourists and even elephants have been doing so since the 1800s.
  • Second and Third beaches (with swimming pool and playgrounds at Second Beach) farther along on the south western side are also a great place for kids to get wet and blow off steam.

Motomachi Shokudo

ramen vancouver

Image: Noshandnibble.com

Come lunchtime, explore The West End’s Ramenland. Motomachi is the foodie darling. This tiny noodle bar is a few blocks out from the Stanley Park and is an excellent refuel point, with continuous service from lunch through late night.

The must-try is the smoky bamboo charcoal miso broth ramen, with an unusual depth of flavour – dare we say umami – springy noodles, char siu,  soft boiled agg and bamboo shoots. The bamboo charcoal is not just for taste, it’s also said to help you detox. Second best bowl – spicy miso with organic chicken. In summer, you can and should order cold ramen. The gyoza here are great for small folk with busy fingers.

If Motomachi is full, scoot a few doors down to Kintaro, their more straight-laced but skilled big sister. The must order here is miso tonkatsu.

Tip: bring a clip-on travel high chair, if it’s easier for you than bouncing your small folk on your lap. They don’t have high chairs.
740 Denman Street, no website

Vancouver Aquarium

family travel Vancouver

Image: Vancouver Aquarium

Ask any Vancouver kid about the best thing to do in Vancouver, and they’ll send you to the Vancouver Aquarium. Parents love it too for its high quality educational experiences and its late-night adult only events.

Home to 50,000 aquatic critters including joyful dolphins, snow white belugas, oft-misunderstood sharks, playful otters and adorable African penguins, you can easily spend an entire day exploring the galleries and attending the educational activities. Check the daily schedule, and take your pick. You can meet the penguins, watching a scuba diver feed sharks, see joyful dolphins leap and splash, attend a sing-a-long or even dip your hands into a touch pool and feel marine life for yourself.

The Aquarium’s mission – conservation of aquatic life through display and interpretation, education, research and direct action – is obvious in their programming. Even the shows where dolphins appear to perform is based on behaviour the animals display in their natural environment. Although young kids will be mesmerized in pretty much any part of the aquarium, Clownfish Cove is  an area specifically for under eights where they learn by play to wonder at and care for our oceans.

Take your time here because you paid dearly for it. It’s $29 per adult. But on the plus side, kids 3 and under are free.

845 Avison Way, Vanaqua.org

Kingyo Izakaya

family travel Vancouver

Image: Kingyo

Come dinner time, it’s a 10-minute bike ride or 2-minute car ride from the Vancouver Aquarium to izakya restaurant Kingyo. Izakaya, a.k.a. snacky Japanese comfort food, is an art Vancouver excels at and small folk love. There are many izakaya choices in the West End (including Hapa Izakaya and Guu) but Kingyo is our go-to for atmosphere and food.

Although izakaya dishes are supposed to be stomach liner for drinking, they’re elevated to the main show at Kingyo. The chefs have a delicate touch and a talent for showcasing the freshest of BC’s seafood.

Our must-orders: melt-in-your-mouth ahi tuna and avocado carpaccio with garlic chips, crunchy chicken karaage with Himalayan salt, deep-fried takoyaki fish pate balls, and grilled black cod with homemade sweet miso.

Bonus: the staff yells in unison when guests enter and leave, driving small folk mad with glee. Plus no one will hear them if they’re noisy too. Tip: bring a clip-on travel high chair, if it’s easier for you than bouncing your small folk on your lap. They don’t have high chairs.

871 Denman St., Kingyo-izakaya.ca

Bella Gelateria

family travel Vancouver

Image: Derek Kay

Every beach town needs a talented gelato maker. Skip the chains like DQ lining Denman and stroll or bike from izakaya dinner over to the Bella cafe for a sweet finish.

Bella Gelateria’s founder James Coleridge scoops up awards at the annual show down in Florence, Italy. Coleridge’s technical prowess is obvious whether you order classic chocolate, or a trend-conscious flavour like salted caramel. For sorbet, our pick is vanilla-orange, a sophisticated reinterpretation of a creamsicle pop.

Sunset in Vancouver in summer is around 9pm, giving you plenty of time to consume this delight and make it to nearby Canada Place waterfront for the glinting flamingo-tangerine horizon against the North Shore mountains.

1001 West Cordova, Bellagelateria.com

Canada Place

family travel Vancouver

Image: marc falardeau

The Canada Place waterfront, where the explorers first landed, is currently Vancouver’s cruise ship terminal and convention centre. The iconic structure made up of massive white sails jutting out over the dark blue water is their West Coast equivalent of the Sydney Opera House, and makes for impressive Instagram fodder.

Canada Place, Canadaplace.ca

Digital Orca

family travel Vancouver

Image: Philip Jama

Nearby in Jack Poole Plaza, Digital Orca, a pixelated whale sculpture by groundbreaking Vancouver author and artist Douglas Coupland, is a must-see. The monochrome beast is jumping skyward against a stunning North Shore Mountain backdrop. Next to it you’ll find the Vancouver Olympic Cauldron, lit by Wayne Gretzky during the 2012 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies.

Field trip 2: Exploring Heritage Gastown & Canada’s largest Chinatown

Cartem’s Donuterie

family travel Vancouver

Image: Cartems Donuterie

We recommend keeping your bikes another day and cycling 15 minutes south east from the Sylvia along the Vancouver harbor until it becomes Gastown. Right before you enter Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, visit Cartems Donuterie for artisan doughnuts and a mug of milk, or for parents, some gorgeous light-roast pourover coffee. The shop is a bright, treat-filled happy place made from reclaimed wood. The doughnuts are divine.

Maple walnut, bacon and whiskey, rhubarb compote filled “jelly” doughnuts, IPA-glazed yeast o’s, coconut chocolate cake doughnuts,  lavender diplomat cream bismarcks, Boston creams with organic vanilla cream and chocolate glaze. Your day could start and end here.

We won’t judge you if you take a cheerful red box of  indulgence for the road. 

534 West Pender, Cartems.com

Gastown

family travel Vancouver

Image: Payton Chung

Now that you’ve got sticky fingers and a caffeine/sugar buzz going, roll into Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, which was designated a national historic site by the Canadian government in 2009. With red brick and cobblestones, old-fashioned lamp posts, and stand-out architecture like the Dominion Building, it’s about as charming and old-town as a British colony can get.

Where once there were saloons for rowdy lumbermen, you’ll find some of the city’s most sophisticated concept restaurants and boutiques. Gastown led the way during the maker-led coolification of Vancouver. It has even been listed among the most stylish neighborhoods in the world.

Admittedly, this neighbourhood is a tad tedious for small folk. For parents, however, Gastown is a win. Remind them about taking turns. Their time is coming soon. You already bribed them with some overpriced but so tasty artisan doughnuts. Check out the scene, the architecture and poke into a few cafes and shops before taking them for a proper romp in Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden one neighborhood over in Chinatown.

Old Faithful Shop

family travel Vancouver

Image: Old Faithful Shop

A lovingly-curated cache of pioneer chic home accessories awaits you here. Brass tipped sheesham salad servers. Duck canvas and leather aprons. MAKR wallets. Over-the-shoulder growler carriers.

You will surely find domestic treasures and pantry items you want to find a way to fit in your suitcase, and possibly even pass on to your kids.

The owners (one is descended from a genuine general store owner) are the essence of kindness. Your small folk will love the in-store French bulldog Jean-Pierre. He’s very friendly to people who smell like snacks.

320 West Cordova, Oldfaithfulshop.com

One of a Few

family travel Vancouver

Image: One of a Few

Leave the mama here for a  browse through a carefully edited selection of clothing, footwear and jewellery from local and international designers, while papa and the small folk go check out the Gastown Steam Clock. Owner Michelle Rizzardo has an eye for classics and cutting-edge design. Her shop is a walk-in closet of infinitely wearable and beautiful pieces.

The prices aren’t as minimal as the design, but they are constructed to last until you’ve got grand kids. Brand name dropping: Rachel Comey, Creatures of Comfort and Clare V. and Jesse Kamm.

354 Water Street, Oneofafew.com

Gastown Steam Clock

family travel Vancouver

Image: GoToVan

Every 15 minutes Gastown’s famous Steam Clock (built 1977) at Cambie and Water Street toots and steams, so join the throngs with cameras and cheer, because small folk find it amusing. The tune is Westminster Quarters, the same you’ll hear from clocks like Big Ben in London and the church of St Mary the Great in Cambridge.

Although the clock is built on a steam vent from the city’s downtown centralized heating system, which powers a miniature steam engine, it also relies on electric motors. The whistle is from a Canada Pacific Railroad train.

Ella + Elliot

family travel Vancouver

Image: Ella + Elliot

Ella + Elliot carries practical as well as frivolous well-designed baby products for parents with good taste. Think chic wooden toys that are way too heavy for your suitcase , bright flat-packed Artecnica paper mobiles which will fit in your suitcase, as well as small items like Boon nosh containers, rattles, crochet balls, natural pacifiers, stroller toys, bamboo washcloths and  other items you might need to refresh while on the road.

126 West Hastings, Ellaandelliot.com

The Block

family travel Vancouver

Image: The Block

Designed to look like your cool friend’s living room, The Block is the ultimate co-ed destination for style-conscious. Find menswear by Portland’s Bridge & Burn for pops. Mama will love the floaty Ulla Johnson dresses.

You’ll also find Vancouver-made leather goods like satchels by Erin Templeton and key fobs and wallets  by artisan Ken Diamond.

350 West Cordova, Theblock.ca

Revolver Coffee

Vancouver guide

Image: Kenny Louie

Get your second coffee perk of the day at Revolver Coffee, ground zero for the Vancouver coffee culture revolution. Run by four knowledgeable and passionate brothers, this beautiful wood-and-brick coffee bar offers coffee by seed-to-cup, small-batch roasters from Brooklyn, Berlin and beyond.

They will manually brew it for you however you choose: siphon, Aeropress, French press or Clever. Take it to go or find seating in their expansion Archive, next door where they also sell coffee accessories.

325 Cambie Street, Revolvercoffee.ca

Chinatown

family travel Vancouver

Image: Lee Ann Cafferata

Canada’s largest Chinatown is a fascinating neighborhood in full-on transition. Part old-school curio shops, bakeries and herbalists and part indie galleries, boutiques, and restaurants, the contrast is exhilarating. The onslaught of bright market colors, smells, nick-knacks and are super fun for your kiddos.

Built in the late 1800s, Chinatown is Vancouver’s second oldest neighborhood. In its early days it was a ghetto on the edge of town for the early Chinese immigrants, who arrived to work on B.C.’s railroads and in the mines. Today, 17% of Vancouverites speak Chinese at home, and while the majority of the Canadian Chinese population in Vancouver has migrated to the suburbs, many still choose to shop at the downtown shops for groceries and specialty items.

You enter the neighbourhood, whch is next door to Gastown, through the much-photographed  Millennium Gate at West Pender and Taylor Street.Chinatown’s architecture and world-ranked Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden also make it well worth your family’s time.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Park

family travel Vancouver

Image: Caitriana Nicholson

Let the small folk run free is this peaceful urban oasis. Ranked the World’s Top City Garden by National Geographic, the intricate space has pagodas, winding covered walk ways, a jade green fish pond  with koi,  150-year old miniature trees and tai hu rock all imported from China.

Admission includes free Chinese tea and a scavenger hunt for kids old enough to participate. The adjacent Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park is a public space that shares the same fish pond and is free to explore.

578 Carrall Street, Vancouverchinesegarden.com

Bestie

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Image: Steven Schwartz

This self-described “friendly little sausage and beer parlour” has set up shop in Chinatown’s heritage Columbia Block Building. Inspired by German street food, Bestie serves up a selection of finely crafted sausages, crispy fries, tasty side salads, fresh baked pretzels, and Chinatown’s finest currywurst.

The classic pork currywurst is a our go-to but pickier friends appreciate their more creative haute dogs like veggie brats, elk sausage and turkey chorizo. Bestie works with local inputs including Urban Vancouver farms and uses sustainably raised meats. You’ll find some of our favorite Vancouver craft brewers, like 33 Acres, here on tap here, as well as kombucha in a can, and a fun selection of fancy pop for the small folk.

Bestie is open continuously from 11am through late night, so you can do early lunch, or early dinner here with the kiddos at off-peak hours. It’s worth mentioning that the restaurant design, from the wood booths to the ceramics mimicking street food plates, is inspiring.

105 East Pender, Bestie.ca

New Town Bakery

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Image: Robyn Lee

Save room after lunch for some authentic Chinatown schnacks. You’ll spot New Town Bakery’s  enormous steam basket on their red awning a block or so away. As you get closer, the aroma of soft, sweet just-baked bread will pull you in. This family-run bakery does the best bbq pork steam buns in Vancouver.

Other guilty pleasures: custard and sweet black bean paste rolls. Whatever you select, you won’t spend much. Their prices have hovered around $1 per bun for the last decade or so.

148 East Pender, Newtownbakery.ca

Field trip 3: Granville Island kitsch and beach/pool fun in Kitsilano

Granville Island

family travel Vancouver

Image: Cord Rodefeld

Granville Island, the second most-visited tourist attraction in Canada after Niagara Falls, has a scenic location on False Creek across from downtown and tucked under Vancouver’s Granville Bridge. It’s claim to fame is a really well publicized covered food market.

Although many of the market vendors haven’t kept up with the maker-led revolution that’s torn through the rest of the Vancouver food scene, there’s still a certain je ne sais quoi about taking a boat there and reveling in the lively atmosphere. Other perks for families: a free water park, duck pond, and a Kids’ Market.

Granvilleisland.com

Aquabus

family travel Vancouver

Image: Ruth Hartnup

The most fun way to get to Granville Island is to hop on a rainbow water taxi. Vancouver’s vibrant fleet of Aquabus leave from Hornby Street in the West End every 5 minutes. If your small folk enjoy the boat ride as much as ours do, you may want to take a full 25 minute tour of all the False Creek ferry stops for a few dollars more, before disembarking at Granville Island.

Many aquabuses do take bikes, so again, hang onto your cycle because it will make getting to Kitsilano quick and easy.
Hornby Street Waterfront, Theaquabus.com

Granville Island

Vancouver guide

Image: Mike McHolm

As you approach the island on your aquabus, keep an eye out for Sea Village, an aquatic cul-de-sac of 13 brightly painted floating homes. Once you disembark, head to the vibrant Granville Island Public Market, a cliched but worth it stop with dozens of food vendors and craftsmen.

On your short walk over, don’t miss the neon 23-metre mural “Giants” painted on Granville Island’s concrete silos by Brazilian street artists OSGEMEOS.

Completed in late 2014, the public art shows where Vancouver is heading and highlights one of  the last shreds of evidence of this tourist destination’s industrial past. It’s visible from Johnston Street between the sea bus landing and the Burrard Bridge.

Granville Island Public Market

family travel Vancouver

Image: chrisada

Granville Island Public Market has all sorts of locally-made picnic supplies, which you can take with you on your way to your next adventure. The market can be crowded and overwhelming, however.

If you fear you may lose stamina poking around produce stands and pie shops before you find the best artisan eats, book a Granville Island Market Tour with Vancouver Foodie Tours. They guide you through two hours of tasting including locally-made charcuterie, small-batch cheese, doughnuts and even fermented cuisine.

On Thursdays in summer, there’s a farmer’s market outside of the public market which has an even better selection that the smorgasbord within.

1689 Johnston Street, Granvilleisland.com/public-market

Edible Canada

family travel Vancouver

Image: Edible Canada

The Public Market is a great place to people watch, but the absolute must-visit for unabashed foodies on Granville Island is Edible Canada, a remarkable space dedicated to showcasing the best of BC and Canadian made cuisine with their bistro and artisan food retail store.

You’ll find all sorts of things you should gift, but you’ll be tempted to keep for yourself: birch syrup, bourbon maple syrup,  wine marinated wild pacific salmon, BC-made cedar cooking planks, Beta 5 chocolate bars and locally-themed cookbooks, so you can recreate PNW cuisine at home.

1551 Johnston Street, Ediblecanada.com

Kids Market

family travel Vancouver

Image: Kids Market

Small folk enter this realm through a miniature door. Inside, toy stores, book stores, play zones and an arcade await. The space was a paint factory in a past life, so it’s an interesting space.

We recommend setting a budget before you’re exposed to the overabundant retail options. On the main floor, Humpty Dumpty Books & Music stocks classic and hard-to-find titles. Over a dozen toy stores have more crafts, gizmos, wotsits, puppets, train sets, kites, games and building blocks than we could come up with on a dozen or more Christmas lists.

On the second floor you’ll find a multi-level adventure zone with twisty slide. Outside there’s a free water park (summer only) and a duck pond.

1496 Cartwright Street, Kidsmarket.ca

Go Fish

family travel Vancouver

Image: Roland Tanglao

Tucked away on the seawall a stone’s throw from Granville Island and on your way to Kitsilano, you’ll find a tiny fish shack with a long line. Halibut and cod in crispy batter. Fish tacos with slaw. Scallop sandwiches. The fish and chips and tacos are always on offer. The sandwich special vary depending on the catch of the day. Eat there or take it with you to Kitsilano Beach (5 minute bike ride) for a better view.

1505 W 1st Avenue, 11:30am-6:30pm Tue-Sun , No website

Kitsilano neighbourhood

Vancouver guide

Image: Xia Li

Pretty, posh Kitsilano neighbourhood and its Kitsilano Beach are named after Squamish First Nation chief August Jack Khatsahlano (1867-1971). Present day Kits is a fashionable neighbourhood with locavore eats, juiceries, yoga studios, and extensive shopping. Among the many boutiques and big box stores on it’s main artery, West 4th Avenue, you’ll find including design-conscious baby boutiques and the flagship Lululemon shop, on West 4th.

But it was not always so.

After the First Nations people were unceremoniously pushed out of Kits in 1913, the area transitioned from a beach getaway for urban Vancouverites to a residential neighbourhood of Vancouver, characterized by gingerbread Craftsman-style homes. By the 1960s-70s it was a counterculture enclave for Vancouver hippies. Today much of the counter culture has been erased by yuppiedom, but there’s still enough  aging hippies, veg restaurants, recreational marijuana smoking, and record stores to nod to its edgier past.

Kitsilano Beach and Kitsilano Pool

family travel Vancouver

Image: Jennifer C.

Picture-perfect Kitsilano Beach has been ranked among the best urban beaches in the world. It’s also been ranked the most sexy, not necessarily a draw for small folk. But they will appreciate the new and always-packed playground right behind it.

Here you’ll find folks of all ages sunning themselves, doing yoga, playing volleyball and jogging. It’s impossible to miss the breathtaking views of downtown Vancouver (just across the Burrard Bridge) and the North Shore. You can swim. And do some good sand play.

You’ll have even more family fun just a little farther along the path at the Kitsilano Pool, a salt-water, outdoor pool located along the beach that has a kiddie area and a small splash park. On summer nights, there’s also free, live family entertainment on the retro Kitsilano Showboat stage just behind the pool.

 2305 Cornwall Street, Vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/kitsilano-pool.aspx

Fable Kitchen

family travel Vancouver

Image: Fable

It’s time to get involved with the fresh, creative bounty that is contemporary West Coast cuisine. Unpretentious yet incredibly skilled, Fable (short for farm to table) is the place to try it in Kitsilano.

Wild BC salmon with kale and sunchokes. Gnocchi with burnt onions and pulled pork. Butcher’s cut steaks with thrice-cooked potatoes and wild mushroom stew. Maple syrup cake. A Canadian cheese plate. A BC-sourced wine list.

Did we mention they love children? It’s rare to find such a child-friendly demeanor when the cooking is this sophisticated.

1944 West 4th, Fablekitchen.ca

Rain or Shine Homemade Ice Cream

Image: Rain or Shine

Image: Rain or Shine

Give those small folk a happy ending by strolling up West 4th to Rain or Shine Homemade Ice Cream. Rain or Shine makes classic, creamy North American frozen dairy; they get creative in the presentation and flavours.

A whimsical cow mascot with a unicorn horn oversees your selection. On the menu, ice cream tacos and ice cream tasting flights are on offer besides the usual suspects cups and waffles cones. Keeper flavours like chocolate and vanilla have a hard time getting attention with honey lavender, coconut salted fudge, lemon squared, and peanut butter on the menu. Their ice cream is made with local milk and, when possible, locally-sourced mix-ins such as honey and berries.

1926 West 4th, Rainorshineicecream.com

Field trip 3: Science World, craft beer culture and Main Street

The area around Science World in Olympic Village and False Creek Flats is undergoing a lot of new development and is slated to be the future heart of Vancouver. It’s already worth a visit because of Science World, Vancouver’s rapidly growing craft brewery scene, and the slew of contemporary art galleries around here. Continuing up Main Street, from here you enter another Vancouver enclave of cool that rivals Gastown for restaurants and shops.

Science World

family travel Vancouver

Image: Ruth Hartnup

Housed in a gigantic, shiny geodesic dome on the False Creek waterfront, Science World looks as fascinating and wacky as it is. Whether you have tiny small folk or blase teens, the floors of exhibits and experiments and outdoor learning will wow. They range from life sciences to environmental and physical science.

Launch a parachute. Capture your shadow. Plant a seed. Feed a chicken. Defy gravity! There is no limit to the the exploration that can happen in this stimulating and unpredictable space.

1455 Quebec Street, Scienceworld.ca

The Birds at Olympic Village

family travel Vancouver

Image: Matthew Grapengieser

The square in the center of Olympic Village, a complex of high rises, restaurants and retail on the seawall by Science World,  is an unofficial Vancouver family meeting place of sorts. Sandwiched between two massive craft beer restaurants and a community centre, it has running space and sculptures of two 5-meter sparrows by artist Myfanwy MacLeod. Kids love the big birds. Grown up tourists wait for small folk to move so they can take cheesy photos with them.

Note that the two craft beer restaurants on the square (Craft Beer Market and Tap & Barrel) are your easy options if you want kid-friendly service, high chairs, decent food and good beer. The cooler option, visiting a craft brewery and eating from a food truck, are harder but worth it.

Brassneck Brewery

family travel Vancouver

Image: Brassneck

Our picks for the combo of most talented brewers and best people watching? Brassneck, where friendly, and often bearded, employees pour a rotating selection of “dangerously drinkable” suds, and there’s usually a food truck parked out front.

Multiweizen 5-grain hefe. Passive Aggressive dry hopped ale. Mr. Personality amber. We love the names as much as the brews. We have brought babies and kids in here. It’s not common, but it’s not illegal. They were nice about it.

2148 Main Street, Brassneck.ca

33 Acres Brewery

family travel Vancouver

Image: 33 Acres

33 Acres, just off Main, is another great option. This incredibly well-designed, modern, white brewery has a highly-quaffable and tightly-curated list of suds on tap, and attractive beer merch like ceramic growlers. They too have food trucks out front at mealtimes, not to mention a snack menu that reads like a who’s who of cool Vancouver artisans, all-day coffee, and waffle and beer events. You will see well-dressed kids and parents in here. It’s representative sample of Vancouver’s hipster parents.

15 West 8th Avenue, 33acresbrewing.com

Farther afield: Capilano Suspension Bridge

family travel Vancouver

Image: Capilano Suspension Bridge

Part man-made spectacle, part jaw-dropping nature Capilano Suspension Bridge is 450 feet (137 m) long and hangs 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River over old growth rainforest. The original Capilano Suspension bridge was built in 1889. Since then, millions of people from all over the world have visited the bridge including rockstars, movie stars, and royalty.

The attraction keeps expanding its repertoire. In addition to the cable bridge, there are othe toe-tickling adventures such as Cliffwalk,  a cantilevered walkway clinging to the granite cliff high above Capilano Canyon, and a tree-top seven bridge walk.

Kids can explore rainforest plants and animals, and in summer, even meet a bird of prey close up during a raptor learning program.

Tickets are $38 for adults. Kids under 6 are free. The bridge is 15 minutes by car from downtown Vancouver.

3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver, Capbridge.com

Lead image: Destination BC/Albert Normandin

About author

Small Folk Travel

Small Folk Travel is a family travel site by mama and travel writer Taraneh Jerven. The Jerven family (two toddlers, one bun in the oven) travels incessantly. When researching our trips, we couldn't find the family travel coverage we were looking for. We did our own research. We wrote the family travel guides ourselves. Taraneh Jerven writes for international travel publishers including RoughGuides.com and DK Eyewitness Travel. We cover good stuff for discerning parents and their little ones. Often these overlap. If they don't, we take turns.

1 comment

  1. Maureen 17 February, 2016 at 15:39 Reply

    You did an awesome job of capturing some of the best things to see and experience in our city. Living here you sometimes forget what’s in your own backyard. I hope you all had a great time! Wonderful website for families traveling with kids.

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