Family Vacations to Vancouver, British Columbia

Granville Island Public Market, Vancouver, Canada
Granville Island Public Market (Tourism Vancouver-Al Harvey)

Vancouver Highlights

  • Hike and bike trails in Stanley Park along the waterfront and through thickets of trees.
  • Have a close encounter with a beluga whale at the Vancouver Aquarium.
  • Test the strength of your handshake, build gadgets, and discover science at TELUS World of Science.
  • Cross the gently swaying Capilano Suspension bridge and walk its Treetops Adventure course.
  • See impressive First Nations' totem poles at the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology.

Vancouver, the largest city in western Canada, is urban with an outdoorsy flair—not too hard to imagine when you consider that inlets of the Pacific Ocean surround Vancouver on three sides, the majestic Coast Mountains rise in the north, and the fertile farmlands of the Fraser Valley sprawl eastward. Along with its spectacular natural assets, this cosmopolitan city offers a temperate climate, one of Canada's mildest.

Take advantage of Vancouver's scenic setting by strolling, bicycling, or rollerblading in Stanley Park, a 1,000-acre oasis thick with trees. The park, located on a peninsula not far from the convention center and Gastown entertainment district, has miles of hiking and biking trails leading along the waterfront and through thickets of tall hemlock and cedar trees. Smell the flowers at the Rose Garden, swing through 18 holes of pitch-and-putt golf, and swim in Second Beach's pool (from Victoria Day, the third Monday in May, through Labor Day). Little ones like to pet the goats, sheep, and llama at the Children's Farmyard. Located in the park, the Vancouver Aquarium is home to sea otters, sharks, beluga whales, and a walkthrough Amazon rainforest with a regularly scheduled "thunderstorm." For an up-close adventure with one of the big boys, book the Beluga Encounter. You feed and touch these intelligent whales while assisting their trainers (ages eight and older, reserve ahead). A new 50,000-square-foot Discovery Education Centre with more exhibits is slated to open in Fall 2006.

There are hundreds of hands-on exhibits at TELUS World of Science. Measure the strength of your grip with a handshake tester, create comic strips with a zoetrope, build gadgets and take apart gizmos at Eureka!, and watch a Van de Graaff generator make sparks fly at a Centre Stage show.

Touch a real moon rock, take off on a space mission in a virtual simulator, and watch the stars at the planetarium, all part of the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. Or explore the city's history, art, and cultural roots at the Vancouver Museum, which houses a First Nations Gallery.

The University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology has an excellent collection of totem poles carved with ravens, bears, killer whales, and birds. The facility also displays the impressive "The Raven and the First Men" by Haida sculptor Bill Reid. The work depicts a raven pecking at a clamshell he finds, prying it open to coax the first humans into the world. Outside, tall memorial poles guard a Haida longhouse framed against a background of mountains and the sea.

Beat the traffic by taking the ferry to Granville Island. This rejuvenated industrial area has craft studios; a Kids-Only Market selling stuffed animals, toys, and collectibles; and a public market abuzz with vendors selling fresh seafood, flowers, cheeses, and pastries. Ecuadorian flute players, violinists, face painters, jugglers, and balloon artists add to the lively and colorful scene outside.

Not far from downtown, walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a gently swaying 450-foot-long and 230-foot-high bridge, made of reinforced steel, above the Capilano River. For more high thrills, sign up for the site's Treetops Adventure, a walk through the rainforest canopy on seven elevated suspension bridges.

Tip: Both Citypassports ( and See Vancouver & Beyond Smartvisit Card ( offer savings on scores of Vancouver attractions.

Recommended Side Trips: Whistler Blackcomb, Victoria's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 24 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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