Vancouver au Natural

This multicultural destination offers a mix of city adventures and natural spaces to explore with your family.
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Seawall
VANCOUVER BY BIKE: Bike around Stanley Park on seawall, a bike path along the water  (courtesy, Tourism Vancouver)

We had just biked along the storied seawall, a path around Stanley Park in Vancouver, watching floatplanes fly from the snowcapped peaks of the north to land in the long inlet of Inner Harbor. I followed the kids as they veered away from the salty air, deep into an enchanted forest of tall firs, cedars, and hemlocks. The soft trails wove up and down the hills past lily-laden ponds and under towering sequoias. We took a breather near one toppled tree, where someone had scribbled the words "800 Years Old" on its severed trunk.

"Is that true?" asked my nine-year-old, Melanie. Staring in wonder at its immense length and girth, I had no reason to doubt the claim.

There's something magical about a dense forest sloping down to meet the sea. When a large patch of green is part of an urban center, as is the case with Vancouver's Stanley Park, it creates a retreat where nature may blend harmoniously into the city. A metropolis rich with multiculturalism stands on equal footing with the lush park scenery. The third largest Chinatown in North America merges with the lengthy history of the First Nation tribes to create a destination that will intrigue the entire family.

We parked our bikes at the Vancouver Aquarium, also located in Stanley Park, and headed to the outdoor tanks. Beluga whales were winning the hearts of young admirers as they rose to the surface to spew water out of their blowholes. I am convinced that one of the giant creatures winked at Melanie before diving below. Nearby, adorable sea otters stayed busy floating on their backs amongst the kelp.

Our motivation to visit the aquarium began with a desire to get up close and personal with Tag, one of the few male Steller sea lions held in captivity. We had signed up in advance for one of the Aquarium's Trainer Tours with a guide, Lindsay, to get a behind-the-scenes feel of working with marine mammals. Tag weighed in at a svelte 1,200 pounds, down from 2,000, as he'd fasted through most of the summer mating season. But now, as the cooler fall months drew near, the burly boy had begun beefing up and was hungry for a meal.

It was our job to fill a silver pail with herring and throw the fish into Tag's mouth. First, he had to perform a series of tricks. Melanie pointed at him and he stuck out his tongue, earning a herring. My son, Jake, tapped his hand on his shoulder and Tag splashed us with his fin. Another herring. My wife opened and shut her hand and Tag gave us a loud bark. The large pail of fish disappeared into his mouth in a matter of minutes.

Published: 19 Sep 2007 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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Best Hotels in Vancouver

$184-$242
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#1
L'Hermitage
$294-$356
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#2
Fairmont Pacific Rim
$215-$309
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#3
Pan Pacific Vancouver
$236-$275
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#4
Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver

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