Vancouver, British Columbia, is the biggest city on Canada's West Coast and one of the biggest and most vibrant in the country. Surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of the North Shore and the glittering Pacific Ocean, Vancouver abounds with both indoor and outdoor activities that can keep the whole family entertained and happy. Whether you want to enjoy outdoor adventures or spend some time inside the best museums in Vancouver on a rainy day, this Pacific Coast city has plenty to offer.
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Arguably Vancouver's top tourist attraction, Stanley Park is a must-visit while you're in the city. Located right on the edge of downtown Vancouver, this 1000 acre park is renowned for its natural beauty. Stanley Park has grassy areas that resemble any urban park elsewhere in the world, but most of the park is made up of dense coastal rainforest pierced with almost 30 km of hiking trails to explore. The park also contains several beaches and is surrounded by the Seawall, the best place in Vancouver to take a bike ride while you enjoy stunning views of the ocean and the mountains of North Vancouver.
Stanley Park also offers more than just hiking and biking. You can take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, get some exercise on the public tennis courts, play golf at the pitch and putt course, learn more about First Nations culture at the park's totem poles, or take a ride on the miniature railway. With so much to do here, it's easy to see that Stanley Park is one of the best things to do in Vancouver with kids. And that's without mentioning that it's home to the Vancouver Aquarium, which deserves its own entry on this list. Stanley Park is easily accessible via public transportation, and is absolutely free to visit, making it one of the best free things to do in Vancouver too.
Stanley Park is already packed with family-friendly activities, but the Vancouver Aquarium, located in the heart of the park, really stands out. This beloved facility is home to sea otters, sea lions, beluga whales, octopuses, and other fascinating marine life of the Pacific Northwest. Hands-on exhibits allow kids to get to grips with creatures like starfish and crustaceans, and the aquarium is also home to land-based animals in the Amazon Gallery and a 4D movie experience. Plus, the aquarium houses a marine mammal rescue center, so by paying the cost of admission, you'll also be supporting a worthy cause.
Located just to the south of downtown Vancouver across False Creek, Granville Island has to be one of the most kid-friendly places in all of Vancouver. Home to the Granville Island Public Market, the best place in the city to shop for local produce and gifts, Granville Island is also a great place to enjoy the many restaurants, trendy shops, and art galleries that have made their home in this formerly industrial district. Grab some food or a couple of ice creams to enjoy on the outdoor patio overlooking False Creek while you enjoy the live entertainment provided by the many street performers, and you'll see why the market is such a popular place to explore.
But there's more to Granville Island than just its public market. It's also home to the largest free water park in North America. And if that's not enough, you can explore the popular Kids Market, which contains a play area and shops devoted to locally crafted toys and games. There's even an Adventure Zone, an indoor jungle gym where younger kids can burn off some energy while you take a break and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of Granville Island. The presence of the Kids Market and the water park make this easily one of the best places to visit in Vancouver with kids.
Pacific National Exhibition
If you're willing to head a little outside of downtown Vancouver, you'll find all the fun of the fair at the Pacific National Exhibition. Vancouver's biggest amusement park, Playland at the PNE, as it's known to locals, is open throughout the summer. It offers carnival rides, mini-golf, bumper cars, and more than a few games where you can try your hand at winning prizes. Plus, the PNE is the best place to find all your favorite amusement park foods. If it can be deep-fried, it will be here. The PNE is easy to reach by public transit from downtown Vancouver, so if your kids like roller coasters, this is the place to come.
You can't really miss Grouse Mountain. Rising above the city to the north, this is one of the premier outdoor playgrounds in the city and a fantastic place to visit in Vancouver with kids. If you want to maximize your time in the fresh air, you can walk up the mountain on the grueling Grouse Grind, but for families with kids, a better option is to ride the gondola that will take you to the summit of the mountain. From there, you'll be treated to expansive views of Vancouver, the surrounding mountains, and the shining sea. You'll also find a restaurant, a grizzly bear enclosure, falconry shows, a skating park, a sledding track, and the Theater In The Sky, which shows films explaining the ecology of the mountain. You could easily spend a whole day on top of the mountain enjoying everything there is to do, and viewing a sunset from the peak is a truly unforgettable experience.
One of the best interactive museums in Canada, Science World has a lot to offer families looking for an educational experience. This state-of-the-art science center lets you explore the human body, learn about scientific research in the Living Lab, or fly like a bird thanks to its state-of-the-art virtual-reality experience. There are also puzzles and games and a Wonder Gallery, a soft play area ideal for younger kids. Science World has enough variety in its interactive exhibits to keep kids of any age entertained, and it's also a fascinating place to visit for adults. There's even an IMAX movie theater where you can enjoy the latest 3D movies at this exciting science center.
Vancouver International Children's Festival
If you're lucky enough to find yourself in Vancouver in late May and early June, you'll have the chance to visit Vancouver International Children's Festival. Held on Granville Island, this annual festival celebrates performing arts and aims to get kids involved in performance. Child-friendly shows include theater, musical performance, puppetry, and many other disciplines, and the shows are designed to appeal to kids of a variety of ages. Plus, there's so much to do with kids on Granville Island, to begin with, that if you can combine it with the festival, you'll have days worth of activities to keep you busy.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
If your kids are thrill-seekers, head to North Vancouver to explore Capilano Suspension Bridge. This pedestrian-only bridge sways above the Capilano Gorge, surrounded by lush rainforest and offers magnificent views of the rushing river below. A ticket to the bridge also gives you access to the Treetops Adventure, a series of smaller bridges that form an assault course through the tall trees of the surrounding forest.
If the price of admission to Capilano seems a little steep, you could instead consider visiting Lynn Canyon Park. Also located on the North Shore, this park has its own suspension bridge and equally gorgeous forest surroundings, but is totally free to visit.
This unique experience is a great activity for one of Vancouver's many rainy days. Located at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver, Flyover Canada takes you on an aerial journey over the entire country. With your feet dangling, you'll soar above mountain and prairie, and simulated wind, movement, and even smells offer an incredibly immersive experience. Short but sweet, this ride is a great way to see more of the country without leaving downtown.
Have a Beach Day
The waters of the Pacific Ocean surrounding Vancouver are chilly all year-round, but that doesn't mean you can't spend some time on the beach. Vancouver is full of great beaches, each with its own unique atmosphere, and many of them make great places to take kids. For example, Kits Beach in the west side neighborhood of Kitsilano offers an outdoor pool that is open from May until early September. It also offers a huge sandy beach with plenty of gigantic driftwood logs that make great places to sit. There's an outdoor playground and beach volleyball courts, and you can also grab lunch from one of the many restaurants that line the street behind the beach or bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a day at the edge of the sea.
Vancouver Police Museum
For older kids who like a little bit of gore, Vancouver Please Museum is a must-visit. Located in an understated location on the east side of Vancouver, this quirky museum occupies the former coroner's facility of Vancouver, and still contains the morgue drawers from its previous life. The museum offers a chilling exploration of true crime in Vancouver, telling the tale of gangsters, bootleggers, and even serial killers.
While you're in the neighborhood, you could follow up this chilling visit with a much more pleasant one to La Casa Gelato. Vancouver's largest gelato outlet offers more than 200 flavors, so you're bound to find something both you and the kids will like.
SeaBus to North Vancouver
North Vancouver is full of family-friendly attractions such as Grouse Mountain and Capilano Suspension Bridge. But you can also make the journey part of the destination by hopping on the SeaBus. This commuter catamaran travels from Vancouver to the north side of Burrard Inlet, and along the way, it offers incredible views of the city, the sea, and the mountains. As part of Vancouver's public transport infrastructure, it's also a very affordable way to cruise in the city. And when you disembark at Lonsdale Quay, you'll find a lively public market in terms of quirky stores and restaurants to keep you occupied.
Located just on the other side of the bridge from downtown, Vanier Park offers the incredible ocean and mountain views you'd expect from a Vancouver park. It's also home to the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, an annual theater festival that's one of the top cultural events in Vancouver. The park contains the Vancouver Museum if you're looking to learn more about the history of the city, and there's even a BMX Park to help you stay active. Plus, this windy park is one of the best places in the city to fly a kite.
The World of Kidtropolis
Richmond is a city just to the south of Vancouver across the Fraser River, and it's where you'll find the city's airport. It's also where you'll find The World of Kidtropolis. This unique attraction combines an indoor playground area and an interactive city model of Vancouver where your kids can drive around in a miniature car. Kidtropolis runs various programs throughout the year, so there's always something exciting going on here. Kidtropolis appeals mostly to children ages two to ten, so it's a great location for younger families.
What are the best family activities in Vancouver?
With so much to do in Vancouver, it's hard to pick just a few activities. Especially since all kids are different, and the best activities for your family will depend on what your kids like to do. However, Stanley Park is an icon of the city, and a must-visit while you're on the West Coast. Likewise, Granville Island offers seemingly endless options to keep families entertained, and you should definitely visit this unique location while you're in town.
But whatever you decide to see while you're in Vancouver, you'll have an easier time if you don't carry more than you need to. Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Vancouver, and you'll be in a better position to enjoy everything the city offers.