Like Cheryl, I live in Toronto and have not seen as much of Canada as I would like to. So, I’m delighted to share this guest post about visiting the beautiful city of Vancouver with toddlers and kids in tow!
I’ll be the first to admit my family hasn’t really explored much of Canada even though we call Toronto, Ontario home. My husband and I are making the effort to show our kids how beautiful and diverse our country is, and decided to spend an extra three days in Vancouver, British Columbia after a family cruise vacation in Alaska this past summer.
This was my husband and my second visit to Vancouver, and our kids’ first time exploring this city of good food and outdoor adventures.
Where We Stayed in Vancouver
Our home base for the weekend was the Fairmont Waterfront – directly across from Canada Place (the cruise ship port in Vancouver). We walked off the boat and wheeled our suitcases into the lobby in less than five minutes.
The Fairmont Waterfront is known for its central downtown location and the harbour views from the rooms and outdoor pool. Our room consisted of a king bed with adjoining sitting room and pull out bed. Having two bathrooms and two TVs for our family of four to share was a nice change from the week that we spent in a 215 square foot cruise ship cabin. A mini-fridge (available on request) and in-room coffee maker made breakfast a breeze each morning.
We skipped renting a vehicle and opted to walk or use public transportation (shuttle buses, SkyTrain, and the Hop-On Hop-Off Vancouver Trolley) to get around the city. The hotel is walking distance from the Waterfront SkyTrain station, shuttle bus, and trolley stops and kid-friendly restaurants and shopping malls.
What to Do in Vancouver with Toddlers and Kids:
Three days was not enough to experience all that Vancouver has to offer but we managed to visit several of the city’s popular attractions.
Ask locals or those who have visited Vancouver before and they’ll all say Stanley Park is a must. The day we planned to explore Stanley Park was a wet one and we unfortunately didn’t get to do as much walking as we had hoped. The 1-hour Stanley Park Horse Drawn Trolley Tour was a good way to stay dry and see most of the park.
Located in Stanley Park is Vancouver Aquarium – Canada’s largest aquarium with over 70,000 creatures including dolphins, beluga whales, sloths, and snakes. There are exhibits indoors and outdoors here, and families can easily spend 3 to 4 hours at the aquarium. The aquarium is dedicated to aquatic life conservation and doubles as a rescue and rehab centre. My kids loved learning about beluga whales so much that we decided to adopt one after the show.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Prior to our weekend in Vancouver, my husband and I were hyping up our family’s visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. It’s not every day we get to venture through a Canadian rainforest.
Both my kids were eager to cross the bridge as soon as they saw it, which left this “I’m so afraid of heights” mama no choice but to white knuckle my way across the 450 foot long bridge with them.
We spent an hour walking from one treetop platform to another on the self-guided Rainforest Explorer’s tour and learned about the various animals and trees that call Capilano Suspension Bridge Park home. My daughter and son were so proud when they received their own Rainforest Explorer’s button at the end of the tour. Free souvenirs for the kids – woohoo!
Strollers are not allowed on the complimentary shuttle bus to the park nor are they allowed on the bridge. I’d recommend visiting with kids comfortable walking on their own or infants who can be worn in a soft infant carrier.
Just a few blocks away from Canada Place is the Olympic Cauldron – the 32 foot Olympic torch built for the 2010 Winter Games. My daughter remembered seeing it on TV and was ecstatic when we saw it in person. Set against the mountains and harbour, it made for a very pretty picture for our vacation scrapbook.
We had planned to visit Granville Island, Grouse Mountain, and Science World during our three day stay in Vancouver, but just couldn’t fit them all into our schedule. The Vancouver Aquarium and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park will take at least half a day or more with kids.
Eating Out in Vancouver with Toddlers and Kids:
Sushi, Indian Food, Ramen, Hand Crafted Gelato, Food Trucks – you name it, they have it in Downtown Vancouver.
Check out 1 of the 5 Guu Izakya establishments in Vancouver if you have a hankering for Japanese food. Small tapas like dishes are perfect for families with kids and the restaurants are fairly noisy so boisterous toddlers are welcome. I’d recommend Guu with Garlic on Robson Street.
Love dessert? Bella Gelateria on West Cordova Street near Canada Place is a popular gelato and dessert place for locals and visitors. If you arrive after opening, be prepared to wait up to 30 minutes for a scoop of some of the most unique gelato flavour combinations in the world.
My husband and I loved the Matcha and Black Sesame gelato and the kids inhaled the Yuzu Citrus and Strawberry Lime sorbets.
There are over 100 food trucks in the downtown area and it’s an affordable way to eat out with kids in a big city like Vancouver. We loved Japadog and Tacofino. We liked them so much we enjoyed several lunches and dinners from these two trucks alone.
We were hoping to try Mom’s Grilled Cheese and Fat Duck Mobile Eatery but ran out of time. If you’re into the food truck scene, make sure you download the free Street Food Vancouver app so you’re not wandering aimlessly on an empty stomach.
About the author: Cheryl Leung is the blogger behind Kids on a Plane – a family travel blog that focuses on exploring North America and the Caribbean with kids. When she’s not on a plane or on the road, Cheryl is having fun in the Greater Toronto Area with her two kids, husband, and sometimes drooling dog. Follow her family’s travel and food adventures on Instagram.
That suspension bridge looks so neat! Just went to Vancouver for the first time a couple weekends ago. Great city! Excited to go back and do some of these ideas when my daughter is older.
Ahh, Vancouver. The Los Angeles of Canada. I gotta say, you’ve got an amazing blog. So many people want to travel but feel like it’s impossible with kids, so your doing an amazing service for travel-hungry parents! A good tip to make the most of Vancouver with your kids is to use travel-savvy apps like airbnb and uber.
I will be traveling with two small children 5 & 3. I’m trying to stay downtown closer to the cruise ships we’ll be taking. How would recomend getting down there? I worry the laws on Canada are the same as the US and they will need a car seat and I do not want to travel with one since space is very limited in our ship cabin. Thank you
Hi Lu, I had the same concern when we went on our Alaskan cruise out of Vancouver. My younger daughter was not quite 4 and I didn’t want to lug a car seat on the cruise ship with me. We made arrangements with an airport limo company that provided booster seats to pick us up at the airport in Vancouver and drop us off at our hotel (the Fairmont Waterfront). We were able to walk from the hotel to the cruise terminal so didn’t need a car seat after that. I had already booked our excursions as well so knew that we wouldn’t be needing a car seat in any of our ports-of-call.
We visited Vancouver pre-cruise several years ago as well but only spent one day and wish we would have planned to spend more. All we managed to see was Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium on the day we arrived and we made time for a quick walk to the GasTown district the next morning before boarding our cruise ship. My husband and I visited Granville Island pre-kids and loved it!
We were in Victoria, BC last summer and were tempted to visit Vancouver, but didn’t have the time. The last time I was there was for the ’86 World Fair and I would love to return.
Great tips and they are really useful who travel most thanks for the share.
I adore Vancouver! Love that Fairmont as well!
Vancouver is one of my favorite cities. It is SO delicious, is close to great great skiing and has a gorgeous waterfront. Wish we lived close again!
I think *finally* we are headed to Vancouver in the late summer. Can’t wait!
My husband and I want to visit vancouver with our 22mo old son. Do you think a car is necessary? Or should we stick with public transportation?
Vancouver is remarkably easy to get around on foot and using public transportation. A car can actually be a hassle if you’re spending most of your time in town.