Cloud sandwich over British Columbia
Cloud sandwich over British Columbia

Vancouver is one of my fave vacation spots, with or without kids in tow. There is something comforting about the familiarity of a town you’ve lived in before, but Van is also legitimately cool. It has everything — ocean, mountains, museums, shops, you name it. The kids are at an age where they still need constant “entertainment”, and Van makes it easy for us to keep them happy while also doing things that are fun for grown-ups. In this case, eating. Oh em gee, the eating. Edmonton has a thriving foodie scene, but it’s spread out over a large area. In Van, you practically trip over delicious restaurants at every turn. We quickly gave up any other plans we might have had, and resigned ourselves to the routine imposed by our friendly mini dictators; we spent most of our vacation shuttling between various kid-friendly activities (read: anything involving water), with eating pit-stops every few hours. And it was glorious.

birds watching ships, being watched
birds watching ships, being watched

A lot of kid-oriented things in downtown Van — like the aquarium and the Telus World of Science — proved to be quite expensive, so we decided to go low key. The False Creek ferries, while not exactly cheap, proved to be a much better investment. For $44, the cost of an all day pass for the family, we explored everything from the Olympic Village, to Granville Island (which rated a follow-up trip), to Kitsilano. The kids loved riding the ferries … and, well, the adults did too. Much more fun than, say, a bus.

on a boat!!
on a boat!!
water views
water views
aquatic transportation
aquatic transportation

At the Olympic Village, we ran into a food truck selling this heavenly dessert combination:

the Praguery offering
the Praguery offering

Imagine a cone made of sweet dough (similar to a yeast donut), lined with Nutella and filled with soft serve ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce. Heaven, I tell you.

Granville Island was also a huge hit. The kids loved the free splash park and the, what else, Kids Market. I loved the Public Market and its amazing food offerings. There are few things that rival fresh BC produce (Rainier cherries are my faves), but the market has them all on offer. Siegel`s Bagels were a hit with the whole family, especially the (warm) cheese-filled variety. Another highlight for me was the Chau Veggie Express; the golden temple soup bowl was to die for. There was also fish and chips, not to mention fudge, in the mix, and the only reason why any of us could still fit into our clothes by the end of the trip was because we walked everywhere. Miles and miles every day.

shell hunting
shell hunting

We took the kids to Sunset Beach on English Bay almost every morning. The ocean is too cold for swimming, but it`s a great spot for a bit of splashing and seashell hunting. Further down the sea wall, there is Second Beach, which has a fantastic (heated) public swimming pool. We went early, just as it opened, and got to have it almost all to ourselves for about an hour before the crowds hit. It`s large and has a graduated slope (along with a couple of water slides) for little ones. It sits right on the sea wall above the ocean, and it has a bit of that infinity pool feel to it. I hate public pools, but this one was great — and an inexpensive outing at $12 for the whole family.

ships at sea
ships at sea
views from Granville Island
views from Granville Island

Speaking of cheap thrills, on Tuesday nights the Vancouver Art Gallery has admission by donation from 5-9PM, so we took the opportunity to see the Monet Secret Garden exhibit. If you have the chance to see it, do. It`s worth the trip. Even though the kids are too young to fully appreciate the art, they still had fun walking around the gallery with our friends` daughter. The best thing about being young is making instant best friends.

Monet at the VAG
Monet at the VAG
photos don`t do it justice
photos don`t do it justice
i can haz this at home, plz
i can haz this at home, plz

The kids fared even better at the Roundhouse Community Centre, where we took them for a morning drop-in play gym. For a minimal cost, they got to expend some of their inexhaustible energy among other peeps their age, and it was a nice alternative to the (free) outdoor playground at Emery Barnes Park (on Davie and Richards Street) because it was an indoor, enclosed setting requiring somewhat less vigilance on our part. The kids were also big fans of the hotel pool; we were fans of the hotel hot tub (after all that walking), so this was another win win situation.

As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I didn`t get to cross many things off our personal Vancouver bucket lists, eating excluded. We will have to save those for our next solo trip. Still, I was able to do at least one of my fave Van activities — checking out the fancy local real estate (it`s the stuff that lotto dreams are made of), and the abundant green spaces. Beautiful things grow everywhere. I mean EVERYwhere. Even under bridges.

community garden under a bridge
community garden under a bridge
thistles and palm trees
thistles and palm trees
hydrangeas on the hotel patio
hydrangeas on the hotel patio
Granville Island public market
Granville Island public market

Other culinary highlights for me included Tacofino in Yaletown (best West Coast-style tacos ever) and Breka Cafe on Davie Street (best desserts, hands down). Also, a shoutout to Yamato Sushi, my favourite spot for inexpensive but delish sushi. Van has no shortage of sushi joints, and you probably can`t go wrong with any of them, but this one is close to our usual hotel (the Marriott Residence Inn) and I`m a creature of habit. I also can`t forget Fritz and Firecrust, which were the kids` fave restaurants for, respectively, European-style fries and pizza. They have sophisticated palates, what can I say /sarcasm.

All in all, this was our most successful family vacation yet, if judged by the amount of temper tantrums experienced (fewer than ever!) and the amount of yummy food consumed. Traveling with kids is never exactly relaxing — maybe that will change with time, here`s hoping — but this was a much-needed opportunity to connect as a family and we made the most of it. So, for that and everything else, thanks Vancouver! Till next time …

English Bay, Vancouver
English Bay, Vancouver

12 Comments on Family Summer Vacation 2017: What I Did in Vancouver

  1. Family with kid here and thinking about a vacation in Vancouver. Your trip sounds wonderful and my husband would be in heaven taking pictures of all those flowers. How long did you stay? And I assume you drove there from Edmonton – would you say someone who flies in would need to rent a car to get around to all the wonderful locations you describe?

    • We flew in. It’s a 13 hour drive and we are not that brave. You totally don’t need a car if you’re staying downtown. We walked everyone and/or took the ferry. There is also great bus service if you want to get across to Kits or other parts of downtown faster. The cab from the airport was something like $40 including tip. You could also take the SkyTrain from the airport but we had suitcases and kids and didn’t want to bother for the extra cost savings. As long as you’re prepared for lots of walking, you’ll be fine. Traffic seemed crazy to me anyway, I wouldn’t want to have to deal with that unless I was planning trips farther afield (outside Vancouver)

  2. Looks lovely! I’ve never been.

    Out of curiosity, do you guys in Edmonton have the crazy real estate bubble I’m always hearing about in Toronto and Vancouver? (I ask this as if I don’t live in NYC).

    • Most of the major Canadian cities have a housing bubble but Edmonton is nowhere near as bad as Van and TO. The median price for a single family home is around $430k here currently. Still a lot, given the median family income, but within reach for an average family unlike Van or TO.

      • 430k is a lot but at least possible. We’re currently saving for a downpayment but it feels a little pointless, unless we miraculously end up with academic jobs outside of NYC. Buying property in NYC seems both financially impossible and misguided, given the likelihood the city is going to end up underwater, or at least ravaged by regular tornadoes, in the coming decades. (Does that make me sound like a crazy pessimist? Regardless, it’s hard to feel much enthusiasm about pouring most of our money into a coastal city, given climate change projections and a categorical refusal by our government to take any action to ameliorate the problem).

  3. Your trip looks fabulous! We are heading to Vancouver next May for a family wedding with two young kids. Do you always stay in a hotel or ever use Airbnb?

    • So far, we’ve only ever stayed at a hotel. I like the location and convenience. (The suites at the Marriott come with a decent size kitchenette, and a full breakfast buffet is included.)

  4. Wonderful trip. My husband was there for a whole month (for work). We plan to go together next year. When is a good time (weather wise) to visit? We are no longer used to the winter since we’ve been spoiled by 20+ years in South Carolina…

    • Probably summer then. June can still be a bit hit and miss, weather wise, but I think July and August are a safe bet. That’s also the height of the tourist season though, so be warned. If you want a quieter time, I’d go in late May or June. Lots of flowers in bloom, and the temps usually don’t dip too low. It might feel more like spring than summer to you but doable. Just pack some rain gear 😉

  5. I love seeing Vancouver through the eyes of others! I grew up there and often end up doing the same things over and over when we visit so it’s fun to see some different spots. Granville Island and the Harbour Ferries are always some of our favourites.

  6. I always love Vancouver. Glad you enjoyed it. Just wanted to let you know that those thistles in your picture are actually artichokes–if you don’t pick the chokes, they’ll open into those purple, thistly flowers!

    Did you miss the smoke? It’s been hot and smoky for weeks here now.

    • For real? That is even cooler … I had no idea! They did look rather massive for thistles but “what do I know”, right? Thanks for the heads up.

      We were lucky to miss the smoke, though it was quite hot. It was actually perfect weather which is not something I have often said about Van, haha

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