Parents’ Travel Guide: What to Do in Vancouver With Kids
With Four Seasons Vancouver as home base, you can easily explore all the fun things to do with kids in the city, from Stanley Park to Vancouver Aquarium.
Vancouver is beautiful and outdoorsy—even better, you’ll love the city just as much as the kids will. Sandwiched between jagged, snow-capped mountains and the ocean, the City of Glass—with its distinctive Asian flair and squeaky clean, Canadian exterior—is as much about skiing, kayaking and single track as it is about noshing on Japanese udon or Indian fusion and prowling upstart designer ateliers. You’ll feel equally at home here in Icebreaker as Prada.
While it’s got all the perks of a bustling metropolis, Vancouver is still a relatively small city easily conquered by the stroller and kids set. Downtown is vertical and walkable from Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, with a SkyTrain, convenient public transit network and tons of fun things to see and do. Dozen miles of publicly accessible beaches and waterfront parks are made for family picnics, strolls and bike rides. Pick up a copy of The Georgia Straight to see what’s doing in town.
While there, tack on side trips to Whistler for world-class skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking; nearby Bowen Island for a trek around Killarney Lake, paddling and enjoying pebbly beaches all to yourself; or British Columbia’s wine country in the Okanagan Valley.
- It’s chic, safe and multicultural, not to mention eco-friendly.
- An urban base for British Columbia’s quintessential outdoor adventures. In the winter, go snowshoeing, tubing, sledding, skating, skiing or snowboarding at nearby Cypress, Grouse and Mt Seymour; in the summer, hit the beach (try Kitsilano “Kits” Beach or English Bay), and go kayaking, sailing, fishing, golfing, hiking and cycling.
- A new “It” city, thanks to the 2010 Winter Olympics.
What the kids will love
- Glittering downtown and skyscraper views from the Hotel.
- The indoor-outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, plus complimentary infused ice water that comes in raspberry, cucumber or citrus flavours.
- Cooking and baking classes with a Four Seasons chef, and the insider kitchen tour.
- Making cushion forts in the spacious suite.
- In the winter, ice skating at open-air Robson Square Ice Rink, located right across the street from the Hotel. In the summer, sprinting along the handsome waterfront promenade of Coal Harbour and watching the float planes land on the water.
What you will love
- The friendly, laid-back vibe and West Coast style.
- The enormous Four Seasons bed with 300-thread-count cotton sheets and fluffy pillows.
- Your spacious suite, which allows for popcorn-and-movie nights in front of the flat-screen TV, then an after-hours nightcap for mom and dad in the adjacent wing.
- The easiness of it all. Some great shopping is located right under the Hotel at Pacific Centre, with more retail therapy just a few blocks west on Alberni Street (Tiffany & Co., Betsey Johnson, Hermès, BluBird). Vancouver Art Gallery is also just across the street and Waterfront Park is just down the hill.
- After the kids are tucked in bed, enjoy a great line up of creative cocktails from YEW Bar.
- A mother-daughter coiffeur date before dinner. Get a fancy updo for her and a sleek blow out for you at Blo Blow Dry Bar.
- The Spa. Relax and rejuvenate in the private RedCedar massage suite.
The kitchen’s “secret passage,” revealed during the behind-the-scenes cooking classes with the chef.
For grown-ups, indulge in anything seafood at stylish YEW seafood + bar, where Executive Chef Ned Bell knows how to treat it right. Steelhead salmon, Fanny Bay oysters, scallops, mussels, Arctic char, albacore tuna, Dungeness crab—it’s all here. YEW specializes in local, sustainable, market fresh seafood and delivers masterful, exciting dishes.
For kids, try the edamame and chicken noodle soup, or the pasta and grilled chicken with broccoli, asparagus and green beans. (Tip: Add a giant strawberry-banana smoothie.) Grown-ups will love the prices (kids eat free if dining with Hotel guest parents) and the healthful selections on the YEW kids’ menu. Best of all, parents can relax here—the wood-and-glass dining area is so spacious, no one will even notice the kids and their tabletop antics. A splurge on in-room dining is also especially memorable and stress-free.
Vancouver is a foodie city, so if you’re up for dining out, be sure to grab the chance. Take the kids for Belgian waffles at Café Medina; the city’s best sushi at Tojo’s (perhaps book a sitter for a date night); New York Times-lauded Indian fusion at Vij’s Rangoli (the casual sister restaurant to Vij’s); or a down-home bowl of Chinese noodles at Hon’s Wun-Tun House on Robson. Vancouver’s burgeoning street cart scene is also worth sampling—we like Japa Dog and Fresh Local Wild.
5 family to-dos
1. Stanley Park. Go cycling on the Stanley Park Seawall on a crisp autumn day, toting the giggling toddlers in a bike trailer around the 5.5-mile (8.8 km) loop. You can rent bikes just across the street at Spokes, then indulge in bowls of steaming ramen on Denman Street afterwards. Visit the totems and flower gardens, find a playground, chase Canada geese, stroll the paths or ride bikes. The miniature train and lights display at Halloween and Christmas time is a delight, and don’t miss the ethereal cherry blossoms in spring time.
2. UBC Museum of Anthropology. Though located on the other side of the city on the University of British Columbia campus, it’s worth the trek to see BC’s celebrated giant totem poles and First Nations art up close. The vast collection of artefacts and treasures is stunning—even little kids seem to appreciate the magnitude.
3. Chinatown. Either walk from Four Seasons or take a quick SkyTrain hop. While it’s slightly seedy, kids will be riveted by the exotic aromas; bustle and clatter; scarlet lanterns and shiny satin dresses; and sacks of candied insects, dried mushrooms and stacked fish. Pop into a restaurant, if you’re feeling adventurous, and dip into some Chinese fare with the locals. The Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden makes a nice diversion, then catch a matinee at Tinseltown (aka International Village Mall, known for its famous Cineplex Odeon theatres on the third floor). Riding the multi-tiered escalator and hitting the dollar store are kids’ favourites here.
4. Kids In The City. This is a club for kids during school vacation times, such as Christmas and spring break. It’s complimentary for Hotel guests, with daily programming for kids 5 to 12 from 9:30 am to 10:45 am. Activities might be designing your own pizza, a scavenger hunt, puppet making and a show, or hat designing. Sign up with the Concierge by 7:30 am the day of. There’s also a Play Zone room for children accompanied by their parents, open 7:00 am to 11:00 pm, outfitted with table hockey and ping-pong, stuffed-animal beanbags, books, crafts, games, an enormous TV with DVDs and three gaming stations including Wii. The Hotel also offers babysitting; just ask the Concierge.
5. Vancouver Aquarium and Science World. First of all, ride the SkyTrain. It zooms below and mostly above the city, and is especially a hit with little boys. Make sure to let the kids sit in the nose at the very front for that whoosh feeling. The SkyTrain will zoom you to Science World at TELUS World of Science, an experiential and educational kids’ zone that teaches about nature, physics and science in an interactive, hands-on way. Also make time for the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park, and especially for the cute sea otters and flirty belugas. (You can schedule a sleepover with belugas, too.) Downstairs, there’s an interactive kids’ craft area and regular scuba diver fish feeding sessions.