Vancouver with Kids
Vancouver and Victoria are great places to entertain children, especially ones who like the outdoors. Check the calendar for family-oriented special events, like the Vancouver International Children's Festival in May and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival in July.
Allow a day to enjoy the kid-friendly activities in Stanley Park: the miniature train, aquarium, pool, water park, and beaches are great for all ages. And getting around this huge park—on a horse-drawn wagon or the free shuttle—is half the fun. Make sure you also plan a trip on the Aquabus to Granville Island, home of North America's largest free public water park and the Kids' Market, a two-story complex of toy stores and play areas. The Granville market is a great place for lunch or snacking, and even the pickiest kids will find something they like. In False Creek you can check out the interactive displays at Science World, catch an IMAX film at Canada Place, or hop a foot-passenger ferry to see one (or more) of the three kid-friendly museums at Vanier Park: the Vancouver Museum, the Maritime Museum, or the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.
And Beyond Downtown
Outside downtown Vancouver, the North Shore is a wilderness playground. Older kids will no doubt enjoy terrifying their parents by trying to wobble the Capilano Suspension Bridge (or the Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge). The Treetops Adventure at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and the salmon-spawning displays at the nearby Capilano Salmon Hatchery are big hits. Finish with a Skyride trip up Grouse Mountain, where you can skate or take a sleigh ride in winter, or hike and visit the bear-and-wolf refuge in summer. For a day at the beach, head west to Spanish Banks or Locarno for warm, shallow water and wide stretches of sand. Kits Beach is busier, but has a playground and a heated saltwater pool.
Don't underestimate the entertainment power of public transportation. For a few dollars, a SeaBus ride across Burrard Inlet (a larger ferry than the Granville Island Aquabus) provides a water-level view of the harbor; the same ticket gets you on an elevated SkyTrain ride across town.
Like Vancouver, Victoria has small foot-passenger ferries zigzagging across the harbor, and Fisherman's Wharf, with its houseboats and fish-and-chips stands, is popular. Preschoolers are mesmerized by the tiny displays at Miniature World and charmed by the friendly critters at the Beacon Hill Park Petting Zoo, while older kids enjoy the Bug Zoo, the Royal BC Museum, and shopping for allowance-priced souvenirs in Chinatown. Easy hikes, bike rides, and picnics are also popular. For serious "what I did on my summer vacation" material, you can't beat a whale-watching trip. For a night out, try a movie at the IMAX theater, stargazing at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, or the spectacular fireworks displays on summer evenings at Butchart Gardens.
If Victoria's Butchart Gardens is on your to-do list, you can make a full day of it by meandering through the peninsula—Sea Cider (about a 10-minute drive from the ferry and about 15 minutes from the gardens) is the place for munchies. Nearby, the Shaw Ocean Discovery Center has amazing touchy-feely exhibits to entertain everyone from 8 to 80 years old.
Traveling with toddlers? You can rent baby gear in Vancouver through Wee Travel (www.weetravel.ca; 604/222 - 4722) or Petite Passengers (www.petitepassengers.com; 604/780 - 9914).
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