Our Family Fun Feature 2012: Voted Top 10 Vancouver Family Attractions
~By Natasha Jervis and Family~
VancouverBC.com is pleased to present to Vancouver visitors and locals our ‘Family Fun Feature for 2012’. All of the review and attraction information below is based on real personal experiences. We hope you will take our adventures, comments and reviews into consideration when you are planning your next vacation to beautiful, vibrant and picturesque Vancouver, British Columbia and its surrounding cities.
After reviewing over 20 different Vancouver attractions we chose our absolute 10 favourite family-friendly venues. Included in our party are two adults and three kids, (ages 12, 10 and 9) all whom were thrilled to be involved with this exciting journey as we toured through some of Vancouver’s best family attractions. Come along with us as we take you through the top 10 family attractions of 2012; we’re sure you will enjoy the ride!
Cypress Mountain: Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe Tour
Without a doubt, the Cypress Mountain Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe Tour was placed at the top of our list of attractions. As we raced up Cypress Mountain last January 2012 we finally found the Nordic ticket booth to pick up our tickets. Kindly, our guide Kelvin waited for us to arrive as we were a few minutes late due to being newcomers to the mountain. We then made our way to the snowshoe hut to pick up our snowshoes and head lights. (I call it a mining light, but we definitely weren’t going down into any mines!) After scuffling to get our snowshoes on (the kids were faster than us adults!) we had a run down from our guide on how to move with our new footwear.
We made our way up steep and fluffy snow-filled hills and into the woods with the rest of the group. I must say I was a bit challenged at first and Shaun (my beau) had to help me slip my snowshoe on again as I slowly became the ‘one left behind’. This was a night snowshoe tour and we were the fortunate ones who had a fresh snow fall that day and light snow fall that evening. The stars twinkled in the midnight blue sky and the air was crisp and fresh. We trekked up the mountain side and every now and then our fabulous and insightful guide Kelvin would teach us something about the trees, tell us about historic events or educate us on how to survive in these deep dark mountain woods. (Believe me, we were taking notes!)
We stopped at one hill in the midst of the woods where group members could slide down a large hill on a plastic bag. The kids all jumped on board and some of the adults had a good laugh as they spun in circles down the slope.
After an excellent workout we made our way to the chocolate fondue hut where we were to gather for about an hour and relax in warmth by an old wood burning stove. Our guide and the guide of another group presented us with some toasty hot chocolate and sweet apple cider to warm us up. Our next treat was a beautiful display of fruits, marshmallows and angel food cake, along with a fondue-style bowl of chocolate that sizzled over a flame.
The kids were delighted, not to mention us big kids, and it was definitely the perfect way to energize ourselves before heading back to the magical woods and white powdery slopes. I am pretty sure we wiped our fondue bowl clean and cleared most of the plate. For you families with younger kids, there is a bathroom up by the warming hut, but it is an outhouse. So, if you are not used to roughing it in the wild, go before you hit the snow!
After filling our tummies and rejuvenating ourselves, we slipped into our snowshoes once more and made our way along another path down the mountain. Keep the kids close when you are crossing by small bridges and by drastic dips and large drop offs. Some of the kids were quite daring and just had to get that close to the edge; so mind your little ones. All in all, it’s a safe tour for the family to explore and enjoy some quality time together; not to mention dip into some decadent chocolate!
What to Wear: Gloves, hats, scarves, snow pants or water-resistant pants, winter jacket with insulation, winter boots that cover the leg up to the knee, (see first picture) two pairs of socks and warm clothes underneath.
Hours of Operation: 6:30pm to 9:30pm (Friday, Saturday and Sunday)
Price Range: $50 for everyone. (including children and seniors)
Call the Snowshoe Coordinator at 604-922-0825
*A special thanks to Joffrey Koeman and Katie Kotz for organizing our family visit.
The Vancouver Aquarium is by far a ‘must-see’ for families visiting Vancouver and for local families looking for fun in the city. This was actually the first attraction we experienced and even though I had been there before, I had never enjoyed it as much as I did with the family. The kids loved the Strait of Georgia exhibit where they spotted phenomenal rockfish and herring. We all enjoyed the trek through the warm Tropic Zone where we met with colourful seahorses, sharks and other amazing species of fish. There was so much to see throughout the aquarium that is fills the day. We stopped to watch the dolphin show for a short spell which hypnotized the kids for a bit and then ventured through the Amazon Rainforest to visit with exotic birds, crocodiles and butterflies.
Make sure you take the family outside to Canada’s Arctic where you will meet the aquariums growing Beluga family and educate yourselves about the history of Canada’s great Arctic of the north. I believe one of the best parts of the aquarium, for the kids and us youthful adults, was when we were able to experience our first 4D show! It is a cinematic adventure that surprises you with sensory effects that you can see, feel and hear. It is an event to line up for and hey, the red 4D glasses look pretty cool!
The Vancouver Aquarium also features gift shops, cafes, animal encounters, catered events and group rates. The family can get face-to-face with over 70,000 animals all in one day! It is definitely a place to keep the kids occupied and happy for hours.
General Admission: $21 for Adults, $16 for Seniors 65+, $16 for Youth 13-18, $13 for Kids 4-12, FREE for Children under 3 years old.
Tip: The food at the Aquarium can be quite expensive, so have a good breakfast or brunch that day before you go if you’re on a budget.
Info Line: 604-659-3400
*A special thanks to Roxanne St. Pierre for organizing our family visit.
Whistler Tube Park and Gondola Ride
What an amazing day! While we were short one wonderful kid, we still managed to have a day full of family-fun and thrills. Our trip to Whistler was longer than most because of travel time, but it was definitely worth the drive. It took us about two hours to get to our Whistler destination and park. After jumping into our snow gear (imperative for this adventure) we grabbed our tickets at the customer service desk and jumped on the Blackcomb gondola to take our exciting ride up to the Coca Cola Tube Park. While it was hard to see outside of the gondola windows, it was still fun to be sky high.
We snacked on our tasty homemade ham and cheese sandwiches to gather up some energy before we pounded the slopes with our tubes. (Tip: Bring your own ready-to-eat food if you want to save some money at the top of the tube park)
The four of us gathered our large tubes and jumped onto the magic carpet which carries you and your tube up the hill. We had two hours to spend and we stayed all the way to the end. With many laughs, screams and giggles, we all were dazzled by the spin outs one can have while tubing the black diamond. This is the steeper faster slope and you can only challenge the hill on your own, with no one to hold your hand. Tube at your own risk!
Nevertheless, all of us conquered the black diamond hill. Shaun (Dad) didn’t hold back and would keep going right until the bitter end, smacking into the barrier. Myself, and the kids couldn’t help but laugh long and hard as the spray of snow and ice would cover him from head to toe at the end of the run. Don’t worry folks, it is safe and you cannot pass the barrier by any means.
It was the perfect snowy day and families who love the snow should put a trip to Whistler’s tube park on their travel ‘bucket-list.’ There are smaller tubes for younger children and there is another slope called the blue diamond where you can go down in groups and pairs as it is a little slower. After the fun, stroll through Whistler Village and explore shops, cafes, restaurants and more!
What to Wear: Snow jacket, snow pants, thick socks, gloves, scarf, warm hat, warm clothes, layers, water-resistant winter boots.
*A special thanks to Leah Adams-Chute for organizing our family visit.
Grouse Mountain won the hearts of the kids, especially a special little 10 year old birthday girl. We arrived to find the parking lots pretty full, but it was a Saturday so it was understandable. Many of the lots require a fee, but if you don’t mind the walk, some farther lots are free for the day. The sky ride up to Grouse Mountain was a blast as it would sway at one point causing everyone to ‘oooo’ and ‘ahhh’. We spent the day skating (it was fun getting into skates after 15 years or so!), went on a short sleigh ride, watched movies about the Grouse Mountain grizzly bears, Grinder and Coola, that are residents there.
Unfortunately, we missed out on experiencing the Eye of the Wind because the weather wasn’t appropriate, but that’s saved for our next visit! There are fabulous restaurants to relax and unwind in such as the Lupin’s Café, Rusty Nail BBQ mountaintop patio or the Altitudes Bistro for a scrumptious lunch or dinner. Grouse Mountain also has a gorgeous and elegant fine dining venue, The Observatory, where you can take in panoramic views of the city of Vancouver. The mountain also offers snow shoeing, zip lining, theatre in the sky, the Peak of Christmas event, skiing, shopping and more. Grouse Mountain is a great way to keep active, enjoy the snow and to bond with the family.
What to Wear: Snow pants, water-resistant pants, warm clothes, sweater, gloves, scarf, warm hat and thick socks for skating.
*A special thanks to Sarah Lusk for organizing our family visit.
Granville Island Kid’s Market/Kid Zone
The Granville Island Kids Market was definitely a great place to take the kids for the day. With games to play, the Adventure Zone, tons of kid-friendly shops and a store full of sweets; this market will keep the kids busy and buzzing (literally on sugar!) for a few hours. When we went to the kids market, the younger kids, 9 and 10, went into the Adventure Zone to play, zip down slides, jump around in the ball pit and climb. The eldest of the three(12) played numerous token arcade games with us adults. There are also a few coin-operated kiddie rides for little ones to enjoy.
After we grabbed a slushy from the Ribbit’s Candy Corner shop we headed out for a stroll across Granville Island and toured through the large food market there. Granville Island is free but entrance to the Adventure Kid Zone is $5.95 +GST per child. Ideally, the Adventure Kid Zone suites kids from 5 to 11 as kids 12 and above might be outgrowing this type of kiddie fun. (A tip: Make sure your kids wear socks as shoes are removed when playing in the semi-supervised jungle gym.
Capilano Suspension Bridge & Cliff Walk
What a fabulous way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon with the family! Capilano Suspension Bridge, located in North Vancouver, is only a short drive from Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. After grabbing our usual teas, hot chocolates and Tim Bits from Tim Horton’s, the family set off to the North Shore to ‘be one with nature’. We started with crossing the Capilano Suspension Bridge which is 230 feet high and 450 feet long. It wobbles only slightly and jumping around is not allowed. (Dad!) We loved being up so high amongst the grand and glorious lush trees, as well as overlooking the canyon and seeing the newest addition, Cliff Walk, from afar.
We trekked through to the TreeTops Adventure where we started at the Treehouse and then continued onto seven different suspension bridges that gave us a chance to visit with magnificent Douglas-firs. Don’t miss out on a visit to the Rainforest, Story Centre, Kia’Palano, Fallen Tree, the kid’s Rainforest and more.
We then made our way over to the newest attraction at Capilano Suspension Bridge, Cliff Walk. This might be a bit nerve-wracking for some young kids, depending on their fear of heights and small walking paths. The five of us challenged ourselves and I believe I was more fearful than the kids as they quickly made their way through the ledges and stair cases while I tip toed along. This is definitely an attraction that should be taken with care and no running is allowed, so watch your kids at all times and stick together as a team. Bring your camera as there are some amazing panoramic photo opportunities on Cliff Walk!
You can also ask for a complimentary guided tour while you are there. If you get hungry check out the Canyon Café for fresh sandwiches and soups, the Logger’s Grill for scrumptious burgers, and indoor or outdoor dining at the Bridge House Restaurant. If you have tiny tots or babies, strollers are not permitted on the bridge, but can be left by the Bridge Safety Station.
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre
This was a much adored visit for the younger kiddies as we got to educate ourselves about universe and it allowed us to become more inspired about space exploration and our planets. There were space shuttles to be landed, meteors to touch, moon rocks, simulation games, planetarium shows and more. Some of the shows to see in Ground Station Canada are Colour of Fire, Day in Space, Questioning and Answers, Rocket Lab and more. Dazzle the kids with space fun, take photos in a space suit and learn about how astronauts live in space. There is paid parking nearby but take note that there are no food venues within the space centre. They also have birthday party packages for kids of all ages.
Seymour Snowshoe Tour
Known as Vancouver’s starting gate to winter recreation, Mount Seymour offers skiing, snow tubing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, phenomenal food, winter education programs and more. Only a short 30 minute drive from downtown Vancouver, Mount Seymour offers breathtaking views of the Georgia Strait, Vancouver, Washington State, Mount Baker and Vancouver Island.
We were lucky to have yet another fresh pack of snow that day and the winter air was crisp and the sky was clear. This time we included my mum to come with us on our family adventure which added to the constant laughter as we trekked (sometimes fell) along in our snowshoes. After making our way up to Mount Seymour via the shuttle from Parkgate Community Centre we met with our guide who quickly got us geared up with our snow shoes.
Our guide took us on a two hour tour through the woods on Mount Seymour and educated us about survival tactics, animals, trees and the history of the Mountain area. We played educational games and at one point had to race each other in teams, bouncing around like wild animals. Quite funny and it definitely allowed for some family bonding. Then we played a trivia race game where we had to identify animals with clues from our guide, then run to the picture of the animal that we thought it was. We let the kids do the work!
When we finished our rather tiresome snowshoe tour (make sure you have a hardy breakfast that day before you go!) we head to the snow tube park where the kids took the plunge and shot down the hills on tubes face first. It is not for the faint of heart and make sure you have warm clothing on and even snow goggles or sunglasses if possible to protect your eyes from flying ice bits and snow.
All in all, it was a fun active day that burned off energy (and calories) in all of us. They also feature an evening chocolate fondue tour like Mount Cypress in their own unique fashion. Spend quality time in this winter wonderland this year!
What to wear: Warm clothing, scarf, gloves, warm hat, thick socks, water-resistant pants or snow pants, goggles, sunglasses and ear muffs.
Tip: Eat before you go for extra energy for this snow shoe hike!
*A special thanks to Anna Rowinska for organizing our visit.
MapleWood Farm is a 5 acre Municipal park Farm located in North Vancouver, BC. What a treat for young kids and their families! We drove over on a Saturday and enjoyed visiting with goats, cows, Ringo the Donkey, rabbits, birds and more. All of the farm’s animals and birds are domestic, but the farm has on occasion taken care of some wild animals. I believe the kids enjoyed feeding the rabbits their Saturday lunch of carrots and seeing a cow being milked by a qualified farm attendant. (see below)
Younger kids will enjoy this little weekend outing (more than tweens and teens that have been there done that!) and the farm also has special events throughout the year. Some of these events are known as the Sheep Fair, Farm Fair, The Great Pumpkin Event and Country Christmas. They boast a tranquil green house, pony barn, Rabbitat visiting area, Barnyard, Peacock Palace, Duck Pond, Angora Goat Annex and Goathill visiting. There aren’t any food kiosks there so pack a lunch for the family and sit in their picnic shelter to spend some quality time chatting about the animals you have just met!
VanDusen Bright Lights’ Garden
This family-feature was more of an adult-friendly visit as it was on a school night for the kiddies. We invited some other family members to join us in attending the Festival of Lights at the magical and vibrant VanDusen Botanical Gardens. Located at 37th Avenue and Oak Street this event ran from early December until early January and was definitely a must-see during the Christmas season.
Although we were quite cold (I should of wrapped up warmer!) we were excited to see the light show across the glorious gardens. We all loved taking in the light show that was spread before our eyes. One cannot help but notice the use of recycled water bottles as lanterns throughout the gardens. Quite innovative!
You find yourself among millions of twinkling lights as you sip your delicious hot chocolate and eat Mr. Doughtnut mini donuts or Mr. Waffles’ sweet waffles. It is a must-see festival at this time of year and aside from this celebrative time; the gardens are perfect for a weekend outing with the family. The kids will enjoy romping around the gardens (not in them!) while you stroll along many pathways throughout colourful streams of flowers and shrubbery.
Our family fun feature was an adventure for all of us, young and old, (well not that old!) and we appreciate all the attractions that were involved in our journey as we chose the top 10 Vancouver attractions for this year. Our star rating system is the rating out of these ten attractions only and not the 20 odd that we were able to review and choose from. We at VancouverBC.com hope you enjoy everything that we have shared with you about our experiences and hope you will visit us in early 2012 for our 2013 top 10 Vancouver family fun attractions of the year!