Vancouver day trips and family-friendly kids things to do

Your family holiday in Vancouver will create memories of fun and wonder that will last forever.

From tree-top adventures to whale watching, there's so much to see, do and explore.

Vancouver is a top-rated family holiday destination because so many of the attractions are great for a group and appropriate for all ages. And if you're a family that loves snow sports, visiting Vancouver in winter or spring puts skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating and tobogganing on the hit list too.

It's easy to organise daily family adventures in Vancouver, because all the main attractions are close by and transport is super-efficient. From the Downtown area, it's a half-hour shuttle ride to Grouse Mountain, a 25-minute stroll to Stanley Park and a 20-minute rapid transit ride to Granville Island Kids Market.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

If you ask a Vancouverite about things to do with kids in Vancouver, the answer is likely to be "Capilano Suspension Bridge Park". There's a free shuttle to the park that picks up from Canada Place and several nearby hotels, so getting there is easy.

This park is packed with activities. For starters, there's the bridge - a 137-metre swaying, bouncing construction that spans a river canyon. Then there's the Cliffwalk, which is a labyrinth of cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms 33 metres above the forest floor. 

Next in the line-up of family-friendly attractions is the Treetops Adventure, built into eight 250-year old Douglas fir trees.  There's also a story centre at the park, so that you and your kids can connect with the 'Capilano Tramps', the original tourists who used to visit the bridge back in the early 1900s. Finally, there's the Rainforest Explorers Program, a self-guided adventure that gets children of all ages actively involved with finding facts about the forest.

If you visit in winter, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is illuminated with thousands of lights. It's like a fairyland in the forest.

All about animals

Vancouver family attractions include seeing animals in their natural habitat and sanctuaries; some with fur and fangs, others with fins or flippers.  

At Grouse Mountain, which is a short journey from Downtown, there's a wildlife refuge with two famous residents - Grinder and Coola. These guys are orphan grizzlies. They were rescued in 2001 and have been living happily together ever since. Just make sure you're visiting during the warmer months, because Grinder and Coola hibernate during winter.  

When it's the whale season, March to October, you can organise a family whale watching adventure. There are several operators and most will pick you up from a central city location. Orcas are the main attraction, but you might also see humpback whales, grey whales and minke whales. Seabirds are another highlight - brown pelicans, harlequin ducks, Pacific loons, tufted puffins and bald eagles.

At Grouse Mountain there's a wildlife refuge with two famous residents - Grinder and Coola. These guys are orphan grizzlies. They were rescued in 2001 and have been living happily together ever since.

Animal encounters can also be found close to the city. The Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park is a leading marine science centre that looks after more than 70,000 animals. As well as  permanent marine animal exhibits, it has an incredible IMAX cinema that plays nature films with sensory 4D effects - mist, scents, lighting and wind.

Over in North Vancouver is Maplewood Farm, a much-loved nature experience with an agricultural perspective. Kids can even get a 'behind the scenes' experience that gives them a hands-on view of farming.

Museums and markets

There's a museum for almost every topic in Vancouver, but there are a couple of stand outs for families - Science World and the H.R MacMillan Space Centre.

Science World is as entertaining as it is educational. As well as permanent interactive exhibits, there's always a feature exhibition that'll knock your kids' socks off. Allow at least half a day, because this is one of the world's greatest science museums.

The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre is a total off-the-planet experience, complete with planetarium, Cosmic Courtyard exhibit area, observatory and a theatre for live space science shows.

Another must for a Vancouver family holiday is the Granville Island Kids Market. Housed in a historic factory near the entrance to Granville Island, it has more than 25 shops and activities for youngsters and their families. There are services for kids too, including a hairdresser and restaurant.

Free things for families in Vancouver

To make your travel budget go further, there are some great places to go with kids in Vancouver that are absolutely free of charge. The Seawall Walk around Stanley Park is a fun way to burn off excess energy, and the kids might spot sea otters and seals as well. Lynn Canyon Park on the north side of Vancouver has lots of free family activities, including a suspension bridge, waterfalls, mini hikes and a swimming hole for summer. Or you can take the family to Kitsilano Beach, where there’s swimming in summer and beach-combing in any season. If your kids are super fit, challenge them to complete the Grouse Grind up Grouse Mountain - a 2.9km uphill trail that finishes with astounding views.

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