by guest blogger Andeep Singh, documentarian and television and Web video producer
I spent my childhood living in Vancouver, British Columbia, and my teenage years wanting to get the hell out of there. Such are the follies of youth.
Now, as a mom and a--hopefully--semi-smarter adult living far from home, I realize how ridiculously beautiful my hometown is and also what a great family-friendly destination it is.
With an ocean on one side, mountains on the other, and urban escapes in the middle, Vancouver is a stunning city that offers activities for parents and kids alike. Plus, it's very accessible for strollers and little legs.
While certainly not the cheapest city in North America, Vancouver's cosmopolitan makeup means amazing multicultural food options, a laid-back West Coast attitude, and a slight touch of hippie-granola-ness.
So, from a true Vancouverite, here's my list of places to visit and other family-friendly adventures in the big V--umbrellas optional, but always highly recommended.
1. Stanley Park. If you have a day or even 5 minutes, you need to head to Stanley Park. Look up at old-growth forests or stroll on the Sea Wall that takes you all the way around the perimeter of downtown. Strollers are more than welcome; just be sure to hold on to little walkers--there's no guardrail between the wall and the water. Walk into the park to see the beluga whales and otters at the Vancouver Aquarium, or take a ride on the Stanley Park miniature train. And on hot summer days, a run through the water park is the perfect refreshing stop.
2. False Creek. Start at Science World for hours of hands-on science fun and live shows with real scientists. Then hop aboard the rainbow-colored Aqua Bus to the other side of False Creek and Granville Island Market. Head to the Children's Market, grab lunch from one of the many vendors, and enjoy a picnic on the pier while watching the jugglers and other street performers.
3. Lonsdale Quay. I have yet to meet any kid who doesn't like the Skytrain--think NYC's subway meets Seattle's monorail. Head to the first car and grab the window seat for the ultimate ride. Parents, you might even fight with your kids for the coveted spot! Ride all the way to Waterfront Station, and from there, take the SeaBus--another adventure in public transportation--to Lonsdale Quay, where you can enjoy the outdoor musicians, market fare, and vistas of downtown Vancouver.
4. Grouse Mountain and Capilano Suspension Bridge. Accessible by public bus or car, the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver affords a thrilling walk along the 450-foot-long suspension bridge over a canyon. Not the best idea for very small children, but older kids will love looking down at the Capilano River below their feet as the bridge gently sways. My suggestion? Eat lunch AFTER this trek.
Hop back on the bus farther up the mountain and catch a ride on the Grouse Mountain gondola to the Peak of Vancouver. In the winter you can ski, ice skate, and catch sleigh rides. In the summer, it's all about the breathtaking views of the entire Metro Vancouver area or, for the daredevils out there, a zip line thru the trees. Summertime also offers a chance to see Grinder and Coola, the mountain's very own grizzly bears, stretch their legs in their (fenced-off) den after they've stirred from their winter hibernation. And if you really want to wow the kids, take a helicopter ride off the mountain and back to downtown.
- Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands: Grab a ride with BC Ferries and pick an island of your choosing.
- The PNE (Pacific National Exhibition):During the last two weeks of summer, enjoy the annual PNE fair. Watch the Superdogs in action, enjoy the mini-doughnuts, and take a thrill ride on the star attraction, the wooden roller coaster.
Got any other favorite Vancouver spots for kids and families? Please share your suggestions with us!
Andeep Singh works at the Rodale Video Network and has produced nonfiction television, film, and digital video content for some of the biggest networks in the country, including ABC, NBC, PBS, CBC, and A&E. She recently completed producing her first feature documentary film, titled Living the Fantasy, which follows the lives of six high-stakes fantasy football players. Originally from the Great White North, Andeep has a serious case of wanderlust, is afflicted with perpetual food envy, and is mildly obsessed with the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com