Are you planning a trip to Vancouver, BC with a toddler or baby (or both, like we recently did!) in tow? Living only 3 hours away, I love Vancouver and have been several times. Here are the top ten things that I think you need to add to your Vancouver itinerary right now!
If you’d like to read the specific travel journal for our most recent visit instead, it can be found here.
This one is a no-brainer, and if it is your first time to Vancouver, you must visit Stanley Park. Comprising 1000 acres of nature goodness just on the border of downtown, you can hike, bike, skate, swim, eat, learn, or just take in the perfect scenery from the Seawall.
You could spend days exploring the park, which includes several gardens, landmarks like the Hollow Tree, cultural artifacts and totem poles, and Canada’s largest aquarium.
It’s easy to understand why Stanley Park was once named by TripAdvisor as the Best Park in the World.
Consider taking a horse-drawn tour of the park! They depart from the Coal Harbour parking lot and do not require a reservation.
Does your toddler like petting farm animals? Climbing on tractors? How about feeding bunnies, chickens, and ducks?
Maplewood Farm is a very sweet rural farm just 20 minutes north of downtown with a great variety of animals. To make a half-day of it, pack a picnic and be sure to enjoy the playground just outside of the farm before you leave.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
We ran out of time on our short 2 day trip, and had to cross this one off our list. But it will be the first thing we do next time, as it is one of the most popular and iconic attractions in Vancouver and we have yet to see it.
Spanning 450 feet across and 230 feet above the river below, the suspension bridge might be a bit overwhelming for some toddlers. There are also a lot of other things to do within the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, including a cliffwalk, a treetop adventure, and guided nature tours.
Please note that strollers are not allowed on the bridge. The railing is around shoulder-height for adults, so toddlers can run free without worry, but you wouldn’t want to carry them on your shoulders or anything. You are allowed to babywear on the bridge.
Take the ferry
What’s the most toddler-approved mode of transportation in Vancouver?
Definitely the ferry.
There are tons of options for ferries and water taxis in Vancouver. The two main operators around downtown are the Aquabus and False Creek Ferries, both of which serve docks throughout False Creek, including Granville Island, with small (up to 20 passenger) taxis.
To get between downtown and North Vancouver, the much larger SeaBus runs every 15 minutes and carries up to 385 passengers (mostly commuters) along the 12 minute journey.
The SeaBus and False Creek Ferries are both stroller-friendly, and half of the Aquabus’ fleet is stroller-friendly. In all cases, you’ll ideally want a small or collapsible stroller (although we were fine bringing our large wagon on the SeaBus!).
The arts and culture hub of Vancouver, plan a good half-day (at least!) to explore the funky little Granville Island. This urban industrial destination is home to 300+ businesses, from restaurants and bars to art shops to theatres.
But the main attraction is the Public Market, which is open 7 days a week. Sample delicious vendor foods and check out the hand-made crafts. I still have a donkey hat that I got at the market when I was a teenager!
There is even an entire Kids Market, full of shops, activities, services, and the Adventure Zone. You won’t find your common, mass-produced toys here.
If you go during the summer, your toddler will no doubt love the Water Park / splash pad – it’s the largest free water park in North America!
Gastown and the Steam Clock
Whether you decide to take a walking tour of Gastown or just explore it on your own, this neighborhood is not to be missed. From the picture-perfect cobblestone streets and vintage streetlamps to the trendy bars and restaurants, Gastown feels like a perfect blend of historical and modern.
While you’re there, you must visit the iconic Steam Clock. Be sure to be there on the quarter hour so that your toddler can hear the steam whistles play the Westminster Chime!
Okay, look. I don’t normally endorse specific food or drink places as a top ten thing to do, but… I’m a sucker for gelato.
We ended up Googling ice cream as we were wandering through Gastown after trying one very sub-par place, and Bella Gelateria popped up with super high recommendation. Even though it was a bit of a trek, we decided to go for it.
When we got there, the line was well out the door – always a good sign. The people working there were friendly and helpful, even keeping our wagon back behind the counter and out of the way for us. And the gelato was everything we’d hoped for and more.
Should you get an ice cream craving while in Vancouver, this is the place to go.
We happened upon the Cleveland Dam by accident, when we pulled into a parking lot to nurse, and then went to see what all the people were looking at. What luck!
When you first wander out of the parking lot, you’re in a lovely grassy park with a gorgeous view out over the Capilano Reservoir. But if you follow the path down, you can walk out across the dam itself.
I didn’t realize it was a dam, and was shocked to look down the 300 foot spillway! Overall, it is an easy stroll from the parking lot to a very impressive sight that your toddler is sure to enjoy.
Kits Beach is where you want to be in the summer. Whether you want to splash in the waves, join a volleyball tournament, or just watch all the people (and dogs!) go by, the backdrop doesn’t get much better than this.
With a panoramic view of downtown Vancouver and the North Shore mountains, not many beaches can match the picturesque quality of Kits Beach.
If pool swimming is more your style, be sure to check out the massive Kitsilano Pool – North America’s longest saltwater pool, located right next to the beach. This heated outdoor pool is about 450 ft long!
Vanier is a beautiful public park that’s just a 15 minute walk from Granville Island, and next to Kitsilano Beach. Within the park, you can find the Vancouver Museum and the Planetarium. It’s also the home to the Vancouver Children’s Festival and the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, among many others.
Vanier Park is also the city’s best spot to fly a kite! Pack a picnic fresh from the Granville Island Public Market and teach your little one the art of kite-flying.
Are you looking for a great place to stay while you’re there? We ended up renting a lovely basement suite in North Van when we visited. It was a great price, in a quiet neighborhood, and we had all the amenities of home! I love using AirBnB when traveling with a baby. If you’re new to AirBnB, use this link for up to $40 off your first stay! (I will get a small bonus toward my next trip, too. So… thanks!)
Finally, check out these great books to prepare for your trip!
Anything amazing that I’ve missed?? We try to get up to Vancouver at least once per year, so I’d love your suggestions as well! Leave them for me (along with any questions) in the comments!
Want to leave all the gear at home?
Did you know that you can rent baby and toddler gear in destinations all around the country and internationally? For rentals in the US and Canada, the industry leader is BabyQuip. You can find them in over 600 locations, including Vancouver! They have incredibly high standards for product quality and cleaning, and you get the peace of mind of having big (or small!) items delivered right to your destination doorstep.
to pin for later:
Photos are my own, or the work of these fantastic photographers on Unsplash: Gabriel Santiago, Cayatano Gil, Sean Driscoll, Iso Topon, and Aaron Burden.