“With a 3-year-old/toddler/baby” is how I seem to have named most of my posts over the last couple of years. I guess that describes my life – everything with a small child!
Anyways, we just took a last-minute trip to Vancouver over a rare four day weekend (we sometimes get those in the military), and that gave us 3 full days in the city (sooo this post was mostly written a few months ago, I’ve been behind getting these published, oops!) I’m most definitely NOT the expert on Vancouver, but I wanted to share what we loved about the city and why, and how easy it was to plan last-minute.
I recently joined a facebook group about traveling with kids worldwide and asked on there about Vancouver with a small kid. I received great tips and based my research on what to do from those tips. I typically spent countless hours researching our travel, but this time I only spent a few. With a tentative list of the things we wanted to do/places we wanted to see, but the goal of this trip was to relax (since one of us was about to leave for a long deployment) – not check things off a bucket list – so we didn’t make any specific plans. Our goals:
1. Stay in the city center so we could depend on public transportation
2. Go with the flow of our son and enjoy time together without an exact plan
We flew from Fairbanks on Thursday night (I guess it was technically Friday morning, our flight left at 01:30 AM, with just over an hour layover in Seattle, and arrived just after 8 AM). If we were better at sleeping on planes we would have had all day to explore, but the three of us needed loooong naps in order to be functional, so we didn’t do as much as I hoped that first day. But that was okay, because we had an amazing room, with a separate space for our son.
Where we Stayed in Vancouver
We booked the Westin Grand because of the central location, it had a pool and was an all-suite hotel. We learned long ago that we all get better sleep if our son has a separate sleeping area from us, and when we get better sleep we seem to all have a better time. I would recommend this hotel for anyone similar to us, and even though the room was small, it worked well.
One of the first things you should do is take a hop-on-hop-off tour to discover the areas you wanted to explore. (Note the hours before you plan for this, I was very confused by when they operated ). In Vancouver, it seemed like there were two main companies that offered these tours 1.) Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing. These were open-air buses that came pretty regularly, this is the tour we went with because it was the first bus that came to the library stop. 2. Landsea Tours. The buses looked nicer but didn’t seem to come regularly. There are two routes to choose from, and you can do both.
Fun things to do in Vancouver with a 3-year-old
Three days was most definitely NOT enough time to explore everything Vancouver has to offer, but we did manage to visit a few of the main attractions.
The city is VERY stroller friendly. The sidewalks are wide. Once you take the hop-on-hop-off bus, you can decide where you would want to explore more and take advantage of the amazingly stroller-friendly sidewalks. I wish all cities were like this!
Everyone and everywhere recommended Stanley park. I understand why! It’s HUGE and has so much to offer, the 5 hours we spent there I feel like we barely saw a half of what the park has to offer. Beautiful views, quiet trails, horse-drawn carriage rides, gardens, playgrounds, the aquarium and way more. The ice cream at prospect point was a hit with our son (hint, buy a double scoop and split it, otherwise it’s very expensive!)
Also in Stanley park and a great aquarium. Mike and I have been to a lot of aquariums around the world, and this was one of the best. This would probably be a great activity in the rain (if you don’t mind all the other families that think the same thing). By the time we got here, Jackson had just woken from a nap, and we only had an hour. He loved a small area meant for younger kids called Clownfish Cove, a make-believe animal hospital and other fun stuff.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Yes, it’s touristy but yes, a visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge is worth it. It’s SO easy to visit with their free shuttle from downtown, and that’s the only reason I would recommend it over any of the other suspension bridges near Vancouver. You can spend a long time here because the park is not just one big suspension bridge, but so much more. If you have a stroller they do make you ‘check it’ in one of the buildings, so you might want to bring a carrier with you if you have a baby or toddler. Even though our son could have walked the bridge, we did have to mostly carry him because he was unsure if his footing as it swayed. Be warned though, it will likely be very crowded and remember to be patient, everyone wants to get their picture on the bridge. We didn’t have as long here as we would have liked, but we did get to enjoy some local beer and live music before they closed.
The family behind us told us about the amazing lights they have during Christmas, I would LOVE to go back to see that sometime.
I know I already mentioned this but I’m mentioning it again, the hop-on-hop-off tour is worth it!
Check out Vancouver Events
The Vancouver Pride Festival was going on during the weekend of our visit. While not specifically 3-year-old intended as an audience, we thought the pride parade would be a fun and interesting thing to do with our son. Look up events going on the dates of your visit and take advantage, something might surprise you!
We had such a short time in the city, there are SO many other attractions that would be worth visiting. When we did our hop-on-hop-off tour we wished we had more time to explore Granville Island and the Science World.