So, Vancouver was all kinds of incredible and more. There are so many amazing things to do in Vancouver. I had high expectations, telling Jay that I’d happily move to the city before we’d even got there and he looked at me with his usual ‘calm down, Char’ expression.
However as usual, I was right! Within two minutes of our visit to Vancouver I was ready to pack up our belongings to move straight in. Vancouver seems to have a magical charm, that to be quite honest, is irresistible. It’s laidback and cool, pleasing everyone with its all-rounder vibe, and is just so friendly and welcoming.
Pretty beaches, staggeringly tall trees, racoons (racoons!!), gorgeous parks, sweeping lakes – it’s mother nature at its best, served with a side dish of urban life; hipster coffee shops, independent boutiques, restaurants serving food from all over the world. Vancouver really has the best of everything.
We spent a week in Vancouver as part of our epic family holiday to Canada, which included stays in Tofino and Whistler. It was our little girl’s first long-haul flight. Kit was eight-months old at the time and Nova was two years old. We had an absolute adventure of a lifetime!
We stayed in an Airbnb gem (use this link and you’ll get £25 credit if you’re new to Airbnb) in a neighbourhood called Kitsilano or more commonly, Kits. We’d heard this was a popular area with locals, but I’m not going to lie, I also loved that my little girl shares her name with this place. It felt like a good sign!
The Best Things to Do in Vancouver
We mostly spent our time in Vancouver wishing we were locals! We would recommend a visit to…
1. Kitsilano Beach Park Playground
Kits turned out to be perfect. We were a five-minute walk to this place and Nova loved playing on the slide and in the sandpit, while Kit loved crawling on the grass. Jay and I could see the beach from the playground, where there would often be volleyball tournaments taking place. It seems to be a hub for families, with other friendly parents chasing their kids about and we found ourselves spending a lot of time down there.
Come early evening Jay would wander back with Kit to put her to bed and I’d take Nova to the beach to watch the sun set. The rays would twinkle in the water and I often felt a bit emotional watching my own mini-explorer happily playing in such a beautiful part of the world. It always felt like a real pinch-me moment.
One day we ate at the rooftop restaurant that’s next to beach and playground. The views are lovely as you’d probably expect. The staff were SO good with our kids, even though they were a little overtired.
Address: Kitsilano Beach Park Playground, 1499 Arbutus St, Vancouver, BC V6J 5N2, Canada
2. Fun Alley and More Awesome Now Alley
It sounds a bit bizarre, but we had a great time down these two alleys! Both have been painted in vibrant colours and make really awesome backdrops for photos. Forget toys and gadgets, Nova was ecstatic running up and down these two spots.
Address: Fun Alley, 106 West 1st Street, Vancouver, Canada
3. Stanley Park Vancouver
We hired bikes for the day and ended up cycling round the park three times. Three times! I had a gorgeous turquoise cruiser with Aztec seat trim and adorable basket on the front, whilst Jay pulled the kids along in a trailer.
The dedicated cycle path is mainly flat and follows the outside of the park, hugging the seawall, so you get to enjoy some gorgeous views without too much effort.
There are also lots of cycle paths that go in the park a bit more, where you really get to see the trees up close.
We chose to bike up to Prospect Point Bar & Grill for lunch and although it was a paved road it meant cycling uphill. Let’s just say that we earned our lunch, especially poor Jay with the trailer!
We absolutely loved our lunch at this stylish, but laidback place. It was pretty empty during our weekday visit and the staff were so chatty and helpful. They made a fuss of our little ones and were so kind about all the mess Kit made (she’s still learning how to eat). Nova was given a super sweet colouring sheet and crayons, and he loved the patio area that looked out to the bridge.
Afterwards we grabbed some locally sourced ice cream from the café and wandered down to the lookout. Even if you don’t have lunch up here it’s definitely worth visiting for the snaps.
There are loads of good stop offs in Stanley Park, such as the totem poles, English Beach and of course, any time you see a racoon! If you’d rather have a guide you could go for a bike tour.
Address: Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC V6G 1Z4, Canada
We had a lovely hour or so in this impressive kid’s bookshop. It’s full of all the classics, as well as more modern, original books. Whilst we weren’t as extravagant as everyone else who seemed to be spending upwards of $100 on books, we did pick up a few really lovely keepsakes that will always remind us of this trip.
Address: Kidsbooks, 2557 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6K 2E9, Canada
5. Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge is probably the most touristy thing that we did in Vancouver, but it is well worth it, even if it is a little scary!
Arrive first or last thing if you want to minimise the crowds. We got there for 9am and by mid-morning the bridge was heaving. They sure let a lot of people on at one time, so if you are a bit scared of heights you’ll want to try to avoid the crowds as the bridge is quite wobbly!
Whilst I was terrified and shuffled along, never letting go of the handrail, Nova insisted on walking on the ‘wobble wobble’ bridge on his own. He loved it, especially the treetops adventure which spans seven smaller suspension bridges and even the cliffwalk. Kids have no fear!
We ended up eating at the fairly new Cliff House Restaurant. With highchairs, really lovely staff and great food this place worked out really well. At the risk of sounding like a total mama, the family bathroom was really handy too as it has a lower toilet for toddlers, a good change table for babies and is big enough for a whole family to use at the same time.
Address: Capilano Suspension Bridge, 3735 Capilano Rd, North Vancouver, BC V7R 4J1, Canada
6. Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain is a super short drive from the city and is well worth a half or full day visit. We fancied trying the Grouse Grind – a 2.9-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain, lovingly nicknamed “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” However, we had the kids with us so used them as the perfect excuse to use the gondola to get to the top!
If you’re really daring you can travel 1,610m on the rooftop of the Grouse Mountain Super Skyride, but we’re not that crazy brave so we went inside the gondola. Sadly it was really foggy during our ride up, but the views are meant to be incredible.
We got early access to the mountain because we went for Breakfast with the Bears. If I’m honest, we were a little apprehensive about this activity. Even though Nova is obsessed with animals we usually shun zoos and aquariums. However, the two bears up here, Grinder and Coola, are rescue ones and because of their upbringing it’s now no longer safe for them to be released into the wild.
We enjoyed a cosy feast of pancakes, fruits and pastries in the lookout café, fuelling up while we waited for the random hailstones and snow to pass, and learning about the bears. Then we headed outside to watch them in their habitat. Weeks later Nova still loves telling people that he had breakfast with the bears and that they eat potatoes, carrots and apples!
The highlight of our visit to Grouse Mountain was the lumberjack show. It was SO good! Nova was captivated for the whole 40-minutes and it was all in good taste, with jokes for adults that went over the heads of little ones and enough fast-paced fun to entertain the whole family. Kit even got to go on stage as she was the youngest person in the crowd. Long story short, she tried out a small chair they carved on stage and got to keep it. Nova was the proudest big brother!
Address: Grouse Mountain, 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, BC V7R 4K9
Where to Eat Out in Vancouver
There are SO many good places to try in Vancouver. We didn’t have enough meal times to try everything we wanted.
Besides the above mentioned places, the freshly squeezed orange juice in jars at Viva Fine Foods and Bakery is a winner as are the chewy Siegel’s bagels. If you fancy a huge burrito we loved Chihuahua’s.
We’d heard lots about Cartem’s Donuts before our visit, but the smoked maple walnut was a little too out there for us. The 55% Belgian chocolate glaze one on the otherhand was delicious.
It was maybe a little too hippy for Jay and not the most kid-friendly spot, but I adored Buddha-Full. This place is totally Instagrammable and it serves fresh juices and healthy treats.
And talking of hippy spots, we also had dinner at vegetarian restaurant, The NAAM. The portions are ginormous! We love food, but Jay and I could have easily shared one dish between us. I recommend the teriyaki stir-fry with noodles with a local beer. This place is open 24/7, so if you have jet-lag it’s definitely worth considering.
We had an incredible Lebanese feast at Nuba, where we may have got carried away and ordered more than enough for a little family of four!
49th Parrallel Coffee and at Argo Coffee are worthy pitstops for tired parents. We also wanted to try the highly-acclaimed Medina for waffles, but the wait was over an hour when we visited and you can’t book ahead, so we’ll have to leave that one for when you visit (because you will visit, right?!).
We Heart Vancouver Canada
Although we didn’t really get to shop as we were on a family holiday, I wanted to give a shout out to Nettle’s Tale. It’s a really cool, little boutique and as well as creating gorgeous swimwear for women of all sizes, shapes and ages, they also stock coveted Camp Brand Good’s sweaters. I met the owner and she was just so lovely and helpful. Definitely swing by here if you can.
As you can probably tell we LOVE Vancouver! We can’t thank the city enough for such a welcoming, fun and memorable trip. I have no doubts that we will be back at some point and I’m sure that you’ll have the absolute best time if you go too.
Until next time Vancouver…
Replicate the Trip
Flights: BA London to Vancouver