Originally published August 12, 2016, updated April 13, 2018
On our trip to Vancouver, BC with a toddler, we decided to take a walk around the city on our last day. We packed my toddler in his stroller and went for a walk through Downtown Vancouver to get a feel for the city. Our first priority was to check out the Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre and then enjoy a Harbour Cruise in Vancouver. Here’s what we thought of each activity:
Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre
The Vancouver Lookout is a fun thing to do in Vancouver with kids. I equate it to visiting the Space Needle in Seattle. First, you take a 40 second ride in a glass elevator up to the observation deck, which is more than 500 feet above Vancouver. On the observation deck, you get stunning panoramic 360° views of Vancouver.
HOW TO GET TO HARBOUR CENTRE
The Vancouver Lookout is located at the Harbour Centre near the waterfront. Harbour Centre is one of Vancouver’s tallest and most iconic landmarks. They have a mix of businesses, retail shops, and tourist attractions in Vancouver’s downtown Heritage District.
By Foot: Harbour Centre is located in the heart of the Vancouver, a short walk from major hotels, and a few blocks from the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Cruise Ship Terminal, and historic Gastown.
Public Transit: Harbour Centre is located across the street from Waterfront Station where you’ll find the SkyTrain (light rail system), Canada Line (connecting YVR Airport to Vancouver and Richmond) and the SeaBus (passenger ferry to North Vancouver). City bus stops are located at the front and rear of the building.
Parking: While there is metered parking, there’s also a convenient parking garage located at 450 W. Cordova Street, adjacent to Harbour Center.
VANCOUVER LOOKOUT TICKETS
Once you arrive at Harbour Centre, the Vancouver Lookout ticket desk is located a floor below the main lobby. Since we had a stroller, we had to walk around to find the elevator and figure out the name of the floor below. Keep this in mind when doing Vancouver Lookout with kids. There was no line when we arrived and we were able to get our tickets and hop right on the elevator to head up on a 40 second glass elevator ride up to the panoramic observation deck. You can also get Vancouver Lookout tickets online.
Once we got up there, we got to see historic Gastown, Coal Harbour, Stanley Park, the Pacific Ocean, North Shore Mountains, Olympic Peninsula Mountains, boats, seaplanes, trains and cars! The views are absolutely stunning and they offer a complimentary guided tour that would be really interesting. It reminded me a bit of the Space Needle observation deck, but there was even more to see!
SKY SCOUTS AT VANCOUVER LOOKOUT
Sky Scouts is a free Vancouver Lookout program designed for children ages 6-12 to learn about Vancouver through exciting and interactive activities. This program is available for groups as well as individuals. The Sky Scout program is offered throughout the year.
As part of the program, each child receives a fun activity book filled with puzzles, coloring pages, and games.
VANCOUVER LOOKOUT REVIEW
It was kind of a tricky attraction for small children because they are short. There was only one spot where the observation area was semi-accessible, but smaller kids would still need a step stool to see out on their own. I saw one step stool on the entire observation deck. Even the cool telescopes were too tall for small children.
They did have a table and chairs with some coloring sheets that was a hit with my toddler. And they have one of those pressed penny machines that only takes $1 Canadian coins. But, we spent most of the time holding my toddler up so he could count the train cars and spot the seaplanes.
VANCOUVER LOOKOUT RESTAURANTS
If your family gets hungry at Vancouver Lookout, don’t worry! Harbour Centre has a food court with burgers, pizza, Asian food and more. Plus, there’s a Tim Horton’s and a Starbucks.
Our next stop was the Harbour Cruise. We walked back to the hotel to drive over so we could leave directly from the cruise. We got there just in time to pick up our tickets and wait to board the boat. The had a nice undercover waiting area with benches and great views of the boats and harbor.
VANCOUVER HARBOUR TOUR
This Vancouver boat cruise is a fully narrated tour of Vancouver’s inner harbour. It lasts 1 hour and you will cruise past Stanley Park, cruise ship terminals, Gastown, North Shore Mountains, and around Burrard Inlet. It’s an amazing way to see the Vancouver city skyline.
During the boat cruise in Vancouver, you can order a beverage from their fully licensed bar. There’s plenty of seating inside on on their spacious open-air decks.
When our boat was ready, everyone stood up and formed a makeshift line and boarded the boat. We headed straight up to the top deck and grabbed a seat on the right side of the boat, which is the side that features most of the sights. The seats were cushy and comfortable but they get HOT in the sun. I’d recommend putting down a sweater or jacket to sit on, especially if you’re wearing a dress or shorts.
VANCOUVER HARBOUR TOUR CRUISE REVIEW
The cruise itself was fabulous! The narrator was really funny and the boat ride was smooth. My toddler loved to walk around the open-air decks and count the seaplanes taking off. He was also very intrigued by the big red wheel that was propelling the boat. There are railings around the top deck, but you’ll want to keep a close eye on small children to make sure they don’t climb up them or drop things overboard.
Inside they offer a bar where you can buy drinks and snacks. There are also 2 bathrooms on board. This is important to know because they do NOT have bathrooms when you dock. When I asked where the nearest restroom was when we docked, they suggested I go to the Westin or to Starbucks (both several blocks away.) At 7 months pregnant toting a toddler, I knew that wouldn’t be a viable option for me. I ended up driving somewhere else and still find it so strange that a tourist attraction wouldn’t have restrooms. It made me glad that my toddler wasn’t potty trained yet because we would have had to go in the bushes!
Overall, the cruise was a blast and I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling with small children or even elderly people. One hour is perfect for short attention spans.
INDIAN ARM LUNCHEON CRUISE: VANCOUVER LUNCH CRUISE
Another option is their Indian Arm Luncheon Cruise that’s offered May through September. It’s a 4 hour lunch cruise through Vancouver’s inner harbour, Burrard Inlet, and Indian Arm. You’ll get a catered buffet lunch while you gaze at panoramic scenery, Silver Falls, privately owned islands, wildlife, waterfront homes and more. Sounds like a great way to enjoy lunch and snaps some photos!
VANCOUVER SUNSET DINNER CRUISE
Harbour Cruises is also the home of Vancouver’s original dinner cruise. Offered May through September, this 2.5 hour cruise will take you past the Vancouver skyline, Canada Place, North Shore mountains, Stanley Park and more. You can watch the sunset while listening to live music and eating West Coast themed cuisine.
Tourism Vancouver provided admission to Vancouver Lookout and the Harbour Cruises for review purposes.
Looking for more things to do in Vancouver, BC?
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