Originally published August 5, 2016 and updated April 13, 2018
Stanley Park is Vancouver’s number one tourist attraction. It’s easy to see why, especially in the summer. There are so many things to do in Stanley Park that one could easily spend several days here exploring all the options. A few of the activities include: Stanley Park train, the Tea House at Stanley Park, Stanley Park Horse Drawn Tour, Stanley Park bike rentals, and so much more. The views are beautiful and the park is expansive.
We had the opportunity to visit with my toddler while I was 7 months pregnant. That meant we really had to pick and choose what activities we could manage. We wanted to see the park and also do things that were especially fun for our toddler. Here’s what we ended up doing:
Stanley Park Horse Drawn Tour Carriage Ride
I had always seen the horse drawn carriage rides when we have driven through Stanley Park in the past, but we never looked into it. This time, I decided it would be the perfect way to start our day in Stanley Park. My toddler was especially excited since he had his first pony ride just days earlier. He couldn’t believe how big our horses, Andy and Jay, were! We sat right behind the driver and as soon as the carriage filled up, we slowly trotted on our journey.
STANLEY PARK HORSE DRAWN TOUR RIDE TIPS :
- If you sit in the front row, right behind the driver, you may have reins at your feet. They aren’t long, but could be uncomfortable if you have long legs.
- There are just ropes on the sides of the carriage, so keep an eye on small kiddos who may be sitting close to the edge.
- Be warned, you will pass an awesome spray park and your kiddos may want to stop and play. You can’t hop off the tour, so you can go back after the Stanely Park Horse Drawn Carriage Ride. The spray park has a Kid Dryer, where you can dry off your kids if you didn’t bring a towel. That sounds like an experience in itself!
Stanley Park Train
Every year, we come to Vancouver for my son’s birthday, which falls right after Christmas. Every year, I suggest that we do the Stanley Park train, but it never works out with our plans. So, we made it a priority to do it this trip.
My toddler is a big fan of trains and he loved every minute of this! I assumed that it would be similar to the Horse Drawn tour where we’d go around the park. It never occurred to me why I’d never seen the train in action before. It’s tucked away in the woods!
The conductor drives a miniature version of a steam locomotive and you meander through the woods checking out sights like Big Foot, Charlie Brown, Foghorn Leghorn, Kermit the Frog and more! Besides spotting the characters, the journey is actually pretty stunning as the train roams the forest of giant trees, through a tunnel, crosses a tiny brook and around a beautiful pond. It’s about a 12 minute ride and it feels like the right length. It was so fun that we will definitely come back, especially for their Stanely Park Christmas Train.
STANLEY PARK TRAIN TIPS:
- The front of the train, right behind the conductor, seems to be the most coveted spot. Get there early if your kiddo wants to sit there.
- If you are coming to Vancouver for the Stanley Park Christmas Train, you might want to get your tickets ahead of time as it can be very busy
- Your train-enthusiast child may want to do the ride several times.
- There is a concession stand nearby that has lunch items and mini donuts.
- If your child is celebrating a birthday, you can reserve the train for a private birthday celebration!
Lunch at Stanley Park
If you are headed to the Vancouver Aquarium, Waterfall Cafe might be a great place to stop for lunch. It’s located just a few minutes from the Stanley Park info booth. Their sunny patio is a nice place to enjoy a bite and take in views of the Vancouver Aquarium, the 300 year old Western Red Cedar tree, and Bill’s Reid’s Chief of the Undersea World sculpture. The Waterfall Cafe is open from June to September, and admission to the Aquarium is not required.
TEA HOUSE AT STANLEY PARK
If you want to enjoy a leisurely meal, check out the Tea House at Stanley Park. They offer seafood dishes, steak, pizza, brunch and many other kid-friendly menu options. It’s a higher end restaurant and the view of Stanley Park is incredible!
Vancouver Hop On Hop Off Bus
HOP ON HOP OFF BUS TOUR TIPS:
- Get a map. I cannot stress this enough.
- Pick just a few places to stop if you use it all day. The line to get on the bus at popular places like Granville Island was incredibly long and you may have to wait.
- Wear sunscreen and a hat if you go in the Summer
VANCOUVER AQUARIUM TIPS:
- Go in the morning
- Find out the event schedule for the day to see shows featuring the mammals
- Warning: There really isn’t a way to avoid the sign for ice cream near the mammals
Stanley Park Bike Rentals
Something that we didn’t do this trip, but would love to do next time we’re in Vancouver in the summer is to rent a bike in Stanley Park. I’ve found a couple of companies that offer services to families with young children.
SPOKES BIKE RENTALS
Conveniently located at the entrance of Stanley Park, Spokes Bicycle Rentals has been serving Vancouver locals and tourists since 1938. They have the largest selection of the newest bicycles and offer complimentary helmets and locks. Plus, they have balance bikes, children’s 1 speed bikes, trail-a-bike, child trailer, and child’s seats for adult bicycles.
ENGLISH BAY BIKE RENTALS
Another option is English Bay Bike Rentals, which offers kids’ bikes, child trailers, child seats, and junior mountain bikes. They have 12″ and 16″ kids bikes that are available with or without training wheels. And they have the Weehoo tag along bike that attaches to their Hybrid or Crosstail bikes and gives kids the ability to pedal along and enjoy riding while an adult does the work!
You can also book a private family tour if you’d like a guided tour around Vancouver with kids.
Stanley Park Playgrounds
If your kids just want to run around, check out some of the Stanley Park playgrounds! There are four designated children’s playgrounds located near other Stanley Park attractions and activities. Plus, the park itself is one big Vancouver playground!
Stanley Park Events
MOVIES IN STANLEY PARK
What better way to watch a movie than to experience an outdoor movie at Stanley Park? During July and August (weather permitting) families can watch movies every Tuesday night after sunset. It’s free to sit on the Grand Lawn and Ceperley Meadow. Just show up with your picnic blanket or lawn chair to enjoy this Stanley Park summer evening tradition!
BRIGHT NIGHTS AT STANLEY PARK
During the holiday season, the Bright Nights Christmas Train and Stanley Park Train Plaza sparkle with three million twinkling lights. Update: We did the Stanley Park Christmas Train last year and it was fantastic! You can read about it here.
Ride the Bright Nights Train and experience the lights, breathtaking displays, and live performers along the train route. But, Bright Nights at Stanley Park is so much more than just a train ride. You can also view the displays at the Train Plaza by donation ($5.00 suggested).
Stanley Park Parking
Wondering where to park at Stanley Park? There are a ton of pay parking lots. They have passes sold by the hour, day, season or year. If you are visiting from out of town, I recommend getting a day pass. Since Stanley Park is so massive, it’s easier to drive and park rather than walk, especially with kids.
Tourism Vancouver provided admission to Stanley Park Horse Drawn Carriage, Hop On Hop Off Bus and the Vancouver Aquarium for review purposes.
4 Days in Vancouver with a Toddler Tips & Itinerary
Vancouver Lookout and Harbour Cruises
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Science World with Babies and Toddlers
Holiday Festivities in Vancouver, BC
Bright Nights at Stanley Park