Originally published August 18, 2016 and updated April 16, 2018.
If you are looking for an easy trip from Seattle, look no further than Vancouver, British Columbia. Located just a few hours from Seattle, Vancouver has lots of kid-friendly attractions, restaurants and hotels. My family spent 4 days in Vancouver, BC in the summer with our toddler. Check out how you can explore Vancouver with kids with my Vancouver 4 day itinerary.
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Vancouver with Kids: Day 1
If you are driving from the Seattle area, I recommend driving early in the morning. We left Seattle a bit later than I planned and we felt a bit rushed. Thankfully, the Canadian border wait at Peace Arch was just a few minutes and we headed straight to the Historic CPR 374 Locomotive that is on display in Yaletown at the corner of Davie St and Pacific Blvd. It closes at 4pm. We got there at 3:50pm and literally ran to get in to see it because my son LOVES trains!
HISTORIC CPR 374 LOCOMOTIVE
CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE PARK
Vancouver with Kids: Day 2
We spent our second day in Vancouver, BC at the world famous Stanley Park. With a toddler, you could easily spend a couple of days at Stanley Park exploring and doing all the activities.
STANLEY PARK HORSE DRAWN TOUR
We chose to do the Stanley Park Horse Drawn Tour first, so that we could get a layout of the park. This tour lasts about one hour and new tours depart every 20-30 minutes. Once you climb aboard, your guide will start the narrated tour. You’ll see Deadman’s Island, Vancouver’s Harbour, Lions Gate Bridge, a Coastal Red Cedar Forest, Totem Poles, the Girl in a Wet Suit statue, the Rose Garden and more.
STANLEY PARK TRAIN
Once we passed the sign for the Stanley Park Train ride during our tour, my toddler decided that we needed to do that next. So, we drove over to that side of Stanley Park.
The train ride was adorable. You purchase tickets at the little train station and then climb aboard a miniature train. The train ride takes you through a small area of the park that is decorated with beloved characters like Charlie Brown, Foghorn Leghorn, Kermit the Frog and more! They also do themed train rides around Easter, Halloween and Christmas and I’d definitely want to do one of those to see how they change it up.
After the train ride, we grabbed burgers, hot dogs and pretzels at the nearby concession stand and headed back to the hotel to rest.
HOP ON HOP OFF TOUR OF VANCOUVER, BC
My toddler loves to ride on any type of vehicle, but buses are always a hit! We climbed aboard the open air double decker bus for a Hop On Hop Off tour of Vancouver. The tour was perfect in July because we could enjoy fresh air while marveling at the city.
We spent about 90 minutes on this Hop On Hop Off bus tour because our destination was the Vancouver Aquarium. My son had been so excited to ride that he skipped his nap. So, he ended up falling asleep halfway into the tour. That worked out because he was refreshed enough to continue our day at Stanley Park.
We made it to the Vancouver Aquarium about 2 hours before it closed. That was enough time for our family. But, since it’s home to thousands of incredible ocean species, you may want to spend an entire afternoon here.
The Vancouver Aquarium provides several family programs where kids ages 8 and under can participate in crafts, singing, puppet shows, games and make-believe journeys involving sea life. They also have Clownfish Cove, located next to the Exploration Gallery. This is a place for kids to pretend to be a junior animal technician, build octopus dens, and learn more about animal preservation.
One of the coolest parts of the Vancouver Aquarium is their outdoor mammal shows. These shows feature dolphins, sharks, sea lions, penguins and more. We also enjoyed seeing the jellyfish and large mammals.
We grabbed a quick dinner at the Vancouver Aquarium specifically so my son could enjoy a chocolate ice cream cone. Yes, they have ice cream in a prominent location and your children won’t be able to think about anything else.
Vancouver with Kids: Day 3
I love to do day trips when we travel. We decided to spend our 3rd day in Squamish, BC. Located just an hour from Vancouver, Squamish is right on the Sea to Sky highway. If you’ve ever driven to Whistler from Vancouver, you would have passed Squamish.
WEST COAST RAILWAY HERITAGE PARK
We headed straight to the West Coast Railway Heritage Park because my toddler really wanted to see the trains. It was even cooler than I imagined! Lots of stuff for kids and adults and the staff were really friendly.
The West Coast Railway Heritage Park features a typical mid-20th century railway station and old style town center. They have more than 90 pieces of railway cars and artifacts. It’s also massive at 12 acres of park. And they have historic exhibits including the Brightbill House, blacksmith forge, wash house, and vintage printing press.
Additionally, they have a Roundhouse that’s home to 5 vintage trains, including the world famous Royal Hudson steam train. If your kids love Thomas the Train as much as mine, seeing a “steamy” in a roundhouse is a HUGE deal!
My son’s favorite parts of the West Coast Railway Heritage Park were the outdoor Thomas the Train Tables and riding the Mini Rail. Oh, and buying a Polar Express train puzzle. We were there 2 hours and could have easily spent another hour there.
SEA TO SKY GONDOLA
I’m not afraid of heights, but I’m a nervous flyer. When we pulled into the parking lot, I saw all the gondolas racing up and down the mountain and I instantly panicked. Thankfully, those fears easily subsided. I was thrilled that the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish was so family friendly!
The gondola ride is about 10 minutes long and it takes you 885 meters above sea level. Each gondola can seat 8 people. They are stroller accessible, although I’d recommend wearing your baby in a baby carrier like this one. There are floor to ceiling glass windows so you can enjoy breathtaking views of Shannon Falls and the famous Squamish Chief climbing area.
At the summit, you’ll find two different interpretive loop walking trails with stunning viewing platforms. There’s also the spectacular Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, numerous hiking trails, rock climbing, and lots of hiking trails.
We rode the gondola up and walked across the suspension bridge. The views were incredible! Since it was afternoon and my toddler was tired, we spent about 20 minutes soaking in the gorgeous viewpoints. If you were to arrive earlier in the day, you could easily spend a few hours walking around. They even have a restaurant at the summit with the best view!
At the base, we headed to the grab and go cafe and ordered pre-made sandwiches. This hit the spot for us! My toddler got the rest of his energy out at the playground there and then we hopped in the car so he could nap on the drive back to Vancouver.
If there’s one famous street in Vancouver, it’s Robson Street. Known for it’s incredible shopping, Robson Street is worth a leisurely stroll. They have international luxury brands, souvenir shops, restaurants, coffee shops, a mall. We always stop at both Roots locations and stock up on sweatpants for the whole family. I also like to pick up a crepe to eat while walking around. Oh, and we like to hit up London Drugs to pick up massive Lindt chocolate bars and specialty potato chips not found in the U.S.
You’ll also see Robson Square, that features the Vancouver Art Gallery. Every time we go, we always run into a street festival or event. We like to walk all the way to Gastown.
Vancouver with Kids: Day 4
For our last day in Vancouver, we opted to walk around downtown to people watch and see what we could see. We ended up walking to the Vancouver Lookout near the waterfront. It was a nice walk from our hotel and my toddler was excited for the elevator ride.
I thought we’d be able to see more of the city from the elevator since there were glass panels, but we really couldn’t see much during the short ride. But, once we got up to the observation level, we had incredible panoramic views of the entire city!
If you are going with kids, take advantage of their Sky Scouts program. Sky Scouts is designed for children ages 6-12 to learn about Vancouver through exciting and interactive activities. They have both guided and self-guided tours. And each child receives a fun activity book filled with puzzles, coloring pages, and games.
VANCOUVER HARBOUR CRUISES
Since Vancouver is a waterfront city, it would be a shame to not experience it FROM the water. We boarded a one hour harbour cruise and it was lovely. We learned a bit about Vancouver’s history through the humorous narrated tour, however we spent most of the time gawking at the amazing views and soaking up the sunshine.
Not only was the weather beautiful, but we got to watch seaplanes take off. There was a lot for my toddler to see and one hour was the perfect time to be on the boat. They have 2 restrooms on board and sell snacks and drinks.
Then, we hopped in our car and headed to the U.S. border. It ended up taking us 2 hours to get from Vancouver to the Peace Arch crossing because of afternoon traffic.
Additional Vancouver Kids Activities
This is a popular Vancouver family attraction. We’ve done it a few times. We like to take the mini ferry to get there! They are almost like toy boats that come around every 2-3 minutes and ferry families between Granville Island and other mini docks around False Creek. It’s a blast for kids!
Once you get to Granville Island, wander through the Public Market and sample the tasty treats. Last time we were there, we enjoyed Dole Whip (usually only found in Hawaii or at Disneyland!) There’s also live music, restaurants, and artwork. But, your kids will probably be most interested in the Kids Market. Here, you’ll find independent toy stores, children’s clothing, and a play area. And there’s also the largest free water park in North America!
If you enjoyed the Sea to Sky Gondola or don’t have time for a day trip to Squamish, Grouse Mountain is a good alternative. Enter the Skyride and head 3,700 feet above the city for a spectacular panoramic view of Vancouver. During the summer, you’ll experience a grizzly bear refuge, a lumberjack show, and outdoor activities. During the winter, you can enjoy a sleigh ride, skiing, snowboarding and even visit with Santa.
Telus World of Science is one of our favorite kid activities in Vancouver. My husband enjoys it just as much as our toddler! Here you’ll find the latest feature exhibits, hands-on interactive displays and special events. You can also watch OMNIMAX films on one of the world’s largest dome screens. There’s also a restaurant and fabulous gift shop.
Kid Friendly Hotels in Vancouver
Are you wondering where to stay in Vancouver with kids? We’ve stayed at the Auberge Vancouver Hotel and love that there’s a door to separate the bedroom from the living room. During the holidays, we love staying in the condo side of Sutton Place because it’s all decked out for the holidays!
I’ve reviewed the Executive Hotel Vintage Park and the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel on my blog. We’ve also heard great things about the Four Seasons, Fairmont Vancouver, and Westin Grand Vancouver for families traveling to Vancouver.
Kid Friendly Restaurants in Vancouver
CIRCUS PLAY CAFE
This is a great spot to let the kids play while enjoying breakfast or lunch. They have locally sourced and organic food options for kids and adults. And kids can get a “tapas box” with things like fruit, crackers, and wraps. Plus, they have a play space perfect for imaginative play.
This is a European pancake house that also has gluten-free options. We visited their West 2nd location. They have a play kitchen and tons of toys to keep kids occupied while you wait for breakfast.
This is another cafe with a play area. They offer baked goods, sandwiches, wraps, etc. You can also pick up frozen meals to take home for later!
Getting Around Vancouver
Walking: Vancouver is a very pedestrian-friendly city. If you are staying downtown, you’ll be able to walk most places.
Taxis: Taxis (including accessible wheelchair taxis) are plentiful and can be hailed on the street, as well as found at designated stands, and called for pick-up.
Driving: Whether you drove to Vancouver or have a rental car, this is the easiest way to explore outside of Vancouver.
Skytrain: This is one of our favorite ways to explore Vancouver, especially when we stay in Richmond. It’s a fast subway-type train that zips in and out of Vancouver.
Fun Things to Do with Kids in Vancouver, BC
Things to do in Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC with Kids
Vancouver with Kids: Vancouver Lookout + Harbour Cruise Reviews
Vancouver’s Science World with Babies + Toddlers
Holiday Festivities in Vancouver, BC
Bright Nights at Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC
Day Trip to Squamish, BC