I watched as my son clung to his father. That shark was so close. A little daddy protection was in order, but not for long. As my toddler realized the sharks and stingrays at the Vancouver Aquarium could not get to him, he warmed up to these salt water creatures, and the real adventure began.
Vancouver, located just over the border in the Canadian province of British Columbia, is one of those cities that those of us living in the Pacific Northwest take for granted, but is really an international destination worth the trek no matter where you live. Why would you drag your family north of the border? Well I’ve got five fantastic reasons why not only your kids will love it, but you will have a fabulous time too.
Science World at TELUS World of Science
For every science geek there is a museum that transforms your interest into an obsession. Science World can do that for you and your child. Incredible exhibits, like the upcoming LEGO Travel Adventure show (starts Feb. 1, 2014), and permanent galleries and programming makes this an all day destination when possible — or just a place to explore for a few hours at a time. Live animals and insects, hourly science shows, physics exhibits that come alive through water, light and sound, and even a special preschool area will help your budding scientist find their calling.
Food trucks, carts and trailers seem to be all the rage in every major city in North America. If your own town has them, why should you bother checking them out in Vancouver? For one thing they generally offer up cheap eats. Food gets expensive when traveling with a family. They also offer variety, so everyone in your clan can find something they love. But most importantly, Vancouver is a food mecca. You thought you had good sushi back home? Well they have 20 that will beat your best. Like noodles? Pick a cuisine and they will have it. Let’s not even get started on desserts. The food trucks in Vancouver are no different. They offer up quality food with a pride that will put some brick and mortar establishments to shame.
Any city worth their weight needs to have a spectacular park, or at least that’s my feeling. If you don’t have green spaces to let the kids run and catch up on their vitamin D then you will miss a piece of the vacation puzzle. Stanley Park is Vancouver’s own Central Park. This is where you will find the aquarium, the miniature train, beaches, a waterpark and pool, bike trails, hiking trails and stunning gardens. Really you could spend your entire trip exploring the park and walking the Seawall. It’s that good.
Fly Over Canada
You know how Disneyland has Fly Over California, but you just can’t get yourself (or bring yourself to go) to Anaheim? Well Vancouver has the answer—Fly Over Canada. This half-hour, multisensory experience shows you why Canada is a country worth exploring. The actual “ride” only lasts eight minutes, but it will take your breath away as you fly through open prairies while a whiff of wildflowers floats past your nose (literally) and you climb the Canadian Rockies into the damp clouds (an actual spray of mist will hit your hair!). This is sure to get your wanderlust flowing and the kids screaming for a trip to Alberta next.
Aquariums have always been a family favorite in our house. It was the first place my son really got excited as a baby. It was also our little “treat” when exploring the not so kid-friendly spots my husband and I love to visit. The Vancouver Aquarium is the perfect spot to explore on a cold and rainy day in Vancouver. They have more than a few of those — it’s not hard to schedule a trip in. Dolphins, Beluga whales, seals, turtles, clownfish, sharks and stingrays are just a few of the friends you will meet as you walk through the space. There is educational programming, including feedings, scheduled throughout the day. If you have a young oceanographer in your group try to splurge on an animal encounter or behind-the-scenes tour.
This list doesn’t even begin to crack the surface of all there is to do in Vancouver, but it will certainly give you a good start. The city is bursting with activity, but like all things in the Pacific Northwest, you can always find a spot to slow down, grab a cup of coffee (or hot cocoa for the kids) and watch the world go by. No one will mind. Not even the sharks.
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