Vancouver is a city of beauty and culture. A city of depth. With two days to spend, it’s a matter of fitting in everything you can – and having comfortable shoes.
We travel as a family to learn and to connect with each other, and the city had plenty of opportunities for this, our favourite being Science World with a load of interactive exhibits for the girls to try on their own or for us to do together as a family.
My own personal favs had to be the beauty and calmness of the waterfront, and eating local delicacies – everywhere!
We had a short walk to get to our apartment. This is where a little planning as to what we packed, and the bags we chose, came in handy. We each had a backpack, and between us, we had two small suitcases on wheels (travel on board size to save on luggage costs) and two large suitcases. This meant the girls could easily cope with their own luggage for transfers and a bit of walking.
The Times Square Suites were fantastic. We had a “one bedroom and den” fully self-contained apartment. There was a super comfortable bed, a child in the den, and the other on a very comfortable pull out couch. I could catch up on washing without paying super expensive laundromat fees, and we can cook our own meals and make picnics for our travels. The staff are extremely friendly and go out of their way to help. And there is a great supermarket just across the road.
I tend to wake up a little earlier than the rest of the family. This is going to prove the norm on this trip. But this morning I’ve woken up early and I’m itching to get out and about. I’m laying there getting more than a little frustrated – hubby is sick (and a little grumpy himself), the girls are tired – and I just want to get out there and do everything. I decide it will be more productive to get up and go for a run. Although I was a little nervous about heading out on my own, once I was down at the waterfront the place was full of fellow early risers. I ran towards town, past the gorgeous little houseboats and the plethora of float planes, and the convention centre, until I got to the Olympic Torch.
Watching the sun rise over the harbour was stunning. My frustrations seemed to float away and I could sit and watch the sunrise and be grateful for the amazing opportunity we had to explore this beautiful country. I arrived back at the apartment with a smile on my face, and a couple of lattes from Starbucks on the corner.
We want to explore Vancouver today, however, Hubby has the flu (not sure if it’s got something to do with spending the night in the hot tub drinking local beers on Vancouver Island whilst trying to recover from jet lag?). We decide to book tickets for the hop on hop off bus as it may be easier with tired children and an unwell Hubbie. Given the length of this trip, and the need to stretch our budget – we shop around for every major purchase and these are not cheap tickets! We download the Groupon app so we can find the best deals. A few tips here:
- The Groupon App requires you to register a physical address – that lines up with your location. As we are of no fixed abode in Canada, we use the hotel address and this works.
- Read the fine print – we are required to print the tickets. A bit unexpected in this day and age when we have apps. The receptionist at the Times Square kindly printed the tickets for us.
- Read the fine print – I didn’t pick up that you couldn’t use the ticket on the same day you buy it. Luckily they let me get away with this one.
- Hop on hop off buses do not always go in both directions. This one didn’t.
We had planned to have our first stop in Chinatown and to end the day enjoying a beer at Granville Island – but the bus went the opposite way!
Thus our first stop was Granville Island. We fell in love with the children’s market and the kids loved the pirates floating by in the pirate ship. The coffee and treats from the market made a fantastic morning tea, and we found a lovely spot to eat our picnic lunch we made in the apartment.
The whole family enjoyed an afternoon exploring Science World. The children loved the interactive exhibits and we ended up spending hours here. We could have spent the entire day here!
Miss T looking a little unimpressed with her little sister.
We made our final stop at the historic Gastown. Beautiful buildings and cool little pubs. We were unsure if we could take the girls into the pubs so had to awkwardly ask the bar staff if we were allowed to bring children in – which wasn’t a problem. The girls were very happy with themselves – kids that are not usually allowed fizzy drink – enjoying lemonade and being introduced to root beer. We made a point of trying local wine and beer, and ordered deep fried pickles with jalapeno aioli – which were absolutely amazing.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a positive experience with the last bus, and were left with a long walk home with a sick husband and two tired children, even though the bus timetable said they should still have been operating. We had to engage a few tactics to distract the girls from their tired little legs. We walked along the waterfront where we could point out the doll house like house boats and check out the lego sculptures for a bit of entertainment.Overall we had a fantastic day in the city, I would have loved to have kept track of our steps as we walked a fair few miles. Two very tired children and a Hubbie with the man flu.
Miss M’s (7) diary from exploring Vancouver:
Today was tiring because we did a huge walk! But it was worth it. We went to Science World, Chinatown, Gas Town and Granville Island and of course, we went to the kids market. I hate walking. We could of went on a taxi. My favourite part was Gas Town because we got hot chips!
This morning we checked out of our comfortable apartment and left our luggage with the hotel so that we could explore Stanley Park for the day. Whereas yesterday we toured the park in the hop on hop off bus, today we are on foot.
Our first stop was the AIDS Memorial. Although we remember when AIDS was a death sentence, we were young and didn’t understand the epidemic levels it reached. The Memorial, and the stories behind it, put a real life face to AIDS.
We have decided to do a bit of geocaching – a great way of exploring somewhere new. Geocaching is essentially modern day orienteering. If you download the app it will show you approximately where the cache is hidden, it’s then up to you to find it. It can be micro sized – think the size of a screw – or it can be an easy to find one – usually the size of a lunch box. When you find it you can “log” it in the app and also in the cache – bring a pencil.
Sometimes there are also little swaps, so you can bring little keepsakes from home for the kids to “swap” for little takeaway souvenirs. The caches are maintained by locals and are usually hidden in fascinating spots. There is usually a story or history behind the geocache that you may not otherwise learn about. It’s free and it’s a fun way for the family to get outdoors and learn new things, not to mention there’s a competitive element! So today we managed to log three geocaches in Stanley Park – but I can’t tell you where they are, you will have to download the app and find them for yourself! This is what a geocache looks like.
Thanks to geocaching we managed to find the old polar bear enclosure. The park used to have its own zoo, a fascinating piece of history we wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. I love exploring relics, and the old zoo is still there, polar bear pond and all. It brings back nostalgic memories of visiting the polar bears at Auckland zoo as a child, but at the same time reminds you that these enclosures, lacking in natural habitat and in a foreign climate, do belong in the past.
We also visited the totem poles, the nine o’clock gun, the Guinness bridge, the light house and the girl on the rock. We had our picnic lunch at the water park and the girls indulged in a water fight. After lunch, we made our way over to the pool for a swim and an ice cream.
By now we are all completely stuffed and not at all looking forward to the walk back to the hotel! We break up the walk with a quick stop at the Pavilion for our first poutine, and local beer.
Miss M’s (7) diary from Stanley Park:
Guess what we did today? Of course we went walking!!! But this time it was brilliant! We saw 17 squirrels. One racoon. Two turtles. Amazing right? It is the best day ever! We even got sushi for dinner and chocolate peanut butter cups for pudding! Now we’re on a train to Jasper.
The hotel has booked us a taxi to take us to the train station for our Via Rail journey to Jasper. It’s been a long day and it’s going to be a late night by the time we get the girls’ beds sorted on the train. But at least there’s no more walking for the next 24 hours!
Tips for travelling with children in Vancouver
- Travel is about exploring and learning – new cultures and experiences. Not everything has to cost a lot of money. Geocaching is free and a fantastic way to explore new places. The girls love geocaching and this is a great way to convince them they want to get outside … and walk some more!
- Distraction is a great tactic. We ended up walking a lot more than we anticipated, so we needed to make a game of spotting cool things that they would be interested in, distracting them from the long walk home!
- Relax the rules. The girls don’t usually have fizzy drinks, and definitely don’t usually have ice-cream everyday. But it is hot and we are travelling, and the girls have done so well with all the walking and the long days. By late afternoon i’m more than happy to reward them with a sit down and a cold treat.
- We love eating out, it’s about great food and experiencing local culture. As a family of four on a long holiday, our budget doesn’t stretch to eating out all the time. But if we self cater the main meals, packing a picnic lunch etc., then we can still experience the local delicacies for snacks. The savings are significant.
My thoughts from Vancouver
- I loved my early morning run along the waterfront – a chance to have some time to myself, to clear my head and to watch the sunrise.
- If we visited Stanley Park again I’d hire bikes. Our feet got us around – but we would have enjoyed it more and seen more if we had of hired bikes.
- I’m glad we brought comfortable shoes for walking.
- Download the Groupon App before you leave home. Check it for activity coupons – but watch the fine print. I’ve also spotting tickets for Science World here as well as bike hire and walking tours.
- You can get great little maple leaf shaped jars of maple syrup from the supermarket for cheap. It’s the same stuff in the souvenir shops for three times the price.
Five years ago we re-evaluated our lives and our goals after the sudden loss of my mother in law. We vowed to slow down and to enjoy life with our small children. We got outside and explored. And we traveled. This Amazing Journey series documents our journey through Canada and the US, provides an insight on travelling with children, local destination tips and tricks, and, of course, gives an Accountant’s perspective on making the most of your holiday dollar. Earlier entries are here: