It’s easy to entertain children on a dime in Vancouver, so save your money for a rainy day (not that Vancouver has any of those) and check out these 10 things to do in Vancouver for those on a budget. Here are our top 10 affordable Vancouver family activities – feel free to add to the list in the comments!
There’s something for everyone at this popular Vancouver tourist attraction, from the food and flower market to feeding the pigeons on the wharf. Kids play for free at the indoor playground in the Kids Market, and the outdoor water park if the sun is shining. On weekends, buskers entertain crowds of people and the atmosphere is more carnival than quiet.
Beaches and kids go together like pie and ice cream, so take yours to one of Vancouver’s several sandy beaches. Go to Spanish Banks for incredible city views, Kitsilano Beach to catch some basketball or volleyball pick-up games, Third Beach in Stanley Park for a calmer setting and sunsets, or Ambleside Beach to catch some waves if they’re breaking. Beached logs double as chair backs, just bring a blanket and a shovel and a desire to get your feet wet.
It’s not Vancouver’s most popular tourist attraction for nothing. In Stanley Park, the largest urban park in North America, you can bike around the seawall, play in the water park or playground, smell the roses in the rose garden, check out the Totem poles, ride the miniature train (for minimal cost), and watch the float planes take off and land in the harbour. If you want to get up close and personal with Douglas Firs, there are also well-marked hiking trails to explore.
Similar to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, only without the price tag, the Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge located in Lynn Canyon Park is the most thrilling adventure you can have for free in North Vancouver. Suspended fifty meters above water, the bridge will bounce and sway as you walk across it, thus earning its nickname, the shaky bridge. Bring a picnic or purchase snacks at the cafe in the nearby Ecology Centre, which is also worth a visit and free of charge.
Head east of downtown Vancouver and you will hit the third largest Chinatown in North America. From the ornate gated entrance to the narrowest building in the world, Vancouver’s Chinatown is a vibrant, historical part of the city, loved by young and old. If they like Chinatown they’ll love the Richmond Night Markets for cheap thrills and sampling Asian cuisine, on May 15-Oct 12.
For minimal cost, get a tour of Vancouver’s False Creek in one of these cruisers. Choose one of their eight docks to start from and enjoy a twenty-five minute boat ride around the bay, children ride for $4. The Aquabus is stroller-friendly and the best-kept commuter secret in Vancouver, with boats leaving every fifteen minutes.
May 2015 marked the 138th anniversary of the first train arriving in Vancouver, and you can check it out for free at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre in Vancouver’s Yaletown. CPR Engine 374 is on display, and volunteers will give you a tour—their knowledge of rail history will impress Thomas the Tank Engine aficionados.
We mean this in a good way. Vancouver is home to the finest hiking east of the Rockies, many of which are possible for little legs. Pack water and snacks and head to Deep Cove, the Quarry Rock hike is part of the popular Baden Powell trail, and takes about an hour and a half round trip. The reward is a stunning vista of Indian Arm and mountains surrounding Belcarra. For flatter terrain and less view try Rice Lake, a three kilometre loop in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park.
Libraries aren’t just for bookworms. Head to your local library for story times, author talks, LEGO parties, movie showings, pajama parties, board games, puppet shows and singing, all for free. The summer reading club will be starting soon, sign your children up and inspire them to read more, and game less this year.
While the Vancouver Aquarium and Science World are popular destinations, they aren’t inexpensive, especially for families. Alternatives are the Vancouver Art Gallery, $6 for children and by donation Tuesday evenings, the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre with an $8 evening rate for children, and The Vancouver Maritime Museum with entrance by donation Thursday evenings. Culture doesn’t have to be costly.
Face it, there’s nothing to keep you inside in Vancouver – not even the rain.
Related: Four Seasons Vancouver
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/footloosiety/