The following was contributed to Miss604.com by Jodi McIsaac Martens.
One of the best things about raising a family in Vancouver is that our mild climate lets us get out and enjoy nature pretty much year-round. And there is no shortage of places to go! With over 150 parks in the City of Vancouver alone â€“ not to mention a few hundred more options in the rest of the Lower Mainland â€“ urban-dwelling families donâ€™t have to go far to be surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and lots of room for kids to run, explore and fall in love with the great outdoors.
So if you and the kids are feeling a little stir crazy, start by checking out these five family-friendly parks in Vancouver. Iâ€™ve chosen these parks in particular because (a) theyâ€™re parks that mom and dad can enjoy too and (b) they offer more than your average neighbourhood playground â€“ these parks are great for exploring, hiking, running and observing. Pack a picnic and head out into nature.
What doesnâ€™t Stanley Park offer for families? This is a park families can go to again and again and still experience something new. There are over 27 km of nature trails to explore, a salmon demonstration stream, a beaver lake and two glorious beaches perfect for swimming. In the summer months, kids can also cool off at the Second Beach pool or the huge water park at Lumbermanâ€™s Arch. Older kids will enjoy biking or rollerblading along the 8.8-km seawall. Unfortunately, the Childrenâ€™s Farmyard closed its doors in January, but the famed miniature train is still chugging away. If you plan on spending a lot of time in Stanley Park, consider getting an annual membership at the Vancouver Aquarium. It pays for itself in just two visits and is a great way to break up a day in the park, especially if youâ€™re looking for a place to either cool off or warm up!
Another park that has it all. The beach itself can provide hours of entertainment â€“ from digging in the sand, chasing the seagulls and watching the huge boats offshore. But thereâ€™s also a beautiful duck pond surrounded by willow trees and filled with dozens of friendly ducks. As if that wasnâ€™t enough, there are trails to walk or ride bikes on, lots of open, grassy spaces for playing catch and Frisbee, and â€“ in case you left the picnic lunch at home â€“ a concession stand during the warmer months. But no matter what time of year you visit, thereâ€™s so much to do and see youâ€™ll have to drag the kids away! at any time of year this is a great place for a family to spend the day.
Queen Elizabeth Park
For many kids, the highlight of Queen Elizabeth Park is the Bloedel Conservatory (which, I know, technically doesnâ€™t count as â€œoutsideâ€). But especially if youâ€™re visiting the park during the cooler months, itâ€™s a great place to go to warm up! The tropical birds, massive fish and amazing plants captivate children â€“ as does the giant water fountain just outside the conservatory! There are brightly-coloured gardens, exotic trees and grassy spaces galore (although some of them are â€œlook-but-donâ€™t-touchâ€ spaces). As Vancouverâ€™s highest point above sea level, itâ€™s also a great place for star-gazing on clear nights.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park â€“ East Side
Pacific Spirit Parkâ€™s 763 hectares wrap themselves around the University of British Columbia. The two sections of the park â€“ between the university and the city on the east side, and between the ocean and the university on the west â€“ are so different (and yet both so great) they really need to be considered as two separate destinations. The east side includes 50 kilometres of trails for hiking, biking or horseback riding. These trails are smooth and stroller-friendly and come in many different lengths and combinations, so you can explore for as long or as short as you please. And if the kids want a little beach time, head to Spanish Banks, just to the north of this park.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park â€“ West SideÂ
I know it might seem odd to include a park with a clothing-optional beach on a list of best family-friendly parks! But this section of the park is one of our favourite winter destinations â€“ the trails (which are not clothing-optional, FYI) are rugged enough that you and your kids will have no problem keeping warm, and the weather is chilly enough that even if you do decide to head down to the beaches, your chances of running into clothing-optional sunbathers are pretty slim. The hiking trials that wind along the shoreline are great for kids who love to climb and explore. They can climb over and under (and sometimes through!) the fallen trees, cross wooden planks over small streams and get wonderfully muddy head-to-toe. If youâ€™re so inclined, you can also head down to the beach to watch the boats and play amongst the driftwood. But keep in mind that itâ€™s a 478-stair climb down to the trails from the road â€“ and what goes down must come up!
Jodi McIsaac Martens is a copywriter and business owner by day and a novelist by night. Somewhere in there she is also a blogger, wife and mother. Visit her at Inkwood Communications and on her blog. This post was inspired by Jodi’s original article about Kid-Friendly Parks in Surrey.