Vancouver In A Day – 2024 Family Guide & Suggested 1-Day Itineraries

Vancouver, renowned as one of the world’s most stunning cities, captivates visitors with its remarkable location nestled amidst mountains and bordered by the ocean. This exceptional setting played a significant role in its selection as the prestigious 2010 Olympic Winter Games host city. 

Vancouver is known as the crown jewel of British Columbia and is one of Canada’s most ethnically diverse and busy cities. Vancouver offers an experience for families of all ages, providing a blend of breathtaking scenery, exciting tourist attractions, and vibrant city life. 

Whether it’s scenic views or enjoying the excitement of various activities, Vancouver is an exceptional destination to visit with kids throughout the year. The city draws visitors in with its stunning mountain backdrop, world-class parks, unique attractions, and mild weather. 

Canada Family Road Trip planning tips

Best Time to Visit Vancouver

The best time to visit Vancouver depends on the activities that interest you, as Vancouver is a city for all seasons, each season offers a unique set of activities.

The weather in Vancouver can change rapidly (there’s a good reason the city has earned the nickname Raincouver), so it is suggested to dress in layers, no matter when you visit. 

The months of June to September are peak tourist season in Vancouver and is the perfect time to explore the natural beauty of Vancouver through outdoor activities like hiking, biking, gondola rides, and exploring parks and beaches. 

fall colors over Downtown Vancouver and bay

If you prefer a quieter city, you will want to visit in the fall when the weather is cooler, and there are fewer tourists. The major park in the city, Stanley Park, offers beautiful fall scenery which is perfect for walking the seawall and enjoying the totems.

If you enjoy winter activities, you will want to check out nearby ski hills such as Grouse and Whistler, which offer fantastic snowboarding and skiing, skating at Robson Square, enjoying a Vancouver Canucks home game, or festive light displays.

The spring offers lots of beautiful gardens to explore, cherry blossoms throughout the city, and many more outdoor activities.

Where to Stay in Vancouver for Families

Vancouver International Airport is located 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) south of downtown in Richmond, British Columbia. The airport is connected to the Downtown core by a series of bridges and tunnels and is about a 30-45 minute drive depending on traffic. 

Several transportation options from YVR to Downtown include rental cars, public buses, and taxis.

We recommend taking the Canada Line of the Skytrain unless you are renting a car, as it is convenient and affordable and can get you downtown in about 35 minutes without the hassle or traffic.

If you are just visiting the Downtown Area for a day, we would skip the rental car and stay in the city center so you are close to all the attractions. Transportation options in metro Vancouver are simple and easy to use if you need to go further than walking distance. 

A Few Of Our Favorite Vancouver Hotels

Fairmont Waterfront: Located in Downtown Vancouver, kids will enjoy the children’s play area, outdoor rooftop pool, and a kids’ club, as well as babysitting services. Childproofing kits and cribs can be accessed by request. The Fairmont Waterfront offers spectacular views of Stanley Park and the inner harbour. This hotel is located near the Burrard station for the Skyline train.

Pro Tip: Kids 5 and under eat free off the children’s menu while kids 6-11 eat for half price from the regular menu.

Rosedale on Robson Suite Hotel: Situated near BC Place Stadium and Rogers Arena, this is the perfect hotel for families visiting to enjoy local sporting events. This hotel has apartment-style rooms with a galley kitchen and living rooms, perfect for families who want to cook meals in the hotel room and skip restaurants. Kids will find cookies and a kid’s toy chest in the main lobby. This hotel is accessible by bus and sky train.

River Rock Casino Resort: Located close to the Vancouver International Airport, families will love this hotel for its saltwater pool with a fun water slide. This hotel can be accessed using the Skytrain.

CA Vancouver in a Day -  Rogers Arena

How to Get Around Vancouver

There are a variety of different ways you can get around the city of Vancouver with kids. You can either walk, take a taxi, ride the Skytrain, or take a bus.

The transportation system in Vancouver is well-developed, making it easy to navigate and move around the city while visiting.

Driving in Vancouver

If visiting the downtown area by car, we would choose a local parking lot and park for the day and then use other modes of transit as they are more convenient.

Take a Walk and Cycling

Vancouver is a very pedestrian-friendly city, especially in downtown Vancouver and many neighbourhoods, making it a great option to explore the Downtown core for shorter distances. Vancouver has many designated cycling lanes and pathways and is known as a Bike Friendly City, making it a great option to get around either on your own bike or by renting a bike from Mobi Vancouver Bike Share.

Enjoy the Skytrain

The SkyTrain is a quick and affordable way to access Downtown Vancouver and surrounding areas and is a convenient way to visit major attractions. The Skytrain has three lines: Expo Line, Millennium Line, and Canada Line.

SeaBus

The SeaBus is a unique mode of transportation in Vancouver as it is an affordable passenger ferry service that connects the North Shore with Downtown Vancouver by boat while enjoying a scenic ride across the Burrard Inlet. If you have time, SeaBus is a great way to get to Granville Island.

Ride a Bus

Vancouver has 5 major bus routes that offer Rapid Bus Service with limited stops. You can also take the 99B Line to access the Broadway-City Hall area of Vancouver.

For Updated schedules and fare costs, please consult the Vancouver Transportation Website.

Taxi

You can take a taxi as well. However, it becomes complicated with kids as you will require car seats.

Pro Tip: Vancouver operates on a fare system using the Translink Compass Card, which can be loaded with funds for easy payment across the buses and skytrain. Vancouver uses a system with three zones with varying fare costs.

Best Restaurants in Vancouver to Visit with Kids

One of our favourite areas to head to is Gastown. Located near Waterfront SkyTrain station, you’ll find

Some more top-dining spots in Vancouver to try fit into your itinerary:

White Spot: This is a local favourite chain restaurant in Vancouver (several locations) that is family-friendly and famous for its Pirate Pak meals that allow children to eat their kid’s menu from a pirate-themed box – complete with an entree, drink, and dessert.

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co: This family-friendly restaurant on Main Street serves amazing gourmet pizzas and flatbreads with organic ingredients in this open kitchen restaurant. On Sunday evenings, you can roll out the dough with staff and create your own pizza.

La Casa Gelato: The perfect place to enjoy over 230 different flavors of gelato.

CA Vancouver in a Day - Restaurants

Best Things To Do With Your Kids In Vancouver

Vancouver is a great city to visit with kids, as it has a variety of activities and attractions that are perfect for families.

We suggest that you choose the activities based on your family’s interests and the ages of your children, as we have provided an extensive list of day excursions that can’t all be completed in one day. 

The costs of attractions can easily add up, so you will want to set a budget and be selective. The age of children also influences how expensive the activity will cost to visit as a family. Whether you are visiting Vancouver with a baby or with older kids, you will be able to find some amazing Vancouver-based activities to enjoy! 

Let’s jump into the best of Vancouver with kids! We have included indoor things to do in Vancouver as well as outdoor attractions to allow you to best choose activities based on the weather.

Stanley Park

Stanley Park is the best park in Vancouver and has so many unique activities for kids and the whole family to enjoy. You can easily spend the entire day here, so why not pack a picnic lunch? Kids will love riding a miniature train that weaves around the park showcasing the natural beauty of Stanley Park.

For nature enthusiasts, you will want to stop by the Lost Lagoon Nature House to learn more about the park’s wildlife and ecosystem.

Stanley Park has a rich history and is home to an impressive collection of Totem poles near Brockton Point in Stanley Park which is easy to find and accessible. While visiting the totem poles, you can learn more about how the totems represent the traditional art and storytelling of Indigenous cultures from various Indigenous Communities in the Northwest. 

The totem poles at Stanley Park represent different Indigenous nations, including the Haida, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. They reflect these Indigenous cultures’ artistic styles, traditions, and legends. The totems are carved on large cedar trees and depict important symbols that are culturally and spiritually significant in telling the story and history of respective communities. 

In the summer, kids will enjoy spending time at the beach building sandcastles, as Stanley Park is home to two different beaches. Kids will enjoy playing at the playground, running through the splash pad, or visiting the heated outdoor pool that is nestled in the forest called Second Beach.

Lastly, don’t miss out on visiting the seawall, where you can walk and cycle while enjoying the fresh ocean air and enjoying scenic views of wildlife and boats in the Pacific Ocean.

Pro Tip: Second Beach Pool has a sloped entry with gradual depths, making it perfect for families with younger children. Check the website for details on whether the train is running.

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium is conveniently located at 845 Avison Way within Stanley Park and is home to marine animals such as dolphins, beluga whales, sea otters, penguins, and jellyfish. The aquarium is focused on the conservation and preservation of marine ecosystems as well as offering educational programming to families.

CA Vancouver in a Day – A Family Guide - Vancouver Aquarium

The aquarium is the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon with kids, as the immersive education experience will inspire curiosity about underwater life. One of the most unique features of the aquarium is the interactive touch pools that allow kids to touch marine creatures and observe feeding sessions.

Younger kids will enjoy storytime, animal encounters, and educational shows to enrich children’s knowledge about aquatic life. Don’t miss out on Kids Zone, which offers games and activities designed specifically for kids. If the weather is nice, you will want to enjoy the outdoor spaces that overlook Stanley Park.

Science World

Telus World of Science offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities for families to enjoy. For those visiting with small kids, you will want to check out Wonder Gallery, which is an interactive, hands-on play area for young kids under 6 years old to discover, explore and engage in science through seven different areas: experiment, splash, shine, crawl, climb and build.

This area features activities even for the littlest scientist, as babies who are crawling will also enjoy the visit.

Older kids can enjoy water play, construction with large building blocks, and other outdoor interactive displays.

Head inside to enjoy living science shows and demonstrations, larger-than-life educational films in the dome OMNIMAX theater, or explore the hands-on exhibits such as experiments, puzzles, and more that introduce kids to physics, biology, chemistry, and technology.

Grouse Mountain

Families will enjoy the journey up to Grouse Mountain as they take a scenic gondola ride as they go up to the mountains and find the wild refuge that gives you the opportunity to see local animals such as grizzly bears, gray wolves and birds of prey up close.

CA Vancouver in a Day – A Family Guide - Grouse Mountain

Through educational talks, kids can learn more about these fascinating Canadian creatures. There are lots of attractions to allow you to experience different views of the natural environment, including the Peak Chairlift, the wind turbine with a glass observation pod called Eye of the Sky, and nature trails.  

The mountaintop playground features slides, swings, and climbing structures for younger children to enjoy. In the winter, additional activities such as snowshoeing, ice skating, and tubing are available for family fun.

Grouse Mountain also offers family-friendly entertainment, including the Lumberjack show, and many unique dining experiences, such as eating breakfast with the bears.

Granville Island

Granville Island is a fun destination for kids to explore, especially the Kids Market, which has a variety of shops, including a unique toy store, clothing shops, bookstores, and much more.

If the kids need to burn some energy, head to the indoor playground with climbing structures, slides and tunnels. The Kids Market often hosts special events and activities for kids throughout the year.

This family-friendly environment also offers lots of play areas for kids outdoors when the weather is warm. When the kids get hungry, check out the awesome ice cream shops, candy stores, bakeries, and local restaurants that offer seaside patios.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

As you ascend high above the trees, you’ll immerse yourself in the refreshing scent of cedar and embark on an exhilarating treetop adventure at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. This renowned park presents three captivating attractions designed to entertain children of all ages.

CA Vancouver in a Day – A Family Guide - Capilano Suspension Bridge

Experience the thrill of crossing the Suspension Bridge, traversing the Cliff Walk along the Capilano River, or embark on a remarkable journey through the Treetop Adventure, where you’ll traverse seven suspended bridges, offering breathtaking views from above the forest floor. 

Additionally, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park offers a special Kids Rainforest Explorer Program, enabling children to research data and learn fascinating facts about the West Coast Rainforest, all while earning their own Explorer’s Badge.

Playland

Playland is located at Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) fairgrounds and offers families a fair atmosphere with midway rides, midway games, and food and refreshments.

Playland has a separate area designed for younger kids called Kid’s Playce that features pint-sized rides, play structures, and a splash park for little ones. Playland also hosts annual special events, including live entertainment and fireworks.

Kitsilano Beach

Known as “Kit’s Beach”, Kitsilano Beach is part of the seawall that connects to Stanley Park and is a popular destination for families as it has so many recreational opportunities.

Kits Beach is a popular destination in the summer as families can enjoy building sand castles, playing beach volleyball, lounging in the sun, playing on the playground, splashing in the waterpark, or taking a break and enjoying a picnic lunch from a nearby cafe. 

CA Vancouver in a Day – A Family Guide - Kitsilano Beach

Kitsilano Beach offers family-friendly amenities such as washrooms, change rooms, and outdoor showers. During the summer, Kitsilano Beach is a hub for a variety of family-friendly activities, including outdoor movie nights and cultural celebrations.

Whale Watching

Check out these majestic creatures in their natural habitats by taking a whale-watching excursion from Downtown Vancouver. Whale-watching tours are led by experienced guides and offer half-day and full-day options to learn more about marine life and the ecosystems found in the Pacific Ocean.

The waters of the Pacific Ocean are home to a variety of whales, including gray whales, humpbacks, and orcas.

While you enjoy the coastal scenery, you may also see sea lions, seals, dolphins, and various sea birds. You will have a chance to view these marine animals and learn about migration patterns, feeding habits, and conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures.

Pro Tip: The peak season for whale watching is from April to October, when whales are beginning to migrate.

Vancouver Lookout

The Vancouver Lookout is a popular attraction to view the panoramic views of the Vancouver skyline, mountains, Pacific Ocean and Stanley Park as the observation deck is 168 meters (553 feet) high, offering clear, uninterrupted views that make great photography spots. 

It is great to note that the whole observation area is entirely wheelchair friendly, making it easy for all families to navigate.

CA Vancouver in a Day – A Family Guide - Vancouver Lookout

The Lookout is conveniently located in Downtown Vancouver on Hastings Street, making walking to other attractions easy. Don’t worry if the kids get hungry; an indoor lookout cafe offers snacks and stunning 360-degree views.

After taking the glass elevator to the top, stop to learn more about Vancouver’s history, diverse neighbourhoods, iconic landmarks, and more as you explore the interactive exhibits. Kids will enjoy picking out a souvenir at the gift shop on the way out!

Pro Tip: Bring some coins, as the observation deck offers coin-operated binoculars.

Day Trips From Vancouver Worth The Trip To Visit

If you have more than a day to spend in Vancouver, we would definitely add one of these incredible day trips to your Vancouver itinerary:

Bowen Island

If you are looking for a relaxed atmosphere on the west coast of Canada, then you will want to visit Bowen Island as it offers outdoor adventures, natural beauty, history about the island, relaxation and wellness, as well as many shops and restaurants. 

Known for its natural beauty with lush forests, rugged coastline, surrounding mountains, and ocean, you will find picturesque views on Bowen Island in Howe Sound, a short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. Many local restaurants focus on using local cuisine in their cooking.

Outdoor activities include kayaking, swimming, and hiking in the surrounding areas, including Mount Gardner Trail. Bowen Island has a thriving arts community and offers many local studios and galleries to explore. Bowen Island also has a museum to allow visitors to learn more about the past while exploring unique artifacts.

Whistler

Located two hours from Downtown Vancouver but known as the adventure capital of Canada, it is well worth the drive into the mountains.

Whistler is home to many attractions, including the Cloudraker Skybridge, mountain biking, Peak2Peak Gondola, swimming, canoeing and paddling, hiking, and nature walks.

Vancouver In One Day – Ideal Family Itinerary

How exactly you plan out all these suggestions in one day is up to your family’s ages and interests – and often, the weather has a significant role to play!

If the weather is beautiful, then:

  • Start your day by walking around and exploring Granville Island, which has many restaurants and bakeries to visit for breakfast.
  • Stop at the Kids Market to check out the toy store, candy store, and children’s clothing shops.
  • Take the aqua bus to explore the Olympic Village or head to Science World.
  • Head to Stanley Park, stroll or bike the seawall, then visit the totems.
  • You can end your evening by Suspensione water on a sunset boat tour located in Vancouver Harbour.
CA Vancouver in a Day – A Family Guide - Vancouver Harbour

If you find yourself visiting Vancouver on a rainy day, we would suggest:

  • Start the morning at the Vancouver Aquarium.
  • Head to Granville Island for lunch and maybe some time at the indoor playground.
  • Finish your day at Science World.

If you are a return visitor to Vancouver and have already seen the city centre sites, why not try:

  • A morning exploring North Vancouver City and the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
  • Spend your afternoon on the waters with a whale-watching tour
  • Seek out your favourite restaurant in Gastown for dinner

More On Visiting Vancouver With Kids

If you’re looking to complete a road trip either from or near Vancouver, then we recommend you check out these guides next:

  • Calgary to Vancouver: Enjoy the drive between these two major Canadian cities on the West Coast of Canada
  • Extend your journey south to explore more of the Pacific Northwest from Vancouver to San Francisco, USA
  • Take the ferry to Swartz Bay and enjoy an unforgettable Vancouver Island road trip, visiting the capital of B.C., Victoria, and some of Canada’s most epic coastal scenery
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