Nothing lifts the spirits more than looking forward to another holiday. That thought certainly keeps me going on those dark, rainy Vancouver days. The annual BC Family Day long weekend in February is a great way to enjoy family time, whether at home, in town, or at your nearest ski resort. Here are 21 ways to enjoy an epic BC Family Day with kids in Vancouver – inside, outside, and all around this fair city.
21 Ways to Enjoy BC Family Day in Vancouver
Family of four lift passes for a day’s worth of skiing/snowboarding range widely, depending on the ski resort. Skiing and snowboarding are not a cheap sports, but they really are great fun. If lessons are needed, the three north shore hills have excellent kids and adults ski and board lesson programs. You’d be surprised at how quickly your child learns to snowplow down the mountain – even in one weekend!
Note: If your child is in Grade 4 or 5, they are eligible to apply for the Canadian Ski Council’s annual SkiPass, giving them up to 3 free lift tickets to nearly every ski resort in BC and Alberta, including all three north shore mountains and Whistler. For details and to apply, visit www.snowpass.ca.
Work the Brain at TELUS World of Science
Note: The TELUS World of Science is currently closed. Just because it’s a holiday weekend doesn’t mean we can’t learn. A day of fun and learning awaits at Science World in Vancouver’s False Creek. The Kidspace Gallery and Playground caters to younger kids (2-6 years), while the Eureka and Bodyworks Galleries focusing on music and the life sciences. Watch OmniMax theatre shows for an added fee.
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There’s great snowshoeing in those north shore hills! At Mount Seymour, you can rent snowshoes or bring your own pair to hit the specially-marked trails in the provincial park. Go on your own or with a guided group (recommended) if you’re new. Snowshoeing is great exercise in the beautiful outdoors, with great views of the city on a clear, sunny day. It’s a great way to enjoy Family Day fun – outside. Remember to stay out of bounds of the ticketed ski resort area.
Winter ziplining in Whistler is way different from the summer version. It can be cold, especially as you gain speed. So bundle up the kids and be sure to wear toques under those helmets. Whistler’s two zipline companies – Superfly and Ziptrek – offer rip-roaring fun, where you can reach up to 100 km per hour. Superfly runs the only backcountry, tandem zip lines in Whistler, in a stunning mountain setting. The braking system for each line absorbs the speed and force of the rider, who arrives at full speed, so there’s no need to brake on your own.
Make it a long weekend – find a family-friendly accommodation in Metro Vancouver
Get Back to Nature
A visit to serene Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Ladner is a family favorite and should definitely be a part of your BC Family Day. Keep on the lookout for birds of prey like eagles and owls. Count snow geese and robins, and buy a bag of seed to feed the ducks. Pack along the kids binoculars and climb the birding towers for the best views.
Go Cross-Country Skiing
Cypress Mountain has the most extensive local cross-country ski trails near Vancouver. Further down the Sea to Sky, the Callaghan Valley has great trails, as does Manning Park, three hours east of the city.
Visit the Museum of Anthropology – MOA
Explore First Nations history at the iconic Museum of Anthropology at UBC in Point Grey. Families with kids are welcome to discover thousands of years of First Nations artifacts and history, including Haida carver and sculptor Bill Reid’s Raven and the First Men. Catch a free, guided tour to delve into the history of the artifacts and place.
Both Cypress and Seymour Mountains have Snow Tube Parks. The family can spend a couple of hours or a day sliding down the specially designed snow tube hill in custom snow tubes while getting a ride back up on the tube tow line. A two-hour rental rate will cost approximately $25 (per person).
Get Your Art On
The Vancouver Art Gallery offers free admission for kids ages 12 and under on Family Day. Enjoy art workshops and live music, and one of the best hidden lunch spots in town.
Hang Out in the Kids Market
The Granville Island Kids Market has lots of great shops with kid-friendly toys and products. But it’s also a family-fun arcade, with a multi-level jungle gym to climb around in. For Family Day weekend, planned activities include face-painting, crafting and entertainment to keep wee ones busy.
Mount Seymour has a great Toboggan Park, where you can bring your own toboggan or sliding mat (no inflatables allowed) for only $8 (pp) per day, or $32 for family of five. It’s probably the most reasonable snow play deal to be found anywhere. If there’s snow in the city, head to Queen Elizabeth Park for free sliding fun down the hills.
Sleep over at the Vancouver Aquarium
Kids can spend hours (mine have) at the Vancouver Aquarium. There are just so many amazing animals to see. Sharks, frogs, otters, colourful fish, and hundreds of other sea creatures fascinate children, and parents too. Kids can take care of ‘sick’ sea otters in the Clownfish Cove area. If you plan to visit often, take out a family membership. It’s good value with member benefits like early admission and guest passes.
As the Aquarium is in Stanley Park, enjoy a walk along the nearby Seawall if the weather’s nice. Or wear your wellies and compete to find the deepest, wettest puddle. It’s only water after all.
Pet the Animals at Maplewood Farm
North Vancouver’s Maplewood Farm is a young animal-lovers delight. Children enjoy seeing horses, cows and pigs, and they can pet many of the animals, including rabbits and goats. Buy a package of bird seed to feed the ducks at the duckpond and chickens in the barn.
If your child loves practicing her jumps and sit spins, Grouse Mountain has a 8,000 sq ft skating rink to enjoy. Admission to the Skating Pond is included in the Grouse Mountain Admission, Winter Pass or day Lift Ticket.
Vancouver Police Museum
Learn all there is to know about the history of policing and crime at the Vancouver Police Museum. Visitors can check out legal and confiscated weaponry, the old morgue and coroner’s rooms, take part in some fun activities, identify counterfeit money, and take a pretend mug shot. Hopefully you’ll never have to pose for a real one.
Go Back in Time at Fort Langley
For the Family Day long weekend, historic Fort Langley hosts lots of old-fashioned activities. Put the kids to work at 19th century family chores. Take photos in period costumes, eat some fried bannock, and pick up blacksmithing and coopering tips at demonstrations. The charming village of Fort Langley has lots of cafe and restaurant options for families.
Visit Britannia Mine Museum
If you ever wondered how miners go to the bathroom in the mine shaft, you’ll find answers here. Explore the Britannia Mine Museum with underground tours of its old mining tunnels. Attend the Boom! interactive show and learn all about the mine’s storied past, then pan for gold and strike it rich at the Gold Panning Pavilion. This National Historic Site offers a glimpse back into the life of the mine and the town at Britannia Beach.
Ride the Sea to Sky Gondola
Note: The Sea to Sky Gondola is currently closed. Winter a great time to visit the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish. The Gondola is offering access at 50% off admission for the BC Family Day long weekend. There are easy hiking and walking paths to enjoy at the Summit, not to mention the stellar views of Howe Sound fjord and the Garibaldi mountains. There’s also snowshoeing, tubing, and ski touring.
Vancouver Maritime Museum
Showcasing the unique maritime history of Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Canadian Arctic. Located in Kits Point, the Maritime Museum has interactive maritime history displays and a great children’s section (including pirate dress-up). Attendees can tour the RCMP St. Roch, the first vessel to sail the Northwest Passage from west to east.
Find a Great Escape
Pool the family hive-mind to solve the puzzle adventure at Find and Seek. This kid-friendly escape room combines imaginative fun with engaging story lines and simple game play. Hopefully everyone makes it out alive…
Gulf of Georgia Cannery Museum
The Gulf of Georgia Cannery in Steveston, Richmond, is one of the few intact canneries on the west coast. This national historic site showcases the industrial history of the west coast salmon fishery. Learn of the importance of salmon to the First Nations and early Vancouver populations. After touring the cannery, wander around historic Steveston and stop for lunch or ice cream on the dock.
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Photo Credits: Claudia Laroye, Tourism Vancouver, Sea to Sky Gondola, Shutterstock, Tourism Whistler