Vancouver Island and BC Gulf Islands
Vancouver Island offers a range of activities and attractions that will keep everyone entertained and excited – it’s a children’s paradise! Don’t waste a perfectly sunny day inside, as there are many parks and sights to explore! Yes, it does rain here, which is why the trees are tall and the gardens so lush – rain or no rain, there’s no shortage of things to do.
Just a short walk south of downtown Victoria is Beacon Hill Park, with its manicured gardens and many attractions. Park facilities include walking trails, a wading pool, water fountains, picnic areas, monuments, sports fields and playgrounds, a band pavilion, and what was once the world’s tallest totem pole. Top of the list for kids and adults alike is the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm; lots of baby animals, pot belly pigs, zebu, miniature horses and other critters to meet and pet – and don’t miss the goat stampede at closing time!
Victoria Bug Zoo: Discover the amazing world of insects at this unusual and fascinating zoo on Courtney Street – there’s even an ant farm! While the Maritime Museum of BC will have the pirates in search of treasure, a visit to Lasercity Fun Centre on View Street for laser tag will get the kid’s hearts pumping.
The whole family can enjoy an IMAX film at the National Geographic Theatre, next to the Royal British Columbia Museum in downtown Victoria (corner Government and Belleville Streets). Plan a morning or afternoon to experience this museum, where you can see what it was like in the gold rush days – much of BC’s history is captured here.
Miniature World at the Empress Hotel is well worth a visit, for adults to put things back into a kid’s perspective. There are over 80 attractions for the whole family, including the world’s smallest operational sawmill – a miniaturized extravaganza that continues to thrill and delight the young and young at heart. Visit Miniature World’s Wonderful World of the Circus and return to those nostalgic days when the circus came to town. Feel the magic, the wonderment of the Grand City Parade, the Big Top, the Wild Beasts and the death defying High Wire Acts.
Horse drawn carriages take you on various tours around many of Victoria’s exciting sites and sounds. From the beautiful Inner Harbour and the Ivy Covered Empress hotel and our magnificent Parliament Buildings to many notable Heritage Homes, through Beacon Hill park and much much more.
Llamas are friendly and delightful animals that bring joy to all who are graced by their presence. With their long, silky eyelashes framing big, intelligent eyes, llamas find their way into the lives of many people. There are a number of Llama farms and Llama bed & breakfasts in the area that offer Llama Walks and Llama Hiking.
Stroll amid lush vegetation at the fascinating Victoria Butterfly Gardens at 1461 Benvenuto Avenue in Central Saanich, an indoor tropical garden filled with hundreds of dazzling free-flying exotic butterflies and colourful birds.
Trails: Whether you enjoy hiking, cycling, roller blading, horseback riding, or just going for a stroll, Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula boasts some superb trails, including the Galloping Goose Trail, the Lochside Trail, and other great peninsula trails. The combination of the Galloping GooseTrail and the Lochside Trail creates a safe trail all the way from Downtown Victoria to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal north of Sidney.
If you’re looking for a great beach, try Willows Beach in Oak Bay. Farther along Beach Drive, past Uplands, there is also Cadboro Bay Beach. The sea air, playgrounds, and sandy beaches are sure to melt away any worries and delight both young and old. Visit the Oak Bay Marina to see the antics of harbour seals in their natural habitat. All Fun Recreation Park in Langford offers a Go Kart Raceway, a Moto Cross track, Batting Cages, an Ice Cream Parlour, and 18 holes of adventure Mini Gol. Also on site is Western Speedway.
Stroll through peaceful meadows at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Park, overlooking Esquimalt Harbour in Colwood, a coastal artillery site built to defend Victoria and the Esquimalt Naval Base – operational from 1878 to 1956. Located on the large grounds of Fort Rodd Hill is Fisgard Lighthouse, the first lighthouse on Canada’s rocky west coast, built in 1860 by the British when Vancouver Island was still a crown colony.
The town of Sidney is home to family attractions as well. The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre is an aquarium and marine education centre showcasing the extraordinary marine life and amazing ecosystem in the waters surrounding the Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea. From microscopic plankton to Puget Sound King crabs, wolf eels to giant Pacific octopus, the vast aquatic exhibits fascinate visitors of all ages. With 87 tonnes of sea water and 17 habitats, the Centre’s ever-changing seascapes and touch pools offer an unforgettable and unique hands-on, hands-wet experience that reveals the mysteries of the ocean to all ages. Located on the waterfront in Sidney. Open daily from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm.
Discover the incredible world of gems and minerals at Mineral World and Scratch Patch in Sidney. A very popular attraction for children, the Scratch Patch is an outdoor adventureland designed to turn anyone into an enthusiastic rockhound. Pick and choose from millions of beautiful semi-precious stones and tropical shells, or try panning for gold!
The ocean around Vancouver Island abounds with spectacular marine life, you can see these magnificent creatures up-close; whale watching tours with marine naturalists are a “must do” for any visitor to Victoria. Sidney is also a good spot for this popular activity.
South Vancouver Island
The British Columbia Forest Museum located in Duncan portrays the history of BC’s forestry industry through indoor and outdoor exhibits. Board the steam locomotive that travels through a turn-of-the-century farmyard and a logging camp.
Explore the sculpted sandstone tidepools at the world-famous Botanical Beach in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, a wonderful place for appreciating marine biology and viewing intertidal life – it’s a thrill to experience.
Central Vancouver Island
Between Parksville and Qualicum Beach is Morningstar Farm, home to Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and MooBerry Winery. There are many things to do on this heritage dairy farm: see how they make that yummy cheese, visit the farm animals, have a picnic and take a self-guided tour. Parents can shop in the FarmGate store and taste some wine and cheese samples!
If you want to take the kids underground, there are several hundred significant caves on Vancouver Island, including those at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park. From education family oriented tours to deep dark adventure, these caves offer something for everyone.
Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre is committed to helping children of all ages appreciate the wilderness. Within a supportive environment, climb a rock bluff, rappel on a rope, swing on a zip-line and co-operatively solve problems on a ropes course. Learn survival techniques, canoeing, kayaking, orienteering and wilderness etiquette; then participate in a canoe journey for an optional overnight camp-out. Natural history discussions are stimulated while exploring a sphagnum bog, home of insectivorous sundew.
Pacific Rim / West Coast of Vancouver Island
Along the island’s West Coast, the Wickaninnish Centre is a definite highlight for all ages. The centre’s purpose is to provide an understanding of the North Pacific Ocean and its influence on nature and man. The history of the North Pacific coast is illustrated by a collection of artifacts used by Nuu-chah-nulth Indians, and interpretive displays.
The Whale Centre Maritime Museum offers a display of artifacts collected and donated by Tofino locals over the past twenty five years. On exhibit is an assortment of traditional native jewelry, cedar baskets, paddles, sea life, local artifacts – from traditional whaling equipment to original navigation charts of the area – and a complete 40’ gray whale skeleton.
Vancouver, Coast & Mountains
Vancouver and the North Shore
Vancouver has something for all children, and every budget: exciting attractions, great parks, playgrounds and hangouts, and some of Canada’s best parks. Take an afternoon or even an entire day to explore some of the following venues:
Playland Amusement Park located on the historic PNE grounds, features over 35 exhilarating rides and attractions, fun midway games and a mini-golf course. Popular attractions include the historic Wooden Roller Coaster that has been operating since 1958, the Hellevator, and the 90-foot-tall giant Westcoast Wheel. It is also home to Kids Playce, a special zone filled with soft-play areas and rides for children aged 2-8 featuring two NEW rides this season! Open from late April to late September.
Vanier Park is a family park housing the Vancouver Museum, where the history of Vancouver can be explored, the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, which offers simulated rides, hands-on exhibits and a world of family fun. The Maritime Museum is a special place by the sea, about the sea, with lots to see and do, for landlubbers and old salts alike. Thrill to the disasters and discoveries of the Shipwreck exhibition, including real pieces of the Titanic. Set young sailors loose in Pirates Cove and the Children’s Maritime Discovery Centre.
Science World provides family adventure and fun for the whole family. Lose your shadow on the wall, blow gigantic bubbles, and crawl inside a beaver lodge. Blow your mind in the amazing 3D Laser Theatre, experience a breathtaking film in the OMNIMAX Theatre, and participate in dazzling demonstrations.
The magnificent white sails of Canada Place are one of Vancouver’s most prominent landmarks, housing the IMAX Theatre – always a hit! Marvel at new marine adventures and wonders at the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park, where you can discover the wonders of the West Coast, explore the secrets of the steamy tropical Amazon, and delight in the unexpected richness of the Canadian Arctic. Experience Beluga whale and dolphin shows, shark dives and sea otter feeds.
Set in beside the False Creek Community Centre on Cartwright Street is the Granville Island Waterpark, one of the most imaginatively built, warm-weather playgrounds in the city. From the end of May to early September, water spews from hydrants and overhead archways, and from geysers mounted in the concrete surface that can be activated with the push of a button. A bright-yellow water slide thrills youngsters. Games and creative activities are offered free-of-charge to visitors throughout the summer.
You can ride the Skytrain, Vancouver’s light rapid transit system, and travel from place to place with ease, enjoying a great view of the city while you go. Hop aboard the Grouse Mountain Skyride for an exhilarating ride to the year-round Grouse Mountain mountaintop playground only fifteen minutes from downtown. Canada’s most modern 100-person aerial tram glides you up the steep mountainside, skirting trees, and providing you with a spectacular view of Vancouver once you reach the summit.
There are some lovely beaches along a 10-mile (16-km) stretch of Vancouver’s outer harbour, principally along English Bay. Some, like Spanish Banks Beach, Locarno Beach, and Jericho Beach on Vancouver’s west side, receive regular deposits of sand courtesy of the Fraser River’s silt-laden plume, which arches around Point Grey into English Bay. Sand has been trucked in to create the beaches in the West End on English Bay, including those in Stanley Park. A few soft pockets of beach do exist in places such as Caulfeild and Ambleside Parks in West Vancouver. Both are extremely popular with families on weekends, yet they can be almost deserted on weekdays.
The Stanley Park Seawall and the Seaside Bikeway are thronged with an ever-larger number of walkers, joggers, in-line skaters, and cyclists. Bikes and blades can be rented from a number of shops that border the park.
On the North Shore, you can conquer your fear of heights on the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Constructed of wood and cable, the footbridge sways 230 feet above the forested canyon of the Capilano River. Stroll through pleasant parkland and nature trails, admire the wonderful display of totem poles, and stop to watch west coast totem carvers demonstrating their art form.
The last remaining farm on Vancouver’s North Shore, Maplewood Farm was once a thriving dairy, delivering fresh milk and cream to customers from Deep Cove to Lonsdale. Opened to the public in 1975, and now home to over 200 domestic animals and birds, Maplewood Farm strives to provide a recollection of the rural heritage of this pastoral 5-acre setting on Seymour River Place – a unique experience for adults and children alike.
Fun4Kidz Playcentres at Aberdeen Centre in Richmond and Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver offer an environment for the whole family to relax and have fun, including children’s birthday parties.
Kids can take a trip down memory lane at the Burnaby Village Museum, a 10-acre open-air museum made up of more than 30 shops and homes depicting the 1890s through to the mid-1920s. Ride on the vintage C.W. Parker Carousel, wander amidst costumed townspeople, view demonstrations and displays, and take part in the hands-on activities.
The riverfront boardwalk in New Westminster leads to a floating maritime museum, the Samson V Paddle Wheeler. From here an authentic sternwheeler departs up the famous Fraser River to historic Fort Langley, a journey that follows that paths of hundreds of steam driven paddlewheelers that transported people, goods and supplies, ranging from boots to whisky, fortune hunters to fur traders, bankers to stagecoach robbers.
Still in New Westminster, Queen’s Park features a number of attractions, including the province’s first spray park, Rainbow Playland, sports and picnicking facilities, and a one-of-a-kind Children’s Petting farm, open all summer for exciting adventures with animals. A friendly farmer is on hand to introduce children to dozens of barnyard animals – rabbits, chickens, goats, calves and pigs.
Children can also observe and appreciate the delicate balance of nature at Noon’s Creek Fish Hatchery near the Civic Recreation Centre in Port Moody.
The Fraser Valley and Estuary
Time stands still as you venture through the doorway of the historic London Heritage Farm in Richmond. Built during the 1890s, this fascinating heritage site on nearly 5 acres overlooking the south arm of the Fraser River offers the visitor a hands-on experience of rural life in the early development of Richmond. Surrounding the house are vagrant herb and flower gardens, and other attractions that include the restored Spragg family barn, and a hand tool museum.
Come check out the best family go-kart track around! Richmond Go-Kart track racing style go-karts and two seaters are fun for all ages. Full concession, arcade and large picnic area. Open March through October, 7 days a week, noon ’til dusk weather permitting.
Wave pool! Waterslides! Interactive Water Play Features, Sprays & Toys! WaterManic, located in Richmond, has it all – other facility includes: 50 metre pool with diving boards and five metre platform, exercise room, whirlpools, sauna and steam rooms, plus a concession.
Kids can try their hand at fishing from the municipal pier that juts out into the Fraser River at Gilbert’s Beach beside the South Arm Dyke Trail at the foot of No. 2 Road, just east of the Steveston harbour.
Located on the banks of the Nicomekl River, the 1890s Historic Stewart Farmhouse transports visitors back in time to the elegance of the Victorian era and the hardworking days of pioneer farming. The homestead displays vintage agricultural tools and is furnished to represent the turn-of-the-century lifestyle of the Stewart family, who settled on the property in the 1880s. Elgin Heritage Park is the setting for the Stewart Farm, and offers a network of walking trails and tranquil picnic areas.
Enter the rainforest and experience the wonder of nature at the Rainforest Reptile Refuge, a permanent shelter in Surrey for unwanted, abused and abandoned reptiles and amphibians. The Rainforest Reptile Refuge Society educates the public on poaching, habitat destruction and the unfortunate plight of wild animals captured for the pet trade.
Blast into Kahuna’s Lagoona at The Newton Recreation Centre (formerly the Newton Wave Pool) at 13730 – 72 Avenue in Surrey, for all the fun and excitement of an outdoor waterpark in the warm friendly atmosphere of an indoor pool. See the interactive water toy, equipped with water blasters, slides, tubes and spray nozzles. Challenge the wildest of waves…the Big Kahuna, and the darkest waterslide in the west…the Black Mamba.
Meet Eddy The Engine and Chough, a diesel locomotive from England and a steam locomotive built in Holland, at the Bear Creek Park Train, located in the heart of Bear Creek Park in Surrey. The miniature trains operate on a 15-inch narrow gauge track, providing family fun and awareness of railway transportation as the rides take travellers through a magical forest and display tunnel. Ideal for memorable field trips for Pre-School, Day Care, Kindergarten and Elementary classes. Bear Creek Park also offers an 18-hole mini golf course. Tee off at at the train station at 13750 – 88th Avenue at King George Highway
Rain or shine, its awesome at Splashdown Park at 4775 Nulelum Way in Tsawwassen, 3 minutes from the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. Ten acres of family fun hosts fantastic water slides, a giant hot tub, picnic areas, volleyball, basketball, and a video arcade.
Kids can meet the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their official red serge uniforms. The officers meet and greet visitors on the Promenade in white Rock during the summer, providing great photos for the folks back home!
When was the last time you had fun…real fun? Castle Fun Park is Abbotsford’s year-round family play centre. Fun at Castle Fun Park spells one 18-hole outdoor and two indoor mini-golf courses, indoor softball and baseball batting cages, over 130 video and skill games, and a Go Kart track. Facility admission is free.
Surprise the family with a visit to a local dairy farm – a highly technical and computerized business nowadays. Take home some fresh dairy products…and stop at an apple farm.
During the month of August, the clear blue skies in Abbotsford play host to the roar and excitement of one of North America’s top air shows, the Abbotsford International Airshow. Civilian and military aircraft, from the smallest gliders to the sleekest jets, come from all over the world to wow the crowds. Not to be missed!
Dinotown is an entire day of family fun! We have a train, wet fun firehall, paddle boats, pedal cars, bumper cars, prehistoric golf, basketball and cave drawing! Everyone will love our cool live stage shows that run all day…including Dexter’s tales from the The Treehouse, presented in our gigantic clubhouse. There are plenty of shady areas beside our babbling brook and don’t forget your camera and bathing suits. See you soon! Only 30 minutes east of Abbotsford on Highway #1. Take exit #135 into Bridal Falls.
Go Wild…go to the Zoo! Enjoy an affordable and enjoyable family outing to the Greater Vancouver Zoo, in 264th Street in Aldergrove. Enter the fascinating world of over 200 species of wild animals, including lions, tigers, bears, rhino, giraffe and more. Set on 120 scenic acres of lush farmland and forests, attractions include a children’s play area, the Safari Express Train, the North American Wilds Safari Bus Tour and beautiful picnic grounds.
Follow a 20 to 30-minute loop trail through the natural settings of the Chilliwack River Hatchery, where steelhead trout, chinook, coho, pink and chum salmon are incubated and reared for release into the area’s rivers.
Fun and excitement awaits the entire family at Bridal Falls Water Park, at at 53790 Popkum Road South, Rosedale at the east end of Chilliwack. Family oriented facilities make for the perfect day of fun in the sun and water for the whole family. Enjoy hours of entertainment and fun.
The ride of your life is waiting for you at the Cultus Lake Water Park at at 4150 Columbia Valley Highway, where radical rapids, blasting flash flood slides, relaxing whirlpools, water fountains and wading pools will thrill the young at heart.
Step into the past inside the high walls of Fort Langley National Historic Site, and experience the sounds, smells and activities of the trading post that played such a major part in the development of British Columbia. Established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1827, this historic village with a difference has seen the likes of Native fur and salmon traders, adventurous explorers, European fur traders and eager gold prospectors.
For recreation of a more urban variety, visitors can visit the City Centre Aquatic Complex with an Olympic sized swimming pool, wave pool, waterslides and therapeutic whirlpools.
Kids can grab their buckets and spades and be on the beach in early September to catch the World Champion Sand Sculpture Classic. Artists from all over the world come to create magnificent sand sculptures – the wide beach is turned into a natural outdoor art gallery.
Hope offers one of the most spectacular sights in British Columbia: Hell’s Gate, a narrowing of the Fraser River where the water churns through the famous gorge in a tremendous maelstrom. It’s an awesome sight to behold, and certainly a “hellish” experience for the more than 2 million spawning salmon that must pass through this part of the Fraser River every year. For a closer look at the fury of Hell’s Gate, ride the Hell’s Gate Airtram across to the other side of the river. Restaurants, gift shops and an interpretive centre await those daring enough to make the trip.
Llamas and their smaller Alpaca cousins are a growing part of the agricultural industry in Langley, with around 35 farms raising a total of over 400 of these South American pack animals. Llamas are used mainly by hikers on foot, who carry lead lines and let the animals carry the supplies. A number of the llama farms offer farm visits – check at the Visitor Centre for more information.
Pan for Gold in the Fraser and Thompson Rivers near Lytton, following in the footsteps of the Cariboo Gold Rush prospectors.
Vernon: There is fun for the whole family at Atlantis Water Slides at 7921 Greenhow Road, which offers slides for all ages, a hot tub, mini golf, and volleyball. Located 5 km from Vernon on Highway 97. Be sure to visit the farm market at Davison Orchards, for bins of fresh homegrown fruit and vegetables, apple pies, freshly pressed apple juice, and more. This unique family orchard on 50 acres overlooking Vernon features heritage displays, farm animals, a picnic area, a children’s play area and self-guided orchard tours. Located minutes west of downtown Vernon on Davison road, off Bella Vista Road.
Spend a day 100 years ago…Rain or shine there’s always something to do at O’Keefe Ranch where kids and adults alike can experience the history and adventure of pioneer days. Open daily 9a.m. – 5 p.m., May through Thanksgiving (extended summer hours).
Kamloops: Cruise the Thompson River in Kamloops on the Wanda-Sue, a sternwheel riverboat of the type that plied these waters over one hundred years ago. Scheduled cruises depart from the old Kamloops yacht Club on River Street. Meet local and endangered species of wildlife at the Kamloops Wildlife Park. Seventy species of animals can be viewed in their natural settings, amongst the beautiful scenery of the park. Endangered species that make their home in the park include the Grevy’s zebra, Przewalski’s horse, Green-winged macaw, Siberian tiger, and the Addax antelope – of which only 400 remain in the world. Located on the Trans Canada Highway 15 minutes east of Kamloops City Centre.
Penticton: The Okanagan International Children’s Festival, held in late May at Okanagan Lake Park, features the world’s finest musicians, actors, acrobats, comedians and storytellers! This international celebration of the arts stimulates global awareness and an appreciation of cultural diversity. It is an opportunity to delight in the world of imagination and open the door to creative possibilities for your children.
Kelowna: Kelowna has always been a family vacation destination, where long and sunny days are perfect for children’s activities, like swimming, playing on the beach, and building sandcastles on the shore of Okanagan Lake.
Scandia Golf & Games is a family fun centre at 2898 N Hwy 97 offering an arcade, outdoor mini golf, indoor jungle golf, bumper cars, pool tables, and batting cages for softball and baseball. They also cater for birthday and group parties.
Kelowna Grand Prix Fun Centre at 911 Stremel Road offers Grand Prix racing on a half-mile track built around speed competition, go kart racing in Malibu Carts, paintball, laser tag, and speedball, and cater to birthday parties with birthday party packages.
Planet Lazer on Springfield Road offers Laser Tag that combines hide and seek with hi-tech heart-pounding fun. Up to 48 players move and hide in a 3-level, 14-000-square-foot arena – the largest in North America. Fun for the whole family.
Safari Ridge Adventure Paint Ball on Highway 97 is ready to make your Okanagan visit unforgettable with adventure paintball and outdoor laser tag designed to accommodate all skill levels and ages. Suitable for drop-in players, private games, birthday parties, and any size groups.
The 18-hole Astro mini golf course at 19 Greens at 2050 Campbell Road is sure to excite the younger putters, as will the 18-hole natural grass putting course. They also cater to groups and birthday parties.
Bring the family to the fabulous H2O indoor Water Adventure Park and fitness centre at 4075 Gordon Drive to frolic in the wave pool, ride one of the 3 waterslides, or surf on their Flow Rider ocean wave simulator.
Give the kids a safe wilderness experience at the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan in Mission Creek Regional Park. The EECO Centre offers a range of outdoor activities, programs and exhibits.
Armstrong: Be sure to visit the Armstrong Cheese Factory or the Village Cheese Factory for a tour and cheese tasting. Come and enjoy the art of cheese making at its best, and watch the master cheesemakers at their craft. Whether you fancy a wedge of savoury cheddar, a slice of spicy Monterey Jack, or a handful of fresh squeaky curds, Armstrong’s cheese is like no other.
Kaslo: Tour the SS Moyie, a Canadian Pacific Railways sternwheeler that plied the waters of Kootenay Lake from 1898 until 1957. Beautifully restored, the Moyie is designated as a national historic site, and is the oldest remaining vessel of her type in Canada. Located on the waterfront – open summers only.
Kimberley: Canada’s largest free standing operating cuckoo clock lives here, and is home to Kimberley’s mascot, Happy Hans. Every hour on the hour, Happy Hans greets visitors and locals in The Platzl with his Bavarian yodel.
New Denver: Travel back into the history of this region, to the Ghost Town of Sandon, once the Capital of the Silvery Slocan. Located 8 km east of New Denver, Sandon was an incorporated city of 5,000 people at the height of the mining boom in 1892. Two railroads once served this Monte Carlo of Canada, with its twenty nine hotels, twenty eight saloons, an opera house, two newspapers, five men’s clothing stores, a bank, and several other gambling halls and businesses. Now a renowned and restored historic site, Sandon lures thousands of visitors each summer.
Fort Steele: Fort Steele is a Heritage Town, where visitors can travel back in time to the 1890s and enjoy daily re-enactments of the town’s past history and heritage. Hop aboard for a ride on an old steam train to a scenic viewpoint or catch a horse-drawn wagon tour down Main Street and around the town. Kids will be drawn to the City Bakery and Ice Cream Corner – the baking is always fresh at Fort Steele!