Family Travel: Visiting Stanley Park in Vancouver, Flickr: squeakymarmot

Stanley Park Seawall

Stanley Park is 1,000 acres in the midst of Vancouver’s downtown hustle and bustle and offers city dwellers a fantastic retreat and families a plethora of relaxing, entertaining, and fun-filled options for discovery.  The park stands as an amazing testament to some incredibly forward- thinking city planners, who in 1886 dedicated the peninsula for park and recreation purposes.

The park’s wildlife, rolling hills, and amazing display of natural beauty are ripe for natural play and exploration.   The Seawall is a popular place to bike, rollerblade, jog, or walk along the shore.  Or for a more simple and relaxing day, you can picnic on a grassy hill.  Perks for traveling families include numerous restrooms, concession stands, and restaurants, which line the walk giving ample options for breaks along the way.

To get a great overview of the park, consider taking a Horse-Drawn Tour in an old-fashioned carriage.  Narrated tours last just over an hour and passes by many of the famous icons in the park, including a look at Deadman's Island, the Lions Gate Bridge, and the Coastal Red Cedar Forest.   If you want to hop out and snap a picture, you’re in luck: the carriage stops at the Totem Poles at Brockton Point, the Girl in a Wet Suit Statue built in 1972, the S.S. Empress of Japan Figurehead, and the Rose Garden.  Tours operate from March 15th to October 31st.

If your little ones love water, a visit to Stanley Park on a summer day is the perfect treat.  The Variety Kids Water Park, located at Lumberman’s Arch, is the city’s largest splash & spray area.  Shoot off canons, geysers, and splash through ankle deep water.  The Second Beach Pool offers beach front swimming with the added perk of heated water.  The pool boasts shallow areas for younger kids, waterslides for the brave, and incredible views of the city.  If the temperatures don’t scare you, swim in the beach or build a sand castle at Second, Third, and English Bay Beaches year-round.

One of the park’s most popular family attractions is the Miniature Train.  Built in 1964, the train winds its way through the forests on over a mile of track in a pint-sized car.  The track changes themes throughout the year, from special Christmas themed rides to a Klahowya Aboriginal Village in the summer months.  The train’s schedule is a bit sporadic, so check the park’s official site before visiting; it is open most weekends of the year and provides daily operation in the summer.

In addition to all of this family fun, Stanley Park is also home to the Vancouver Aquarium, Canada’s first aquarium.  The non-profit aquarium boasts a focus on research, education, and conservation, all the while offering numerous shows, hands-on-interactions, and fantastic exhibits for families of all ages.

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photo: squeakymarmot

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