Only ten minutes outside of the city center, Vancouver offers family-friendly outdoor attractions kids will go crazy for in Capilano and Grouse Mountain. The first stop (and an easy free shuttle ride from Canada Place), is Capilano Suspension Bridge, an engineering marvel stretched 450 feet across a high river gorge in thanks to nineteenth century Vancouver settler and builder George Grant Mackay. In the years since its completion, the bridge and its surrounding businesses, including a restaurant, have been turned in to an interactive playland ripe for exploration.
In addition to daring a trip across the bridge (which felt very sturdy but does sway alarmingly in the breeze!), kids can get a ‘squirrel’s eye view’ of the alpine rainforest canopy in the park’s Treetop Adventure, a network of ariel platforms connected by smaller bridges making their way through the dense forest. From there, a selection of forest paths lead visitors through the forest floor, where wildlife is pointed out on educational displays, ponds and undergrowth host small critters and ducks, and smaller, arched bridges traverse streams.
Just for kids: Capilano does a great job drawing kids into the eco and educational aspects of the Treetop area with an interactive scavenger hunt. Upon completion (which takes kids through various tasks they find through clues) they receive a prize.
The park’s newest feature, the Cliffwalk, was my favorite. Completed in early 2011, this exhibit leads visitors out over the edge of the gorge on a glass and steel pathway (with solid glass side rails). It was a thrill to look down and see only air! The views were fabulous, and you can get great photos of the suspension bridge from the Cliffwalk, too.
From Capilano, it’s an easy public bus ride ($2.50 fare) to Grouse Mountain (ten minute ride), where a veritable outdoor playground awaits. For the price of admission, families can take the Skyride tram to the top of the mountain, explore the wildlife refuge, watch productions on the Theater in the Sky, take a chairlift ride, and more. For additional cost, zip lines and the Eye in the Sky wind turbine will catch kids’ eye. If you think you’ll have kids wanting to do it all (like mine), extra activities can be bundled with general admission.
Extra Tip: If Capilano leaves you wanting more, another (free) suspension bridge exists outside of Vancouver. You’ll need a car to visit the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, but the effort will be rewarded with an even more authentic view of natural British Columbia. Check out five other adventurous things to do with kids outside of Vancouver at local blogger The Travelling Mom.
Date last visited: June 13, 2011
Distance from the interstate/city: Five to ten minutes outside downtown Vancouver.
Hours of operation: May 28th-September: 8:30 am to 8 pm.
Admission costs: Adults are $32, youth (age 13-16) are $21, children (6-12) are $12, and under 6 are free. Get 20% off if you arrive at the park an hour before closing! (This is do-able: the park generally takes 1-1.5 hours to view.)
Food services: There are several snack shops and a counter-service restaurant within the park, and a cozy cottage-style full-service restaurant directly across the street (a great choice while waiting for your shuttle).
Directions: Catch the free shuttle from Canada Place in Vancouver (it also stops at several downtown hotels), or drive through Stanley Park over Lion’s Gate Bridge and along Capilano Road to 3735 Capilano.