Welcome to “VanGroovy:” A Perfect Vancouver Vacation
Who says you can’t have it all?
You want breathtaking natural beauty? You want the “coolest of the cool” cosmopolitan cities? You want unlimited opportunities for outdoor fun? You want world-class shopping with items you can’t find anywhere else? You want a foodie’s paradise?
Welcome to Vancouver…aptly nicknamed “VanGroovy.”
Vancouver is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful places on Earth with its stunning big mountain panoramas and some of the bluest water you’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s green here year round, even when much of Canada is buried in snow or dried up with summer drought.
And look around, you’ll see that that Vancouverites are as beautiful as their surroundings! They’re a young, hip, laid-back multi-cultural population, where people appear fit and stylish. Greenpeace, the 100-Mile Diet and Botox were created here. It’s easy to see how to stay fit in Vancouver with abundant running, cycling and hiking opportunities.
And it’s easy to see how one can live the “good life” here…with the city’s incredible restaurants of every ethnic variety and fabulous shopping venues. It’s no wonder that Vancouver is routinely named one of the world’s most livable cities.
There’s so much to see and do, but if you have just a few days to enjoy a family vacation, here are some of my family’s favorites.
See the Best Vancouver Attractions: A 3-Day Itinerary
Day 1: A Little Bit of Everything
We started our Vancouver adventure by heading to fabulous Granville Island. The whole family loved spending the gorgeous morning strolling around the unique art galleries and fun, quaint stores.
When lunchtime arrived we visited Granville Island Public Market where we were able to sample some fresh local produce and seafood specialties. We packed up a picnic basket and enjoyed lunch outside with stunning views of the water.
Tip: For a fun family experience, consider taking one of the mini-ferries to make your way from the mainland to the island.
Next, we headed to picturesque Kitsilano Beach (also known as Kits Beach). There’s plenty to do: dig your toes in the sand, run around the playground or play a rousing game of volleyball.
Museum of Anthropology
After refreshing our bodies, we stimulated our minds by visiting the Museum of Anthropology on the lush grounds of the University of British Columbia. The fascinating museum focuses on art from the First Nations. It’s a great place to discover other cultures, with totem poles, ceramics, tools, textiles and artifacts from around the world. We enjoyed a relaxed and enlightening afternoon.
In the early evening, we experienced what was one my gang’s favorite Vancouver activities: FlyOver Canada. We thrilled in our virtual flight ride (similar to Epcot’s Soarin’) taking in the beauty that is distinctly Canada! Their website rightly calls it, “The Ultimate Flying Ride.”
Make sure to catch the stunning sunset over Coal Harbour. The harbour complex includes the grand 2010 Vancouver Olympic Cauldron, the perfect spot for snagging family pictures. And we did!
While in the complex, we treated our taste buds (and our eyes) at the trendy and chic Cactus Club Cafe. This upscale yet reasonably priced chain has many locations. The panoramic views of the Harbor, Stanley Park and the mountains were unforgettable! And the food was delicious as well. Our favorite dishes included their Szechuan Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Spicy Calamari, Crispy Flatbread and top quality Burgers…and if you ask my girls, the winner is the Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowl!
Save room…because one block away is Bella Gelateria, and our family recommends tasting a few scoops prepared by an Italian trained Gelato master. (My girls fancy themselves “gelato experts.”). It’s a tasty way to end your first day in this epic city!
Day 2: Explore the North Shore
Capilano Suspension Bridge
We started Day 2 by visiting the 450-foot Capilano Suspension Bridge, built in 1889. As we stood on this historic bridge, we suddenly felt the bridge swaying as we wobbled way above the canyon floor! It was a thrilling, slightly scary and unforgettable experience.
Our intrepid daughters’ highlight was the newly opened dramatic Cliffwalk, made up of walkways literally hanging over the edges of the mountain! Less thrill-seeking kids of all ages will adore the Treetops Adventures which offers a walk along cable bridges up high in the trees.
Next, we continued our action-packed day by hopping on the Skyride to reach picturesque Grouse Mountain. Depending on your gang’s interests and the season you could easily spend a full day in this amazing resort area.
With skiing, snowboarding, lumberjack shows, falconry demonstrations, a wind turbine tour, zip-lining, sledding, skating, hiking and more, there is something for everyone. We chose to spend our time sledding and relaxing on the deck, enjoying the spectacular views of Vancouver’s skyline and Stanley Park.
SoMa Area of Vancouver
After our invigorating day, we could have stayed to enjoy dinner at one of the many terrific restaurants on Grouse Mountain, but for a different vibe, we headed back to town to East Vancouver.
In the trendy hipster “SoMa” section, we found a charming casual family-friendly neighborhood spot, Charlie’s Little Italian. Our whole gang loved the expertly curated Antipasti Board. Our other favorites included delicious Pesto Gnocchi, Homemade Pizzas, and Strozzapretti Con Funghi. And every kid (and adult) will love their Pizza Bread — it’s addicting! Be sure to save room for their fabulous Flourless Chocolate Cake. Note: Find cheap meter parking right on the street in front.
Day 3: The Park, the Shops, the Meal…Lookout!
As we sadly came to our last day in Vancouver, we set out to grab as much of this great city as we could!
We headed to the world-famous Stanley Park, a 1,000-acre wilderness oasis, amazingly located just a few blocks from the middle of the city! We made our way around this incredible park, stopping at the colorful First Nations Totem Poles at Brockton Point, and then strolling along the Seawall. For those who have young children or who love sea life, visit the popular Vancouver Aquarium.
We could have spent an entire wonderful day at Stanley Park, but with two teenage girls we HAD to leave time for shopping! And Vancouver has some of the best. Robson Street has all the high-end chains plus unique boutiques, cafés and shops. For my girls (and me) it was Window Shoppers’ Heaven!
For our “farewell evening,” we did it up right! We headed to the ever-so-charming Gastown, the historic center of the city. We adored wandering the cobblestone streets and dropping into unique boutiques, trendy coffee shops, first-class restaurants and taking photos with the area’s iconic “Gassy” Steam Clock.
It was tough selecting our final dinner destination among all of the fabulous options, but we made a great choice! Our dinner at the chic, yet cozy Flying Pig was phenomenal!! This “nouveau Canadian Bistro” is super family-friendly and serves up truly gourmet dishes at a great value. You must try the Honey Mussels & Frites, the Lobster and Prawn Risotto, the Crispy Brussels Sprouts, the Maple and Mustard Crusted Port Rack, and the Pan Seared Halibut. And the desserts were spectacular, too!
We capped off our Vancouver vacation with a breathtaking elevator ride that whisked us up to the 50th floor for unforgettable views from the Vancouver Lookout. We experienced the fabulous city and surrounding mountains from every angle on this well-planned internal observation deck. We “tested” our kids to see if they could point out all the places we visited over the last few days. (They did pretty well!)
Transportation Tip: The hop-on hop-off trolleys from the Vancouver Trolley Company are a convenient way to get around the city while learning about it!
And if you’re trying to decide where to stay in Vancouver, consider Hilton Vancouver Metrotown with a great location near shopping, restaurants and the SkyTrain, or research all of the Hilton family hotels in Vancouver.
So get packed, get going, get VanGroovy!
You may also enjoy:
- Best Things to do in Vancouver, BC with Kids
- Visiting Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia
- 5 Great Reasons to Visit Canada Year-Round
- Discover the Wonders of The Emerald City at the Seattle Center
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
At some locations, Lisa’s family was provided with discounted and/or complimentary meals and some discounted and/or complimentary attraction passes so that she could try them and review them for your information. Lisa chose the above restaurants and attractions based on their social media reviews and recommendations from friends.