My family just returned from a 7-night Alaskan cruise aboard the Disney Wonder with 5 nights in Vancouver tacked on to the beginning of our vacation. The only way to keep me from being sad about our trip being over is to write about it in detail to re-live the memories. (See my pre-trip report, my brief post the day before we left for our trip and our Trip Video and Hotel Review).
Today’s installment of the trip report will cover the first half of our five days in Vancouver, including our arrival, a day in Stanley Park and the Sea to Sky tour. Wednesday, June 7, 2017: Getting to Vancouver
Since we used airline miles to get from Dallas to Vancouver, today I was flying with just two of my kids. My husband and oldest son joined us two days later.
Our day started early, as our ride picked us up for the airport at 6:30 a.m. Some of you may remember the slight debacle I had with our adjacent seats getting moved? Well, when we got on the airplane, the person in our row agreed to switch seats with my son, so we all sat in the same row. Yay!
Our flight was around 4 1/2 hours long. As luck would have it, the in-flight movie was Lego Batman! There weren’t many kids on the flight (one other family with kids that I could see), so the movie was a surprising choice. But my kids were glued to it, and it made the flight go quickly.
We arrived at YVR Vancouver Airport around 11:00 a.m. This magnificent art work, The Hetux, greeted us:
It took us about an hour to get through immigration and customs. We had to wait in a line for kiosks that took our photos. Neither I nor my husband were given a hard time from Canadian officials about traveling without each other with our kids, but I was still glad we had notarized permission.
Once we had our suitcases and were free to go, we easily found the taxi line outside. We made it to the Hyatt Regency Vancouver before 1:00 p.m. I won’t go into any more specifics of the hotel since I already covered it in my hotel review post.
First Afternoon/Evening in Vancouver
Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we dropped our bags off at the bell station and hit the streets. First, we went next door to McDonald’s for lunch. Then, we walked to the waterfront area and found the Olympic Cauldron from the 2010 Winter Olympics:
My kids, however, were begging to do two things: swim in the hotel pool and buy Kinder Surprise Eggs.
In case you aren’t familiar with them, Kinder Surprise Eggs are chocolate eggs with a capsule inside that contains a small toy. They are illegal in the USA, but not in Canada. My kids have seen videos of kids opening up Kinder Surprise Eggs, so we had to get some.
We stopped in Rexall drug store in the mall adjacent to our hotel to buy some Kinder Eggs.
We ended up swimming for a few hours, and we all loved the pool and hot tub! Soon, it was time for dinner, and we ate a delicious meal in the hotel’s restaurant. I wanted to try to keep the kids up later tonight to get them used to the time zone change. It was 7:00 p.m. in Vancouver, but already 9:00 p.m. in Dallas, which is their bed time.
So, after dinner, we walked across the street to this small office building plaza with fountains to burn off some steam.
Thursday, June 8, 2017: Stanley Park
The kids woke up at 5 a.m., of course! They were ready to go. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and rainy. Before we went anywhere, I decided we should go back to Rexall to buy more umbrellas. I had only brought one with me, but if we were going to survive all day in the rain, we would need two more.
We ate breakfast at Tim Horton’s before leaving the hotel.
Today was our day to explore Stanley Park. Around 9:15 a.m., we took a taxi to the park from the Hyatt (very easy, as the door man called us one that was waiting in the parking garage). The taxi dropped us off at the AAA Horse and Carriage Ride parking lot. I figured since it was pouring rain, we could get a tour of the park under cover.
The office opened up at 9:30 a.m., and we purchased our tickets. However, the first carriage ride didn’t start until 9:55 a.m., so we had to wait outside for a while. The kids and I explored the park area close by, but we were getting more soaked by the minute.
Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, and I enjoyed learning about the history of the park (it’s bigger than New York City’s Central Park!) She did stop the ride for us to get out at the totem poles to take some photos.
The rain started to come down harder. We passed by some of the park’s unique landmarks (can you see the Lion’s Gate bridge through the rain and fog?) We saw the Empress of Japan, the Girl in a Wetsuit statue and Lumberman’s Arch.The horse and carriage ride was very slow-moving, so it might be too slow for some families. However, since we weren’t up to riding bikes and the summer trolley was not yet running this early in the season, it was a good way to cover a lot of ground.
It was after 11:00 a.m. when we finished the horse and carriage ride, and the kids were hungry for lunch. We walked to the Vancouver Aquarium and ate lunch in the cafeteria.
Outside of the entrance, the aquarium had a small touch tank with a lot of different creatures. Inside, the aquarium was packed. School wasn’t out yet, but I think every visitor in Vancouver figured it would be the best place to spend a rainy day. Some of the exhibits were outside and it was still cold and raining, so I feel like we didn’t get the full experience while we were there.
My favorite animals to watch were the jellyfish. They had at least three different huge tanks with various kinds of jellyfish. They were mesmerizing.We watched a scuba diver show about edible fish in the waters of British Columbia. It was interactive for the kids, and I liked that we were learning about the local fish. We had a bit of a hard time getting a taxi from the aquarium to our hotel. We called for one, but the taxis were swamped because it was raining. We waited about 30 minutes for a pickup.
When we got back to the hotel around 4:00 or so, the rain had fizzled out to just a drizzle. My kids insisted on going to the pool. The warm water felt great!
Due to exhaustion, we just ate dinner at McDonald’s. I normally don’t like to eat McDonald’s on vacation or really ever, but it was just too easy with the kids. We watched TV in the room for a bit and were in bed before 9:00.
Friday, June 9, 2017: Sea to Sky Tour with Landsea
Today was my last day with the kids on my own, as my oldest and husband would arrive this evening. However, we had a full day planned. I had booked us on the Sea to Sky Tour with Landsea Tours.
I had gone back and forth on whether or not we would book this tour. That’s because I was a little afraid that a 7-hour tour would be too much for the kids. I’m glad I booked it, though, because it ended up being our favorite thing that we did while in Vancouver! And, although we were the only family with kids on this tour, I think this tour is perfect for families with kids!
Our tour bus picked us up at our hotel at 9:45 a.m. We had to stop at two more hotels to pick up more passengers, and then we were on our way.
We rode through Stanley Park and across Lion’s Gate Bridge up the Sea to Sky Highway. Our first stop was the small resort town of Horseshoe Bay. We had the option of paying a surcharge to ride on a boat up Howe Sound to our next destination instead of riding in the bus, but we opted to stay on the bus since we would be doing a whale watching cruise out of Vancouver a few days later.
We had about 20 minutes to enjoy Horseshoe Bay, but I could have stayed way longer. It was so picturesque!
Next, we boarded the bus and rode for about 45 minutes to Shannon Falls. Wow! This stop was breathtaking!
We walked just a few minutes on a path by this creek:And we admired Shannon Falls for several minutes. It was breathtaking! Again, I wish we could have stayed there longer, but we had lots of ground to cover for the rest of the tour.
Sea to Sky Gondola
Our next stop was the Sea to Sky Gondola, which was literally like a 2-minute drive from Shannon Falls. We loaded up on gondolas that fit up to six people. I was a little anxious on this gondola. The first part was very, very steep. I had been on gondolas up the side of mountains before, but this was higher and steeper than anything I’ve ever experienced. The second part of the gondola ride wasn’t as steep, thank goodness! We had 90 minutes at the summit to eat lunch, hike and enjoy the views. Of course, my kids were hungry, so we ate at the restaurant on top. The views!!! It was very peaceful and serene. There was a suspension bridge at the summit. This made me very nervous. Ok, nervous isn’t the right word. FREAKED OUT! Do you see those gaps on the floor of the bridge and on the sides? The bridge has a sign that children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult on the bridge. It took me two tries to make it across the bridge. My kids were not bothered by it. The observation deck: I wish that I would have brought lunch with us, because there are trails at the top we could have hiked. The trail to another observation deck takes about an hour, but we spent too much time eating lunch in the restaurant.
My kids found this playground at the summit:We also watched people throw axes. I was thankful the minimum age was 13! Our time at the summit went by too quickly. After we went down the mountain on the gondola, my kids played at this cute playground near the parking lot.
Britannia Mine Museum
Our final stop on this tour was the Britannia Mine Museum. This place was amazing!
We first saw a short film about the history of the mine. It used to have a town at the top of the mountain where the employees and their families lived. This was once the largest copper mine in the British Empire!
Next, we put on hard hats and boarded a mine train to go into the mine. The mine tour guide demonstrated several mining tools. We also toured the large processing building and saw how steep the mine train tracks were. Yikes! Our tour guide: We had around 30 minutes at the end of the tour to explore the rest of the museum on our own. We panned for gold and went to the gift shop. Of course, my kids wanted to play in this playground on site. Every place we stopped had a playground, which is why I think this is a great tour for families.
Back to Vancouver
We again boarded our bus for the 45-minute drive back to Vancouver. The views on the way home were spectacular!We had a great day on this tour. The weather was beautiful, the sites were gorgeous and interesting and our tour guide/bus driver was great! I loved this tour because it got us out of the city, and we were able to see more of British Columbia. Note: You can buy tickets directly to the Sea to Sky Gondola with a shuttle ride from Vancouver, but I think the other parts of this tour were equally impressive.
After we arrived at our hotel, we were wiped out. We walked to a nearby Subway restaurant for dinner and swam in the pool while we waited for the rest of our family to arrive that night.
Next up: Vancouver Part 2: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Grouse Mountain and Vancouver Whale Watch. I will also rank all of our Vancouver attractions.
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Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.