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Vancouver, B.C. with kids

Recently, my husband and I decided to take a last-minute trip up to British Columbia.  In over a decade of living in the Pacific Northwest, this is one place we have never been.  Since there were so many things we did and saw, I've broken this post down into question you might have about visiting Vancouver.

What do you need when crossing the border?
Because this was a last minute trip, we did not have the time to get our children passports.  So, we were very excited to learn that children under 15 do not need passports when driving across the border.  You only need to have their birth certificates.  As adults, we did need to bring our passports.

Note: If you fly into Vancouver, then you and your children will all need passports.

What about your auto insurance?
We almost forgot to check on our auto insurance coverage when driving into another country!  So, we were very grateful to learn that our coverage was still valid as long as we did not stay in the country for over 90 days.  However, this is not always the case, so it is best to check with your own insurance provider before trying to make the journey across the border.  We made sure that we had a current insurance card on hand, but you no longer need to have a letter from your insurance provider stating your coverage in Canada.

If you decide to rent a car in Canada, your personal insurance will not cover you.  You will have to purchase the rental insurance plan.

How long is the wait at the border crossing?
We were told that the wait to cross the border can be quite lengthy, but we were pleasantly surprised to only have an approximate 15-minute wait when crossing in the early afternoon.

As a side note, we were able to stop at the information center just across the border and exchange currency and pick up pamphlets on B.C. attractions.

Where did you decide to stay?
Because we wanted a budget-friendly vacation and did not desire a lot of services with our stay, we chose to stay at the Rosellen Suites near Stanley Park in Vancouver.  We upgraded to a deluxe suite with two bedrooms and a small kitchen which was perfect for our family of four.  The first bedroom had a King bed, and the kids had their own room with a Queen bed, but a sofa sleeper was also available in the TV/dining area.

Rosellen Suites is located in a quiet, residential area within walking distance to Stanley Park, a Safeway (where we bought food for breakfast, lunch and one dinner), restaurants and more.  Street parking is limited, but there are spots available for $20/day with Rosellen Suites.  Our oversized vehicle was not able to fit in their garage, but they had several spots behind the suites where we could park.

The first night we were there, we took a 12-minute walk to the local White Spot (apparently a very popular Canadian restaurant) where we enjoyed some delicious food and the kids ate dinner out of pirate ships!

I'd highly recommend staying at Rosellen Suites and, should we ever return to Vancouver, this is where I would want to again stay.  While there is no swimming pool, it is very close to the beach and other kid-friendly attractions.  There also appeared to be several adult-friendly spots nearby that I'd love to try out when I'm visiting without kids!

What attractions did you visit?
Capilano Suspension Bridge: Vancouver, B.C.
The one place that I desperately wanted to see was Capilano Suspension Bridge.  It's just a short drive north of Stanley Park.  My fear was that this was  not going to be a kid-friendly spot, but I was so wrong.  Not only is Capilano Suspension Bridge kid-friendly, but my kids had a blast exploring all they had to offer: the suspension bridge, treetop adventures and cliffwalk!

Treetop Adventures at Capilano Suspension Bridge
Cliff Walk at Capilano Suspension Bridge

If you are afraid of heights, this may not be the stop for you.  But, if you're like me and want to push past your fears, then just hold on tight to the cable and keep your feet moving forward one step at a time!  I recommend going early because there aren't nearly as many people on the bridge (it does sway back and forth).  We spent over two hours exploring nature and being adventurous.  We packed sandwiches and ate them while watching two bald eagles fly overhead.

Vancouver Aquarium
After the suspension bridge, we headed back in to Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium.  Rosellen Suites gave us 10% off coupons for the aquarium and this stop was well worth it.  The kids were able to see fish native to the B.C. and the straits surrounding it.  We watched shows with sea lions and seals, sharks, a diver in a tank with Pacific NW fish, touched rays, but the highlight was the beluga and porpoise show.

Beluga Show at Vancouver Aquarium
Beluga Show at Vancouver Aquarium

We also made a quick stop at one of the beaches in Stanley Park so that the kids could play in the sand and put their feet in the water.  A nearby playground was also fun.

Bald eagles flying over Capilano Suspension Bridge

What about the ferries? 
We decided that our route home would take us over to Vancouver Island and then back to the U.S.  If planning to drive your car onto the ferry, I recommend making advanced reservations.  We sailed on B.C. Ferries from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, opting for the early morning ferry so that a good portion of the two-hour trip was spent eating breakfast.

Even though there was much anticipation of riding on the ferry, the excitement wore off and the endless question of "Why is it taking so long?" began.  But, thankfully, there were plenty of play options between the kids' play area (primarily for younger children although my 6-year-old enjoyed it) with a TV set to kids' programming and a video arcade for older kids.

Would you return to Vancouver with kids?
In a heartbeat!  There were so many places that we did not get to explore: Telus World of Science, Granville Island, Grouse Mountain, Greater Vancouver Zoo...not to mention driving up to Whistler.  I hope that we are able to return to Vancouver soon to explore some more! 

Be sure to check out my upcoming post on Vancouver Island and Parksville, B.C. (better known as "The Canadian Riviera")!


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