Vancouver travel with families – O Canada!

Family vacations in VancouverWhen you think of foreign travel, Canada probably doesn’t spring to mind. After all, we’ve got hockey, maple syrup, and a Francophile or two here in the United States, right?

Well, yes. But as I discovered on a recent trip to Vancouver and the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort, thanks to a wonderful press trip put on by the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver and the Four Seasons Resort Whistler, the Vancouver area is well worth exploring on a family vacation.


Vancouver

My first stop was Vancouver. The Four Seasons Vancouver is situated atop the Pacific Centre shopping
complex, within walking distance of the Vancouver Art Gallery, and a
mere ten minute drive from Granville Island, a great place to head when you’ve got a couple hours on your hands.

Family vacations in VancouverI had the best time exploring the Granville Island public market
— tons of local produce, meat and seafood, plus baked goods
and artisan chocolates. My favorite shop was Edible BC where I found
these cool finishing salts that would make a perfect foodie souvenir
gift. Outside the market, there’s a gorgeous view of the harbor and the
rest of the city, with a majestic mountainous backdrop. The kids can
chase the pigeons and gulls while you take in the view.

Speaking of kiddos, the Kids Market
is a must-see whether you’ve got little ones in tow or you’ve simply
been tasked with bringing home souvenirs. Toys, books, clothes,
kites and puppets, a magic shop, and an indoor playground — it’s like
kid Nirvana. I was thrilled to find goodies from a ton of CMP-approved
boutique brands, and
the separate, kid-sized entrance cracked me up.

Since Vancouver
is right on the ocean, there’s tons of cool family-oriented water
activities. Check out the Vancouver Aquarium (the largest one in Canada)
and get a sneak peek online courtesy of the Beluga Cam streaming video. Plus, the aquarium is located in Stanley Park — a gorgeous oasis with playgrounds, botanical gardens, a miniature train, and a free (free!) kids water park.

Whistler

I’d
heard wonderful things about Whistler from friends who had skied there,
so as much as I didn’t want to leave Vancouver, I was super excited for
the journey. It’s about two hours north of Vancouver, and the trip is
filled with breathtaking scenery. Seriously, I expect kids will spend
the drive with noses pressed to the window and mouths agape. They’ll
probably even forget to ask to go to the bathroom. (Or washroom, as they
say in Canada)

With Whistler Blackcomb ski resort right there,
it’s a no-brainer that most visitors to the area come to ski or
snowboard, whether they’re headed to the black diamond runs or their very first lesson. I actually took a lesson myself (my first one in 25 years) and was pretty darned impressed. The introductory slope where lessons begin is accessible via the Gondola and a “magic carpet” (like a slopeside moving walkway), so there’s no need to worry about getting little ones–or yourself—-on and off a chairlift, which can be totally intimidating. It’s really the kindest, gentlest setup I’ve ever seen for getting kiddos started on the slopes.

And since Whistler Blackcomb has the largest expanse of ski terrain in North America (check out this cool interactive map for comparisons), not only are there plenty of easy green runs, you don’t have to worry much about dodging other skiers as you make your way down. Nor do you have to worry about whether they can dodge your kids. I often found myself utterly alone on both blue and green runs.

Even if you don’t ski or board, you can still enjoy the amazing views on the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola,
the longest and highest lift of any kind in the world. You can even
dine up there, and then descend or take the PEAK 2 PEAK back again. Or
heck, stay up there until the lifts close at 3:30.

The night before our ski day, we took a snowmobile tour
up to the Crystal Hut, 6000 feet up on Blackcomb, for a fondue dinner.
Definitely an adult activity and more exhausting than I had imagined,
but Canadian Snowmobile offers a daytime snowmobile tour that looks like an awesome family option if you’re looking for a change of pace from skiing or boarding. Also, check out the tube park for a cool way to careen down the slopes as a family, no lessons required.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

I stayed with Four Seasons Vancouver and Four Seasons Resort Whistler,
which sponsored the press trip, and there’s no denying that a stay at
these gorgeous properties is a splurge. Of course, just about any
vacation these days is a splurge, and it can be worthwhile to check out
the full range of available accommodations when you’re with the kids.
But if you’re looking for luxe, I can’t recommend the Four Seasons more
highly–not just for adults, but for families too.

From children’s menus with all the kiddie faves to a kids concierge in Vancouver and special kids programs in Whistler, the Four Seasons really makes their younger guests at home. They’ve even got child-size robes, plus complimentary child-proofing and care supplies (bring your own diapers and wipes though), and they can arrange for in-room babysitting with 24 hours notice.


What really makes Four Seasons different from other top-of-the-line
hotels and resorts is the staff. They are devoted to caring for your
needs, whether you vacation in style all the time or you’ve saved your
pennies and airline miles for two decades to go on this trip. You will
be treated magnificently, but in an effortlessly friendly, down-to-earth
manner. And of course, the rooms are lovely and the amenities as you
might expect from a world-class hotel.



It was an absolute joy to be their guest for a few nights.

Soooo…

My
trip was but a brief sampling of what Vancouver and Whistler have to
offer. If you’re heading up with the family, you’re going to want to
spend at least one full day in Vancouver (preferably two) and two days
at Whistler. Otherwise it’s less of a vacation and more like The Amazing
Race.

Of course, the more time you spend, the more money you
spend. That’s true for any vacation though, and a family trip to
Vancouver and Whistler is way more accessible than say, the Swiss Alps.
Plus, the kids will totally dig seeing that customs stamp in their
passports. -Julie

Book a fabulous Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts splurge through their website and learn more about Vancouver
from their official website. Huge thanks to Four Seasons for including
Cool Mom Picks in this press event and covering expenses.

[Whistler Blackcomb Ski School photo credit Toshi Kawano]

Julie

Julie Marsh is a mom of three, a project manager by trade, and a triathlete for fun. She could also use a nap.

4 Comments

  • Reply March 5, 2011

    Allison K

    Although I live in the US now with my husband and 2 kids, I’m originally from Vancouver, and you made me homesick with this post! We love heading back to visit, because there is so much to do and see with children. It’s so easy to explore nature, from short hikes along water and rainforest, to visiting the local mountains (not just Whistler). The shopping is great because there is a huge focus on sustainable and locally made products. And the food is yummy — what kid can say no to inexpensive sushi and chopsticks?

  • Reply March 6, 2011

    Julie

    Allison, I’m already dreaming of another vacation to BC – I simply didn’t have enough time there! Everything about the area was right up my alley, and I know my sigOth and kiddos would love it too for all the reasons you described.

  • Reply March 6, 2011

    Julie

    Allison, I’m already dreaming of another vacation to BC – I simply didn’t have enough time there! Everything about the area was right up my alley, and I know my sigOth and kiddos would love it too for all the reasons you described.

  • Reply March 22, 2011

    Shelby

    Having just come back from Vancouver I cannot wait to return again! Amazing place and with a love of the outdoors, what better place to be!

    http://wanderlustshelby.blogspot.com/

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