To kick off summer, I took my son and daughter on a Memorial Day weekend getaway in Canada while my husband was backpacking in the Cascades.
We drove to Richmond, B.C., which is about 20 minutes away from Vancouver, B.C. I scored a sweet deal on Priceline.com and booked us a room at the Pacific Gateway Hotel. Thanks to the weak Canadian dollar, our trip was surprisingly affordable. I wasn’t sure if Richmond would be as fun as Vancouver, but it turned out to be a fabulous place to visit with children.
Our first stop was Terra Nova Park, which is possibly the coolest playground in the Pacific Northwest. The sign by the parking lot said it all: “For Off-Leash Kids.” There was a three-story slide, a zipline and breathtaking views of the mountains. It was easy to see why the park cost more than 1 million Canadian dollars to build.
Ten minutes away was the Richmond Olympic Experience (ROX) at the Oval, the building that housed many events at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Admission for the three of us cost $29.50 Canadian ($22.12 USD).
The ROX started with a short movie about what it takes to become an Olympic athlete and then continued with the opportunity to admire Olympic memorabilia and try out extreme-sports simulators. Our tickets also gave us access to ice skating, rock climbing and more, but we didn’t know this ahead of time. We were wearing flip flops. Gym clothes and a combination lock would have multiplied the fun.
On day two of our trip, we went to Watermania, which is a city-owned water park. Imagine what would happen if the Snohomish Aquatic Center and the Lynnwood pool made sweet, sweet love, and it only cost $15.65 Canadian ($11.73 U.S.) for a family to swim all day. There was a wave pool, a rope swing, water slides, and three different diving boards — including one that was 5 meters tall (16.5 feet). Plus, the water was warm.
What would vacation be without gorging on food? On our way to the hotel, we stopped at a Cora Restaurant in Langley. Cora Restaurants are a breakfast-and-lunch chain in Canada known for serving elaborately carved fruit masterpieces alongside wholesome foods like buckwheat crepes. Later that weekend, we also tried local berries, ketchup potato chips and Kinder Eggs.
A failure that turned into a win was eating at the Old Spaghetti Factory. At first I felt like a bad tourist for eating at an American chain, but then we realized that the menu was different. Lunch became a game of pointing out what was special, like how soda came with the kid’s meal.
On the drive home to Edmonds, we were sad for our vacation to end but excited to tell Dad about our adventures. The plan was to bring him back some ketchup chips as a souvenir, but shockingly, the snacks did not survive the journey.
O Canada, we must do this again sometime, and not just for the junk food. Thank you for being the neighbor my children love to visit.
Jennifer Bardsley is author of the books “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.” Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.