Last week, The Economist ranked Vancouver, B.C., as the world’s third most livable world city.
But it isn’t just residents who can enjoy the offerings of the Pacific Northwest’s Canadian counterpart.
At 2.5 hours away, Vancouver is slightly farther than the similarly souled (and slightly closer) Seattle. But the one tank of gas is worth the jaunt over the border, as the city lives up to its hype.
The stunning yet intimate mountainscape inspires awe, even while standing on the edge of the Pacific. Thriving cultural epicenters such as Chinatown or Punjabi Market highlight Vancouver’s famed diversity (and provide for some tasty eats). And relics from the 2010 Winter Olympics, including the now unlit ice-inspired torch, dot the metro area.
Here are some kid-pleasing suggestions that will have your whole family loving the maple leaf.
A day trip in itself, Stanley Park, Vancouver’s largest, is an almost 1,000-acre peninsula jutting off downtown in an evergreen reflection of the city’s core. Rent tandem bicycles and ride along the seawall or visit the very social beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium. Kids can ride the miniature train that weaves through the park, check out the totem poles, or swim in the beachside Second Beach Pool.
To market, to market
While Granville Island and its fabulous public market is a tourist hub, the Granville Island Kids Market is childhood heaven. A plush and colorful shopping mall for families, the markets hosts dozens of kid-oriented shops such as the Granville Island Toy Company, an arcade and a water park next door. If you can get your kids to leave the market, take a 25-minute tour of False Creek on the Aquabus, which departs from Granville Island.
ADDRESS: 1496 Cartwright St., Vancouver
If you really want to experience Canadian culture, catch a Vancouver Giants game at Pacific Coliseum. With tickets starting at $19, a Western Hockey League game will let you experience the big hits of Canadians’ favorite pastime without the big price tag of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. If the rink is a bit too brutal for your kids, there’s always the Vancouver Curling Club, which offers the chance to try out the benign sport on the same ice where Olympic curlers competed in 2010.
ADDRESS: 100 N Renfrew St., Vancouver; 4575 Clancy Loranger Way, Vancouver
A sweet ending
If you’re looking for a treat to end the day, try La Casa Gelato. The pink parlor always has 218 types of gelato and sorbets in store. Choose anything from the classics to the just-crazy-enough-to-try flavors like curry, corn or wasabi. Don’t worry – they allow samples.
ADDRESS: 1033 Venables St., Vancouver
More tourist information is available at www.vancouver.ca.
Tips for crossing the border
TRAVEL: Bring a passport or enhanced driver’s license for every adult in order to cross the border (and re-enter the United States). Children under 15 do not need a passport, but must show their birth certificate (original or a copy).
GOODS: Know the limit on how many goods acquired in Canada you can bring back into the USA if shopping is on your itinerary.
MONEY: Many larger retailers and restaurants accept the U.S. dollar, though it isn’t guaranteed. Major credit cards are widely accepted, though if you want you use a U.S. debit card, you must run it as “credit” on Canadian payment processors.
CELLPHONES: International roaming begins right as you cross the border, so be aware of big charges if you use your cellphone without an international or North America plan.
ONE MORE TIP: Don’t say “eh” as a joke to a Canadian. Trust me – they’ve heard that one before.