If there's one thing kids are good at, it's getting their parents to spend money. But exploring Vancouver with the kids doesn't have to break the budget. There are plenty of free and fun things for families to experience. And free never means boring here in Vancouver, so turn your family vacation into a great one with these free attractions in Vancouver.
Families interested in hiking should check out Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. This is one of the few places in the area immediately surrounding Vancouver that was never completely logged, making it an easily accessible virgin temperate rainforest habitat. The park provides numerous paths for hiking, and most require just an hour or two of your time. If you want to plan a picnic, there are tables and restrooms in the park to accommodate longer visits. The park is also a great place for bird watching with more than 60 different species known to frequent the area. The lighthouse is located at Point Atkinson and features a beacon that has been in operation since 1875.
Chinatown Night Market
From May 15 to September 6, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night in Chinatown is celebrated with the Vancouver Chinatown Night Market. The area around Keefer St. and Main Street is closed to vehicle traffic, and booths are set up to give visitors a chance to peruse Asian gifts, ethnic snacks and gift items. Hundreds of different vendors sell kid-favourite souvenirs such as Pokemon paraphernalia, pretty fans and stuffed animals, and kids will be especially drawn to the live music, folk dancing, magic shows and martial arts displays. There are also plenty of games with prizes to keep them entertained.
Granville Island Public Market
There are plenty of reasons to visit this Vancouver landmark, but one of the top ones is that you don't have to pay to get in. Bring the family and wander through the indoor marketplace. Kids will love the many great food options at the market -- bubble tea, salmon jerky, delicious pastries, fresh fruits and vegetables. Even if they're not hungry, just seeing all the food is a visual treat. Outside, the market hosts entertaining buskers, rows of sailboats in False Creek and spectacular views of the downtown skyline.
Kids Market Granville Island
So much more than just a toy store, the Kids Market is one of Vancouver's top family destinations. Housed in a former paint factory and packed with more than two dozen different shops selling toys and gifts, one-of-a-kind games, candy, books and creative crafts, it's sure to have something your kids can't live without. But it's also a place for kids to have fun as they get rambunctious in the many play areas. The Adventure Zone is a two-story, indoor jungle gym with tunnels, ladders and a ball room. Outside, families can enjoy a picnic on the patio or explore the 50-year-old Canadian Pacific caboose.
Granville Island Water Park
Touted as the largest free water park in North America, this kid-friendly attraction is the perfect place to spend a refreshing hour or two in the summer months. Open from mid-May through Labor Day, the park has pipes, pools, slides and sprinklers where the kids can cool off. If you need a place to change their outfits after they get soaked, there's a community center nearby with restrooms.
Lynn Canyon Park and Ecology Centre
This outdoor destination is the perfect place for a little learning disguised as family fun. Home to 616 acres of rainforest habitat, a suspension bridge 20 stories above the canyon floor and loads of natural sites, it's a fascinating introduction to Vancouver's natural setting. If you're here in the summer, your kids can swim in the crystal-clear waters of a natural pool. There's also a gorgeous waterfall in the park, which makes the perfect backdrop for a souvenir family photo. The Ecology Centre offers hands-on plants and animal displays, films in a small theatre, puppets to play with and piles of toys. Take advantage of public programs and events designed with kids in mind, many of which are free or require a small donation.
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