Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Kid-friendly activities in Vancouver

In honour of being part of the Vancouver mom-blogger community, I plan to use this week to highlight some local and Canadian businesses. Today I'll be sharing my top three local kid-friendly activities, and on Thursday I will highlight my top three Canadian online businesses. Then we'll finish the week off with a giveaway!

Burnaby Village Museum and Farmers Market

A new favourite for us, our discovery of Burnaby Village Museum was a happy accident thanks to its newest undertaking. The village is now host to the Burnaby Farmers Market, previously located in the parking lot of City Hall, each Saturday from 9am to 2pm.

The farmers market is a weekly event for us, a chance to browse the outdoor shops while picking up our produce and sometimes a special treat. It was a nice surprise to discover that not only was the farmers market now being held at the village, but gate admission to the village is free for the 2011 season in celebration of the village carousel's 40th anniversary.

Yes, the village carousel - but more on that later.

After browsing the vendors at the farmers market, we headed into the village. From their website:

Stroll down the streets of a 1920s village exploring at your own pace. The village is a combination of heritage and replica buildings on a 10-acre site that represents a typical tram-stop community along the B.C. Electric Railway. Period costumed townsfolk welcome visitors and give demonstrations in the homes, businesses and shops. Popular stops include the blacksmith, the print shop, the garden at the farmhouse and the General Store.

It really was as delightful as it sounds. The boy enjoyed seeing all the "old things", as he called them. The motorbike, telephone, car, and gas pumps were his highlights, while I enjoyed the browsing the General Store and watching the blacksmith at work. We stopped for a nice lunch at the ice cream parlour and found a couple new treasures at the gift shop.

Browsing done, we made our way to the carousel. A ride on the restored 1912 C.W. Parker Carousel is $2.25 a head, and well worth it. The horses, the music, and the ride itself were a treat for both of us. When it was over, we picked up a carousel-shaped chocolate to enjoy on the walk back to the car.

We enjoyed our visit so much that we headed back for the Victoria Day celebrations held yesterday. We watched the parade, applauded the maypole dancers, listened to the bagpipes (or "dirt bags", as the boy mistakenly called them) and waved to "Queen Victoria". And, of course, we finished off the afternoon with another ride on the carousel.

With something for everyone to enjoy, the village would be an ideal way to spend a warm afternoon. There is plenty of green space for picnicking if you want to bring your own lunch instead of dining at the ice cream parlour. Parking, while free, can be a bit hard to come by during peak hours - but then where isn't that the case in the Greater Vancouver Area?

You can find the locations of Vancouver's Farmers Markets on their website. Make it a weekly adventure and check out each of them!

Community Centers

Community centers too often remain an untapped resource for families. With locations throughout Vancouver, Burnaby, and the rest of the GVA, there's always something going on.

A favourite rainy day activity for us is to attend one of the play gyms many of the community centers offer. The play gyms are filled with balls, large foam building blocks, slides, ride-on toys, and sometimes even trampolines. This large-muscle play is a perfect way to run off some energy when the weather keeps us indoors.

One of our newest favourites is the Kerrisdale Play Palace at the Kerrisdale Cyclone Taylor Arena. The Play Palace boasts two inflatable bouncy castles, an inflatable obstacle course, a large inflatable slide, ride-on toys, ping pong, and a toddler area, along with an indoor picnic area for snack time. Admission is more than reasonable, and the younger kids benefit from a daily "under six years only" time.

Our weekly Attachment Parenting/young homelearners playgroup meets (for free!) at one of the community centers. Access to a locked cupboard, outdoor space, and sometimes the gym makes this an ideal place for a weekly get-together. Join an existing group or see about starting one of your own!

The community centers offer a variety of classes as well. With swimming lessons, arts & crafts, dance, sports, and more, there's something for all ages and interests. Find a nearby community center, browse their schedule, and see what interests you!

Maplewood Farm

Maplewood Farm was the first kid-friendly activity we fell in love with when we moved here, and it remains our favourite dry-weather destination today. Located in North Vancouver, the farm is home to over 200 domestic animals and birds. From their website:

Maplewood Farm strives to provide a unique experience, incorporating enjoyment, education and a recollection of the rural heritage of this pastoral 5 acre setting.

While we always end our visit with a nice long hands-on visit to the goat pen, the farm has plenty of other things to see and do. Check out the hand milking demonstration daily at 1:15, featuring Lulu the jersey cow. Coo over the baby sheep each spring. Admire the Belgian draft horses and the Sicilian miniature donkeys. Don't forget to bring along some fresh fruits and veggies to feed to the rabbits!

There are washrooms and a large picnic area on site. Admission to the farm is very affordable, making this an excellent way to spend a sunny afternoon. If you plan to go often, consider investing in a family membership. A membership makes an excellent birthday or Christmas gift (thank you, Oma!).

Maplewood Farm will be holding their 31st Annual Sheep Fair Festival this Sunday, May 29th, from 10am to 4pm. Watch the Border Collies herd around the sheep flock at 10:30 am and 12:30 pm. The shearing itself can be observed at 11am and 1pm. Baaad Anna’s will be hosting demonstrations of Spinning and Dyeing and will be offering workshops on Finger Knitting and Felting. Maybe we'll see you there!

I hope you enjoyed the reviews and found something new to check out. Please do share your favourite local hangout in the comments below!

Disclaimer: All reviews are unsolicited and uncompensated, just my honest-to-goodness favourite places to take the kids.


  1. We'll be attending the festival on Sunday so we will be sure to say hello!

  2. I wish we had a farmers market like that! Awesome!

  3. My mum used to take my daughter to the Vancuver Art Gallery on a certain afternoon and they would do a painting. Is that still available today? (this was a good 8 - 10 years ago)

  4. That sounds really fun, Angie! The Art Gallery is still there, although we've yet to check it out. I'll add it to our list of "must-do's" for the summer!