Our Christmas festivities have begun! As part of our Christmas Traditions for 2015, we’ve been out and about as a family visiting many cherished and new festive spots. We’ve made a visit to the Aquarium to see Scuba Claus and to the Burnaby Village Museum to complete the scavenger hunt for the 12 Days of Christmas in their Heritage Christmas celebration, and this weekend we drove out to Maple Ridge to visit the Timberline Ranch for the Timberline Country Christmas.
Held at the scenic 73-acre horse ranch, Timberline Country Christmas aims to deliver what we all seek at this time of year: a simple and relaxing Christmas wonderland! Secured through a time-based reservation system, you avoid lines and crowds during most of your stay. You start at your pre-reserved time, but can spend as long as you like on the ranch: visiting the petting zoo, taking a hay ride, playing in the game area, making ornaments, taking a hay ride, listening to stories, or riding a pony (extra ticket required, but still reasonable)! There’s even an assortment of snacks and food available, if you want to extend your stay.
Compared to many Christmas events, this is both reasonably priced as well as more laid back. I felt like we truly enjoyed our two hours at the ranch – no rushing or dealing with impatient kids! We were welcomed with cookie decorating (hooray, no gingerbread! We all get gingerbread-ed out this time of year!), then took the short hay ride to the petting zoo / pony ride / hay maze barn. The whole event is either indoors or covered, so weather isn’t really an issue, but we lucked out with a mild day. Our kids loved interacting with the assortment of animals (goats, llamas, cows and more!), and we were impressed with how immaculate the entire barn was. The highlight, of course, was the pony ride! Both boys had huge smiles on their faces to be riding the large horses!! I was so impressed with them.
Every inch of the ranch, including the animal areas, was kept pristine and each person who we interacted with actually seemed to care for their job. Nobody seemed frazzled or annoyed or overwhelmed with their roles interacting with so many people. I was especially impressed in the barn, where I didn’t feel overwhelmed by animal poo!, and in the craft area, where I commended the assistant for keeping all the craft supplies so tidy! I know that can be a daunting task with kids!
Our boys loved the snowball fight area!! We spent a lot of time there and freely let the boys play and play and play. Eventually we coaxed Aiden away by suggesting he set a goal for how many targets he wanted to hit / go through – his final score was 40 hits / hoops!
Last year I created my first ever Bucket List for the Summer, focusing my attention on the things we as a family really wanted to do during the Summer. This way, whenever we had a free day, I could easily look at my list and say “Hey, let’s go do one of these activities!” – in the end, we checked off nearly all of the items on our list!! I feel like Summer is just going to fly by this year, and it hasn’t even started!
- Spend as many weekends as possible at our cottage on Keats Island, bringing friends when we can! We also plan to spend 2 full weeks there (one in July, one in August), if the weather is nice
- Catch our own food! The kids both want to learn how to fish, us adults want to learn how to set up crab traps and prawn traps
- Take more family bike trips, including around Stanley Park and a trip over to the Rocky Point Park area. I’d also like to do more biking locally, to get to parks with both kids on my own, and use my bike more to achieve my personal fitness goals (with or without the kids).
- Spend the day at Playland, which should be easy! The kids both love rides now, which is great. I am thinking this year we will go before the PNE, which limits the number of rides but does make it less insanely busy
- Spend more time at the pool, particularly New Brighton which is so close to us! Aiden is eager to continue practicing his new swimming skills. He may even convince me to get him a snorkel ;)
- Take more mid-week day trips, which I tend to shy away from, being so much work with 2 kids. My top new places to visit are Jericho Beach, Bunzten Lake, Belcarra, and Barnet Marine Park in Burnaby, but I also want to spend the day at Granville Island enjoying the water park and some good food. I doubt I’ll make it to them all, but those are my top choices.
- Revisit favourite splash parks, including those in North Vancouver, as well as favourites close by: John Lawson Park, Rocky Point Park, and Confederation Park
- Visit more new playgrounds, which is so much fun for the kids. My goal is to expand my North Vancouver Playground reviews by another 10 playgrounds, plus make day trips to others that are on my radar: Terra Nova, Queenston Park, Empire Fields, Queens Park
- Test out some bike parks, like the Inter-River Bike Park or even the Seymour Demonstration Forest trails
- Set up lots of playdates, which will be key to keeping Aiden sane this summer! He’s made so many good friends, I know he’ll miss them!
- Add more hikes into rotation, though we’ll still keep up with our Favourite Hikes in North Vancouver! Maybe we’ll try Quarry Rock or more in the Seymour Conservation Park?
- Go to the bouncy castles in West Van, an item high on Aiden’s bucket list
- Set up a lemonade stand, which was a lot of fun last year
- Go camping as a family, a first for us and already booked!
- Visit Splashdown park, thanks to a lovely coupon! I am super psyched for this. Aiden is great with waterslides now (a few months later for our Hawaii trip, oh well!), and is very excited for this! Splashdown Park this year, Cultus Lake perhaps next year? Unless I can somehow squeeze a weekend trip into our already insanely packed summer…. hmm…
What’s on YOUR bucket list for this summer??
We have had annual memberships to Capilano Suspension Bridge since Aiden was a baby. Having gone every time of year, from the crazy busy Summer season to the serene moments of Autumn, I have to say that Halloween and Christmas are my favourite times to visit.
Weekdays in Autumn, the Capilano Suspension Bridge highlights the peace of the season. Without the crazy bustle of large crowds, you can truly take in the breathtaking views and the changing colours of the season. It’s breathtaking.
They have filled every nook of the park with pumpkins, scarecrows and autumn leaves. It’s a great time to come and take some photos!
Aiden learned to ride his bike this Summer. As the Summer progressed, and the purchase of my own bike, we have been on bigger and better bike adventures. With a parent in front and behind, we felt much more comfortable on road riding scenarios. Our first major road ride was in Harrison Hot Springs. Following the invitation of a good friend, we made the jump and tried out the Stanley Park Seawall as a family. It was AMAZING!
The Stanley Park Seawall is a 9km circuit. The path is fairly easy for young riders, particularly if you have a parent behind to keep your child on the proper part of the path. The view from the whole path is amazing and great motivation for young riders.
Along the way there are many points of interest, from the lighthouse to the spray park to our favourite, Third Beach.
If you plan on biking the full 9km, pack lots of snacks for your young riders. We stopped for a snack early on, then biked to Third Beach for lunch. On our second trip, we added a second bike pannier filled with swim shorts and beach toys, so we were able to spend a very relaxing few hours at the beach! I even packed the Ergo so I could nap Damien when appropriate.
We have ridden this path twice now and it is definitely more fun for little riders when they have friends, but it is entirely doable either way.
Notes for families: The bike path is one-way only. There are a couple of points when you need to walk your bike through busy areas. The path is mostly flat and a very comfortable ride for confident young riders. Be sure your child knows to stay on the right of the path at all times, so others can pass, and can ride in single file without veering off the path (there are no guard rails).
If you have a child in a bike seat like we did, have some handheld snacks on hand to keep them awake if that’s your goal. Damien always started to nod off before nap time, so I was glad we had a lot of snacks on hand. Also pack a light sweater for children in bike seats, as it can be windy and cool in some of the shady areas.
As noted on Let’s Go Biking, the Stanley Park Circle route looks something like this:
View #4 Stanley Park Circle 3Feb13 in a larger map
The only difference we made was to park in the lot on the North side of Georgia, off Denman.
Despite the fact that I have lived in Vancouver for most of my life, I had never been to Bowen Island. A couple of weeks ago, we decided to check that off our Summer bucket list with a last-minute day trip. We walked on the ferry with almost no planning, arriving on Bowen in need of coffee and some idea of what to do with 2 kids. In this post, I’ll outline some ways you can enjoy Day Tripping to Bowen Island with Kids.
A Day Trip on Bowen Island with Kids: What to Do
- Walk on the Ferry – Although you won’t be able to explore the whole island, you can certainly spend a whole day on Bowen without a car. By walking on the ferry, you save yourself time (and money). Grab a map of Bowen while on the ferry.
- Go for a Hike – all the resources I read suggested the a hike to Killarney Lake (pictured above) from the ferry terminal only takes about 45 minutes and is very kid-friendly. It’s not, if your kids are 5 and 2. Although we did walk to the lake, there was a lot of grumbling and unhappy faces. Plus, you also have to walk back. There wasn’t anything kid-friendly at the lake, so it was a bit of a let-down. This trail map gives you an idea of the paths and times. Instead, I would suggest you head partway up the trails to see the fish ladder / small Bridal Veil Falls, then continue on the trail until you see the sign for the Community School. This makes for a great loop and our next tip. (Note: the hatchery on the way to Killarney Lake may sound tempting, but it is not much to look at)
- Play at the school playground which rests at the top of Mount Gardner Road. This is (I believe from the signs) the exit from the cross-path near the fish ladder, and the main road takes you back down to the ferry terminal / shops.
- Plan transit if you want to see anything beyond the ferry terminal shops, and have small kids, plan to take transit. There are some hills and the distances between areas are not as close as they seem.
- For older kids, take bikes if you want to explore further, and have kids who are capable bikers, you can bike along many of the trails
- Play at the beach if you go South (left if you’re facing away from the ferry terminal – see map), you can take the boardwalk to a nice picnic area and beach at the marina. There’s also a trail to a viewpoint (which we didn’t know about). The kids spent a lot of time searching for rocks and treasures here, though I would not recommend it for swimming. Other beaches are apparently nice for swimming.
- Enjoy laid-back dining According to locals, the best shops are all right at the main strip near the ferry, though up in Artisan Square (15-minute adult-speed walk uphill or bus trip) there are other options such as Artisan Eats. Near the ferry terminal are options such as Tuscany Pizza (more upscale, quite delicious) and the Snug Cafe (delicious pastries, lunch looked good!)
- Fill up on treats! Really, what is a day trip without treats. There is a super cute candy shop, ice cream, and even gourmet chocolates. And don’t forget PIE! Who can forget pie? You must eat or take home something from the Lime and Moon Pie Company, located on the pier just at the ferry terminal
Since we went to the lake (bad idea) and the kids were exhausted and hungry, we hitched a ride back into town for lunch. Well, I had to walk since Damien was sleeping in the Ergo. We never got to visit the playground, but it looked great!
I think now that we know more about Bowen, our next trip will be even better! Hope you can learn from some of our mistakes and subsequent research!