Playland Adventures with 2 Kids

A couple of weeks ago, we braved the sun and the long-lines to spend the day at PNE / Playland. I was really on the fence about it this year. I took Aiden last year on his own and he had a great time… until he had a migraine. This year, I was on the fence about whether to go during the week or weekend, to go during PNE or not, or to take just Aiden or both kids. I knew Damien would enjoy it, but he’s too short for all the rides and he still naps, so that’s more complicated. In the end, we took both boys during the PNE craziness. 

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We arrived right at the Playland entrance at 11am when the gates opened, which is my first tip for any family going to the PNE. Kids always want to go on the rides, but if you start at the PNE end, it will be way too busy at the rides when you get there. This way, we were able to spend more than an hour going on the rides without line-ups, so that was incredibly helpful. Sadly, Damien was too short for some of the rides that a parent couldn’t go on, which was silly since they were such simple rides. He loved the rides, especially the fast ones like the tea cups and the carousel. 

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Aiden was much less nervous on the rides this year, and is really gaining confidence with things that are “fast” or wobbly. It’s great to see him enjoy the rides now. Next year, we plan to start with the kids roller coaster, since that line-up gets really long quite quickly. I think having a plan of which rides you want to go on first is a great way to make sure you aren’t stuck in line-ups all day.

I’m actually considering skipping the PNE altogether next year and just doing Playland. My kids have little interest in the shows at the PNE and, though the barn activities are fun, we can just go to Maplewood Farm. The only downside is that during the PNE, more kid-sized rides are brought into the Playland area, so we would miss out on some rides. 

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So, was Playland fun with 2 kids under age 5? YES! We had a great day! Damien walked so much and rarely complained, which is amazing. I tried to give him a nap in the Ergo, which I had in my backpack, but it was so hot that he only slept 5-10 minutes in it. He still did great for the rest of the day, even without a proper nap, but he definitely wasn’t old enough to simply skip it altogether. 

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Intermediate Hikes for Kids in Vancouver

This post comes to us from Jen Closs, a super Active Mama who recently completed a 3 day 80.5k trail run and who makes it a priority to #getoutside with her family. Building on our Hiking for Kids in North Vancouver, Jen shares some Intermediate Hikes for Kids in this post. You can see more of Jen’s adventures @jencloss or on Instagram

Hello! I’m Jen and I am mom to Jackson, 4 and Lucy, 2. We spend our days playing, hiking, conducting experiments, making art, doing the odd downward dog and taking in all that Vancouver has to offer. All thanks to coffee!

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I love being out in the mountains and so sharing and encouraging my kids to embrace an outdoor lifestyle has always been important to me. Over the years we have discovered some great hikes for little ones and we’ve branched out and gone on some really great adventures with our kids. 

If I’m taking my kids (2 and 4) without any other adults, I usually stick to trips that are only a few kilometers without much climbing. Interesting stopping points and distractions along the way make it more fun for everyone. We talk about the plants we see, the animals we might see and why our forests are so special. I always pack plenty of snacks and drinks and generally try to focus on the experience rather than the destination. We’ve also discovered geo-caching and my 4 year old LOVES it so there’s another way to add some excitement to pretty much any stretch of trail!

Here are some of our favourite local hikes. Enjoy!

Intermediate Hikes for Kids in North & West Vancouver

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  1. Yew Lake, Cypress Mountain (North Vancouver)  2.5km, 1-2hrs, 20m elevation gain. The Yew Lake Interpretive trail starts near the main lodge at the Cypress alpine base. It is a short loop on a nice gravel path with several benches and picnic tables. I love being able to bring my kids up to the sub-alpine in the summer and this loop is great. It is stroller friendly and great for kids on strider and pedal bikes. An added bonus is the chairlift at the end of the loop. It isn’t operational in the summer but there is always a chair on the platform and the kids love to sit on it!
  2. Capilano Canyon (North Vancouver) is a bit of a “choose your own adventure” location. I like to start at the fish hatchery and in the fall it’s great to watch the salmon jumping over the ladders. From the hatchery we go across the bridge over the canyon and over to the Cleveland dam lookout. This section is very short and is also stroller friendly. Capilano canyon is stunning and this is a great spot for a quick and easy nature fix. You could also start at Cleveland Dam and walk down to the fish hatchery and over to the lookout, but there are several sets of stairs so be ready!
  3. Whyte Lake (West Vancouver) – 5.8km, 2-3hrs, 240m elevation gain. The parking lot for Whyte lake is just off of exit #4 in West Vancouver. The trail starts out by going underneath the highway and climbs steeply for the first few minutes before entering the forest. It is a nice, rolling trail through typical west coast forest to Whyte Lake – a small, treed lake with a little dock perfect for snacks. 
  4. Quarry Rock (North Vancouver) – 3km, 1-2hrs, 100m elevation gain. This is a very popular hike and finding parking can sometimes be the most challenging part of a trip to Quarry Rock! Panorama park in Deep Cove, where you’ll start your trip, is a beautiful spot as well and Deep Cove is a great spot to explore after your hike! The trail to Quarry Rock starts steeply over braided roots so watch your footing! It soon evens out and goes up and down through several gullies with bridges over small creeks before finally coming out at the rocky bluff overlooking Deep Cove. 
  5. Hollyburn Fir (West Vancouver)  4.7km, 3hrs, 320m elevation gain. The Lawson Creek Heritage Walk takes you back in time to when the forests of West Vancouver were being logged for cedar. You’ll pass an old dam and other historic markers describing the logging operations. Giant stumps will give you an idea of the size of the cedars that were logged. Very impressive to imagine how it was all done! The Hollyburn Fir stands about ¾ of the way through your hike. The 1100 year old fir is nearly 3 metres in diameter and is wonderful to see; we try to visit every year! This year my 4 year old managed the whole trip without being carried!

Intermediate Hikes for Kids Close to Vancouver

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These next four hikes involve a bit more travel, but that’s just part of the adventure!

  1. Gold Creek Falls (Maple Ridge) – 5.5km, 2-3hrs, minimal elevation gain. This is a great hike if you’re ever near Golden Ears Provincial Park. From the parking lot the trail is wide and great for kids. Soon you come to Gold Creek with great mountain views and several spots where you can access the creek for picnics and toe-dipping. Keep following the trail and continue up to the viewpoint to get a refreshing spray of mist from the falls.
  2. Othello Tunnels (Hope) – 3.5k, 1hr, no elevation gain. The Othello tunnels are accessed just east of Hope in Coquihalla Provincial Park. This series of tunnels follows the Coquihalla River as it winds through steep canyons. The tunnels were built in the 1900’s for the railway and are incredibly impressive to see and to imagine the work involved in creating them is quite mind-boggling! Bring a flashlight! Kids love hearing their voices echo in the tunnels!
  3. Brohm Lake (Squamish) – 5km, 2-3hrs. Brohm Lake is located north of Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway. This rolling trail circumnavigates Brohm Lake and offers several viewpoints and snack stops. This was our first big outing after our daughter was born and my son (2.5yrs) ran nearly the whole way before falling fast asleep in the car before we even left the parking lot!
  4. Joffre Lakes (Pemberton) – 11km, 5hrs, 370m elevation gain. I’m putting this hike on the list because it is amazing! Located north of Pemberton on the Duffey Lake Road, you can access the first lake in just 5 minutes. The 2nd lake is about 1-2hrs away and the 3rd lake is less than an hour from there, so there are plenty of stopping point for breaks and snacks. BC Parks has recently redone the trail, making it much easier for hikers of all abilities. Part of the trail has also been rerouted past a beautiful waterfall that was previously inaccessible. We have not yet done this one as a family – I was pregnant the last time we hiked up here, but this trip truly showcases our stunning Canadian wilderness. Turquoise lakes, majestic peaks and shimmering glaciers, all within reach! I’m hoping to get up here with the kids before the snow falls this year. 

The most important thing is to have fun. If you are well prepared in terms of safety, food, water and clothing, the destination doesn’t really matter! Slow down and share the experience of being outside in nature with your kids; often they are our best teachers when it comes to finding joy where we least expect it!

A REAL Real Housewife of Vancouver

I recently had the opportunity to do an interview over email with Melissa of the thirties grind, to be a part of her “REAL Real Housewives of Vancouver” series. The interview features the actual questions from the Real Housewives of Vancouver series but completed by, well, REAL women representing Vancouver! If you check out her archives, you’ll see a great cross-section of REAL women who make up this wonderful city. 

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So, check it out. Let me know what you think. And how would YOU answer the first question? What are the characteristics of a Vancouver housewife, and do you fit them?? 

Unearthing History at the Britannia Mine Museum

On our return trip from Squamish, we stopped at both Shannon Falls and at the Britannia Mine Museum. We spent about 2.5 hours in the museum and could easily have spent twice as long, particularly if the day had been nicer. 

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I have been wanting to visit the mines for some time, but I was a little wary that it would be too much for Aiden, with the loud noises and his very sensitive hearing. It turns out, the loud noises come in 4 short bursts, with lots of warning, so you really can cover your child’s ears (and wear the supplied earplugs for yourself) and not face much of an issue. The largest sound was the whistle at the end of the tour, and Aiden missed that since he had to rush to the washroom. 

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The tour takes you through a section of the mine where a tour guide shows you some of the equipment used over the years of the mine’s operation, as well as some of the challenges faced by the workers. What a horrible work experience, the hours of backbreaking labour with almost no light, no space, and the likelihood of an early death. Ick. 

In addition to the tour inside the mine, you can visit the factory to see the conditions there, as well as several outbuildings that house equipment used during the operation of the mine. There is a short video about the history of the mine as you come into the Museum. I felt like we learned a ton about mining and the history of the area, I really liked the whole experience.

For the kids, the real highlight was the panning for gold. Ok, it was a highlight for us too. I was so into it I didn’t take any photos. Oops. Unlike other places where panning for gold has only been sand, the Britannia Mine Museum seeds the sand with gold shavings and many other stones to be found. This is hugely satisfying for kids and adults alike!

On nicer days, there is a great play area with sand, water, a boat structure and a train tunnel, as well as a picnic area and on-site food options (not open when we were there). Plan to go on a nice day if you want to take advantage of these great features.  

Check out all our photos from the Britannia Mine Museum here.

Vancouver International Children’s Festival

We went to our first Children’s Festival on Granville Island this year. In the past, I wasn’t sure I was up for a whole day at Granville Island with 1 or 2 kids, but now my kids are much “easier,” most of the time, and the day is not so tiring for me. We met up with one grandma (Babby) and aunt (Tia) on a Friday around 10am, choosing to use the festival site activities only, no shows, and we managed to stay there until nearly 4pm. 

We made music, we added string to the dinosaur sculpture, Aiden had his face painted at the most well-organized face painting tent ever and made crafts, we played for a long time in the amazing and well-staffed preschool tent, we played at the playground many times, we had lunch and too many sweets, and I even gave Damien a brief nap in the carrier. It was all-in-all a great day, and surprisingly more relaxing than I anticipated!

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I highly recommend a visit next year, particularly on a weekday when it wasn’t as busy. We may even check out a show next year!