Vancouver Flower Power Giveaway: Tix to VanDusen

Today, I have a fun giveaway for Vancouver-bound readers and Vancouver parents!  Even if you haven’t gone to Vancouver, BC recently, I’ll bet you’ll want to — if you win this. I’ve pulled together a $10 gift certificate and a four-pack of admission tix to two great Vancouver attractions for families, and they’re both in my book, Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver as well.

Dandelion Kids is a hip little kids’ store on Commercial (or “The Drive”) Ave, nestled among cafes, restaurants and funky boutique. I like visiting whenever I’m in town, because the owners are super-picky about their finds and always stock something I’ve never seen before, whether Canadian-made or imported.

Looking through the window at Dandelion Kids. (Photo courtesy Dandelion Kids)

I particularly like the toys and baby items – and it’s a great place to stop for a gift. Last year, my son picked out a swanky cowboy hat that looked like it had just fallen off Roy Roger’s head.

I suggest stopping to spend your $10 gift certificate at Dandelion, then heading out to VanDusen Botanical Garden to redeem your four-pack of admission tickets.

VanDusen is a lovely Vancouver destination – Vancouver’s answer to Victoria’s Butchart Gardens. Far too many families skip this gem – including my own! We’d been over a dozen times before we went – and my husband said, “Why haven’t we been here before? This is great.”

At VanDusen, kids love the hedge maze, pond fountains (don’t jump in, kids), huge grass lawns, roses and hydrangeas, funky sculpted bushes and sheltering trees. There’s even engaging family programming, if you time your visit right.

A pony made out of plants at VanDusen. Curiouser and curiouser...

The only trick with these tix? They’re only good in July, and not good for special events. So you need to use ‘em up quick! But the summer gardens are open until 9 p.m., and I highly recommend an evening walk in the cool air. It’s a great way to wind down before bedtime.

How to enter? Leave a comment below and let me know whether you’re planning to visit Vancouver or if you’re a Vancouver resident. That’s it!

Good luck. Entries must be in by noon, June 29, and I’ll draw the winner that afternoon.

Please be patient when waiting for your comment to appear. I hand-approve each one. No spam will be approved.

Victoria with Kids: 5 Things to Do with Toddlers in Victoria, BC

A reader writes in:

We are planning a family vacation to Victoria in June with our 2 year old.  Do you have any recommendations for kid-friendly hotels and activities?  Thank you so much for your help! — Jessica

I’m so excited for you. Victoria is one of my favorite destinations, particularly with toddlers.

My first suggestion — buy my book! In Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver, I lay out Victoria activities picks by age, and you’ll find more hotel and dining options than I have here.

But here are additional suggestions:

Kid-friendly Victoria BC Hotels:

I like staying at the Royal Scot Hotel & Suites, because I like the kitchen-equipped rooms, particularly when staying anywhere with kids, and I like how big the suites run (one bedroom separate from living area with a pull-out couch). There’s also an indoor pool and jacuzzi, always a hit with kids.

If you’re not particularly concerned about room size, The Fairmont Empress offers luxe rooms (some with views of the Inner Harbour) and a fun little kid’s activity pack at check-in. The Admiral Inn also provides simple, kitchen-equipped rooms, but the suite dimensions are slightly smaller.  I have more hotels (including kid-friendly Victoria bed and breakfast options) in my book.

Things to do in Victoria with kids:

  • Beacon Hill Petting Zoo. I know, you’ve probably visited a bazillion petting zoos already in your son’s short life. But this one is super cute. It’s only a few loonies to get in, and once inside, your toddler will be wowed by the Running of the Goats and the chance to groom the goats. I write more about Beacon Hill Children’s Zoo in this post, “Victoria Pick: Beacon Hill Petting Zoo.”
  • Butchart Gardens. Your child will mostly love running up and down the paths, poking the flowers (the Gardens is where my son learned the phrase “one-finger touch!”) and riding the carousel. You’ll love the spectacular diversity — sunken gardens, Japanese gardens, rose gardens. Don’t forget your camera, and don’t forget to check out these kid tips first. How to get to Butchart Gardens? You can always go with Gray Line Tours. But on a weekday, go for less on the city’s Route #75 bus. If you’re lucky, it’ll be a double-decker. Board at the first pick-up point to ensure a front-row seat on top. Toddlers and preschoolers LOVE the double-decker buses. If you bring a stroller, make sure it’s small and collapses easily to get it up the stairwell.
  • Royal BC Museum. The whole museum is fabulous — one of my favorites — but your toddler will love the Natural History Gallery, which has life-size, sound-rich exhibits showcasing of forest, seashore and ancient life. So a Woolly Mammoth towers overhead and a you’ll go toe-to-toe with a moose, right before you walk into the birdcalls in a seashore exhibit. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I really swear that seashore exhibit smells like the sea.
  • Fisherman’s Wharf. You can feed a seal! For real. Watch your toddler’s hands (some seals are grabby) and make sure the child doesn’t go over the wharf’s edge. I write more about the Fisherman’s Wharf on my “Island Time: 9 Fine Kid-Friendly Picks in Victoria, BC.”
  • Victoria’s Community Centers. If you brought your car (by traveling on either the Washington State Ferries or the M.V. Coho), you can drive to one of the fantastic Community Centre swimming pools. In Saanich, for example, check out these options at Gordon Head Recreation Center. Pirate ships, wave pools, swim toys, Tarzan ropes and toddler pools. They’re quite amazing, honestly.
  • With a 2-year-old child, you can take advantage of naptime in the stroller and shop downtown or shop along Fort Street (antiques). Oh, I miss those days…

What you might not do in Victoria BC with toddlers:

  • Victoria Bug Zoo. You’ll want to listen to the funny tour guides, and your child won’t, and you may feel frustrated at how quickly you have to leave. It’s a fantastic Victoria attraction — and I love it — but with a child that age, you might expect it to be more of a 20-minute stop, unless your child has a much longer attention span than the average toddler, and is far gentler (to hold the bugs without squishing them). The Victoria Bug Zoo can be a better choice for preschool-aged children and up.
  • Miniature World and Royal London Wax Museum. I don’t think either will hold his interest, unless he knows plenty of fairy tales. The wax museum has a very gory part that is best avoided unless your child is already watching PG-13 or R-rated films. Even I had nightmares afterward. But I am a big baby like that. It’s easy to skip the hallway though, without your child even knowing that you’re passing it by.
  • Pacific Undersea Gardens. I do not recommend this attraction to anyone, sorry. It’s currently rated #79 out of 79 attractions in Victoria, BC on Tripadvisor. If that doesn’t tell you what you need to know, then e-mail me.


Kid-friendly Victoria BC Dining: See my post on family-friendly Victoria restaurants. With a toddler, I would go with the Rebar, Hernande’z, Crumsby’s, Paradiso di Stelle and Noodle Box (all profiled in the piece).

That’s it! Remember, I love answering reader questions. E-mail me at lora AT with your questions and I’ll do my best.