Vancouver Airport with Kids: Play Areas, an Aquarium & More

Whether you’re flying in or out of Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in British Columbia,  you’ll find plenty to do with kids. I love the diversity of offerings — where else can you find an outdoor park, a play area, a hands-on observation deck and an on-site airport aquarium? There’s so many fun activities, you almost want to book a trip just to play. Here’s a full map of the Vancouver Airport.

Children’s Play Areas at the Vancouver Airport

With three locations after security and one before security, there are a number of areas throughout the airport for kids to play and climb. Before security, near the domestic terminal food court (Departures Level 2), you’ll find a play area.

The indoor playground at Vancouver Airport

After security, there are three different play areas to choose from:

Domestic Terminal, Departures Level 3, Gate 3
Domestic Terminal, Departures Level 3,Gate 43
International Terminal, Departures Level 3, Gate 54

Family-Friendly Washrooms at the Vancouver Airport

A changing station is located within every washroom, male and female.

Nursing Mothers’ Area at the Vancouver Airport

A nursery room equipped with cribs, play pens and a changing area is available before-security in the United States Terminal, Departures Level 3. It can be accessed at a person’s request. It is a large, quiet area where parents can have some privacy if feeding or changing. There are family restrooms at every washroom location with full change stations. Of course, throughout the Pacific Northwest and BC, nursing in public is both accepted and welcomed.

Additional fun zones and things to do with kids at the Vancouver Airport (observation area, aquarium and park):

If you’ve got a child that loves to point to the skies every time an airplane flies overhead, you’ll want to take them to the Public Observation Area located before-security in the Domestic Terminal on Level 4.

Vancouver airport Observation Area

Vancouver airport Observation Area

 

Peer through telescopes to watch aircraft land, listen in on air traffic control, or learn about airport careers.

The kid-friendly Vancouver Airport aquarium

Vancouver Airport Aquarium and Creek

Located in the after-security area of the International Terminal is a 114,000-litre aquarium with over 5,000 aquatic dwellers. Kids can seek out a variety of Cascadia-native underwater fauna, including wolf eels, sea stars, sea urchins and more than 20 different species of fish. The Vancouver Aquarium also runs a duty-free store right at the airport, should you need some great souvenirs or toys for the plane ride home.

For families needing a little fresh air, the airport’s Chester Johnson Park houses First Nations art including K’san Totem Poles. Located right outside the International Terminal (before security), Chester Johnson Park is a great spot to go for a walk and take in some of B.C.’s beautiful landscape. Miss 604 offers a great write-up of Chester Johnson Park.

Read more about traveling with children here, at the Vancouver International Airport’s website.

Thanks to Jenny Duncan for background information and photos.

35 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Victoria with Kids

Victoria, BC, is a family-friendly destination we return to over and over again. Not just because I have a Victoria-based friend with impressive culinary skills (Hey, it’s a nice perk!). But also because Victoria offers so many affordable and free options.

35 free and cheap things to do in Victoria BC with kids:

    1. Enjoy outdoor festivals and celebrations in one of Canada’s sunniest cities.
    2. Watch for bald eagles and salmon at Goldstream Park.
    3. Ride trail-a-bikes or pull your toddler in a bike carrier along the 55 kilometre (34 mi) long Galloping Goose Trail.
    4. Go on a self-guided spooky Victoria tour with your preteen or teen – discover the haunts of spectres, poltergeists and ghostly pianos.
    5. Paddle around (with hands or oars) with kids onto Elk / Beaver Lake.
    6. Meet the farmer! Visit a Vancouver Island farmer’s market, go on a farm tour or go on a u-pick farm on Vancouver Island.


  1. Go to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria on the first Tuesday of the month, when admission is by donation.
  2. Ride the double-decker bus to Sidney, BC.
  3. Visit Victoria’s parliament building on a free public tour.
  4. Buy some fish scraps from The Fish Store and feed the seals at Fisherman’s Wharf.
  5. Picnic and play in the Watering Garden at Beacon Hill Park, then count blooms along pathways.
  6. Relax in the lazy river in the Gordon Head Pool or the Esquimalt Recreation Pool.
  7. Catch a summer concert performance from Victoria Symphony Canada.
  8. Watch the running of the goats at Beacon Hill Farm.
  9. Visit the gun batteries and watch historical re-enactments at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites of Canada.
  10. Along Victoria’s Inner Harbour, watch buskers perform and seaplanes land.
  11. Pack snacks and enjoy a family hike in Victoria.
  12. Count the hanging flower baskets in downtown Victoria, then learn to make a proper Victorian Hanging Basket.
  13. Walk through Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest alley in Canada.
  14. Go to a star party at the Centre of the Universe.
  15. Climb through an giant octopus eye and slide down a fish tale in the trippy Cadboro-Gyro Park.

    Cadboro park with kids

    The crazy-cool playground at Cadboro-Gyro Park

  16. Treasure a storytime at children’s bookstore Tall Tales Books.
  17. Look for a golden-crowned sparrow or barred owl at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary.
  18. Bring a copy of Peter Rabbit to the University of Victoria campus, where you’ll see rabbits here, there and everywhere.
  19. Try one of Saanich’s free family events.
  20. Catch a Stars and Strollers first-run movie (with baby!) at SilverCity Victoria.
  21. Pick out a cute, vintage comic book at Legends Comics or pack of Pokemon cards at Curious Comics.
  22. Go for a kids’ tea at Crumsby’s Cupcake Cafe, walk among the old-fashioned tudor buildings in Oak Bay, then dip your toes in the ocean at one of the Oak Bay beaches.
  23. Challenge your child to identify the animals on the totem poles in the Thunderbird Park, east of the Royal BC Museum.
  24. Bring binoculars to spot Caddie (Cadborosarus) in the waters off Vancouver Island.
  25. Sit inside the second-story, luxe lounge area at the Fairmont Empress hotel and people-watch new hotel arrivals (don’t forget to make up silly stories about each one).
  26. Reflect in the gothic-style Christ Church Cathedral or the stained-glass gorgeous St Andrew’s Cathedral.
  27. Walk along Ogden Point breakwater. Stare up at the giant cruise ships or look down and watch divers surface.
  28. Make a splash at the Beckwith “frog pond” splash feature in Saanich.
  29. Drive or hike up Mount Douglas, where you can look out over the city and out to Washington State’s Olympic Mountain Range.

Can you suggest a free or cheap family-friendly Victoria attraction, restaurant or activity?

Hiking with kids in Vancouver, BC

Writer-broadcaster Jack Christie is one of Canada’s most trusted sources on travel, recreation and sport. And he did a quick Q & A on hiking with kids in Vancouver, BC. We should consider ourselves very lucky!

As the outdoors columnist with Vancouver’s Georgia Straight newspaper (Canada’s largest circulation weekly) since 1986, he has filed over 500 reports, many of which are posted on line at straight.com. Jack, along with his partner in creativity, photographer Louise Christie, is the best-selling author of a series of 17 adventure guides, including 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver, The Whistler Book: All-Season Outdoor Guide and Best Weekend Getaways from Vancouver: Favourite Trips and Overnight Destinations (Greystone Guides).

Does he have kids? “Louise and I have two grown boys who are now enthusiastically making their way in the world on their own two feet as well as by bike, skis, snowboards, and motorcycles,” Christie says, with characteristic aplomb.

Let’s see what Jack says about hiking with kids in and around Vancouver, BC.

1. Is there a kid-friendly hike within Vancouver’s city limits that you recommend? What do you like about it?

Based on our family’s experience, a “kid-friendly hike” is an oxymoron. Our kids told us they didn’t “get” hiking until they were 14+ teenagers. Stick to walks and let kids decide how far they want to go and what they want to see and do.

In Vancouver, visit Queen Elizabeth Park, second largest next to Stanley Park with far fewer visitors, great views, neat little hiding places dotted among spectacular gardens, good picnic spots, with a big dancing fountain on top in which kids can frolic on hot days. (Note: Photo at right is the view from Queen Elizabeth Park)

2. Is there a hike within 45 minutes of downtown Vancouver, that’s good for families with toddlers? A spot accessible by public transportation?

By car: Yew Lake Trail in Cypress Provincial Park in West Vancouver. It’s a hard-packed loop trail that leads past a lovely subalpine lake, next to a grove of massive ancient evergreens

By transit: North Vancouver’s Maplewood Flats Conservation Area (run by the Wild Bird Trust of BC) on Dollarton Road. You’ll find a gentle loop trail, great spot for wild birds, a small beach, views of the inner harbour. (Read a lovely description of a visit to Maplewood Flats with children on the Outdoor Vancouver blog)

(Consult 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver for details on both locations)

3. Can you recommend a similar hike (near downtown Vancouver) that’s good for elementary-age kids — children who can go a little further without complaint?

Port Moody’s Rocky Point Park offers an ocean side approach along the Shoreline Trail which touches on five pocket parks. In summer, good swimming both at a beach or freshwater pool and water playground for kids to cool down in. Bonus: Great fish & chips at Pajo’s kiosk in the park, a must-visit to reward non-complaining kids.(Consult 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver
for complete details)

4. How about tweens and teens who can go as far as an adult? Do you have a recommendation for a close-to-downtown hike that’s still a bit challenging?

Metro Vancouver’s sprawling Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Pacific Spirit Regional Park’s Wreck Beach stretches for 5 kilometres (3 miles) and can be accessed from a variety of trails numbered 1-7. Trail 6 leads to the section informally known as “Coney Island” where the majority of clothing-optional folks hang out.

The Trail 4 approach that I recommend is naturally removed from the main action by a mile of rocky headlands and very family-friendly. Trail 4 starts with a 300-step staircase directly behind the UBC Museum of Anthropology and leads along a cobble-and-sand beach to twin gun towers, graffiti-plastered relics from World War 2. Lots of driftwood to picnic on, panoramic views of the mouth of the harbour and the Strait of Georgia. My kids loved the wild side of this section of beach.

If families are really turned off by the sight of an occasional bare bum, try downhill along Northwest Marine Drive at the park’s Acadia Beach, next to the city’s Spanish Bank West Beach. They’ll find picnic tables and washrooms and a leafy, gentler approach to Wreck Beach where a colony of blue herons stalk smelt beside net-casting fishers.

(Read a lyrical description of Wreck Beach on Jack Christie’s website)

5. What’s your favorite family-friendly hike between Vancouver and Whistler? What do you like about it? Who is it good for — which ages?

The Sea to Sky Trail, specifically the new stretch between Brandywine Falls Provincial Park and Whistler. One of the best-built, multi-use trails in the region. Starts with a stunning waterfall and leads beside the Cheakamus River. (View the video posted at www.jackchristie.com and consult The Whistler Book: All-Season Outdoor Guide for details)

6. Do you have a gentle, family-friendly hike recommendation in or around Whistler, BC?

The gentle Cheakamus Lake Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park at the south end of Whistler leads through a spectacular forest to a stunning turquoise-hued lake at the foot of Whistler Mountain, or the multi-use Tin Pants Trail in Whistler’s Lost Lake Park with its twig-furniture benches and grand views of the mountains on all sides (Consult The Whistler Book: All-Season Outdoor Guide for details on both).

Thanks for those family-friendly hike suggestions, Jack. Readers, I’d suggest picking up one of Jack’s books — he’s obviously an exceptional, detail-oriented writer who can offer wonderful things to do in and around Vancouver.