Canadian-born Seattle resident Connie Wanklin-Iskra, her husband Matt, sonÂ Makhno (almost 3) and daughter Naomi (6 months) decided to enjoy aÂ car-free weekend in Vancouver, BC. So, over the long US Memorial DayÂ weekend, they decided to take the Amtrak train‘s route to Vancouver for a two-day trip.
â€œWe wanted to stay longer, but felt we might need a day to recoverÂ when we returned,â€ Wanklin-Iskra says. â€œWhich was definitely theÂ case.â€
They boarded the Amtrak in Edmonds, Washington at 8:07 a.m. and arrivedÂ in Vancouver, BC, almost four hours later. The train was $70 roundÂ trip for each adult, half-off forÂ Makhno and free for her daughterÂ (and other children under age 2). Once in Vancouver, it was non-stop schedule of fun. Let’s find out what they did and Â what they enjoyed about their train trip to Vancouver, BC.
1. What did you do in Vancouver, BC when you arrived via Amtrak?
Customs in Vancouver was a bit of a wait Â — a good twenty minutes which feels like hours when carrying and infant and pushing a tired toddler in a stroller chanting “go, go, go.” Makhno did not enjoyÂ this much, BUT it wasn’t as long as it might have been at the borderÂ in a car.
AfterÂ that we took the SkyTrain a couple of stops intoÂ downtown Vancouver and walked to ourÂ hotel.
I tried to find a hotelÂ close enough to the SkyTrain, as weÂ brought the Ergo for the baby andÂ the jogging stroller for ourÂ little guy. The hotel (Best WesternÂ Chateau Granville) was a splurge for aÂ suite with a King size bed andÂ a couch bed. But the room and living roomÂ really helpedÂ with puttingÂ kiddos to bed.
My son Makhno likes to walk but the stroller had storage, and itâ€™sÂ also goodÂ for naps and a safe place to put the baby. Makhno fellÂ asleepÂ walking from the SkyTrain to the hotel, YEAH!!! We pushed himÂ intoÂ the hotel and into the room and just relaxed until he woke up.
Then we walked to Granville Island and took theÂ rainbow Aquabus ($10 roundtrip for two adults),Â which he loved. On Granville, thereâ€™s a Kids Market with an indoor play area, climbing slides and more. ButÂ admission to the play area is $6 and our little guy, while aÂ monkeyÂ pants, would probably get overwhelmed so we kind ofÂ discouraged itÂ (better for ages 4 and up). The climbing area did have a small freeÂ slide, which satisfied him. The Kids Market also has all kinds ofÂ Loonie-powered vehicles that youÂ can sit in, but Makhno isÂ reallyÂ happy just to play-drive, so again — no cost.
We went outsideÂ and despite a drizzle, there’s a play boat the kidsÂ can sit in and pretend to drive, right outside the Kids Market.Â AlsoÂ ducks on the water to watch and chase.
Then we went to Granville Islandâ€™s CrystalÂ Ark, where they have allÂ kinds of smooth rocks. Makhno picked fiveÂ green ones, for which theyÂ charge six cents a gram (similar to theÂ Scratch Patch in Seattle).
Afterward, we went and ate inÂ the Granville Island Public Market,Â which offers something for everyone.
2. What did you do the next day in Vancouver, BC with kids?
At Lonsdale Quay, they have an indoor playÂ space with a slide and ballÂ pit, but this one’s free and smaller.Â Makhno actually remembered itÂ from the last time we were there andÂ he was only 20 months then. WeÂ hadÂ lunch– all of the market food courtsÂ are veryÂ kid- and budget-friendly; you can haveÂ anything you want. I found someÂ excellent sushi, which I’ve beenÂ yearning for (and itâ€™s much cheaperÂ in Canada, I think).
We took the Seabus back across.Â We then thought we’d try to walk toÂ Stanley Park, also hoping to get a nap in.Â We enjoyed an AWESOME green space withÂ neat sculptures to climb, as we walked alongÂ the Coal Harbour waterfront towardsÂ Stanley Park.
Didn’t make it to the park, as we had to headÂ back to the train (this time we were going to try and get there an hour early). Got him finallyÂ into the stroller and he fell asleep.
We stopped in Gastown (lots of cool little shops, and a steam clock)Â forÂ a “treat” when he woke up at a place called Trees Organics Coffee House. ItÂ apparently has the best cheesecake in town, but we got some excellentÂ cookiesÂ and hot chocolate, then took the SkyTrain to theÂ train
station (located across the street from Science World).
3. Is there anything you wish you had done in Vancouver, but didnâ€™t do?
I’d like to take Makhno on the gondola up Grouse Mountain. One day weÂ might even try the Grouse Grind, a local cult power hike of switchbacks thatÂ goes up to the top of Grouse Mountain. In the future we might like toÂ try bring bikes, you can check your bike on the train (for a fee).
4. What did you bring with you on the train ride with kids to Vancouver, BC?
We used one large traveling backpack and one smaller day back. WeÂ probably brought a few more clothes than needed but with little kiddos,Â you never know! We also brought more books and things to do then weÂ might have needed but again with kiddos you never know. Having aÂ couple novel things can come in handy.
TheÂ jogging stroller was great too. It might have been hard to get onÂ city buses but worked fine on sky train, with plenty of elevators toÂ getÂ on. We also brought our own snacks for the train, which wasÂ a goodÂ call.
Of course you can’t bring fruit across the border,Â especially fromÂ Canada to US. Though we had done a pre-trip run to the general area,Â we still managed to miss a turn on the big day. So we definitelyÂ recommend the practice run if you are unfamiliar with the trainÂ station location.
5. Did you like the Cascades train, overall? Would you have done anything differently?
The train made the journey really enjoyable for everyone. Easy to takeÂ kiddos to the washrooms which were very roomy and clean, with a changeÂ table and room to move.
I could pass the baby back and forth and nurse if needed. She slept inÂ my arms. The best part…no crying!!!! Â Well, at least on the wayÂ there.
We returned in the evening, so everyone was getting tired. IfÂ you have a baby you will be holding her or him the whole time — whichÂ is great — but can also be tiring. Of course if you have an infantÂ car seat this probably would eliminateÂ this problem.
On the flip side, my toddler wouldâ€™ve slept in the car on the way homeÂ from Vancouver, but was too wound up on the train to settle down toÂ sleep. He fell asleep from the train station to home, in the car!
Crossing the border was also easier on the train with less waiting. On the way homeÂ the border officials board the train at Blaine on the way back toÂ Seattle, to ask questions and check your documents, so you just wait in your seat which is pretty relaxed.