Vancouver’s Kitsilano with Kids

One of the best ways to really “meet” a city is through staying, playing and eating in a real neighborhood. You can hang out with other locals, discover in-the-know restaurants and shops, visit less-touristed attractions and generally trade in your anonymous experience for something a little more personal.

This week, we have a special guest post on Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood from Vancouver-based blogger Claudia Laroye, an avid traveller, mother of two, and author of blog. She is passionate about family travel and about educating children through the travel experience. Her blog offers a modern mom’s guide of ‘how to’ travel tips and information, as well as destination advice for the new or experienced traveller. She contributes to Tourism Vancouver’s, Canadian print publications, and other travel sites on the web. Let’s hear Claudia’s take on Vancouver’s hottest neighborhood.

Kitsilano, Vancouver, British Columbia

I’ve lived in Kitsilano for ten years. We’ve raised our children in this family-friendly neighborhood, and have felt very lucky to have done so. The neighborhood has everything – beaches, parks, restaurants, cafes, yogawear & clothing stores, and baby boutiques. It’s a funky area with high-density apartments and condos for young singletons and marrieds, and older single-family areas with larger (and now expensive) homes.

In the past, Kitsilano has been more of a hippie hangout with a more dodgy, free-love reputation from the 1960s. Those days are long gone, though, as real estate prices have increased and people discovered the desirable beach-front, west side location. Kits is a great place to live, but also a wonderful place to visit, a go-to beach and leisure spot for Vancouver residents and tourists alike. — Claudia Laroye

A Day in Kits

Waking up from your night at the Granville Island Hotel, begin your day with croissants and coffee from the Granville Island Public Market or La Baguette et L’Echalotte. Walk west along the waterfront, following the footpath towards Vanier Park. Spend the morning exploring the Maritime Museum, including the RCMP ship the St. Roch – the first ship to circumnavigate North America.

Continue walking west towards Kits Beach, and let the kids play in the newly renovated and accessible playground. Before lunch you can dip a toe into English Bay or visit Kits Pool, then stop for lunch at The Boathouse Restaurant at Kits Beach, or continue south a few blocks to Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. at First & Cypress St.

kids make your own pizza night at rocky mountain flatbread
Rolling out dough on make-your-own pizza night at Rocky Mountain Flatbread

You can spend the afternoon strolling the shops of West 4th Avenue, and take a playground break at Connaught Park, near the Kits Community Centre at 12th Ave. and Larch St. If it’s a summer weekend you may see soccer, rugby or cricket matches in progress.

For late afternoon and dinner, pick up a bunch of picnic goodies from Choices or Capers, and head down to Jericho Beach for some water play and to watch the sun set. Another wonderful Kitsilano day!

Guide to Kitsilano with Kids

What to See in Kitsilano with Kids

Kits is packed with Vancouver Tourism-brochure staples like the HR MacMillan Space Centre and Maritime Museum at Kits Point. Both of these museums are fantastic places to visit with kids, involving interactive displays, and lots of touching-feeling action. [The Maritime Museum has an online coupon for free kids admission with paying adult.] They are both located within walking distance of Granville Island (itself a major destination on the Kits/False Creek border), Kits Beach, and Kits Pool – which are popular destinations, particularly in summer.

Maritime Museum, Vancouver with kids
Looking for ships at the Maritime Museum

Kits Beach is the eastern-most point of the Kits beach ‘system’ that goes west towards UBC and Point Grey. The western beaches (in order east to west) are: Kits Beach, Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Banks. West of Spanish Banks the beachfront trail enters Pacific Spirit Regional Park at UBC. The beachfront trail is ideal for walking and biking, and all of the beaches are accessible by car, with free parking lots.

Shopping in Kitsilano with Kids

Where do we start? The main shopping streets in Kits can be found on W. 4th Avenue and West Broadway. There is also a niche shopping area at First & Yew near Kits Point.

West 4th Avenue has morphed into a bustling commercial district with unique boutiques and cafes, and what I’d term yoga/activewear, housewares, and baby ‘zones’. In other words, there are groupings of such retail clusters that specialize in baby and young children-related toys, clothes & supplies, as well as yogawear & various activewear retailers (think NorthFace, Helly Hansen, IceBreaker). Two not-to-be-missed stores for shopping for the under 5 set are Hip Baby and Crocodile Baby. For moms and dads, check out the original Lululemon location, and stroll the many funky boutique clothing and book shops. For the travel bug, Wanderlust is Canada’s largest travel retailer, with maps, luggage & books to suit planning for any and every future trip.

On West Broadway, the flavors become more Greek, literally. This section of Kits attracted Greek immigrants 50+ years ago, and it’s still highly visible in the shops, restaurants, and even the banks.

Greek shops in Kitsilano Vancouver kid-friendly
Greek delicacies in Kitsilano, Vancouver

The annual Greek Day festival in June is a summer highlight in the neighborhood. Must visit shops include my favorite bookstore, Kidsbooks, as well as the Toy Jungle toy store, and the Just Imagine costume company. For traveling moms, browse the lovely trinkets at the WishList Boutique, and for sublime chocolates (for your own consumption or as gifts), do not miss Thomas Hass and his world of chocolate excellence. His Sparkle cookies are a local (and now world-famous) legend.

Where to Eat in Vancouver Kitsilano with Kids

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. is a very Kits pizza parlor, with a kids play kitchen area and local, organic ingredients. Earl’s on Fir & Broadway for West Coast tasty. (Be warned: they have no high-chairs). The Eatery for a unique — and funky — sushi experience. Moderne Burger for awesome handmade burgers in an authentic diner setting. Terra Breads for bread, baked goods & sandwiches. White Spot for BC tradition & family friendliness. Banana Leaf for amazing Malaysian cuisine (sharing plates is encouraged). Capers (Whole Foods) for beach/park picnic supplies ‘to-go’ from their deli-restaurant. Maria’s Taverna for great Greek food.

The best cafe (where cappuccinos approach those found in Rome, Italy), is at 49th Parallel, on 4th Avenue. It’s just the simply the best in town. Period. A delicious second choice is Caffe Artigiano, several locations.

Where to Stay in Vancouver / Kitsilano: Kits Hotels, B&Bs and more

The one thing that Kits does not have a lot of are hotels. There are a few small-scale bed and breakfasts, catering often to couples and adults. However, the Rose Garden Suite at the quiet and lovely Greystone B&B can accommodate up to six people, with a full kitchen, and breakfast is included.

The next best solution is staying at the Granville Island Hotel, in False Creek. It’s close to Kits, even within a pleasant walking distance, and is superbly located on the Island itself, near the Public and Kids Markets, community centre and artisan shops. The Hotel is also pet-friendly, the restaurant (Dockside) is kid-friendly, and the Granville Island playground and waterpark are within 200 feet of the hotel.

Granville Island Public Market with kids
Granville Island Public Market with kids

Thanks, Claudia! You can also follow Claudia (as I do!) on Twitter @travelling_mom

If you’d like more Vancouver neighborhood recommendations, check out my book, Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver.

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.