Nothing makes a “fun day out” more fun than having a little money left over for a special treat at the end of the day (or for a rainy day, for that matter!) Here are my 9 cheap family fun activities in Vancouver to explore.
The-Inbetween Contributor, Laura Irwin
This post was written by Laura Irwin, a mom of two who lives in Vancouver, BC. You can read more about Laura in her bio below.
Kits Beach Cleanup
The first in my list of 9 cheap family fun activities in Vancouver is completely FREE and includes all the feel-good vibes that can only come with fresh air, friends, and philanthropy!
Celebrating over a year in action, the Kits Beach Cleanup gathers once a month. They provide bags and pickup claws, but sometimes the help outweighs the supply, so it’s always helpful if you bring your own. Things like gloves and even plastic tongs (which are also way easier for little hands) will make you an all-star clean team.
Full details on Instagram @familycleanupvan
During the pandemic, we enjoyed this outdoor gem so much that I hosted my children’s last birthday there (outside in February in the rain – it was still fantastic!)
Visitors can casually drop by anytime to see the farm and pay by donation at the entrance. You’ll find horses, goats, chickens, a garden trail around a small orchard, and general eclectic muddy farmness. They offer riding lessons, special events, and camps – which we will certainly try when my children are old enough. But my favourite part about this place is that it’s casual and welcoming, not commercially displayed. It’s truly a home farm.
They are open to the public: 4 pm-7 pm Monday to Friday, 9 am-5 pm on weekends and holidays.
We go here the most when the temperatures are getting us down. This little tropical oasis boasts 100 beautiful birds and over 500 plant species.
Adult tickets are $7.40, and children four and under are free; however, a one-year membership is only $47 and gets you into Van Dusen Gardens (and gets you discounts and advance notice on their Festival of Lights and many others!)
Pro tip: Get your littles to bring their scooters or run bikes while you’re up there. Between the conservatory and the car park, there’s an excellent roundabout around the (now untapped) decorative fountain where they can practice and get their wiggles out.
Address: 4600 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Y 2M4
A bizarrely untapped resource, this little gem is never crowded (even on rainy weekends!) and is still a standard in our membership holdings for cheap family fun in Vancouver.
On top of the fact that there is a complete wooden ship, with all its historical artifacts on board, that you can climb and explore – an event still yet to bore my children. But they’ve just completed a new children’s area with an interactive tug boat, costumes, marine-themed toys, and storytime Saturdays.
Adult tickets are $15, and children five and under are free, but a family membership for the year is only $65. It’s a no-brainer.
Address: 1905 Ogden Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 1A3
Vancouver Harbour Ferries
Take a little romp on the city’s lively inlet. The Aquabus and Granville Island Ferries are your ultimate ticket to joyful and cheap family fun in Vancouver. You could catch a ride to one end and walk back along the seawall, make a round trip to a local park (try David Lam or Granville Island), or take a one-way trip and take public transit back. The adventure is yours!
Tickets vary based on how far you travel, but you can buy them on board to be spontaneous in your outing. Strollers and bikes can be accommodated on the larger Aquabus vessels when room permits (you might have to wait a bit); although once a very determined GI Ferries employee did kindly wedge my giant Vista into his boat (lol)
Pro Tip: both companies operate at the same stops and routes, but they do not honour each other’s return tickets, so be mindful of who you catch a ride with on the way there and back.
Granville Island Children’s Market Arcade
These sorts of things aren’t typically my style. If you can tell from my previous suggestions, I’m more of an outdoors, low-stimulation kind of parent. But sometimes, on a miserable day, you gotta give in to the sweet, sweet draw of the flashing lights of an arcade, and the Granville Island Children’s Market will not disappoint.
Perched (strategically) on the top level above the shops is this gleaming noise factory. For $5 worth of tokens, my four-year-old got the time of his life (and walked away with a few random items in exchange for his “hard work.”) All I had to do was sell my soul and dutifully keep his precious tickets safe as he feverishly bashed at buttons. At least there’s a little canteen up there that sells coffee.
Pro tip: discuss with your children what you will and will not be buying before you enter the market. It could be a costly day if you haven’t prepared for the meltdown after you say they can’t have that toy they spotted just before the exit.
Pacific Spirit Park Hiking Trail
If you want to feel like you’re in nature without schlepping out to the North Shore, this is the spot for you. Giant old-growth trees are only a 15-minute drive away (if you’re like me, who lives in the town center). Prepare for the weather, bring your muddy buddies, bring a snack or two, and you might coax your toddler and preschooler to walk 2k.
Take Public Transport
This one depends heavily on the age of your children (mine are 2 & 4) and how often you take public transport. But because we walk or drive most often, taking the bus or skytrain is novel! Nothing gave my children more of a thrill than to take an Aqua Bus to David Lam Park, and afterward, they got to take the Skytrain home. I don’t know which mode of transportation they were more excited about, but the two combined made it a day that they talked about for ages(!)
My friend says that on a rainy day, her daughter loves taking the Skytrain to walk around Pacific Centre Mall before the stores open at 10 am (she’s 2). I guess the point in this is, don’t underestimate “mundane” experiences in the eyes of a child.
Explore a New Playground
Call some friends and plan a park playdate you don’t often (or have never) visited. Thanks to years of forced outdoor meetups, the best playgrounds I’ve discovered were when I was trying to find somewhere in the middle between us both or near a friend who lives out of our neighbourhood.
Here are just a few of the parks we love that may or may not be “close to home.”
David Lam (by Ferry, of Course)
“New Urban Downtown Park” (ride the Skytrain!)
Charleston Park (aka Pirate Ship Park)
There you have it! Those are my favourite 9 cheap family activities in Vancouver. I hope you have a great time!
What are yours? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!
You may also enjoy 9 Cheap Family Fun Activities in the Fraser Valley.
About the Author
Laura lives in Vancouver with her husband, two kids and one saint of a rescue dog Beau. Before becoming a mom, Laura worked in PR, Marketing, and as the GM of a small business. In her spare time, she performed with the Broadway Chorus Theatre group. Her husband proposed to her on stage after one of her performances. Laura loves to write about almost anything, as long as it’s not politics.
You can connect with Laura on Instagram @lauraloubury
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