As a mom, I’m well-versed in the challenge of keeping little ones entertained, particularly when school’s out, without breaking the bank. Thankfully, living in such a unique city means there’s always something fun to do and through trial and, yes, some error, I’ve discovered a lot of amazing free Vancouver kids’ activities. Without further ado, here’s the Spectacle Shoppe’s guide to what to do with kids in Vancouver in the summer without spending a dime.
False Creek Community Centre, 1318 Cartwright Street – Of course we have to kick-off our list of free summer activities for kids in Vancouver with the Granville Island Water Park since it’s billed as the largest free waterpark in North America. It features two slides and a variety of sprays and fountains. Cool off and splash around from Victoria Day long weekend through Labour Day.
1496 Cartwright Street – After summer fun at the Granville Water Park, meander on over to the Kids Market, which is the pint-sized version of the Public Market and one of our favorite Vancouver family attractions. Housed inside a former factory, two annex buildings and a caboose at the entrance to the island, Kids Market has toy stores, unique games, crafts, books, candy and play areas making it the perfect place to spend some time wandering around. While Adventure Zone, which is a four-level, indoor jungle gym inside Kids Market, isn’t free, if you feel like splurging, a day pass with in and out privileges until closing is $9.99 plus tax and that’s pretty affordable compared to similar venues.
Stanley Park, 1151 Stanley Park Drive – If you’re on the hunt for free things to do with kids in Vancouver, this large outdoor spray park is the place to be. It’s open from June 1 to September 1 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. While there are no lifeguards, it doesn’t cost anything and the water sprays up, so swimming isn’t required. Kids can run in and out of the spray features, climb on the Fox’s Den (a big rock structure), stop at the nearby Lumbermen’s Arch Concession for a snack or sprawl out on the grass area to dry off.
Various Locations – The Vancouver Inspiration Pass is an amazing free cultural and recreational pass program that allows individuals, teens and families to explore the city. Residents ages 14-years-old and up can rent the pass for two weeks from any Vancouver Public Library branch. Every two weeks, 140 passes are available to be loaned out. The program has 27 partner venues including museums, gardens, heritage sites, popular attractions, performances and fitness facilities that pass holders can visit free of charge. You can see the full list of events and activities here.
Lost Lagoon at Stanley Park, 712 Lost Lagoon Path – Inside the old boat house at Lost Lagoon, is the Stanley Park Nature House, a hidden Vancouver treasure. It’s the city’s only ecology centre and admission doesn’t cost a dime. Kids and adults will learn all sorts of fun, strange and interesting facts about the animals and plants of Stanley Park. It’s open on weekends, September to June, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesday through Sunday in July and August from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Renfrew Branch of the Vancouver Public Library, 2969 East 22nd Avenue – Some days it’s just too hot to run around the city and the Renfrew Branch Library offers a welcome respite with its popular Afternoon at the Movies series. Every Friday from 3:30 to 5:15 p.m., you can swing by the library to watch a free family-friendly film. All you need is a library card. Coming up in June: Wreck-It Ralph (June 2), The Tale of Despereaux (June 9), Monsters University (June 16), Finding Nemo (June 23) and Finding Dory (June 30).
Vancouver is brimming with farmers’ markets. Kids will love looking at the rows of colorful, local produce. You can get your fix of homemade baked goods and fruits and veggies while the little ones enjoy the fresh air and hustle and bustle.
Stanley Park (at Ceperley Meadow/2nd Beach Between the Water and Stanley Park Drive) – There’s nothing like a free outdoor movie series in Vancouver to celebrate summer and Stanley Park Summer Cinema will be back on Tuesday nights in July and August. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs and snuggle up at sunset for popular flicks. Traditionally, the films screened have ratings of G and PG, though not all of them are exactly ideal for really young children, so be sure to check the schedule before heading out.
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