Summer has finally arrived after months of gloom. The grey clouds have (mostly) cleared and we’re ready to enjoy Vancouver at its best. You won’t find travel plans filling my summer calendar; I’ve waited months to catch a glimpse of the sun and now that it’s arrived I intend to take full advantage of all the family fun beautiful British Columbia offers. I’ll save my travel budget for February’s dreariness, thank you very much.
The Healthy Family Expo’s Summer Family Fun Guide 2018 is a great resource for local families. Packed full of info on attractions in and near the Metro Vancouver area, it provides a glimpse of what families can expect when they visit Maplewood Farms in North Vancouver, West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, the Britannia Mine Museum in Britannia Beach just south of Squamish, and Destination Cultus Water and Adventure Parks.
We were lucky enough to enjoy each of the five attractions featured in the Summer Family Fun Guide thanks to the Healthy Family Expo. I was a little concerned about the age gap between Grady and Poppy (would Grady at almost-seven enjoy the attractions with Poppy at just two? Would Poppy be able to participate in the fun that Grady had?), but my fears were unfounded. Each of the attractions we visited appealed to a wide age range to include family members of different sizes. The cherry on top of this fun-filled sundae was the music we enjoyed during the drive to our adventures. Jessie Farrell’s new album, Sparkle & Shine, was the soundtrack for our car trips. The nature-inspired tracks are perfect to listen to as we travel to our outdoor adventures. The tunes are catchy and upbeat and I have found myself humming "Ladybug" at work on more than one occasion (hashtag: mom life / shrug emoji). You can preview and download this album on Apple Music or order the CD online, and also catch Jessie & The Gumboot Kids on CBC Kids!
Cultus Lake Waterpark has been around as long as I can remember but I’d never been. The Cultus Lake Adventure Park was added in 2014 and together the two form Destination Cultus. As I planned my route online, it looked like quite the trek but once we got on the highway it was smooth sailing and we reached the park in just over an hour. Pro tip: if you park at the Adventure Park (the first exit off the roundabout) you’ll pay more than double the rate of the Water Park lot. It’s closer to the park, and it’s a bit nicer because it’s shaded, but you pay for it. Both parks are welcoming and inclusive of riders of different age groups, from the Honey Pots (think Disneyland’s teapots) to the Runaway Mine Train roller coaster in the Adventure Park and the Tots Castle to the Valley of Fear in the Water Park. Everyone can participate, and everyone can have fun. Make sure you buy your gem bag (available for $5 at all ticket booths in the Adventure Park) and visit the Wilderness Trail to pan for gold and gemstones.
Maplewood Farm has long been a family favourite. I’ve been taking Grady since he was old enough to toddle after the goats in the goat enclosure. This was Poppy’s first visit and it did not disappoint. My city gal’s mind was blown at every step, from the Shetland ponies where she exclaimed, “yook at dat cow!” to the potbelly pig pen where she shrieked, “yook at dose puppies!” Grady loved the autonomy of interacting with the animals, practicing his patience so the roaming chickens would come close to investigate, and braving the rabbit run all by himself. The highlight is always the goat enclosure where the kids can play with the goats. We camped out under the cherry tree for an hour while Grady fed the goats cherries he picked up off the ground and Poppy tried to boss around a herd of unwilling goats.
I’ve been driving past the Britannia Mine Museum since I was a little kid driving to Squamish to visit family. Being the first of my siblings to spot the giant mine truck from the highway gave the ultimate road trip bragging rights. Finally being able to visit and cross it off my childhood bucket list was a dream come true. They caution against bringing children younger than three and I have to agree. It wasn’t unsafe to have Poppy there with us but it did hamper our enjoyment a bit. There’s some walking on uneven ground, quite a few steps, some loud noises, and some portions of the tour are in total blackness. She and Grady both loved the panning for gold, though, and Grady learned a lot. Out of all the places we visited, it was the only one where I felt Poppy was maybe a bit too young to participate. I had a silly smile on my face the whole time we were there, even while wrangling a feral toddler. Taking a picture with my kid beside the giant mining truck felt like a full circle moment. Grady’s already talking about visiting for Easter because one of the mine employees told him a dragon visits to leave eggs for the kids in the mine tunnels.
I hadn’t heard much about the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, which I count as a personal failing seeing as my great uncle was a steam and diesel electric train engineer, and actually drove the Royal Hudson during Expo 86. Steam Train, Dream Train is on heavy rotation in our bedtime story routine so both kids were thrilled to check out the trains. Walking around the elegant Royal Hudson 2860 was exhilarating, not only for the kids. The sheer magnitude of the steam engine and intricate detailing are breathtaking. The WCRHP is interesting and informative for train buffs but manages to be engaging for the little ones as well. The mini ride-on train provides a nice view of the train yard, and the sandpit and wooden train are great for some decompressing playtime after keeping little hands to themselves for so long.
We're lucky to have so many family-friendly attractions within day-trip distance of Metro Vancouver. It's easy to plan fun adventures that don't require a day of driving, and don't break the bank, meaning your travel fund can overflow into your ice cream fund and everyone wins.