With its average winter temperature slightly above 0 degrees on Vancouver Island, winters are nothing like what you would expect in Canada. On ground level, the temperature is quite mild, which makes it just right for sightseeing. There are numerous exciting activities that are worthy of trying out; however, we would like to recommend 5 family-friendly activities.
1) Grouse Mountain
(6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, BC, V7R 4K9)
Honestly, for those who have lived/ are living in Vancouver, this place is definitely not your number one choice for winter sports activities. Whether you have been there before, Christmas is definitely a must visit time. Every year they have a winter event called “Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain”. During this designated period from late Nov to early Jan, magic fills the air as the mountain is transformed into Vancouver’s “North Pole”. Besides the typical meet and greet with Santa, the area is packed with children-friendly activities.
The backdrop of the mountain is filled with glowing lights installation, which brings radiance to the white snow. For those who want to get a nice picture, you should definitely walk down the light tunnel.
Karson had his first “tobogganing” experience on Grouse Mountain. There are snow carpets that are for rental, so we urged him to give it a try. Originally, he was really scared when he saw the slope. We managed to encourage him to slide down the steepest one. He managed to pluck up enough courage to get on the slide and dive right-in. Nonetheless, he ended up slightly shocked by the experience. There are actually a few gentle slopes closer to the entrance of the Sliding Zone, which looked more like pedestrian paths. These ones are more suitable for younger children or beginners in the sport.
From a distance, you may be able to spot the North Pole sign. You will have to wait in line for the ride as it is extremely popular among young children families. It maybe wise for mom or dad to start lining up for this while the kids play with their snow carpets. This may take a while. Despite the long wait, it is extremely worthwhile as the ride would take you through the upper parts of Grouse Mountain. When we rode on the sleigh, snowflakes were gently falling from the sky making it a beautiful sight. The ride took us past Santa’s reindeer and Santa’s Workshop. This made Karson squeal with joy as it was his first time seeing a caribou.
Besides these activities, there are crafting stations, story time sessions and even a gingerbread village. One thing we regretted not doing was ice-skating. The Mountaintop Skate Pond with all the lights and fir around it seemed so dreamy. Unfortunately, we went a little too late. We did not have any time to do all the activities.
For those who are interested in going, remember to leave at least 4-6 hours to complete all the activities on the mountain. Besides, expect a huge line up for the gondola. We had to wait in line for almost an hour to get on. Also, do not stay until the last hour to get down, as the line-up back can be horrendously long. We waited for almost 1.5 just to get back down the mountain. It would be best to leave 2 hours before closing. Lastly, if you end up in line, send the kids indoors to the Theatre in the Sky for their looping cartoon shows while one parent stay in line. There is a Coffee Bar inside the Lookout where you can grab a hot chocolate before you wait in line. Trust me, you need it.
Learn more about Grouse Mountain:
2) Britannia Mine Museum
(1 Forbes Way, Britannia Beach, BC V0N 1J0, Canada)
Mining is something that we have heard about in television and read about in books, but how many of you have actually been in a mine before?
If you want to let your children experience what a real miner does, you definitely have to visit this museum. Do not be fooled by the exhibition rooms at the entrance area. The highlight of the whole museum visit is actually hidden in the mountain.
We had to walk up a flight of stairs, which the gravel path led us to. Then we ended up at a station with a gate. There we had to wait for the mine train to arrive. After we boarded the train, we were brought inside a real 1914 mining tunnel by a mine train. The tour guide walked us through the tools and skills that were required by the early miners. We were in awe by the detailed demonstration. The train tour itself is already worth the ticket price.
Besides the mining tunnel, the iconic Mill No.3 is also makes the museum visit worthy. It is the last stop of the guided tour. The impressive building is declared a National Historic Site. Driving along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, you will be able to spot this landmark from a distance. Teach your kids to take a moment to absorb the sight in front of them. Apparently, there is a Mill Show Experience opening this summer. They have been renovating this site for close to 9 years, and it is opening in 2019 summer. They have plans to create a multi-sensory show that engages with the audience while sharing the British Columbia’s mining history. For those who visit this summer, do let us know about your experience here.
Lastly, before you exit the museum, remember to stop by the gold panning pavilion. It is an area consisting of a few tanks of water where kids can learn how panning for gold works. There are a lot of hidden gemstones within the sand. Try your luck as Karson actual panned tiny speck of gold flake out of the sand. He also collected a number of small gems and stones from the sand as well. There is a little Ziplock bag on the table where you collect the pan. Remember to grab one, as the old saying goes “Finders keepers”, you get to take whatever you find in the sand home.
As the tunnels are even cooler than the temperature in Squamish area, it would be best to wear a down feather jacket if you are visiting during winter. Even during spring and autumn, it is best to bring along an all weather jacket. Also, bring an extra change of clothes and possibly a raincoat for your kids if you plan to do gold panning. They are bound to get soaked in water and possibly catch a cold. Lastly, it would be best to wear walking shoes for this activity.
Learn more about the Britannia Mine Museum:
3) Burnaby Village Museum
(Burnaby Village Museum, 6501 Deer Lake Ave., Burnaby BC, V5G 3T6)
This was my childhood favorite museum. I remember I first visited this museum during a school field trip. Strolling down the old village street, you would feel like you are walking back into the early history of the Canadian province. In fact, this is the place where they filmed Hallmark’s ‘Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa’.
The museum itself stretches on a 10-acre land, where it combines all the daily necessities of a villager in the early 1920s. The open-aired museum allows visitors to walk through homes, a general store, bank, bike repair shop, blacksmith shop, etc. There is also a coffee shop disguises as a bakery at the entrance of the village.
During winter season, the festive decorations and lights along with the slow music turn the village into a romance film set. There are snowflakes, reindeers and sparkling ornaments everywhere. Not only can children learn more about the history, but they can also enjoy the Christmas Scavenger Hunt while exploring the site.
Besides the main street, there is a tram station on site. You can visit the station simply by turning into the lane on your right once you cross the bridge at the entrance. There you will be able to spot a railway, station and the train barn. Remember to walk into the train barn to check out the old train parked in there.
There are a no. of guides dressed in costumes of the period giving demonstrations and explanation to visitors. Those interested in learning more about history, I would highly recommend you chatting with them. We had a very detailed overview of farmhouses in the past by an experience guide at Jesse Love Farmhouse. Also, when we were there last time, we visited the Seaforth School and learn a lot about handwriting and schooling in the past. Karson enjoyed the demonstration at the blacksmith shop the most. The “blacksmith” managed to forge the piece of metal into a candy cane.
This Museum is open seasonally with different themes during different times of the year. If you are planning to visit during winter, you would be drawn to a festive experience. It is also open during October as the village is transformed into a Halloween themed experience. Do check the opening dates and hours of the museum before paying a visit.
Learn more about the Burnaby Village Museum: