Family Fun in the Winter, Vancouver Style


Goodbye Summer, Hello Winter!  If your family tends to move their center of gravity indoors when summer's over, it's time to break out and get acquainted with Vancouver's great outdoors.  Who can resist walking through Stanley Park to enjoy the brilliant colours of autumn, diving into a big fat pile of leaves, or sledding down a hill of freshly fallen snow?  Here are some fun ideas your family can try on for size.

Early September is the prime time to venture into the inner depths of a corn maze.  With map in hand, test your family's spatial problem solving ability by finding the checkpoints in acres of towering corn rows--that all look the same.  It's not as easy as you think.

Don't pass up the chance to take your family for an autumn hike.  The flat hike to Yew Lake on Cypress Mountain is perfect for families with little ones.  A bit more challenging is the trek to tranquil Goldie Lake on Mount Seymour.  I'm going to let you in on a little secret:  wild blueberries grow there. 

October opens the floodgates to Halloween, candy, and pumpkins.  Why not visit one of the many pumpkin farms in the Lower Mainland and let your kids pick their own.  Greenhill Acres Farm in Chilliwack even has a cannon that fires pumpkins.  Our kids can spend hours picking out their special pumpkin.  Just when we've loaded the backbreaking pumpkin into a wheelbarrow, another better pumpkin catches their eye.

Going to see the spawning salmon is a great way to open your children's eyes to the cycle of life.  The best time is November, and our favourite places are Hoy Creek (Coquitlam), Hyde Creek (Port Coquitlam), and the Capilano River Regional Park fish ladder.  Our kids are always fascinated to see so many salmon, battered and bruised, struggling to make their way up the creek.  And then there are the dead ones--our youngest was worried there wouldn't be enough room for all of them in "Fish Heaven".  Our kids learned, firsthand, that Mother Nature isn't always pretty, but this is how life goes on.

Another impressive November outing is the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary near Ladner.  As many as 20,000 snow geese, coming all the way from Russia make a stop at the sanctuary.  From a distance, the fields look like a blanket of snow. 

By December the North Shore mountains are covered in snow.  Take the Skyride up Grouse Mountain to a spectacular winter wonderland:  snow-laden evergreens, Vancouver's only outdoor mountaintop skating rink, and plenty of skiable terrain.  How about a guided snowshoe tour capped off by a yummy fondue?  If you go around Christmas you can visit Santa's workshop, see a real-live reindeer (maybe with a red nose), and catch a magical sleigh-ride around the mountaintop.  Just when you think things can't get any better, it gets dark and you're dazzled by a million twinkling lights from the city below.

If tobogganing is more your cup of tea, dust off your crazy carpets and flying saucers and drive up to Mount Seymour where big hills with big views are waiting for you.  Older kids may prefer to rent a snow-tube and take a thrilling ride down the icy slopes.

January is a great time to see another awesome spectacle of nature:  bald eagles.  There are many spots where you can see bald eagles in the Lower Mainland, but Brackendale (just outside of Squamish) is the most famous.  In fact, it holds the Guinness Book of Records for eagle sightings-3,766 to be exact!  Don't forget your binoculars!

There's so much to see and do, you can't beat Vancouver in the winter for family fun.

Mom's note: this activity acticle was written for Visitor's Choice Fall-Winter 2005.