Ah, Vancouver—it's Canada's little beach haven! What's more is there are so many fun activities to do at these beaches besides swimming. Keep the kids amused and busy this summer by visiting these prime, family-friendly destinations.
1. Ambleside beach If you’re looking for a family-friendly spot in West Vancouver with a great view, look no further. The beach at Ambleside Park not only gives you a picturesque view of downtown Vancouver, it also gives the kids plenty of things to do. The beach itself is lifeguard-supervised during the summer (June to September 1), so it’s a safe place for your little ones to swim. If your kid is not one for swimming in the ocean, there’s a water park where he can splash around to his heart’s content. After some water fun, older kids can play volleyball on the beach or go to the sports fields for some soccer, basketball or tennis—there’s even a skate park! Young tots can head to the playground located near the beach. When lunch rolls around, there’s a concession stand where you can grab some food, but there are also tables if you want to bring a picnic. After lunch, take the kids to the duck pond to watch the swans, or walk a trail with Spot in the 3.25 hectares that make up the off-leash dog area. Other amenities include outdoor showers, washrooms, change rooms, picnic shelters and barbecues. Parking is free, but it gets extremely busy on beautiful summer days.
Go play: 13th Street, West Vancouver 604-921-0078 westvancouver.ca>
2. Cates Park/ Whey-Ah-Whichen Cates Park's original name, Whey-Ah-Whichen, is a Tsleil-Waututh word meaning “faces the wind.” North Vancouver’s largest seaside park honours its First Nations' ancestry through the many totem poles found in the park. Though the beach doesn’t have lifeguards on duty, the water has a low tide—perfect for the kids to beachcomb and search for starfish and crabs. When your little ones get tired of the shoreline, take them to Little Cates Park where they can enjoy the playground. There’s a large, grassy area there where you can spread out the picnic blanket if you’ve packed food. If a picnic isn’t on your itinerary, there's a concession stand where you can grab some kid favourites, like burgers. After the kids have filled their bellies, explore the park by going on a canoe tour or walk through the forest (additional fees applicable). Park amenities include picnic shelters, tennis courts, kayak rentals, a boat launch with a dock, washrooms, change rooms, free parking and wheelchair access. Be sure to check out the Cates Park Summer Concert Series, which includes free outdoor performances by local artists during the summer months.
Go play: Dollarton Hwy, North Vancouver 604-990-3800 deepcovebc.com>
3. English Bay Beach/ First Beach If you’re looking for a more metropolitan beach experience, downtown Vancouver’s English Bay Beach—also called First Beach—is the place for you. Parents can rest easy on the beach knowing there are lifeguards on duty from late May to early September. Kids will go wild zipping down the large slide located on a raft in the water. Older kids can play beach volleyball, while your little ones build sandcastles. Stroller-pushers will enjoy the popular running and biking route called the Stanley Park Seawall that goes along the east end of the beach. In case you don’t plan on bringing food, there's a concession stand, plus hotdog stands along the beach. If you feel like getting fancy, check out the sit-in restaurant. Other things you will find at English Bay Beach include public washrooms, kayak rentals and a dog park. There are beach wheelchairs available to those who need them. Parking is paid.
Go play: 1700 Beach Ave. (604) 873-7000 vancouver.ca>
4. Second Beach Located in Stanley Park, this beach is full of family fun! Just like First Beach, you can find the Stanley Park Seawall running along the beach where parents can take a summer stroll with baby. The beach itself is known for its forest-meets-ocean shores. There’s more to do than just bathe in the water and sun at this park. Kids can swim at Second Beach’s heated, lifeguard-supervised, outdoor swimming pool that’s right beside the ocean! At the pool, there are slides and gradual depths that are perfect for new swimmers. Once your little fish have dried off, take them to ride the Stanley Park miniature train for an extra fee. Choo-choo! And be sure to check out the playground and the Summer Fun Centre where kids can enjoy free activities all summer long. There are small cafés where you can buy food at Stanley Park, but grassy picnic areas are also plentiful in case you decide to pack a lunch. At Second Beach, you’ll also find concession stands, washrooms, stand-alone barbecues, reservation-only picnic shelters and paid parking.
Go play: North Lagoon Drive, Stanley Park (604) 873-7000 vancouver.ca>
5. Spanish Banks Beach Though only one bank, this beach is divided up into locations: Spanish Banks East, West and the extension. Backed by grassy fields, this beach is great for older kids who love volleyball (there are eight courts at each beach!). Lifeguards are on duty at each location from late May to early September. Kids can splash and swim freely, then head to the grill for some food (yes, barbecues are permitted). If it gets too noisy for baby and she can’t sleep, you can always head to the designated quiet beach where amplified sound is not allowed. It will also give Mom a chance to do some beach reading in the peace and quiet. Feel free to bring Spot, as there's an off-leash dog area. Other amenities include washrooms, concession stands, picnic tables and free parking.
Go play: 4707 Marine Dr. NW 604-873-7000 vancouver.ca>
6. Jericho Beach Sports lovers, rejoice! At Jericho Beach, you’ll find a number of playing fields including soccer, softball, baseball, t-ball, volleyball and tennis. Little tots can beachcomb and splash around by the shoreline, as the tide is low. Watch sailboats from the Jericho Sailing Centre pass by with your wee ones and eat some snacks and sandwiches on your blanket or at one of the logs strategically placed in the sand. There are also picnic tables if you prefer. Jericho Beach also has public washrooms, paid parking, lifeguards (late May to early September) and beach wheelchairs. This beach is a little out of the downtown core, so families who like a more relaxed environment will find solace here. However, there's a three-day folk music festival that happens at Jericho Beach each year, so steer clear from July 17 to 19.
Go play: North ends of Wallace and Discovery streets 604-738-8535 vancouver.ca>
7. Kitsilano Beach Kitsilano is a pretty happening place with the younger crowds, but there is something for families, too. The seawall runs into “Kits” beach, so it’s great for a nice stroll with the baby. This beach has more than enough sand to spare, so even though it gets crowded, you’re bound to find a spot close to the shore. You can head to the heated saltwater pool with your little swimmers if they need a change of scenery. Or maybe your little ones prefer to splash around at the spray park—there’s one of those, too! Older kids will appreciate the diversity in sports fields, while younger kids will love running around at the innovative playground built especially for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The surface of the playground is wheelchair-accessible and the installations were built to encourage imaginative play and sensory experiences for kids of all abilities. For lunch, you’ll have a choice of food at the concession stands or from the on-site restaurant, if you didn’t pack anything for a picnic. The beach has washrooms, paid parking and lifeguards on duty from late May to early September.
Go play: 1499 Arbutus St. 604-731-0011 vancouver.ca>
8. Trout Lake Beach If you’re missing some good ol’ lake swimming—or live in B.C. and just prefer lakes—Trout Lake Beach provides a freshwater swim without the chilliness. Trout Lake Beach is a little bit quainter than other beaches in Vancouver and is great for young families. Smooth dirt trails surround the lake, making it easy to push a stroller while still making it possible for you to take a relaxing walk on the beach. Parents will appreciate that there are lifeguards on duty from late May to early September and that the safe swimming areas are marked off. There are two playgrounds kids can monkey around on—even your wee one can have some fun in the baby swings. Other amenities include playing fields, a concession stand, public washrooms, a picnic area and a swimming raft in the water that kids can jump off from. Barbecues are permitted, so you can whip up some hamburgers and hotdogs for those hungry kids. Bring your dog too, there's a dog off-leash area located at the north end of the lake. Parking is free.
Go play: 3300 Victoria Dr., Vancouver 604-873-7000 vancouver.ca>
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