Parents’ insider guide to family travel: Four Seasons Vancouver

Parents’ insider guide to family travel: Four Seasons Vancouver

By on March 22nd, 2012

The thing about Vancouver is she’s beautiful, sexy and outdoorsy—like that popular girl in high school you always wanted to be. Even better, you’ll like her as much as the kids will. Sandwiched between jagged, snowcapped mountains and the ocean, the City of Glass, with its distinctive Asian flair and squeaky clean, Canadian exterior is as much about skiing, kayaking and single-track as it is about noshing Japanese udon or Indian-fusion and prowling upstart designer ateliers. You’ll feel equally at home here in Icebreaker as Prada.

While it’s got all the metro perks, Vancouver is still a smallish city easily conquered by the stroller and kids set. Downtown is vertical and walkable from Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, with a SkyTrain, convenient public transit network and tons of fun things to see and do. Dozen miles of publicly accessible beaches and waterfront park are made for family picnics, strolls and bike rides. Pick up a Georgia Straight to see what’s doing in town.

Tack on side trips to Whistler for world-class skiing/snowboarding and mountain biking; nearby Bowen Island (where we live) for a trek around Killarney Lake, paddling and pebbly beaches all to yourself; or British Columbia’s desert-y wine country in the Okanagan Valley.

Why go?

  1. A gazillion cool, Big City things to do downtown with the family within walking distance.
  2. It’s chic and groovy, safe and multi-culti, not to mention eco-friendly.
  3. All those Canadians. They’re just so darn nice, eh?
  4. Your urban base to outdoor, quintessentially BC adventures: in winter, snowshoeing, tubing, sledding, skating and skiing/boarding at nearby Cypress, Grouse and Mt. Seymour; in summer, beach time (try Kitsilano “Kits” Beach), kayaking, skating, sailing, fishing, golfing, hiking and cycling.
  5. A new It city, thanks to 2010 Winter Games world fame.

What the kids will love

  • Glittering downtown and skyscraper views from the hotel.
  • The indoor-outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, plus complimentary infused ice water to refresh (raspberry, cucumber, citrus).
  • Cooking and baking classes with the Four Seasons chef, and the insider kitchen tour.
  • “Kids In the City” crafts, classes and Play Zone (more below).
  • Making cushion forts in the spacious suite.
  • In winter, ice skating across the street at open-air Robson Square Ice Rink. In summer, sprinting along the handsome waterfront promenade of Coal Harbour and watching the float planes land on the water.

What you will love

  • The friendly, laid-back vibe and West Coast style.
  • The enormous bed with 300-thread-count cotton sheets and fluffy pillows.
  • Your spacious suite, which allows for popcorn-and-movie together time in front of the flat-screen TV, then after-hours mom and dad nightcap in the adjacent wing.
  • The easiness of it all. Shopping: right under the hotel at Pacific Centre Mall. (More retail therapy a few blocks west to Alberni Street: Tiffany & Co., Betsey Johnson, Hermes, BluBird…) Art gallery: across the street. Waterfront park: just down the hill.
  • After the kids are tucked in bed, a great line up of creative cocktails created by lead YEW barman Justin Taylor.
  • A mom-daughter coiffeur date before dinner: a fancy up ‘do for her; a sleek à la Jennifer Aniston blow-out for you at Blo, the blow dry bar.

Look for

The kitchen’s “secret passage,” revealed during the behind-the-scenes cooking classes with the chef. Shhh, only kids can know…

Eat this

For grown-ups, anything seafood at stylish YEW Restaurant + Bar. Vancouver is seafood paradise, and Executive Chef Ned Bell knows how to treat it right. Steelhead salmon, Fanny Bay oysters, scallops, mussels, Arctic char, Ahi, Dungeness… it’s all here. YEW specializes in local, sustainable, in-season seafood and delivers masterful, exciting dishes.

For kids, try the edamame ($4) and chicken noodle soup ($4) or the $6 pasta and grilled chicken with broccoli, asparagus and green beans. Add a giant strawberry-banana smoothie ($2). Grown-ups will love the prices (kids eat free if dining with hotel guest parents) and healthy selections on the YEW kid’s menu. Best of all, parents can relax. Because the tony wood-and-glass dining area is so spacious, no one will even notice the kids and their tabletop antics. A splurge on in-room dining is also especially memorable and stress-free.

Vancouver is a foodie city. So if you’re up for dining out, grab the chance. Take the kids for Belgian waffles at Café Medina; the city’s best sushi at Tojo’s (perhaps book a sitter for a date night); New York Times-lauded Indian-fusion at Vij’s Rangoli (the casual sister restaurant to Vij’s) or a down-home bowl of Chinese noodles at Hon’s Wun-Tun House on Robson. Vancouver’s burgeoning street cart scene is also worth sampling: we like Japa Dog, Fresh Local Wild and Eli’s Serious Sausage.

5 family to-dos

    1. Stanley Park: One our most favourite Vancouver day ever was cycling the Stanley Park Seawall on a crisp autumn day, toting the giggling toddlers in a bike trailer around the 5.5-mile loop. We rented bikes just across the street at Spokes, then slurped bowls of steaming ramen on Denman Street afterwards. Visit the totems and flower gardens, find a playground, chase Canada geese, stroll the paths or ride bikes. The miniature train and lights display at Halloween and Christmas time is a delight. Don’t miss the ethereal cherry blossoms in spring time.


    1. Museum of Anthropology: Though way on the other side of the city, on the University of British Columbia campus, it’s worth the trek to see BC’s celebrated giant totem poles and First Nations art up close. The vast collection of artifacts and treasures is stunning. Even little kids seem to appreciate the magnitude.


    1. China Town: Either walk from Four Seasons or take a quick SkyTrain hop. While it’s slightly seedy, kids will be riveted by the exotic aromas, bustle and clatter, scarlet lanterns and shiny satin dresses, and sacks of candied insects, dried ‘shrooms and stacked fish. Pop into a resto, if you’re feeling adventurous, and dip into some Chinese fare with the locals. The Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden makes a nice diversion, then catch a matinee at Tinseltown. Riding the multi-tiered escalator and the dollar store is a kids’ fave here.


    1. Kids In The City: This is a club for kids during school vacation times, such as Christmas and spring break. Complimentary for hotel guests, with programming daily for kids 5 to 12 from 9:30 am to 10:45 am, activities might be designing your own pizza, a scavenger hunt, puppet making and show or hat designing. Sign up with the concierge by 7:30 am the day of. There’s also a Play Zone room for children accompanied by their parents, open 7 am to 11 pm. It’s got table hockey and ping-pong, stuffed-animal beanbags, books, crafts, games, a ginormous TV with DVDs and three gaming stations including Wii. The hotel also offers babysitting; just ask the concierge.


  1. Aquarium, Science World: First of all, ride the SkyTrain. It zooms below and mostly above the city, costs only a few bucks (buy fare savers at 7-11) and is especially a hit with little boys. Make sure to let the kids sit in the nose at the very front for that whoosh feeling. The SkyTrain will zoom you to Science World, an experiential and educational kids’ zone that teaches about nature, physics and science in an interactive, hands-on way. Note across the water at False Creek The Village, now a model of urban, sustainable living. Make time for the Vancouver Aquarium, in Stanley Park, and especially for the cute sea otters and flirty belugas. (You can schedule a sleepover with belugas, too.) Downstairs, there’s an interactive kids’ craft area and regular scuba diver fish feeding sessions.

Read more on Vancouver in Four Seasons Magazine.

Post Author

Michelle Pentz Glave is the Have Family Will Travel editor. Before diving into communications/PR, she was a journalist for 25 years in the US and Germany including stints with The Wall Street Journal Europe, Gruner+Jahr (Bertelsman) and the Albuquerque Journal. Her work has appeared in Outside, Wired, Travel + Leisure, Sunset and Fortune. She has a Bachelor's in English from Yale and a Master's in Journalism from Columbia University. Michelle is passionate about family, food, farmers, her garden and taekwondo. She lives on Bowen Island, near Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two kids: Sabrina, 12, and Duncan, 10.

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2 Response(s) to "Parents’ insider guide to family travel: Four Seasons Vancouver"
Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver | Samkip Guides says:
October 3, 2012 at 12:13 am

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Mahil says:
May 15, 2012 at 3:49 am

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