Hyper-Specific City Guide: What to Do When Your Cousin and His Toddlers Are in Town

And they can't have screentime and it's raining, oh no oh no oh no.

This is part of our Ultimate, Hyper-Specific Vancouver City Guide, featured in the May 2024 issue of Vancouver magazine. We’ve created 25 unique personas and 25 unique itineraries to match. If this to-do list for entertaining toddlers in Vancouver isn’t helpful, perhaps one of the other 24 bespoke schedules will be. Explore them all here. 

8:00 a.m.: Make a Splash

Putting on Elmo isn’t an option, so load the kids up into the car and head to the bright and modern Hillcrest Aquatic Centre ($7 for two family members, $4 for each additional person). Dodge the tweens controlling the giant spray guns and hop into the lazy river (but hold on tight… it’s surprisingly peppy). 4575 Clancy Loranger Way, vancouver.ca

10:00 a.m.: Bird’s the Word

Across the street is Queen Elizabeth Park, home to the Bloedel Conservatory ($8 for adults; preschoolers free). The lush tropical plants may not intrigue your little guests, but the parrots and 100 other exotic tropical birds that live in this geodesic dome surely will. 4600 Cambie St., vancouver.ca

Green-winged Macaw, Ara chloropterus, in front of white background

12:00 p.m.: Baby Gourmands

They only eat noodles and butter. Fine. Jo’s Italian Deli it is for lunch. Counter service makes for an efficient in-and-out dining experience, but the fresh pasta ($7 for a kids’ order) and saucy Italian subs (from $9) on crusty baguettes are made with care. 2505 Alma St., jositaliandeli.com

a plate of spaghetti and meat sauce, the noodles being twirled on a fork

1:00 p.m.: The Great Indoors

Oh, they’re not napping today? Great. Petite Forêt Play Café ($9 admission) on West 4th is beloved by Kitsilano parents for its lovely, Montessori-inspired playthings—intricate wooden kitchens and workbenches, puzzles, a birchwood jungle gym—that kids love to ravage. Watch the chaos unfold from your spot at the countertop that surrounds the play area/Thunderdome, cappuccino ($5) in hand. 2668 W 4th Ave., petiteforet.co

3:00 p.m.: Around the World

Brace yourself for your second dome of the day: Science World (adults, $35; kids 3 and up, $23). Though the main exhibits might be over their heads, the Wonder Gallery is a toddler’s dream, with a towering indoor treehouse, giant Lite Brite, water-play station and more opportunities for budding physicists to experiment. 1455 Quebec St., scienceworld.ca

5:00 p.m.: Finally: Happy Hour

You and your cousin deserve a beer. Hipster sports bar Bells and Whistles is laid-back and always packed with other thirsty parents, so chasing a toddler around the picnic-style tables with a Twin Sails Guava Sour ($8) in hand won’t be an unusual sight. Dinging Skee-Ball machines will buy you an extra 20 minutes of distraction while you attempt to share fish and chips ($25, with crispy fries and minty peas) and have an adult conversation (“So what are taxes?”). 3296 Fraser St., bellsandwhistlesyvr.ca

a bright, clean empty bar with leather stools
Photo: Thomas Bullock
fish and chips on a wax paper
Photo: Thomas Bullock

More from the Ultimate, Hyper-Specific Vancouver City Guide here. 

colourful cocktails on a bar
Photo: Thomas Bullock

More from the Ultimate, Hyper-Specific Vancouver City Guide here.