Fun and free family-friendly winter activities
The winter provides endless opportunities for family fun around Vancouver, but that fun often comes with a hefty price tag, especially when you have more than one child in tow.
So how can families create great winter memories without breaking the bank? We asked staff from the YWCA’s Saturday Family Activity program, experts on no- and low- cost family-friendly activities, for a few ideas.
1. Free ice skating at Robson Square
Free outdoor ice skating at Robson Square has become one of Vancouver's most popular winter activities. Located at 800 Robson Street (just across from the Vancouver Art Gallery in the heart of downtown Vancouver), the Robson Square skating rink is open from December 1, 2014 - February 28, 2015.
Admission: Skating is free; skate rentals are $4, helmets and ice cleats are $2.
Address: 800 Robson Street, Vancouver
2. Signs of winter nature hike
Celebrate winter by taking your family on a nature walk. Stimulate learning by asking your little ones to collect signs of winter on the forest floor - fallen acorns and chestnuts, pine cones, leaves and rocks can be brought home for the signs of winter sensory bin (see below). Talk about the animals you might see collecting your winter treasures and what they might use them for.
Not sure where to go? Check out this list of family-friendly hikes in British Columbia parks.
3. Signs of winter sensory bin
Learn and play with nature! Use the treasures you found on your nature hike (see above) in a winter sensory bin. Your kids can watch the acorns bob up and down in water and observe which treasures float and which ones sink. Sensory bins help children practice their fine motor skills and teach them to match, count and sort.
Check out these step-by-step instructions for building an activity bin.
4. Vancouver Art Gallery (on Tuesday evenings)
The Vancouver Art Gallery is Western Canada’s largest art museum and one of Vancouver’s most-loved cultural institutions. The gallery is located inside the beautiful Rattenbury building, once home to the city’s courthouse, and features work by some of Canada’s finest artists, including the Group of Seven and Emily Carr.
The Vancouver Art Gallery offers a weekly admission by donation every Tuesday evening from 5pm to 9pm. Pay whatever you can spare or nothing at all. Keep in mind that the normal admission price for adults is $20.
Admission: Free by optional donation on Tuesdays after 5pm
Address: 750 Hornby Street, Vancouver
Sledding is always a family favourite, though in rain-soaked Vancouver there’s no guarantee we’ll get snow. There are dedicated tobogganing parks on Mount Seymour ($10 all-day) and Cypress Mountain ($10 for kids), but there are plenty of great spots around the city.
- Queen Elizabeth Park: Located in the historic Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, Queen E is the highest point in Vancouver, which means good snow cover and decent sledding hills.
- China Creek Park in Mount Pleasant (6th Ave and St. Catherines): This hill always attracts lots of families and is just minutes away from Commercial Drive Skytrain Station.
- Vancouver Aquatic Centre: This great (if relatively short) hill is beside the Vancouver Aquatic Centre and not far from Sunset Beach on False Creek.
- Burnaby Mountain: A bit outside of town, Burnaby Mountain Park and Conservation Area is home to some of the steepest sledding hills around.
Don’t have a sled? Check out these great homemade alternatives.
Spread joy this holiday season
Families living in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have few resources to allocate towards family activities. Through the YWCA's Saturday Family Activity Program, families enjoy a hot meal and fun and enriching activities like birthday parties and Christmas caroling, as well as trips to the Vancouver Aquarium, Science World and more.
Help us keep the Saturday Family Activity Program running by making a one-time or monthly donation to YWCA Crabtree Corner this holiday.
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