Winter is British Columbia’s time to shine, and not just because there’s ice or snow over a good percentage of the province: they’ve got an ice-skating rink with an Olympic museum, cozy hotels, and fancy hot chocolate. So how should you and your kids spend a weekend with our northern neighbor in and around Vancouver?
First, a stop in Richmond
There’s an old saying that the best dim sum in Seattle is in Richmond, B.C., which is why your first stop should be for Chinese breakfast in this suburb just south of Vancouver (about a 2-hour, 15-minute drive from Seattle). Parklane Chinese Restaurant takes reservations and is just off Westminster Highway, with an easily navigable parking garage. All the classics — barbecue pork buns and shrimp-filled har gow — show up on the checklist-style menu, but the excellent congee (rice porridge), rich and thicker than most places, isn’t listed on the dim sum menu — you’ll have ask your server for it.
7997 Westminster Hwy., Richmond
With your bellies warmed, head down the road to the Richmond Olympic Oval. The sprawling sports complex, built for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, now serves as a community gym. But hidden upstairs is the Richmond Olympic Experience. Part traditional museum exhibits, part interactive arcade, kids of all ages love the simulators — bobsledding, race-car driving, ski jumping, and sit-skiing — as well as the various tests and charts, to see how they match up to an Olympic athlete.
6111 River Rd., Richmond
Where to stay
Check in at the Metropolitan Hotel, a cozy little spot tucked into the center of the city. Rooms are plenty big for the kids. There’s also a pool and plenty of nearby shopping, coffee shops, and restaurants.
645 Howe St., Vancouver
What to do
PHOTO COURTESY OF SCIENCE WORLD
Science World, the geodesic dome that you wondered about as you drove by, turns out to be full of interactive, fun displays: everything from a spinning climbing wall to a squirt-gun race game. Find a warm way to learn about winter at the Omnimax theater, which shows Titans of the Ice Age, or wander among the various exhibits: animal pelts to touch, music to make, and an army of volunteers waiting to help children cut out a snowflake or find a solution to a puzzle.
1455 Quebec St., Vancouver, $15.25 child (3-12), $23.25 adult (Omnimax +$6)
What’s winter without a little bit of snow? About 20 minutes from downtown, in the hilly suburb of North Vancouver, the Grouse Mountain Skyride whisks visitors six minutes through the air to a winter wonderland — an ice skating rink, ski area and snowfield. When you’ve had your fill, pop into the lodge to warm up by the fire before heading back down.
6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, $15.95 child (5-12), $44.95 adult
Once you’re back in the city, the Vancouver Aquarium, in the middle of Stanley Park (worth a walk around, should the weather cooperate), holds exhibits on local underwater creatures, an Amazon forest, and an interactive play area. But the best parts are the outdoor exhibits. Start with the otters (or preview via the otter camera), then move on to the sea lions. Check the schedule for the dolphin shows to watch them jump and arc high into the air and skitter across the surface of their pool on their tails.
845 Avison Way, Vancouver.
Where to eat
Just up the road from Science World is Fable Diner. The latest restaurant from Trevor Bird, who gained fame on Canada’s version of Top Chef, serves exciting, family-friendly food in a bright neo-diner atmosphere. Named for his first restaurant, Fable (a mash-up of farm-to-table), it continues the ethos invoked there with a menu ranging from diner classics, like burgers and an all-day breakfast, to the innovative, such as the roast duck pancake. Poutine — that ever-so-Canadian dish — comes in a skillet with aged cheddar and is one of the only versions you don’t need an adult beverage to enjoy (though if you should want one, there are many on the menu).
151 E. Broadway, Vancouver.
After playing in the snow at Grouse Mountain, warm up with the thick house blend of hot chocolate at Thierry Chocolates, a short walk from the Metropolitan Hotel. The café also offers pastries and cookies, making it equally a good way to start the day with something warm. 1059 Alberni St., Vancouver.
Vancouver’s multicultural restaurant scene means that within a few blocks of the hotel, you can sample incredible Chinese noodles and dumplings at Peaceful Restaurant, giant bowls of Japanese ramen at Ramen Gojiro, or stop in to Hawksworth for a fancy meal if your kids are up to the behavioral challenge.
Peaceful: 602 Seymour St., Vancouver.
Ramen Gojiro: 501 Dunsmuir St.,Vancouver.
Hawksworth: 801 W. Georgia St.,Vancouver.