Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fun with kids in Vancouver: going to Lonsdale Quay, North Vancouver

One thing my kids really love to do is ride the SkyTrain. Yes, it's "just" public transit, but since they don't get to do it every day they see it as an adventure and special treat. (Actually, my son would probably enjoy it even if he had to do it every single day: that boy can watch the world go by outside the train window all day and be absolutely entertained.) Add in a ride on Vancouver's public transit ferry, the SeaBus, and it's a grand day out for them.

So, during spring break this March, we headed out for a trip all the way to North Vancouver's Lonsdale Quay, which is where the SeaBus goes to from downtown Vancouver. It was a grey, drizzly day, but that didn't matter to the kids or me.

Looking across the water from the SeaBus in downtown Vancouver.
When we go for this ride, we ride almost the entire length of the SkyTrain's so-called Expo Line: from the Scott Road station in Surrey, to the Waterfront station in Gastown where we hop on the SeaBus and head across the water to North Vancouver.

The kids always scramble to get the "best" window seats when we get on the SkyTrain, though on a busy day we sometimes end up with standing room only, at least for parts of the ride. Because the SkyTrain runs above ground (except for an underground stretch through downtown Vancouver), it gives a great view of the areas you're going through (not always the prettiest view, mind you, though the kids don't mind that).

View of the North Shore mountains.
Once we got to Waterfront Station in Gastown, we followed the signs for the SeaBus and hopped aboard. Going on a big boat, even one as sedate and offering as short a ride as the SeaBus, is a big deal to my kids. We sat with our faces pretty much pressed against the window for the entire ride across the inlet.

The SeaBus takes riders from downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. The Quay has a large public market, hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafes, and all sorts of little shops. On a sunny day it's a nice place to hang out outside and watch the sky and water. On a rainy day (and this was one of those days) it's nicer to go inside the market.

We looked around inside the market (you can do some great window-shopping as well as actual shopping here) and eventually found a small play-room upstairs with a slide and a ball-room. A big hit with the kids of course! They spent some time in there playing before we headed back downstairs for lunch.

Nutritious lunch.
The variety of restaurants inside the market is pretty staggering. You can find Indian food, seafood, pubs, fish & chips, finer dining, burgers, sandwiches, Chinese food, sushi... the list goes on. My kids chose something slightly non-adventurous: chicken strips and french fries. But at least they were really good french fries!

Pacific octopus, $6.99/lb.
On our way out, we spotted this enormous octopus laid out for sale in one of the seafood shops at the exit. I've never seen on presented like this before, and the kids were in a bit of a shock at seeing it I think, maybe because we'd been to the Aquarium just a few days earlier and seen a live one of about the same size there!

Outside the market.

If the weather had been a little more forgiving we would definitely have hung around in the plaza outside the market, but it just was not the day for that. Instead we headed back to the SeaBus.

View of downtown Vancouver from the SeaBus.
Again, we spent the ride on the SeaBus with our faces pressed against the front-window. It's really the only way to ride the SeaBus with kids!

Cormorants with the sails of Canada Place in the background.
There are always a lot of sea-birds in the waters of the inlet here, and the kids were quite worried about a duck that looked like it might get run over by the SeaBus at one point (it made a daring last-minute escape). Watching the cormorants cleaning their feathers just outside the terminal on the Vancouver-side was pretty cool too.

Heading home.
After that we hopped on the SkyTrain again. The kids were quite pleased with themselves for getting to ride trains and ferries in the same day. And all for the price of a transit ticket.

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