Spend time getting to know Vancouver with kids, dramatically sandwiched between ocean and mountains and boasting one of the world’s best standards of living. It’s often said of Vancouver that it’s one of the rare places where you could ski, windsurf and play golf on the same day. Its landmark Capilano Suspension Bridge is a pulse-quickening walkway over a canyon into a temperate rainforest park, where you can experience more walkways and bridges between giant tree trunks at Treetop Adventure, walk the Cliffwalk along a granite precipice, watch aboriginal crafts displays at the Kia'palano with its displays on the lives of BC's First Nations people, including original totem poles, hunt for bugs and go exploring with an eco-guide.
Don't miss the quintessential Vancouver family experience of Stanley Park, which despite its central location retains many giant trees from its days as a forest. There are also more totem poles, swimming beaches (Second Beach is best for families, with an outdoor pool with slides), a lagoon with ducks, raccoons and skunks, a mini-train, a kids’ farm and a seawall popular for rollerblading, cycling and so on. It’s in this park that you’ll find Vancouver Aquarium, where you can encounter northern fur seals, Pacific dolphins, beluga whales, sea turtles, sea otters and more.
Stroll along the old shipyard of Coal Harbour on the waterfront, with lots of seawall cafés, craft breweries and restaurants from which to watch the odd harbour seal bobbing around. It's here that you'll find the unique 4D Fly Over Canada attraction.
Pop over to lovely Vancouver Island and explore British Columbia’s picture-perfect capital, Victoria, or its other historic towns, for a slice of nostalgia. Charming Victoria is at the island’s southernmost tip: wander around its little streets, admiring the red double-decker buses and eating fish and chips – it’s just verging on a pastiche of a Cockney/Queen Victoria /Sherlock Holmes theme-park. Then head out to the beaches, walking trails and cedar forests, and go whale-watching or kayaking (you might be lucky enough to share the sea with some orcas). You'll likely also see grizzly bears on Vancouver Island, but avoid the temptation for any photo opportunities – never approach them, and never feed them.
Visit Alert Bay on tiny Cormorant Island off the north-east coast of Vancouver Island, for an authentic experience of the legacy of the First Nations. This is a centre for aboriginal culture, with lots of art and artefacts, including the world’s tallest totem pole. This is another good spot for whale-watching, eco-tours, kayaking, hiking and cycling.
If you're a fitness buff, try the Grouse Grind – a famous steep uphill hike (nearly 3km) offering spectacular views. It's not for young children, but there are other options for enjoying the views from Grouse Mountain on the north shore, including the Grouse Mountain Skyride (an 'aerial tram') and helicopter tours. The mountain is a good place to come in winter or summer for everything from sleigh-riding, snow-shoeing and ice-skating to watching birds-of-prey demonstrations, riding ziplines, or taking guided eco walks and visiting the wildlife refuge.
Book a family ski holiday in Whistler, widely regarded as one of the world's top family ski resorts. The 'sea to sky highway' between Vancouver and Whistler (about 90 minutes) is a spectacular drive.
Explore Yoho National Park in the Rockies within British Columbia – the Canadian wilderness at its best and most manageable. If you have older kids who relish a challenge, bring them hiking, climbing, mountain-biking or kayaking here; budding geologists will also be in heaven.
Take a transcontinental train ride between Vancouver and Toronto – the Canadian has a dome car with panoramic views and you can even get off in the middle of nowhere should the call of the wilderness be that strong.
Hop aboard a ferry or cruiser to Alaska in the United States – British Columbia contains part of the Inside Passage, a network of routes for ocean-going vessels between the mainland and coastal islands.