savvy sassy moms logo

CityGems Logo

Living in the very upper left part of the U.S. has its perks. One of the major ones: We’re within a short drive of the beautiful lower mainland of British Columbia, Canada. Rare border-crossing hassles aside, we get easy access to all of the awesome kid fun in Vancouver, without having to endure the cost of living in this spendy little part of the world.

Taking Kids to Vancouver, BC

Here’s a collection of some of our favorite affordable kid-friendly spots in the Vancouver metro area:

The Stanley Park Miniature Train


City Gems: Stanley Park Miniature Train in Vancouver, BC

Built in 1964, the Stanley Park Miniature Train carries more than 200,000 passengers each year. It runs year-round but in the late fall changes to a Halloween Ghost Train (save that trip for your older kiddos!) and during the holiday season becomes the widely-popular Stanley Park Bright Nights Christmas Train. We rode the little circuit it travels on last summer and it was a blast!

The SkyTrain

Kid Fun in Vancouver, BC: Riding the SkyRail

From kid-sized train to big one. Large-scale events like the 2010 Winter Olympics and well before that, Expo 86 (the 1986 World’s Fair) boosted the need for public transportation from parts of the lower mainland to Vancouver’s downtown area. Enter the Skytrain. Above ground in the suburbs and underground in the city, just the experience of riding this train can be an adventure for little ones. We park in Richmond, BC and take the train straight to downtown, watching the sights as we go.

Vancouver Aquarium

Visiting Vancouver with Kids: Don't miss the aquarium!

A list of kid-favorites in Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without including the Vancouver Aquarium, located in Stanley Park. While you can see most of the aquarium in a few hours, it’s well worth it to visit this spot again and again. The educational shows, held in different areas throughout the aquarium, are entertaining and informative. The highlight of our last trip to the aquarium for my girls? High-fiving a scuba diver while he was swimming in the shark tank.

The beaches

The Best Vancouver Beaches for Kids

We’ve dug our toes in the sand at both Kitsilano Beach (Insider Tip: Call it Kits’ Beach to sound like a local) and Second Beach in Stanley Park. Sandcastle building for the kids; amazing people watching for the adults. Both have playgrounds located adjacent to the beach for some bonus sand-free fun.

Granville Island

How to get to Granville Island in Vancouver

Touristy? Yes. Worth it? Yes. Granville Island is a spot we visit over and over again, both with kids and without. Part of the fun is getting there: From downtown, hop on one of the tiny foot ferries to take you across busy but beautiful False Creek. Visit the Granville Island Public Market to sample of variety of Canadian goodies and pick up lunch from one of the numerous food vendors. In a separate building, the Kids Market has a giant indoor play area with kid-centric shops and eats. Granville is home to the biggest free water park in North America, complete with water slide, plus an awesome playground.

Side note: A few weeks ago, on a very hot Saturday, we decided to go on a big adventure to visit Granville’s splash park. We endured a longer-than-usual border crossing, parked in Richmond, took the Skytrain to Yaletown, boarded the Aquabus to Granville, ate lunch in an extremely-crowded spot and finally walked to the splash park only to turn the corner and find it shut down due to water restrictions resulting from the bad forest fires in Northern BC. Word to the wise: Check the website before you make this sort of trek. Both kids were toast by the time we got back to the Skytrain.  (Read: #parentingfail.)

Sans-kids bonus: Granville Island is also home to one of our favorite date-night spots, The Sandbar. There’s yummy food, a great local beer selection and best of all: an incredible view of the city from the rooftop patio. Read more about it here.


Taking Your Kids to Watermania in Vancouver

Watermania is one of those places that’s soooo good that I almost want to keep it a secret. A hidden gem tucked less than a mile kilometer off of the freeway in Richmond, Watermania is our go-to spot in Canada for rainy days. While it has an Olympic-size pool for lap swimming, a giant hot tub, a full fitness center and two water slides, the crown jewel is the large wave pool, complete with a toddler-sized play area right in the middle of the shallow end.

We seriously love this place. It’s super clean, with family-friendly changing areas and huge locker rooms. And, it’s a great value – admission for our family of four is $15 Canadian. On our last visit, my 4-year-old went down the slide approximately 45 times. Watermania is located in Riverport Sports and Entertainment Complex which also includes an ice rink, bowling alley, IMAX movie theatre, trampoline park, laser tag area and an Old Spaghetti Factory. It’s also conveniently around the corner from the Richmond Ikea. We’ve been known to spend the morning at Watermania, do lunch in the Ikea cafeteria and enjoy a quiet ride home with two exhausted kids konked out in their car seats.

Our list of favorites continues to grow as we explore more of the Vancouver area, but these family-friendly City Gems that can’t be missed!

This post was contributed by Jessica Spencer who is part of the Savvy Sassy Mom Product Scouts program. You can find more from Jessica on her blog, The Average Jess.

Read More →

VancouverI watched as my son clung to his father. That shark was so close. A little daddy protection was in order, but not for long. As my toddler realized the sharks and stingrays at the Vancouver Aquarium could not get to him, he warmed up to these salt water creatures, and the real adventure began.

Vancouver, located just over the border in the Canadian province of British Columbia, is one of those cities that those of us living in the Pacific Northwest take for granted, but is really an international destination worth the trek no matter where you live. Why would you drag your family north of the border? Well I’ve got five fantastic reasons why not only your kids will love it, but you will have a fabulous time too.

Science World at TELUS World of Science

For every science geek there is a museum that transforms your interest into an obsession. Science World can do that for you and your child. Incredible exhibits, like the upcoming LEGO Travel Adventure show (starts Feb. 1, 2014), and permanent galleries and programming makes this an all day destination when possible — or just a place to explore for a few hours at a time. Live animals and insects, hourly science shows, physics exhibits that come alive through water, light and sound, and even a special preschool area will help your budding scientist find their calling.

Science World

Food Carts

Food trucks, carts and trailers seem to be all the rage in every major city in North America. If your own town has them, why should you bother checking them out in Vancouver? For one thing they generally offer up cheap eats. Food gets expensive when traveling with a family. They also offer variety, so everyone in your clan can find something they love. But most importantly, Vancouver is a food mecca. You thought you had good sushi back home? Well they have 20 that will beat your best. Like noodles? Pick a cuisine and they will have it. Let’s not even get started on desserts. The food trucks in Vancouver are no different. They offer up quality food with a pride that will put some brick and mortar establishments to shame.

Food Cart

Stanley Park

Any city worth their weight needs to have a spectacular park, or at least that’s my feeling. If you don’t have green spaces to let the kids run and catch up on their vitamin D then you will miss a piece of the vacation puzzle. Stanley Park is Vancouver’s own Central Park. This is where you will find the aquarium, the miniature train, beaches, a waterpark and pool, bike trails, hiking trails and stunning gardens. Really you could spend your entire trip exploring the park and walking the Seawall. It’s that good.

Stanley Park

Fly Over Canada

You know how Disneyland has Fly Over California, but you just can’t get yourself (or bring yourself to go) to Anaheim? Well Vancouver has the answer—Fly Over Canada. This half-hour, multisensory experience shows you why Canada is a country worth exploring. The actual “ride” only lasts eight minutes, but it will take your breath away as you fly through open prairies while a whiff of wildflowers floats past your nose (literally) and you climb the Canadian Rockies into the damp clouds (an actual spray of mist will hit your hair!). This is sure to get your wanderlust flowing and the kids screaming for a trip to Alberta next.

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium

Aquariums have always been a family favorite in our house. It was the first place my son really got excited as a baby. It was also our little “treat” when exploring the not so kid-friendly spots my husband and I love to visit. The Vancouver Aquarium is the perfect spot to explore on a cold and rainy day in Vancouver. They have more than a few of those — it’s not hard to schedule a trip in. Dolphins, Beluga whales, seals, turtles, clownfish, sharks and stingrays are just a few of the friends you will meet as you walk through the space. There is educational programming, including feedings, scheduled throughout the day. If you have a young oceanographer in your group try to splurge on an animal encounter or behind-the-scenes tour.

Vancouver Aquarium

This list doesn’t even begin to crack the surface of all there is to do in Vancouver, but it will certainly give you a good start. The city is bursting with activity, but like all things in the Pacific Northwest, you can always find a spot to slow down, grab a cup of coffee (or hot cocoa for the kids) and watch the world go by. No one will mind. Not even the sharks.

Read More →

When I tell people that I’m from Ontario, Canada they automatically assume Toronto. Not the case. Nine years ago, my husband and I moved from Southern Ontario to the Sudbury Region, jumping head first into an exciting and adventurous business endevour.

Sudbury was one of the world’s leading suppliers of nickel for years and although it’s still known for its mining, the city is now established into many other industries. Tourism is popular here as the area is rich in history, there are quite a few attractions and if you are driving west to Alberta or Manitoba, you’ll pass Sudbury along the way.

Like most people, I have my favorite stops that we visit very frequently. A couple of weeks ago, we spent the entire day visiting each one of those places and didn’t get home until dark. It was perfect.

IMG_5423First up, Science North.

This is arguably one of the most popular attractions in Northern Ontario. They have all sorts of fun and highly educational exhibits for kids and adults of all ages. New for 2013 is The Science of Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Exhibit. It just opened in March and will run through September 2013. Two headed calves, the tallest man in the world, Albert Einstein made out of toast – it’s all here. Kids can see and experience fascinating, shocking and almost unbelievable facts and history.

The regular exhibits are always a hit with a butterfly conservatory, live science shows and an entire floor dedicated to some of the wildlife you’ll find in Ontario. You could easily spend most of the day here! For the past three years we’ve purchased a family membership for the entire year as it covers both Science North and Dynamic Earth.


Dynamic Earth takes you underneath the earth (literally). In addition to their dinosaur exhibit, camps for kids and entire an entire section dedicated to rocks and minerals, Dynamic Earth has a special tour where they take you through the history of mining by traveling 110 stories underground. We took the kids on this tour for the first time last month and they loved it! They also have a large indoor playground as well as an outdoor one, so this is another spot that takes a bit of time to make your way through.


It’s not hard to spot Dynamic Earth and you can see it from the highway thanks to the infamous BigNickel located outside the building.  This is a 30 ft replica of a 1951 Canadian Nickel. Super cool!

Bell Park is one of my favorites in the city. It’s located on the shore of Lake Ramsey, has a children’s play area and you’ll find some of the summer concerts, festivals and events taking place here. It’s a great spot to have a picnic or let the kids run loose.
laughing buddha

I couldn’t possibly introduce you to my city without recommending a place to eat now could I? Laughing Buddha is my favorite lunch spot in Sudbury. Fancy, this is not, but the food here is fabulous. Everything is prepared fresh and they offer a huge array of healthy options. Some of our favorite dishes off the menu: “The Looper” Pizza with broccoli, onions, artichokes, tarragon and feta on a roasted garlic oil base, “The Sticky Mouth” sandwich with peanut butter, banana, honey, cashews and raisins on an ancient grain bread, Fried Pickles (because of course!) and the Fattoush Salad, with pita, romaine, tomato, cucumber, red onion, kalamata, feta with a honey lemon dressing.


Nadia Carriere headshot2Nadia Carriere is the founder and editor of Child Mode, a popular site featuring the latest in lifestyle trends, fashion and family travel. In addition to her expertise in high-quality products and design for families, her 14 year experience in the travel industry has given her a knack for scouting out the ‘best of the best’ for families. When she isn’t covering breaking news, writing or tweeting, Nadia enjoys spending her spare time on Instagram or with her DSLR snapping pictures of her family. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and YouTube.

Read More →

When you announce that your little bundle of joy is on the way the words “you will never travel again” starts to pop up left and right, as if your life stops until your darling children are off to college. Even worse, people start to talk about all of the theme parks you are destine to visit, because that is surely the only place capable of entertaining your children for more than 30 minutes. Well stop right there ladies. I’m here to tell you that there is a big wide world out there just waiting for you to explore with your kids, and most of it is not made of plastic. Here’s a little sampling of the adventures that our planet has to offer, and yes, I have done them all with a toddler and baby in tow.

Hawaii the Big Island

Hawaii, The Big Island

Let’s start off small with the Hawaiian Islands. While most families head to Maui because it is so easy to get around, in fact it was our first trip with my oldest son, I say turn your back on convention and head to Hawaii’s Big Island. If you want a great town with baby beaches, restaurants, and easy access to stores galore then your best bet is to stay in Kona. The farmer’s market there is scrumptious and just down the street you will find the best french toast of your life at Island Lava Java. If you are looking for a quieter experience, head to the east side of the island south of Hilo. You will have more time to explore Volcanoes National Park away from the crowds, and have the chance to rub elbows with the locals at the Pahoa Farmer’s Market. The Champagne Ponds are the perfect place to let your little ones explore while you sneak a little snorkeling in, or you can head to the fresh water ponds and black sand beach south of Kapoho.

National Gallery London

London, England

Another no brainer, but often overlooked spot, is England’s capital city of London. This is a major metropolitan area with grocery stores carrying diapers, baby food and formula in many of the major brands you know from back home. And in case you hadn’t heard, they also speak English there, making it a breeze to navigate the city and ask for help. If your kids are Pixar fans you can bet they will be thrilled to walk by Parliament to get a peak at Big Ben, or as Cars 2 fans know him, Big Bentley. There are plenty of public parks, playgrounds, and most of the museums are free, making this a parent’s dream destination if they want to pop in a little educational experience into the itinerary.

Loreto Mexico

Loreto, Mexico

This is not your average college spring break destination. Oh no. Those kids head south of Loreto on the Baja Peninsula to soak up the sun and more than a few margaritas in Cabo. You can safely bring your kids to this sleepy little town on the Sea of Cortez, where retired snowbirds head south to stay warm for the winter along side the gray whale population that is a must see when in the area. With only one flight per day, and a 2-hour direct flight  from LAX, you could be on the beach or sitting at your pool by the afternoon. If you want an authentic experience, skip the expensive resorts outside of town, and stay at a local inn or casita run by locals or American expats. You will be able to walk to some of the most delectable food you can imagine at rock bottom prices, and there are at least three shops to grab ice cream for the kids after a long day of adventure.

Kyoto Japan

Kyoto, Japan

Crossing the Pacific may seem like a stretch for many families, but I am here to tell you that it is possible AND worth it. Kyoto is a city rich with tradition, culture, architectural wonders, and some of the most beautifully presented food you will ever lay eyes on. The city is pretty flat, making it easy to walk, and the bus system is exceptional. Even though you may not find as many English speakers as you thought you would, everyone is excited to help you, and they aren’t afraid to try a little sign language and miming to communicate. There are exceptional parks and open green spaces to let your kids run as well as easy to follow paths at the temples and shrines that keep toddlers roped in when mom and dad want to explore a few cultural elements. Prices can seem high, but if you find a nice rental off the main drag, cook a few meals in your temporary home, and dive into the food courts in the basements of the department stores, you can make this a very economical excursion.

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver, Canada

While our neighbors to the north may get a bad rep for excessive amounts of snow and a very sparse population, Vancouver offers up city amenities your entire family will be rushing out the door to explore. The Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park and Science World will help you cram in a ton of learning fun on your next vacation. Once you’ve had enough science run off to Granville Island to sample some of the areas best produce, handmade desserts, and readymade foods for a picnic lunch before heading over to the Kids Market. Warning: your kids will never want to leave! If you are looking for a little more outdoor adventure don’t miss the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain and a stroll through Chinatown.

With so many incredible spots that are not only easy to navigate, but also very kid friendly, why would you ever limit yourself to the package idea of what a family vacation has to be? Open your mind to the possibilities, throw a dart at a map, let yourself dream a little, and then start planning your next adventure with your kids. Who knows, maybe they will actually start to teach you a little along the way.

Read More →

Family ski trips can be tricky, because you never know if the snow conditions will be good or if all the work and money spent getting your family to the mountain will be enjoyable or just leave you feeling like you created a whole lot of stress and work for yourself.  Too bad there isn’t a mountain that can guarantee perfect snow…. well HELLO Big White Ski Resort!  I’ve snowboarded on plenty of big mountains from Whistler to Mammoth and many times at our local LA mountain Big Bear and I can’t remember the snow ever feeling quite like this.  BIg White’s tagline is “It’s the Snow” and it truly is the incredible snow.  They like to call it champagne powder and for very good reason.  I felt like I was in a Big White snow globe!

Getting There

United Airlines has just opened up their direct flight from LAX to Kelowna, BC and it’s only a 2 hour 40 minute flight,  then about another hour to get up to the ski resort.  Not bad when compared to flying up to Whistler (3.5 hours) and taking another 2 hours to get up to the mountain.  We stayed right on the mountain in a ski in ski out two bedroom suite at the Stonebridge Suites.  It was beyond beautiful and most of them come with a private hot tub right on the balcony.

The Village Center

This the hub of the mountain where you will find the gondola, the kids ski school and daycare center, equipment rental, restuarants and a few retail shops.  The check in process to rent equipment was quick and painless, you can rent snowboards, helmets, boots, ski’s poles, and even snowshoes.

This mountain is massive, it has 118 runs and 16 chair lifts.  My first day on the mountain we participated in “Ladies Day” a program they do every Wednesday that is just for ladies which includes a lift ticket, professional lesson with an instructor who gave us some pointers and professional tips and a delicious lunch.  The second day we spent the morning with two amazing ski hosts that gave us a real in depth tour of the mountain.

PicMonkey Collage (16)

Kids Centre, Ski School and Daycare:

The kids center is a one stop shop for your little ones.  They have a variety of lessons for all different levels of experience.  They handle all the rental equipment right there on site and all the kids can wait inside before their lesson.   Each child is given the Flaik GPS system so Mom and dad can check in on where they are on the mountain and also see everywhere they went at the end of the day.  The child center has a fully operating kitchen so the kids are fed lunch right there.  They also can accomodate any allergies or special diet restrictions such as vegetarian or gluten free.

Kids Shopping:  Don’t worry if you forgot to pack something Moms,  because they have an entire kids store with everything from snowpants to funky helmet hats.


Adventure Park

The Gondola connects the Village Center with the Happy Valley Lodge and Adventure Park.  The Adventure park is where the beginners and kids magic carpet is also located.  If you want to take a break from the slopes you can go ice skating, hit up the tubing park, rent a snowmobile or climb the incredible ice tower, like I did!  This was one of the hardest things I’ve done and I’ve done A LOT.  I wanted to quit halfway up but luckily I had my snow mamas, Luxury Travel Mom ,Travelling Mom and The Go To Mom cheering me on and I made it to the top!  I highly recommend you challenge yourself and spend the $20 to do this, the sense of accomplishment is priceless.


Down in Happy Valley there are a few dining options.  Moose Lodge has a super kid-friendly atmosphere for and they host nightly activities for the kids.  It’s the perfect place for families to unwind after a long day on the slopes!   Kettle Valley Steakhouse & Wine Bar is also located in Moose Lodge and features incredible menu of reserve beef, game, seafood and wine from the Okanagan wineries.  Here I tried Ice Wine for the first time and I highly recommend ordering the  the Apple Bomb for dessert!

PicMonkey Collage (18)
On our last night we were treated to dinner at the chefs table at Carvers which serves North American cuisine with Indo-Canadian fusion.  The chef is pictured here with his sister and Mother who all work in the family business.  It was like being guests in their own home with a view right into their kitchen.  He paired each course with a wine selection and the entire meal was delicious. I normally don’t care for lamb and I loved this lamb! This is definitely a hidden gem at Big White.

The MUST See and Drink

If ice climbing is not for you, that’s okay, but you must stop by the Gunbarrel Grill for their famous Gunbarrel Coffee.  It is an incredible show that they put on for you right at your table and you won’t be disappointed.   They wheel over a cart with glassware, booze, a fire burning stove, and a shot gun!  The drink itself consists of coffee, Brandy, Creme de Cacao and Grand Marnier.  You can substitute with decaf coffee or hot chocolate if you prefer.  Now, I dont want to spoil the fun so my pictures will have to give you the basic idea but I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it.  It’s sure to warm you up!

PicMonkey Collage (19)
I can’t really say enough about my experience at Big White, I felt like I was at some secret ski resort and village where everyone was family.  The mountain was never packed, no line for chair lifts, and no fighting to find a seat to sit at lunch.  The people were all very helpful and friendly as if you were guests in their very own home.  It’s really quite magical and the perfect place for a family ski trip, I cannot wait to get my family up there!

Disclosure:  This was a press trip and all my travel expenses were paid.  I share this with you because we love to travel and  it is truly an amazing ski destination that I would go back to in a heartbeat.  All my savvy thoughts and sassy opinions are my own.

Read More →

Today I am heading to Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna, BC to do some snowboarding and I am very excited.  My suitcase is packed with all the typical chic but warm clothing and my snowboard gear, including my pink snowboard goggles.    But what’s in my carry on?   My passport, my light and perfect for travel Macbook air because I will have to log a few hours while I am away.  A book that I  bought over two months ago that I am going to try to actually read, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  My latest hobo wallet, a mini notebook for ideas, a sharpie, highlighter and some Love and Toast hand cream.  ipod, iphone charger, headset and my sprigs armband that will be perfect for securing my id, credit card and room key on the mountain.  The only thing missing is my lip gloss and perhaps a travel pillow and blanket.

5 Noteworthy Travel Essentials:

1.   Sonya Dakar Jet Set – Acne Travel Set ($72) –  I am very excited to try this Jet Set pack while I am away for a a few days.  The Jet Pack is specifically for acne prone skin types and comes with a handy travel case and three travel sized bottles of the Bergamot Wash,  Seaweed Lipsome Gel, and the Hydrasoft Lotion.  I have never been so excited to wash my face!

2.  Lands’End meridian convertible mittens ($29)  These little fingerless gloves are perfect for chilly weather but also allow let me text, post and update while staying warm on the go!  These make a great little gift for any of you last minute holiday shoppers.  Perfect for any Mom, sister, aunt or teen.  They are available in four colors and have a matching hat and scarf too.


3.  Herbalogic ($24 – $29) I have never been one for taking supplements or herbs of any kind.   I leave all that to my husband, he’s got a pharmacy of pills, bottles and jars.  But when I heard about Herbalogic and read about some of their formulas that address “back and muscle pain, stress and tension, menopausal hot flashes, nervous worry and agitation, nose and sinus issues, mental focus and concentration, energy and performance, trouble sleeping, and periodic mood swings related to PMS.”  SOLD.  If there is something that can help me operate more productively and help with overall stress and mental focus, I’m all in.  I will keep you posted on my findings!


4.  Sun Bum  ($9.99) Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t get a sun burn.  Especially up in the mountains when your even closer to the suns rays.  Even when it’s -10 degrees if the sun is shining you still need sunscreen.  I have gotten a sunburn many times when on the slopes.  I brought along this new brand of sunscreen to try.  I love that it has an easy face stick for easy application throughout the day.


5.  Stephanie Johnson ML Traveler Cosmetic Bag  – I have mentioned these gorgeous travel bags before.  I just love them.  This one is a perfect size for all my cosmetics and other toiletries.  It comes with three clear bags inside the bag and a nice zip pouch for jewelry.  I like having clear bags so you can see what is inside each compartment.  All my contributors got a Stephanie Johnson bag for Christmas this year!

Read More →

This Holiday season I will be traveling to Canada, and Minnesota. I can feel the windchill already. Don’t worry, this So Cal living girl was born and raised in Minnesota, I can handle it. I will be taking the inaugural flight from Los Angeles to BC Canada, Big White Ski Resort! I am beyond excited and I cannot wait to strap on my snowboard and fly down the mountain. But first things first…we need to decide on some warm yet stylish essentials. I am all about keeping warm and toasty but that doesn’t mean you have to look like a mountain climber. Winter accessories can still be chic and keep you from getting frostbite.

I love the twist on these classic Sorel Boots, the Juicy Couture faux fur headset and scarf are awesome but would be a bit much worn together.  The sweater leggings from the Gap are a must and well I don’t travel anywhere without my Stephanie Johnson cosmetic bags. I also like to pack an easy crossbody tourist day bag for just the essentials when wondering though the town. These are my winter travel picks, they are neutral enough to match just about anything, cozy, warm, and girly with just a bit of sparkle.  Just add your favorite pair of jeans and leggings and your good to go!


Winter Travel




Read More →

Savvy Sassy Newsletter

  • Stylish News in Your Inbox...
  • All The Latest Trends...
  • Our Greatest Giveaways Sent to You....

Be Savvy. Be Sassy. Signup Below: