With only one weekend before we send our kids back to school, parents can relate to my bittersweet feeling over these final days of summer.
It’s been non-stop fun and sun, but the reality is that keeping kids entertained for two entire months can be costly and leave parents tapped for new ideas to keep the whole family entertained. We easily forget the obvious, however: Vancouver has graciously scattered the city with oodles of free water parks.
Family fun-seekers have until the end of the Labour Day long weekend to let loose and enjoy a fully contained water fight with friends and strangers, outfitting their garrison with water hydrants, cannons and surprise shooters.
Let the kids get wet and wild while you steal a peaceful moment before the responsibilities of fall set in. Not all Vancouver water parks offer lifeguards or provide supervision, so staying present on the sidelines is important and parental care should not be substituted for a sitter.
To optimize your water park play date, come prepared and pack a picnic. Avoid scheduling too tight a timeline if possible, as your kids will prefer to naturally wind down their day at the park as opposed to being dragged away mid-spray and leave soaking wet in your effort to get somewhere else on time.
What to bring:
The basics: swimsuit, towel, water shoes, sunblock, hat
The essentials: snacks and drinking water
Luxury items: blanket, lawn chairs, portable barbecues (allowed in most Vancouver parks), cooler, umbrella
Although water parks and splash pads exist in the majority of Vancouver community parks, only a handful deserve a special trip. Depending on the community and property, valves shut down at different times and each park has its own rules and regulations.
Parents should take advantage of our numerous splash pads before most valves are shut off Sept. 3. A number of parks closed earlier this month, but seven are still open: Stanley Park (2000 W Georgia Street), Kitsilano Beach Park beside the outdoor pool (1499 Arbutus Street), Hastings Community Park (3000 E Pender Street), Harbour Green Park (1199 W Cordova Street), Granview Island Water Park (1318 Cartwright Street), Connaught Park (2390 W 10th Avenue) and Chaldecott Park (4175 Wallace Street). The Parks Board has a complete schedule.
Here are two of the best and brightest parks, worthy of a spray before summer ends.
Granville Island Water Park:
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Labour Day.
Parking restrictions: Free, maximum of three hours and be sure to watch your time as bylaw officials are ruthless! A ticket would certainly dampen an already wet occasion. Open barbecuing is not permitted.
Considered by many to be the biggest and one of the best free water parks in North America, Granville Island will remind you of summer days gone by. Free water parks don’t normally include a slide, but this one does and is fun for all ages. However, heated it is not.
Granville Island does pride itself on safety. With multiple lifeguards onsite to supervise the slide and other areas, parents can pair up with toddlers and ride together and share the magic of this summer experience.
Height restrictions in the slide area are enforced. Kids need to be talker than three-foot-six in order to ride solo. Little ones who prefer to stay dry can explore a colourful playground, duck feeding area, and children’s toy market.
Stanley Park Water and Spray Park:
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Labour Day
Parking restrictions: Hourly parking in effect, $3 per hour or $10 daily
Open barbecuing is permitted, and barbecues must be 75 centimetres above the ground and full cleanup is required. No barbecues allowed on sandy beach areas and when a fire ban is in effect, propane only, no charcoal.
The Variety Kids Spray Park at Stanley Park has been deemed the city’s biggest and best by players like Tourism Vancouver and the park wins, hands down, as the most scenic free water park in town. Located oceanside at Lumberman’s Arch, children can enjoy all the splash pad spray features while darting to the beach to build sand castles and dig for clams.
In close proximity to some of Stanley Park’s major attractions, like the Vancouver Aquarium, miniature train station and playground, families can make an entire day out of blasting water cannons.
Whether you’ve been to Granville Island Water Park or the Variety Kids Spray Park at Stanley Park dozens of times already this summer, it’s time to go one last time. The memories of picnics and water fights will last a lifetime. When school is back and the chill sets in, you’ll fondly remember Vancouver Waterpark play dates and look forward to next summer. Get splashing before it’s too late!
Stephanie Florian is always chasing her next adventure and plays with her family in the mountains and on the sea. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter.com/@PlayoutdoorsVan.
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