Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Year End Countdown #1 - Top Ten family bike ride destinations

Well, it's nearly the end of 2012, and while I look forward to even more Velo Family Adventures to come, I thought I would share with you some of my favourite family bike ride destinations throughout the year and what makes them so special. If you're from Vancouver, and haven't ridden to these places yet, maybe next year will be a good chance to try it out. To those that don't live here, be sure to check them out if you ever get over for a visit!

#10 - Kitsilano Beach

Kits Beach is somewhere we tend to forget most of the year, being it's a fair distance from our home in East Vancouver, but every time we go, I always have such a nice time. The kids love to play in the fantastic playground they have, which, believe me, has kept them busy for hours running from station to station. The beach area itself has an almost Californian quality, which in the summer is the perfect atmosphere, with the boardwalk right at the edge of the beach hosting numerous people walking or riding, and wherever you sit on the beach, you get a perfect view westward, where the mountains end and the water opens to the straight. At sunset, it's a beautiful place to sit and be reminded why it is we chose Vancouver to be our home.

#9 - Crab Park

This funny little waterfront park is tucked away from the city, a place literally on the other side of the tracks. From False Creek you head North towards Gastown, riding along the Carrall Street separated lane, then along Water St until you reach the end on Main Street. You then head up and over a ramp, past the lions, and on the downwards slope you see it, a small gem of a park with a perfect view of the Burrard inlet and the North Shore Mountains. Whenever we visit the park, I feel like I'm in a secret place that only a select few have heard of. It's almost always quiet, and so whenever I visit I feel like just sitting and taking in the ocean air and beautiful views.

#8 - Central Valley Greenway East

We live very close to where the 10th Avenue Bikeway intersects with the Central Valley Greenway, and while most trips take us West, I really do enjoy our trips along the CVG. Usually we ride it to do errands, like groceries, or those special occasions when I get to go to the art store, but there's something about this pathway that I love. Maybe it's the fact that for most of the ride you're separated from cars, or that you get to follow along with the Skytrain a VIA Rail tracks, meaning every once and a while you get a glimpse of a passenger car heading in or out of town. Or maybe it's because it's one of the quieter bikeways, meaning when we ride as a family, we almost always get to ride side-by-side. Whatever it is, it's holds a special place for me and that's why it's on this list.

#7 - Hillcrest Park and Pool

We made many treks out to Hillcrest this year, many to visit the pool, which is always a great treat after a hot summer bike ride. But there's something else great about this destination, and that's Nat Bailey Stadium. Each summer we try to catch at least one Vancouver Canadians game. We're not huge baseball fans, but there's something about watching it live, getting to participate in the seventh inning stretch, and the deliciously bad for you ball park food. During the season, they also host firework evenings, so for the price of a ticket, which averages about $15-20, you get to watch a successful ball team (winners of the Northwest Division two years in a row), but you get a fantastic fireworks display to round out a great evening. Of course, one of the added bonuses of riding to Hillcrest is that since you've reached one of the higher point in Vancouver, the whole ride home is downhill! Can't argue with that when it's late and you're hauling two sleeping children in a trailer.

#6 - Adanac Bikeway/Union Market

The Adanac Bikeway holds a special place for my family and I. For my husband and I, we love riding through the old Strathcona neighbourhood. The area has a lot of character, and there's a real sense of community whenever we're in the area. In the summer, the kids love to play at MacLean Park, which has a great play area, as well as a splash pad for cooling down. We also like to treat ourselves after a long ride with a stop at Union Market. This cute little shop is situated right along the bikeway, and is a destination for many residents in the area for a coffee and a chat with a friend. Our kids like to stop and get "candy pop", better known as cream soda. As I've said before, life's about the simple pleasures!

#5 - Stanley Park Seawall/English Bay

This pick is sort of a no brainer. Everyone who lives in Vancouver or has visited knows there's something pretty amazing about walking or riding along the expansive seawall around 404 hectares of West Coast Rainforest right in the heart of the city. Some of our rides have included seeing bald eagles, one of the many herons who nest there every year, and even seals. Almost always, we tend to end our rides at English Bay. The kids get to play at the beach, and we almost always get a treat from one of the shops along Denman Street. It's just a great place to be any time of the year, even on a cool damp winter's day.

#4 - 10th Avenue Bikeway

If you've been following this blog for a while, you've probably caught on that I spend a lot of time on the 10th Avenue Bikeway. It's the city's East/West connector, going all the way out to UBC if you follow it long enough, but I've never ventured further than Alma by bike, being less than eager to climb to get to the campus. There is a stretch of road, from Cambie, heading East to Clark, where the trees create a beautiful canopy over the street, and I love to ride through as the seasons change. In the Spring, the Cherry Blossoms create the look of cotton candy overhead, giving way to summer and the shade from the immense Chestnut trees, followed by the sometimes harrowing experience of falling chestnuts and leaves in the fall. Riding along this bikeway is one of those experiences that makes me so happy to be able to ride my bike in this beautiful city!

#3 - Olympic Village

Without intending it, Olympic Village ended up becoming THE start and destination for many of our rides this year. It's such a convenient place to meet up with a group of people, and you're left with many options of where to head from there being directly on the seawall. For the Velo Family, we stopped during so many rides here for a rest. While the children ran through the plaza, my husband and I would get to enjoy a coffee from the nearby cafe, reminiscing about our ride that day, or just taking a moment to reflect on where life has taken us so far. It is also where we spent our wedding anniversary this year, enjoying a glass of wine and a view of the city lights across False Creek.

#2 - Granville Island

Granville Island is by far one of my favourite places to go in the summer with the kids. With the fantastic new playground, the splash pad and the water slide, it's hours of summer fun for absolutely no money. And the seawall ride to get there is nothing to complain about. About once a week I would head over with the kids this past summer, complete with a packed picnic lunch for when my husband would walk down from his office just a few blocks away on South Granville. I have so many great memories from our trips here over the summer, including sliding down the water slide with my son in what will surely be his last year needing a parent with him. I'm actually a bit sad that we haven't gone as much now that the weather's become so wet and cold, but I have to remind myself that warmer days are on their way again...eventually!

#1 - Sunset Beach

Topping off my list of destinations is Sunset Beach. Conveniently located along the North side of the False Creek Seawall, this beach holds a special place for me. It was one of the first places I took the kids on our bikes when we started this blogging adventure back in July, and it is the spot my husband and I have shared many a romantic evenings over a picnic dinner and bottle of wine. Being one of the quieter beaches in Vancouver, I tend to feel calmer, enjoying the warm sand, the views North to the mountains and West to Kitsilano. It's one of those places where words won't do it the justice I mean to give it, but trust me when I say, every trip there has been worth it!

Where will my wheels take me next year?


  1. Loved reading this. My wife and I have a tandem and have been on the CVG out to New Westminster. Also ride to UBC and Stanley Park and also the Adnac out to Commercial. We live on Robson across from Capers.

  2. First of all I would like to thank you for the great effort you have done to create this list of favorite places for cycling. Also, I will refer to your blog in on of my post about how family bike trips are useful for healthy family relationship.