There’s something to be said about a simple, low-key, family friendly summer vacation. That’s what my son Gavin and I experienced together in Richmond, British Columbia. Our adventure almost came to a halt however, when going through customs at the Vancouver International Airport. Because I was traveling with Gavin alone, the customs agent told me I needed a signed and dated letter from my spouse explaining why I was traveling with our child and for how long. The main reason was because my maiden name was on my passport, not my married name, which is Gavin’s last name. Luckily, my press itinerary from the tourism office helped prove my legitimacy and we were soon off and running to experience Richmond, BC, a thriving multicultural destination city. Here are my top ten reasons for visiting:
1. Steveston: Idyllic is the word that comes to mind. This seaside fishing village has some unique shops, including a killer toy store called Splash(604-241-0234,140-3580 Moncton St) Down on the wharf you’ll see the freshest seafood for sale from the largest commercial fishing fleet in Canada. And if you’re an adventure seeker, you can suit-up and head out on a guided whale watching tour. The Gulf of Georgia Cannery is a national historic site right in town. Built in 1894, adults and kids alike will find the museum fascinating. Before leaving town, grab fish and chips from famed Pajo’s (604-272-1588, 12351 Third Ave)and an ice cream soda from Screamers(604-364-8740, corner of 3rd Ave and Bayview St), well worth the wait!
2. Garry Point Park: Around the corner from Steveston is this sprawling picturesque water front park. Here you can picnic, access walking trails and take advantage of the windy environment to fly a kite. Grab a kite at Splash toy store and be a kid with your kids. When’s the last time you built a kite and watched it soar? Instant therapy for me.(Located on Chatham and Seventh Ave)
3. Summer Night Market: It’s a swap meet on steroids. This Asian-style open air market, gets more than 20,000 visitors a night. Vendors sell every gadget imaginable, along with clothing, jewelry and toys. The big draw though is the outrageous food selection. The dim sum and noodle dishes were excellent. But there were inventive treats like a hurricane potato. The live Karaoke adds even more energy to this event. It’s open Friday through Sunday nights, from May through September.
4. Richmond Olympic Oval: It’s not only a state-of-the-art fitness center, but a multi-purpose facility offering BC’s only indoor track, basketball courts, an indoor rowing tank and two international-size ice rinks. In fact, the long track speed skating events during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games were held here. If you have energy to burn, this is the place for you!(778-296-1441,6111 River Road)
5. Richmond Nature Park: It’s always relaxing being in natural, lush surroundings. The 200 acres of wetlands are rich with many plants and animals to discover. You can take a self guided tour or free guides are offered. There’s also plenty of hands-on activities that take place in the center where reptiles and other urban critters call home.(604-718-6188,11851 Westminster Hwy)
6. Aberdeen Center: It’s a mega mall that sells everything from high-end sports cars to $2 items at a Japanese store called Daiso. Out of the 160 stores, I spent most of my time at Daiso. Who doesn’t love a bargain? The two-story shop has a multitude of kitchen and sewing supplies. There was also clothing for adults and children, along with endless toys and art supplies. The pottery section was impressive, and I purchased two small containers that I use all the time. There’s something for everyone at this shopping center.(604-270-1234,4151 Hazelbridge Way)
7. WaterMania: An indoor water park is a brilliant idea. Whether it’s hot or cold outside, you don’t have to worry about the elements while you’re sliding your heart away. WaterMania not only has water slides, but a 57 metre competitive pool, steam room, sauna, whirlpools and fitness center. All under one roof!(604-448-5353,14300 Entertainment Blvd)
8. Richmond Go-Karting: Go-kart racing isn’t normally something I do with the kids. But that’s not to say I shouldn’t. Why can’t I be more carefree at home, like I am on vacation? Racing around the half mile track, competing against kids and adults alike, is just plain fun. My cheeks hurt from laughing, a true sign of a good time.(604-278-6184,6631 Sidaway Road)
9. White Spot and The Boathouse Restaurant: There are plenty of eateries in Richmond, but these two are local mainstays. If you grew up in Richmond, White Spot Restaurant is the diner-type restaurant where you’d go for comfort food. The “pirate packs” featuring paper boats and chocolate coins are a favorite among young customers. The waffles were over the top.(604-273-3699,5880 No 3 Road) For a more sophisticated eating experience, the Boathouse Restaurant serves up the freshest seafood from West Coast B.C. and beyond. For more than 30 years locals have been patronizing this restaurant chain that offers food that both adults and children will like.(604-273-7014,100-8331 River Road)
10. Granville Island/Vancouver: The close proximity of Richmond to Vancouver makes it ideal for travelers to go back and forth between the two. There’s so much to do in Vancouver, and having been before I knew Gavin would love Granville Island. It’s a permanent indoor farmers market, with many food stands, stores, restaurants and a game zone for kids that has rides and a bowling alley. You could truly spend all day here.
Other Richmond Highlights: As much as we tried, we couldn’t see everything the tourism office suggested like the International Buddhist Temple. It’s described as the most magnificent and authentic temple of traditional Chinese architecture in North America.(778-882-5613,9160 Steveston Hwy) I also wanted to see London Heritage Farm, a historical site and working farmhouse. There are animals, herb gardens and a tea room that offer homemade sweets and tea blends that are grown on site.(604-271-5220,6511 Dyke Road) Lastly, we stayed at The Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel(604-233-3955,7551 Westminster Hwy) There’s free 24-hour airport transportation, friendly staff, nice rooms and outside pool area. The restaurant served consistently good food and there was a Starbuck’s in house too. In the end, this “family-friendly vacation” didn’t have me needing another vacation.
Trip sponsored by Tourism Richmond