Usually, winter in Vancouver is mild—at least compared to the rest of Canada—so it doesn't often get too cold to enjoy the city's bountiful outdoor activities. However, rain is practically an everyday occurrence and, on rare occasions, the temperature can dip below freezing or it will even snow in the city. When that happens, taking the kids to the park or hiking in local nature isn't a viable option.
When it's too cold, wet, or snowy outside to fully enjoy your winter trip, keep a backup plan handy for some of Vancouver's best indoor spots to stay warm and not waste time. And if the weather gets really cold, just embrace winter and head to one of the nearby mountains for skiing, snowboarding, and other alpine sports.
Play (Indoor!) Beach Volleyball
Beach volleyball is one of the most popular summertime sports in Vancouver, but locals don't let the cold weather stop them from playing. The club 6Pack Indoor Beach lets players enjoy all of the fun of beach volleyball while under a roof and protected from the outdoor climate. It's located in the city of Richmond on Mitchell Island, just south of Vancouver proper.
For winter 2020–2021, the club is open but closed to drop-ins and mixed group events. To play volleyball, you can rent out an entire court for a group event or sign up for private lessons.
See Science World
Some of the best indoor winter activities in Vancouver geared toward kids are at Vancouver's top attractions, and nowhere beats Science World for families visiting the city. This interactive museum is one of the most popular attractions year-round, but especially so on wet days. Permanent exhibitions include Eureka!, which focuses on kid-friendly games related to physics and movement, and Body Works, where little ones can learn all about the systems of the human body.
Jump Around at Canada's Largest Trampoline Park
Jump and play at the largest trampoline park in Canada at the Extreme Air Park in Richmond (Richmond is the closest one to downtown Vancouver, but there are also Extreme Air Park locations in Langley and New Westminster). From vertical volleyball to a foam zone and zero gravity basketball, the airpark has a wide range of activities for all ages. It's without a doubt the most thrilling way to spend a day indoors, and a perfect excursion for parents to relax while the kids use up their energy bouncing around.
Climb high at Vancouver's indoor climbing centers, Cliffhanger Climbing Vancouver and The Edge Climbing Centre in North Vancouver. Newbies can take an introductory lesson with a qualified instructor and old hands can drop in to scale the walls and warm up on a winter day. By the time you're finished, your forearms will likely be throbbing with pain, but the afternoon spent climbing and belaying is well worth the soreness.
To rock climb in winter 2020–2021, all participants must make an advance reservation in order to climb. Both climbing centers offer special programs geared toward kids and teens, so ask about special youth activities.
Heat Things Up at Bloedel
For a tropical escape in the middle of Canadian winter, head to the Bloedel Conservatory where inside temperatures stay hot and humid all year long. Located at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park, the round dome of the conservatory is home to 500 tropical plants and 120 bird species. It's an ideal outing for the whole family, and while a typical visit there usually takes around an hour, you may want to stay longer to take advantage of every moment in this heated attraction.
Put on Your Ice Skates
Outdoor ice skating in the winter has an undeniable charm to it, but when it's raining, windy, or hailing and you just want to skate without worrying about the elements, then Vancouver has indoor ice rink options available for you. Some of them are open year-round, such as Hillcrest Rink and Britania Rink. But in the winter months, several seasonal indoor ice rinks also open their doors, such as the ones at Killarney, Kitsilano, and Trout Lake.
They are all run by the city, so it's an affordable way to spend an afternoon with the kids. Plus, you can even buy passes to pair with other city-run services, such as the indoor pools.
Submerge Yourself in Hot Pools
For the ultimate summertime activity in the winter, head to one of Vancouver's indoor swimming pools. Not only can you ditch the heavy winter coat and put on your bathing suit to splash around, but several of them also have jacuzzi, steam room, and sauna options to truly escape the cold. There are several municipal indoor swimming pools across the city, but the Hillcrest Aquatic Centre is one of the most elaborate and is always a hit with families. Plus, it's conveniently located next to Queen Elizabeth Park.
Head Into Outer Space
As of January 2021, The H.R. MacMillan Space Center is closed for general admission until further notice. Limited special events are available virtually and at the museum, so check the event schedule for more information.
Opened in the 1960s during the height of the space race, Vancouver's very own H.R. MacMillan Space Centre is a popular place to enjoy the great indoors.
Fill a half-day to full-day of fun at the Space Centre with shows at the Planetarium Star Theatre that highlight planets, meteor showers, nebulas, black holes, galaxies, and other astronomical wonders. Head to the Cosmic Courtyard Gallery for the chance to get a photo op in a spacesuit on another planet, lift a real meteorite (or at least, attempt to), and your opportunity to touch a 3.75 billion-year-old moon rock (one of only five touchable moon rocks in the world).
Visit the GroundStation Canada Theatre for live science and space shows that cover everything from geology to astronomy, meteorites, and surviving on Mars.
Escape to an Escape Room
As of January 2021, most escape rooms in the Vancouver area are closed until further notice. Confirm operating hours and new health guidelines with individual businesses.
Warm up your bodies and your brains at one of Vancouver's many escape rooms. The hip Gastown district is home to many of these adventures such as SmartyPantz, which features five different themed escape rooms of varying difficulty (and fear factors!). Figure out the clues within your set time limit—usually 60 minutes—to escape the room, so you'll need to work together with your teammates to figure out how you're going to do so.
Stay Dry at Vancouver Aquarium
As of January 2021, the Vancouver Aquarium is closed until further notice.
For kids of all ages, there's also the (mostly) indoor Vancouver Aquarium. Inside, you'll find the Tropic Zone, which highlights warm water animals from around the world including blacktip reef sharks, moray eels, and colorful fish, as well as daily dive shows and shark feeds.
Step into the steamy jungle to meet the sleepy sloths, snakes, spiders, and giant fish that call the Amazon home in the Graham Amazon Gallery. The Pacific Canada Pavillion and Treasures of the B.C. Coast celebrate local sea life, while in the Canaccord Financial Exploration Gallery, kids 8 years old and younger can visit Clownfish Cove to nurse a ‘seal pup’ back to health in the new animal hospital, or investigate a touch pool.