No one enjoys an unexpected rainstorm, especially not during a family vacation, but fortunately, parents and children can find lots of things to do on a rainy day when visiting Vancouver.
Depending on when you plan your trip to this west coast Canadian city, there are some seasonal events and indoor activities that families can enjoy. While some exhibits and attractions like the Vancouver Aquarium and the Bloedel Conservatory are open year-round, some features like the Capilano Salmon Hatchery are only enjoyable certain times of the year.
There are also plenty of activities for toddlers and babies if you're traveling with younger children, but be sure to check attractions before you go to make sure they can accommodate infants. Keep in mind that winter and spring are the wettest seasons, and the weather is unpredictable from November through mid-May.
Visiting the belugas—and 70,000 other aquatic creatures—who live at the famous Vancouver Aquarium is one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver on a rainy day, whether you have kids or not. It's a perfect mix of fun and education, and there are discounts for children.
Vancouver is home to some British Columbia's best museums and art galleries, including the UBC Museum of Anthropology, which features large-scale sculptures and totems from around the world.
Warm Up in the Bloedel Conservatory
When it's cold and rainy outside, visit the Bloedel Conservatory where it's always balmy and tropical inside. Situated atop Queen Elizabeth Park, the iconic Conservatory is small. Families will likely spend about 45 minutes there, but it offers an excellent opportunity for bird watching, exploring, and learning about ecology.
Often called the best venue for kids' shopping in Vancouver, the Kid's Market at Granville Island is also a perfect rainy day destination: It offers families lots of things to see and play with, plus an indoor Adventure Zone for letting the kids exercise.
Additional Granville Island activities include exploring the landmark Granville Island Public Market, riding in the covered AquaBus, dining, or seeing a show.
The free Capilano River Hatchery provides one of a few unique things to do in Vancouver on a rainy day. Located just past the Capilano Suspension Bridge (one of Vancouver's top 10 attractions) in North Vancouver, the Hatchery is minutes from downtown Vancouver and gives visitors a chance to see salmon hatching in action.
The best time to visit the Capilano Salmon Hatchery varies by species: See Chinook adults in October to November, Coho adults June through November, and Steelhead adults from March through April. Watch juvenile Cohos all year and juvenile Chinooks March through May.
Indoor ice skating is one of the easiest things to do on a rainy day in Vancouver because there are three public indoor ice rinks open year-round and five additional indoor ice rinks open September through March. All rinks offer skating lessons and public skates, with skate and helmet rentals available on-site. (Robson Square is among the most popular.)
You may not want to get wet outside, but why not dive into the water indoors? Like Vancouver's public ice rinks, Vancouver public pools are ideal indoor activities for kids when the weather is bleak. The Killarney Pool, Britannia Pool, and the popular heated bayside Kitsilano Pool are all within Vancouver city limits.
Climb an Indoor Rock Wall
When it comes to exciting, different things to do in Vancouver on a rainy day, an indoor climbing center is a perfect activity for adolescent children and adults. Open to kids aged 5 and older, Metro Vancouver's indoor climbing centers include Cliffhanger Climbing, The Edge Climbing Centre in North Vancouver, and The Rock Wall in Maple Ridge.
Catch a Play at a Children's Theatre
Theatre doesn't have to be a special-occasion outing; it's also one of the best things to do in Vancouver on a rainy day. There are lots of options for last-minute theater in Vancouver—check out Tourism Vancouver's Tickets Tonight for discounts on last-minute seats—or make a date for one of Vancouver's children's theater events.
The local branches of the Vancouver Public Library offer a fun, free outing for little kids, toddlers, and literary enthusiasts of all ages. The libraries also offer family story time programs, which are a great way to meet local parents.
If you're feeling really adventurous, check out indoor skydiving at The Fly Zone in Delta, the first and only vertical wind tunnel in Western Canada. Kids 8 years of age and older can experience the thrill of skydiving in the safety of an indoor facility.
For a sweet treat on a dreary day, take your family to La Casa Gelato, which offers over 200 flavors of this Italian dessert and has been a staple of Vancouver for over 30 years. All the gelato is made in-house. Perfect for a quick stopover on the way to a museum, La Casa Gelato is a one-of-a-kind Vancouver attraction.
Not only does Vancouver have a number of large-screen movie theaters for all the latest blockbusters, the city also hosts a number of local and international film festivals. The Vancouver International Film Festival usually takes place between September and October while the "Essential Cinema" series at the Cinematheque plays a curated lineup of independent and classic films year-round.
Flyover Canada is an immersive "4D" theatrical experience that takes audiences on a ride through the peaks and valleys of Canada's vibrant landscape. Before you get on the ride, you can also spend some time watching an immersive pre-show by Moment Factory that offers a close-up view of Canadians and their environment. See dawn over Churchill in Manitoba and fly alongside the Rocky Mountain Train in Alberta's Rocky Mountains, all while strapped into moving seats.