Travel Blogs – The Barefoot Nomad Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Wed, 07 Feb 2018 20:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit The Jasper Dark Sky Festival Tue, 30 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0000 Looking for something just a little bit different for your next trip?

Does gazing up at endless starry skies and watching the dance of the northern lights sound enticing? How about viewing stunning mountain scenery and seeing wildlife, like elk and moose, every day?

Now what would you say if I said you can do all that while eating at fantastic local restaurants and staying in world class accommodations?

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival delivers all of that and much, much more.

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival – What is it?

Every year, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival takes place in Jasper, Alberta, Canada.

Jasper is nestled in the rugged heart of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. It’s a small town that’s managed to keep it’s unique character, despite being a major tourist attraction. Bighorn sheep and elk are regularly spotted in town, and the town site and surrounding area are home to some of the most stunning views of alpine lakes and mountains you’ll ever see.

The Dark Sky Festival takes place over two weekends in October that are packed with events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation.

There’s even a little bit of geeky celebrity magic that happens here: past speakers have included George Takei (best known as Sulu from the original Star Trek TV series), Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (check out his informative and entertaining Facebook account here), plus Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tory Belleci (former co-hosts of Discovery Channel’s hit show Mythbusters).

So when Tourism Jasper reached out to invite me to experience the Jasper Dark Sky Festival firsthand, I jumped at the chance.

Jasper Alberta Canada lake

Jasper Dark Sky Preserve

The Dark Sky festival is held in Jasper National Park, home to one of the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserves.

A Dark-Sky Preserve is an area in which no artificial lighting is visible and active measures are in place to educate and promote the reduction of light pollution to the public and nearby municipalities. Sky glow from beyond the borders of the Preserve will be of comparable intensity, or less, to that of natural sky glow. – Royal Astronomical
Society of Canada

In Jasper, the city and park have taken extra steps, like replacing older street lights with lights that point to the ground, rather than up, and cast less light. The result is stunning, clear views of the night sky – perfect for catching a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis or Milky Way.

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit The Jasper Dark Sky Festival

There’s so much to enjoy at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, from world class talks, to taking in the night sky, to enjoying delicious meals that it’s hard to narrow it down to 10 reasons! That said, here are my top 10 reasons you should check out the Jasper Dark Sky Festival for yourself.

Stargazing and taking in the northern lights

There are plenty of opportunities to take in the stars at the festival, but don’t miss the Beyond the Stars event at Lake Annette.

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

Northern lights over the Jasper sky Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

There’s plenty to do at this night time event, with expert guidance from the Telus World of Science – Edmonton, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Edmonton Centre, Dark Sky photographers, Parks Canada interpreters and other special guests.

For those of us who aren’t fond of cold weather, or those who just love their java, there’s a Tim Horton’s truck parked conveniently nearby, offering up free hot chocolate and lattes! There’s also a free shuttle from the Visitor Information Centre.

It’s an other worldly experience to stand in the middle of the starlit sky, gazing up as the northern lights glow, and change shape, over Lake Annette.

There’s a lot to see here, but one of my favorite activities was to stop by the telescopes set up and manned by knowledgeable volunteers. Each telescope was trained on a celestial object, from far away galaxies to planets. It’s an amazing experience to see these with your own eyes!

Tip! A good stargazing app can make your experience so much more enjoyable! Try out Sky Map for Android (free) or StarWalk 2 for iPhone or iPad.

The Scenery

Ever seen a photo of an impossibly perfect, clear emerald green lake in the Canadian Rockies? It was probably taken in Jasper.

You can catch Jasper’s scenery pretty much, well, everywhere around town. Tourism Jasper has an excellent list of highlights here.

Maligne Lake in Jasper Alberta in winter

For a gorgeous, birds-eye view, be sure to take the Jasper SkyTram‘s fully enclosed tram for some stunning views. Dogs are welcome!

If you’ve ever been on Instagram, you’re sure to have seen an image of the beautiful Maligne Lake and Spirit Island. In warmer weather, the lake is a stunning green.

Spirit Island Jasper Alberta Canada

Spirit Island


You don’t need to be a nerd to love the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, but it doesn’t hurt.

There’s plenty here for science nerds like me, from chances to chat with world class astronomers to hands on chances to view the stars. Be sure to check out events like Stargazing and Observe the Sun with RASC Royal Astonomical Society of Canada, which get stellar Jasper Dark Sky Festival reviews. Events vary each year, but there’s always plenty to do and see.

The Wildlife

Jasper’s relatively untouched location in the Canadian Rockies means that it’s a great place to see wildlife.

The park is home to elk, moose, caribou, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bears and wolves, plus smaller animals like the adorable pika and marmots, plus many bird species.

Tip! Keep your distance, as these are wild animals, and their behavior is unpredictable, no matter how accustomed they are to humans. It’s illegal and dangerous to touch or feed wildlife – both for you and the animals!

A moose casually hanging out by the side of the road in Jasper

The Keynote Speakers

Keynote speakers for the Jasper Dark Sky vary by year, but they’re sure to be informative and entertaining. They’re sure to delve into interesting questions like these. What is dark matter anyway? Why does space exploration matter? Will we ever colonize Mars?

Human Universe by Brian Cox

During my visit, the keynote speakers were UK Professor Brian Cox and Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomer fame.

The talks were interesting and lively, and I was incredibly impressed with how gracious and engaged both men were with audience members, young and old alike, during the question and answer period.

Bad Astronomy book by Phil Plait

The Kids

There’s plenty for kids to do at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, from having fun at the planetarium (more on that later!) to hands on fun at the Big Bang Expo.

family fun at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival The Dark Sky Festival takes place over two weekends in October that are packed with events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation. Jasper Dark Sky Preserve | Things to do in Jasper Alberta | Jasper Alberta | Jasper National Park | Northern Lights | Canada | Alberta | Canadian Rockies | Scenery |Where to Stay in Jasper National Park | Dark Skies | Jasper National Park Things To Do | Jasper National Park Winter | #travel #traveltips

Big Bang Expo, presented by TELUS World of Science at the Jasper Elementary School, is chock full of real life experiments and experiences for kids and adults alike.

There’s a lot of fun building and flying model rockets, and plenty of science-related activities indoors.

Model rocket launch Big Bang Expo at the Jasper Alberta Canada Dark Sky Festival

Model rocket launch!

The Food

For a small town in the mountains, Jasper has a surprisingly excellent selection of top notch restaurants. You’ll find everything from gourmet to casual. Here are the restaurants I had a chance to try during my visit.

Orso Trattoria

One word – Yum! The elegant but relaxed Orso Trattoria is located inside the gorgeous Jasper Park Lodge. It also has an enviable ground level spot with stunning mountain and lake views.

The menu’s full of farm to table goodness, with interesting dishes like breakfast poutine (with hash browns), croque madame, and, of course, avocado toast (delicious!). Breakfast is served all week, but dinner is only served Saturday and Sunday.

Orso Trattoria breakfast in Jasper Alberta

Evil Dave’s Grill

Locally owned, Evil Dave’s Grill is a casual, fun place with great food.

Dishes like Malevolent Meatloaf, Fiendish Falafel and Karma Curry all have a diabolical twist. I tried the Karma Curry, and it was spicy, flavorful, fresh and darn tasty. Be sure to try the Beautiful Brie, a wheel of almond and panko crusted deep fried brie, on chilled pear puree, with toasted baguette. Delicious!

Coco’s Cafe

Of all the restaurants I tried in Jasper, funky and fun Coco’s Cafe was my favorite.

Everything I tried here was perfect, from coffee to a bagged lunch with a spicy, flavor packed vegetarian burrito.

It’s a locally owned joint that specializes in vegetarian, vegan and celiac friendly fare.

Jasper Cocos Cafe sign

Jasper Brewing Company

The Jasper Brewing Company is a bustling place packed with locals and tourists alike. The menu has a great range, from confit duck tacos, to delicious warm buttered soft pretzels, to veggie burgers and pan roasted Ora King salmon. The beer’s pretty darn good, too!

Emerald Lounge

I got a chance to try the Emerald Lounge, located just off the lobby to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. After a long delay with my shuttle, the Emerald Lounge’s roaring fireplaces and comfy chairs were a welcome sight. It’s open all day until late, with gorgeous views and a welcoming vibe.

The Planetarium

Don’t miss a stop at the Jasper Planetarium. The inflatable dome planetarium is a 360 degree astronomical immersive experience that’s fun in any kind of weather, even if the skies are cloudy. It’s well worth a visit, with interesting and informative narration.

See the Jasper Planetarium website for more info and ticket prices.

Planetarium at Jasper Alberta Canada Dark Sky Festival

SPACEtalks panel

In addition to the fantastic keynote speakers, each year the Jasper Dark Sky Festival hosts a Spacetalks Panel.

It’s hosted by knowledgeable and entertaining science journalist Natalie Panek, and features different scientists each year.

This year, the panel was moderated by CBC Radio’s Bob MacDonald, with presenters including astrophysicist Rob Thacker, Scientific American Contributing Editor John Rennie, and Rocket Scientist and Explorer Natalie Panek.

There’s a lot to love at the Dark Sky Festival, but SPACEtalks was one of my favorite parts, as it was fun, casual, and just so interesting!

Watching the Stars at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper.

Watching the Stars at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper.

Niki Wilson

The SPACEtalks panel and other events are hosted by Dark Sky Festival favorite Niki Wilson. She’s a knowledgeable and interesting science journalist, published in the likes of like BBCEarth, Motherboard, Canadian Wildlife Magazine, Natural History Magazine and Canadian Geographic.

SPACEtalks panel Jasper Alberta Canada Dark Sky Festival

SPACEtalks panel at Jasper Dark Sky Festival in Alberta, Canada

The hotels – Where to Stay in Jasper National Park

Jasper’s home to plenty of great accommodation, but I was lucky enough to stay at the iconic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

This is a stunning 700 acre year-round luxury mountain resort that’s located on the shores of Beauvert Lake. There’s a heated outdoor pool (enjoyable even in winter) located in a gorgeous setting, and plenty of luxury touches around the entire hotel.

This is an unusual hotel in that it’s rooms are a village of heritage log cabins all interconnected by picturesque paths. There are also luxurious Signature Cabins.

Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge outdoor pool

Heated pool at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Bonus reason! The Community

Despite being known worldwide, Jasper, Canada is still a small town, and it feels like it. There are only about 4,500 residents in the town, so you’re almost guaranteed to be bumping into people you recognize from earlier in your trip. It makes for a welcoming experience.

Candy Bear's Lair in Jasper

What you need to know

You can get all of the Festival details as well as learn where to get Jasper Dark Sky Festival tickets on the Jasper Dark Sky Festival Website.

You can learn more about Jasper activities, accommodation and places to eat from Tourism Jasper’s excellent website right here.

Jasper is located 362 kilometres (225 mi) west of Edmonton, Alberta, and 290 kilometres (180 mi) north of popular Banff, Alberta via the Icefields Parkway.

The Icefields Parkway is a beautiful stretch of highway with cascading waterfalls, ancient glaciers that you can walk upon and clear emerald lakes set in gorgeous valleys of thick pine forests.

You can also get there from Kamloops, BC in about 4 1/2 hours or from Calgary, Alberta in about the same amount of time.

Temperature: During October, Jasper’s surprisingly warm for a town high in the Canadian Rockies, with daily highs averaging 50 Fahrenheit (10 Celsius), and lows averaging 30 Fahrenheit (-1 Celsius). When I was there, there was little to no snow in the town site, but higher elevations like Maligne Lake already had some heavy snow.

What to bring: Because this is Canada, and it’s October in the mountains, be sure to bring a warm coat, warm shoes or boots, mittens and a touque (warm hat, for the non-Canadians out there). Since you’ll be outside at night watching the stars and northern lights, make sure you dress for the forecasted lows.

Jasper Alberta Canada Maligne Lake in the winter

A winter trail on Maligne Lake

How to get there

The closest airports to Jasper are Edmonton International airport (390 km) or Calgary International Airport (430 km). There is an airport in Jasper itself, however there’s no direct commercial flights offered, as it’s used mostly for diversions and delivieries use.

From Edmonton or Calgary, you can self drive, or take a shuttle. SunDog Tours operates shuttles from both Calgary and Edmonton.

If you’re not used to driving in snow and ice, I’d advise taking a shuttle during the winter for safety.

I was hosted at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival by the kind folks at Tourism Jasper.

Things to do in Jasper Alberta. Visit the Jasper Dark Sky Festival! Looking for something just a little bit different for your next trip? Why not visit the Dark Sky Festival in Jasper? Bighorn sheep and elk are regularly spotted in town, and the town site and surrounding area are home to some of the most stunning views of alpine lakes and mountains you’ll ever see. The Dark Sky Festival takes place over two weekends in October that are packed with events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation. Jasper Dark Sky Preserve | Things to do in Jasper Alberta | Jasper Alberta | Jasper National Park | Northern Lights | Canada | Alberta | Canadian Rockies | Scenery |Where to Stay in Jasper National Park | Dark Skies | Jasper National Park Things To Do | Jasper National Park Winter | #travel #traveltips Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Ever dream of being far away from the bright lights, and spending an evening staring up at the starry night sky, and maybe even seeing the Northern Lights. Then this is your Festival. The Dark Sky Festival runs over two weekends in October, and is packed with ways to see the night sky, plus informative, entertaining events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation. Jasper Dark Sky Preserve | Things to do in Jasper Alberta | Jasper Alberta | Jasper National Park | Northern Lights | Canada | Alberta | Canadian Rockies | Scenery |Where to Stay in Jasper National Park | Dark Skies | Jasper National Park Things To Do | Jasper National Park Winter | #travel #traveltips ]]> 0
20 Interesting Facts About Australia That Will Wow You Sun, 28 Jan 2018 18:00:00 +0000 A few years back, Micki and I spent half a year driving across Australia. We landed down south in Adelaide and then worked our way through the center of the Outback up to Darwin on the north coast, and eventually made our way past Cairns and Port Douglas before slowly making our way down the east coast, past the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, all the way to Sydney.

Over the course of those six months, we learned just how big and just how awesome Australia is. We ended up put over 25,000 kilometers on our van, got up close and personal with some unique wildlife, met some interesting people, and saw the beautiful and varied landscapes that make up Australia.

As our kids get older, and we tell them tales of the land down under (like the termite mounds that were twice the height of our van!), the realization that we’re going to have to take them to Australia becomes clearer. It’s also what prompted us to dive into these interesting facts about Australia.

Van and termite mound in Australia

Our trusty van dwarfed by an Ozzie termite mound

Interesting Facts About Australia

So without further ado, if you’re thinking of heading to Oz or have ever been curious as to what kinds of things await you down under, here are our interesting facts about Australia that will amaze you.

Australia is big. As in, really big.

We put on over 25,000 kilometers during our trip around Australia, took six months to do it, and we still only saw half of the country. As the 6th largest country in the world with one of the lowest populations per kilometer, most people fly from city to city. When we were driving in the Outback, we would go hours at a time before seeing anyone else on the highways except the occasional road train and kangaroos.

Due to it’s massive size and the fact that the entire country is an island, Australia is the only place in the world that is considered both a continent and a country. As such, it’s sometimes also referred to as the island continent.



Beaches are everywhere in Australia

If you love beaches, there are over 10,000 beaches found around Australia. If you visited three beaches a day it would still take you over nine years to see them all!

We visited dozens of beaches along 3 coasts however we found the Whitsundays had the prettiest beaches of them all.

It also has over 25,000 kilometers of coastline where you can jump on a speedboat, a catamaran or even a sailboat and explore the over 8000 islands that circle the giant island. We visited almost every beach we could find, and even toured the Whitsunday Islands on a sailboat for four days. We loved every minute of it.

Tidal pool and beach on Fraser Island

Australia has the largest sand island in the world

Just off the east coast of Hervey Bay, Australia lies the largest sand island in the world. Fraser Island, measuring over 120 kilometers (75 mi) long and 24 kilometers (15 mi) wide also houses the country’s only all sand highway/airport runway where you can drive 80 kilometers an hour on the beach only a few feet from the crashing waves.

Renting a 4×4 SUV for 4 days, camping along the beach and driving along the sand paths and the beach was one of our favorite highlights of the trip.

Rented 4x4 on Fraser Island Australia

Micki and our little rented 4×4 on Fraser Island

It has the world’s largest coral reef

Australia is home to the Great Barrier Reef, which is the planet’s largest living structure.

Diving the Great Barrier Reef was one of the highlights of our trip. Unfortunately, the reef is in trouble these day – scientists say that the reef is dying off.

Australia wildlife is unique, and often well… pretty darn weird

The kangaroo, the duck billed platypus, the dingo, the emu, the cassowary, and the koala are just some of Australia’s unique species that can only be found in Australia.

We spotted them all in the wild, including the shy platypus, however the little rock wallabies might be one of the cutest things alive.

Rock wallabies in Australia

Australian Aboriginal culture may be 65,000 years old

Australian Aboriginals first arrived in Australia 65,000 years ago marking them as some of the oldest known human cultures.

We saw rock paintings around Uluru (Ayers Rock) and near Darwin that are some of the oldest found anywhere in the world.

Ayers Rock, Uluru, Australia at Sunset

Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia at Sunset

Australia was founded by inmates

Here’s one of the many fun facts about Australia: The first English settlers landed in Sydney in 1788 and the majority of that first fleet were inmates. Though most died off, a sizable number of inmates helped found Australia.

We’ve been to dozens of countries over the years, however I can truly say Australia is the only country we traveled to that I was ever held at knife point. Coincidence? Haha, probably not since the vast majority of Australians we met were super nice and helpful. Australia is also one of the safest countries in the world.

Camels, camels, camels … and more camels

The are more than half a million feral camels wandering around Australia’s outback.

We saw some wild camels more than a few times while driving and even considered riding a few that had been tamed. Unfortunately, the camel smell was only matched by the heat of the sun that day.

Are we sad we didn’t do it? Nope, we did rode camels in the Sahara desert instead.

In a country that’s mostly desert, water can be a problem

To secure a constant potable water supply, the first settlers built water tanks along the stream leading into Sydney Cove they called the Tank Stream. However, due to early pollution, the tank stream eventually became a stormwater drain that still protects Sydney from flooding.

We were in a few heavy rainstorms while in Sydney so can attest to their ability to protect the city from flooding. Rain or shine, Sydney is a gorgeous city.

Micki and Charles in Sydney Australia

The two of us in beautiful Sydney, Australia

Everything will kill you

Australia probably has the largest collection of dangerous things on the planet. From the box jellyfish to poisonous snakes like taipans, death adders, brown snakes and tiger snakes. Not to mention they have funnel spiders, blue ringed octopuses and even huge jumping bird eating spiders!

We swam in special Lycra bodysuits up north to protect us from jellyfish stings and only swam in beaches with shark nets down south.

However, we never shied away from walking trails or going on hikes, even at night. We had a few close calls with spiders, however we never saw a snake in the wild without being on a guided tour.

Interestingly, deaths from spider bites are extraordinarily rare.

Egg laying mammals are found here

There are only two egg laying mammals left in the entire world, and both can be found in Australia. These include the platypus and the spiny anteater echidna.

One of our favorite rare and unusual animal sightings ever was the platypus.

Since the platypus is known as hyper reclusive, we feared we wouldn’t be able to spot one. In truth, we found one the first place we looked and then spotted several more at different places the following days. Who knew?

That being said, our son’s favorite animal has always been the platypus, so you know we’ll be searching them out again next time we go.

Australia Facts for Kids. Oh, Australia! Australia has some of the weirdest animals in the world, plus it's also a continent, and it's the sixth biggest country in the world. We tell you all about the fun and interesting things we learned about Australia Australia Facts | Weird Australia Facts | Fun Australia Facts | Australia Travel #Australia #australianproblems #aussie #Australiakids

Lifeguards are incredibly important

Bondi Beach in Sydney, was home to the world’s first and longest running life saving club, the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club, that started in 1907 when several groups routinely patrolled the beaches around Sydney.

Though Bondi Beach wasn’t our favorite beach in Australia, it was definitely the most happening beach we came across. If you want to see and be seen, Bondi is definitely the place to be.

Busy Bondi Beach - Sydney

Bondi Beach in Sydney

The world’s tallest birds live here

There are some amazing birds in Australia, however, the red eyed emu and the blue feathered cassowary definitely top them all, at least when it comes to size. Some emus stand over 6.2 feet (1.9 meters) while the sometimes dangerous cassowary can grow to nearly the same size.

We saw a lot of emus while crossing the center of Australia, however the huge blue feathered cassowary is both an endangered species and supposedly impossible to find.

After talking to some locals, we drove into a national park and, as we got out of our van, there happened to be a big cassowary only a few feet in front of us. They’re known to be a little dangerous, so we got back in the van and watched him strut around for 15 minutes before he suddenly turned and disappeared back into the forest.

cassowary sign in Australia

The reptiles will eat you

Australia is home to over 750 different reptile species, which is more than any other country in the world.

Though we saw them numerous times, the huge saltwater crocodiles were always intimidating to us.

Well, they have been known to eat people! The turtles on the other hand, were always fun to watch.

Jumping Crocodile on the Adelaide River

Jumping Crocodile on the Adelaide River

It’s really, really, dry in the Outback

For all the water Australia gets along the coasts, the lack of water in the central outback of Australia makes it the driest continent on the planet excluding Antarctica.

Though the outback wasn’t as dry as we originally expected, we covered huge distances across the Australian outback with only a few scraggly trees and the occasional hopping kangaroo seen in the distance. To put it simply, it was dry enough to make me happy we always had spare water on hand.

The Outback is fairly empty

How isolated is the Outback?

And this is where our Australian facts get really weird. The Outback is so isolated that an obscure, but well bankrolled, Japanese Cult may … or may not … have detonated a nuclear bomb at Banjawarn Station, Western Australia back in 1993. No one knows for sure, because it just registered as a small 3.6 earthquake.

Not only is there not much flora in the Outback, but there aren’t many people either.

Here’s one of the most weird facts about Australia: with nearly 85% of the population in Australia living 50 miles or less from the coast, you can literally be the only person within a hundreds of square miles in the outback.

When we exited from the tanned emptiness of the outback, the greenery of the coastal areas shocked us every time.

Birds be crazy in Australia

Besides for the big birds of Australia, there are some regular sized Australian birds that are a both a joy to watch and hear. The parrots in the north are gorgeous and the silly antics of the widespread galah or rose-breasted cockatoo are fun to watch.

While the laughing call of the kookaburra is definitely a bird call you’ve never heard outside of Australia, one of the most haunting sounds in Australia has to be the cry of the Green Catbird. It sounds like a cross between a baby crying and a cat meowing.

Micki and I both nearly ran into the bush looking for this poor crying baby the first time we heard it. It wasn’t until we talked to some locals, who explained it was only a bird, that we relaxed. That said, it still made us look around every time we heard it.

Galah Flock at Alice Springs Australia

Galah Flock at Alice Springs Australia

There are cattle ranches bigger than Belgium

The Anna Creek Station in South Australia is the largest cattle ranch in the world. Bigger than either Israel or Belgium, it’s also 7 times as big as the famous King Ranch in Texas. It currently holds around 10,000 head of cattle and is run by only eight workers.

We drove through part of the Anna Creek Station when we took the offroad Oodnadatta Track to Coober Pedy. Our van wasn’t really outfitted for it, and we nearly got stuck a few times after a rare rainstorm, but it definitely gave us an appreciation for anyone living out there on their own.

Australians love their wine

There are over 2,000 wine producers throughout Australia and they export over 750 million liters a year to world markets. They also drink their fair share domestically.

Some of our favorite wines ever come from Australia and we spent weeks going from one winery to another tasting a bunch for ourselves. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, they don’t export their amazing port so, if you want to try some out for yourself, you’ll just have go to Australia yourself.

Australians love to abbreviate everything

Don’t believe us? Check out this video.

Australia Facts. After six months in Australia, we learned first hand that a lot of the fun and weird things we'd heard about Australia were true. Does Australia have some of the weirdest animals in the world? Yes. Are there termite mounds as tall as a building? Yes. We tell you all about the fun and interesting things we learned about Australia | Weird Australia Facts | Fun Australia Facts | Australia Facts for Kids | Australia Travel #Australia #australianproblems #aussie #Australiakids Weird Australia Facts. There's no getting around the fact that Australia is a weird, but wonderful place. From termite mounds as big as a building, to animals that defy description, we tell you all that's weird and cool about Australia. Australia Facts | Australia Facts for Kids | Cool Australia Facts | Fun Australia Facts | Australia Travel #Australia #australianproblems #aussie #Australiakids ]]> 0
Best things to do in Cancun Mexico Sun, 21 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0000 Cancun, found in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, is an area of beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and is teeming with a range of activities.

Over the years, we’ve spent many months in the Yucatan, Cancun’s home state, and have done just about everything there is to do in and around the region.

From enjoying the beaches of Cancun with the kids, golf carting around Isla Mujeres, and walking along Quinta Avenida in Playa Del Carmen, to swimming with turtles in Akumal, wandering the ruins down in Tulum, and crossing over to the lovely city of Merida. The list goes on.

Isla Mujeres with Cancun in Background

Look closely! You can see Cancun on the horizon. View from Isla Mujeres

A favourite of ours was when we took a ferry to Cozumel, and a bus then a high-speed ferry to Belize. All of these paradises originating from the Cancun and Playa Del Carmen area.

Some of our fondest memories of Cancun include hours spent on the many beaches, mornings exploring nearby cenotes and Mayan ruins with visiting friends, afternoons enjoying snorkeling as a family in underwater wildlife sanctuaries and visiting eco-theme parks.

We loved spending evenings watching amazing shows and hanging with the locals on Sundays, and spending warm days in parks and cooler days in malls, as well as going to far flung restaurants all along the coast and even over to Cozumel.

Cancun Mexico Tips. All the best things to do and see in or near Cancun, Mexico, from cenotes to shopping. We've spent months around Cancun and in the Riviera Maya, and dish on the best day trips, things to do in Cancun centrol and the Hotel Zone and more. What to do in Cancun Mexico | Que Hacer En Cancun Mexico | Mayan Riviera | #Cancun #Mexico #travel #traveltips #exploremore

We’re even so enamored with Mexico’s beautiful gulf coast that we’ve seriously considered buying property in Mexico on numerous occasions. Once the kids are on their own, Mexico’s Mayan Riviera area will likely be our winter home. We’re also always one click away from chartering a plane to Cancun with Air Charter Service (ACS) anytime we see a hint of snow here in Canada.

With all that said, we’ve discovered more than a few of the best things to do in Cancun, Mexico, along with the Mayan Riviera. Let us know which ones are your personal favorites!

ME Cancun

Best things to do in Cancun Mexico

Hit the beaches

It might seem obvious, but if you’re visiting Cancun, you’re likely here for the miles and miles of beautiful white sand beach and warm azure waters. Before all the other once sleepy fishing beaches along the coast followed suit, Cancun was welcoming visitors from all around the world to enjoy its 14 miles of pristine paradise.

The most popular beaches in Cancun include Playa Delfines (Dolphin Beach), Playa Forum, Playa Caracol, Playa Chac Mool, Playa Tortuga and Playa Del Nino. Generally, the waves are calmer on the northern side of the hotel zone, and the powder soft sand in Cancun can’t be beat.

Playa Delfines is a beautiful spot nestled away from the bustle of the regions many hotels. Around 20 km long, and home to the always busy Cancun sign you see in every other selfie coming out of Cancun, there are also many amenities, water sport rentals and a playground for kids here.

Playa Tortuga and Playa Del Nino are two family favorites since they’re on the far northern reach of the hotel strip. Both are protected by Isla Mujeres meaning the water is some of the calmest in Cancun – great for the little ones.

Playa Forum, situated at the northeasterly tip of hotel row, is famous for its party scene. While nearby Playa Chac Mool (Chac Mool Beach) has a nice set of free palapas to hide from the afternoon sun. The water at both places can be pretty rough, so make sure to watch the flags and lifeguards are letting people in the water.

Playa Caracol, slightly north and around the corner of Playa Forum, is another popular beach in Cancun. There aren’t a lot of amenities, but it’s a great place to stretch out on the public beach.

Note: All beaches are public in Mexico so you can walk anywhere along them. However, getting from the street to the water or finding parking can sometimes be a hassle. Most of the beaches in Cancun have hotels with private loungers set up everywhere, however you’re always free to pay for a seat in one of the many beach clubs or just drop a towel anywhere you want to be. They can’t stop you.

Kids on the Beach in Cancun at Chokmal

The kids on one of Cancun’s beautiful beaches

Go deep sea fishing

Cancun is a great jumping off point for deep sea fishing, with tons of options from which to choose. There’s always something biting no matter the season in Cancun, with Atlantic Sailfish, Blue and White Marlins, Grouper, Wahoo, Tuna and Red Snapfish all calling the waters around Cancun home. If you’re interested in deep sea fishing in Cancun, check out this  handy chart to let you know which fish is in season.

Take a day trip to Isla Mujeres

The closest of Cancun’s neighboring islands, Isla Mujeres is only a 15 minute ferry ride away, but it feels like another world with its roads filled with golf carts, smaller beaches and quaint eateries strewn about the island.

Journey to Isla Mujeres in the morning, rent a golf cart and drive the entire length of the island checking out the turtle sanctuary, Mayan ruins, some of the nicest ocean side cliffs in Mexico, as well as some unique snorkeling. Or experience the islands exhilarating zip line and watercraft that circles the island to gain a unique and fun view.

You can check out this post we wrote on Isla Mujeres for more hints on what to do once you get there.

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Go shopping

With Cancun’s gorgeous temperatures, why would you want to hit a mall? Well, besides for the occasional rainy day, and when that sunburn takes hold and you just can’t handle another hour in the sun, Cancun is accustomed to its global visitors boasting a ton of international shops to accommodate them.

As well as high end malls like Plaza Las Americas, La Isla Shopping Village and Luxury Avenue Cancun, there are outlet malls like Las Plazas Outlet Cancun, as well as handicraft stores like Ambarte, that feature gorgeous locally made hand crafted items. For the thrifty, or those looking for unusual finds, there are also plenty of flea markets and local handicraft markets all around Cancun.

Zooriders Cancun Plaza las Americas

The kids having fun in Plaza Las Americas

Go snorkeling or scuba diving

Want to get away from the beaches but love being in the water? Cancun offers snorkeling and scuba diving trips right from the town centre. Most head out towards Isla Mujeres while some go south towards Playa del Carmen. With warm clear blue waters, it’s easy to spot fish and coral.

If you want something a little different, consider going scuba diving to the MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum in Isla Mujeres. This is the largest underwater museum in the world, and seeing fish and coral make their homes among the hundreds of works of art is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Take a catamaran cruise

Prefer the water topside? There are plenty of ways to get out on the ocean that don’t involve getting your feet wet. Taking a catamaran cruise is one idea. There are plenty of boats to choose from family friendly boats to party boats. There’s even a pirate cruise featuring a live action pirate adventure. Most Cancun boat cruises include meals and alcohol so it’s up to you to decide if the party booze cruise, the family cruise or if a always romantic sunset cruise is more your speed.

Photo by Shinya Suzuki

Photo by Shinya Suzuki

Party the night away at Coco Bongo’s and enjoy Cancun’s wild nightlife

Love to party? Cancun is generally regarded as the party capital of the Mayan Riviera and as such it has a thriving night scene. From wild shows and antics at Cancun’s Coco Bongo’s to early morning nachos and cervezas at Carlos and Charlie’s there’s surely something in Cancun for the night time party animal. Cancun really gets wild during college Spring Break so if madness and mayhem are your thing, then book accordingly.

Rent a jet boat in Cancun

Catamaran not fast enough for you? Then maybe you want to rent a jet boat in Cancun and go on a jungle expedition. There are several companies in Cancun that rent two seater speed boats and take you on a follow the guide, hold onto your hat and ride with mad dashes through mangrove lagoons and rivers. You’ll also get a chance to snorkel along a gorgeous coral reef. We haven’t done this one yet, but rest assured it is on our list.

Things to do outside of Cancun

With so much happening all along the Mayan Riviera, limiting yourself to just staying in Cancun will mean you’re missing some of the best things to do on this side of Mexico. Playa del Carmen is only a forty minute drive from Cancun and even Tulum can be easily reached for a day trip.

Of course, you have the pyramids of Chichen Itza, the island of Cozumel, swimming with turtles down in Akumal and dozens of cenotes within easy reach of Cancun as well.

Playa del Carmen Mexico Quinta Aveneda Feliz Navidad

A rare quiet moment on Playa del Carmen’s Quinta Aveneda

If you like the comfort of knowing when you’re starting and when you’re returning on your excursions, there are hundreds of day tours available that will get you to where you want to be and save you the hassle of figuring it all out for yourself.

If you want to jump on one of the nice long distance buses or even one of the ridiculously cheap local buses, you can do that too. We’ve also rented cars to tour the peninsula and have taken both collectivos (local mini buses) as well as taxis on many occasions.

Quick recap of some of the best things to do outside Cancun

Some of our favorite things to do just outside Cancun include:

  • Visiting the popular Xcaret eco theme park (see our review here)
  • Exploring the newly opened Xenses park (see our thoughts on Xenses here)
  • Swimming with turtles in Akumal (see our guide on how to do it yourself here)
  • Visiting the ruins in Tulum (see how our day went here)
  • Taking the ferry to Cozumel (see things to do in Cozumel here)
  • Going swimming in limestone cenotes (see a day at a cenotes here)
  • Going for breakfast in Puerto Morelos (see how we fared here)
  • Just hanging with the locals in Playa Del Carmen (read about our love for Playa Del Carmen here).

Have kids with you and looking for things to do in Cancun with kids? Check out this post we wrote about things to do in Cancun with kids.

Have we missed anything? If you think there should be something added to our list of things to do in Cancun Mexico please let us know in the comments.

Things to do in Cancun. Our list of the best things to do and see in Cancun, with tips on exursions, activities and fun for all ages. Things to do in Cancun with Kids |Cancun excursions | Cancun activities | Cancun excursions | Things to do in Cancun Mexico | what to do in Cancun | Cancun activities | Cancun excursions | Cancun beaches | with kids | #Cancun #Mexico #travel #traveltips Things to do in Cancun Mexico. With years of time spent in Cancun and around the Riviera Maya, we share our favorite activities, excursions, and more around Cancun, Mexico. Cancun Mexcio Tips | Cancun Day Trips | What do do in Cancun | Cancun beaches |Things to do in Cancun as a couple | #Cancun #Mexico #travel #traveltips #exploremore ]]> 0
Things To Do in Vancouver With Kids Thu, 04 Jan 2018 01:30:00 +0000 Vancouver, one of Canada’s premiere destinations and wildly regarded as one of the world’s great cities, is also only a few hours away from our our place. As such, we’re in Vancouver several times a year with the family.

It’s a fantastic city, and there are plenty of things to do in Vancouver with the family, from indoor fun like the Vancouver Aquarium, to outdoor adventure by the ocean, to thrill seeking fun on either the Lynn Canyon or Capilano suspension bridges.

Things to do in Vancouver with kids

There are hundreds of fun things to do with kids in Vancouver, but we’ve picked the very best for this list.

The Vancouver Aquarium

The non-profit Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is committed to rehabilitation and re-release (wherever possible) of injured, ill or abandoned marine creatures. It also operates Ocean Wise, a conservation program that works directly with local restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers to ensure that they have the most current scientific information and to help them make ocean-friendly buying decisions.

The Vancouver Aquarium is Canada’s largest aquarium and home to over 58,000 animals. It’s a great place to take kids, with the new Discover Rays touch pool, and plenty of kid-friendly exhibits and play areas.

Vancouver Aquarium kids fun

Stanley Park

I’m not sure I can count how many times we’ve visited Stanley Park over the years. Quite handily, it’s right next to downtown and it also houses the Vancouver Aquarium. There are over 1000 acres here, with stunning views of Vancouver’s skyline, and plenty of room for kids to run free. It’s a special place that lets you glimpse the natural wonder of British Columbia’s coast in an urban setting. Be sure to take your time and wander through the giant Sequoia trees. If you love trees, Stanley Park won’t disappoint.

Ducks on Misty Beaver Lake Stanley Park Vancouver

First Nations heritage

The First Nations people of Vancouver have played a large role in preserving Stanley Park in its natural state. If you’re interested in First Nations culture, and especially the relationship between First Nations people with Northwest coast trees and plants, I’d highly recommend taking the Talking Trees tour with Talaysay Tours. It’s a two hour tour, and I was fascinated by our soft-spoken guide’s intimate and detailed knowledge. Just a note, this tour may be better suited to slightly older children.

Horse-drawn tours and railway tours

Everyone on these old-fashioned horse drawn carriages looks like they’re having a blast. The tour leaves from Coal Harbour, and a guide describes Stanley Park’s attractions, which include the Vancouver Harbour, Lions Gate Bridge, the cedar forest, totem poles, and Deadman’s Island and more.

The kids will also love the Stanley Park Miniature Railway and the Prospect Point totem poles.

Stanley Park beaches and more

Everyone in your group will love the miles of stunning boardwalks that line the rugged coast with walkers, joggers, bikers and rollerbladers all cruising by. There are also numerous beaches and beach volleyball courts set up along the shoreline.

Science World at TELUS World of Science

Kids adore Vancouver’s Science World, with it’s fun, hands-on interactive displays like Eureka!, as well as huge special events, OMNIMAX films and real life art exhibits. Even if you don’t go inside, there are plenty of free fun things to check out outside like the giant marble maze and the moving water stand.

With continually changing exhibits and galleries designed just for kids, there’s something new at Science World every time we go.

Vancouver Science Centre

Vancouver Seawall

The Vancouver Seawall is a 28 km (17 mile) long paved pathway that runs along the ocean front through most of metro Vancouver. Views are fantastic here, and it’s always busy with families and health enthusiasts. There are beaches, kids play structures and beach volleyball courts running along the seawall at various places so make sure you grab your swimsuit if you’re there in the summer months.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Kids will love this suspension bridge, which stretches 140 meters (over 450 feet) long and 70 meters (230 feet) high above the Capilano River. The only negatives I can say about it are that it can be busy, and that admission is steep at over $40 for an adult. Kids under six are free, though. As well as the bridge, there’s the Treetops Adventure, a decent collection of First Nations totem poles, rain forest ecotours, gardens, nature trails and the new cliff walk which lets you climb on the outside of a cliff along a slim cable suspension bridge.

The FREE Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

As an alternative to the pricey Capilano Suspension bridge, we like to visit the free Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. The lesser known (and free!) Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon Park is a solid alternative to the Capilano bridge and has some pretty pathways that cross the bridge and lead down to natural pools and waterfalls.

Granville Island

Granville Island, in Vancouver’s downtown district, is the city’s most popular tourist attraction. Both kids and adults usually love a visit.

The main attraction here is the bustling Granville Island public market, full of fresh fruit and veggies, pastries and breads, specialty coffee, ethnic specialty cuisine, and artisan handicrafts. There are also almost 300 stores on Granville Island itself.

As well as the shops, there’s almost always some sort of show being performed on Granville Island. Whether that’s buskers blowing enormous water bubbles for the kids, musicians playing everything from bongos to reed instruments to banjos to dance troupes performing acrobatic stunts, there’s always something there to entertain the kids.

Vancouver Foodie Tours The Best of what to see do and eat in Vancouver British Columbia

Granville Island is surrounded by lovely views of the waters of False Creek and the Burrard Street Bridge. There are marinas and boats all along the shore front here. Also, be sure to take some time to walk by the floating water homes just east of the public market.

Getting to Granville Island

You can either cross the Granville Island bridge on car or on foot (it’s a very long walk by foot) however parking is very limited on Granville Island. As such, most people take an Aquabus Ferry to get there.

The kids will also love cruising around False Creek on the Granville Island Ferries, which runs a fleet of adorable, mini ferries that buzz back and forth between small docks around False Creek and Granville Island. It’s also the easiest way to get to Granville Island if you’re walking in from downtown.

Aquabus at Granville Island Vancouver

The Kids’ Market

Be sure to check out the kid’s market on Granville Island! It’s housed in a large, yellow building, and packed with toy shops and a busy play area. Your kids will love it, but your wallet probably won’t so take that as you will.

The Granville Island Water Park

Despite Granville Island’s small size, they’ve managed to build the largest free water park in North America. It’s open all summer and is a great place to chow down on all the goodies you picked up at the public market.

Kitsilano Beach

Located right downtown, Kitsilano beach is a long swath of soft, gold sand that peeks out over beautiful English Bay.

There’s plenty of fun to be had here resting on huge logs along the beaches, beachcombing for shells and playing in the golden sand. There’s also a playground right there with park benches for the parents and beach volleyball nets set up, ten tennis courts, as well as basketball courts.

Vanier Park

Kitsilano Beach, or Kits Beach as the locals call it, is next to expansive, leafy Vanier Park, which is home to the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the City of Vancouver Archives, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. There’s plenty of grass and space here, making it perfect for a relaxing day under the trees. If you visit during summer, check to see if the International Children’s Festival is happening in the park which is a popular festival for kids every summer.

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

Kitsilano Pool

You’ve likely seen photos of this outdoor, heated salt water pool with city and mountains in the background. It’s only open in the summer, and there’s a place for little kids in the shallows.

Cuddle cats at the Catfe

Catfe is Vancouver’s first cat cafe, featuring adoptable cats from the BC SPCA! Animal loving kids will adore a visit here, but since it’s hugely popular, make sure to make an online reservation as soon as you can since it’s usually booked up days in advance.

Catfe Vancouver

Saving money on your trip to Vancouver

Vancouver’s beautiful and fun, sure, but it can also be a bit pricey. Here’s little list of ways to save some cash in Vancouver.

Attractions near UBC

During our last visit to Vancouver, we stayed on the UBC (University of British Columbia) Campus, at the lovely West Coast Suites at UBC. If you’re looking for a quieter pace, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Museum of Anthropology (MOA) and the Greenheart TreeWalk at the UBC Botanical Garden may be just the ticket.

Tip! If you’re planning to visit several UBC attractions, look into the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass. You can buy adult, concession (senior, youth or student) or family passes. The pass gives you admission to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Nitobe Memorial Garden and the UBC Botanical Garden. It also gives discounts on food, books, clothing and the fun Canopy Treewalk.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

An enormous blue whale skeleton is the first thing you’ll notice at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Inside, we were fascinated by a dated, but interesting, documentary on how the blue whale skeleton was found, unearthed, and installed. The vault-like downstairs houses more than two million specimens of plants, marine invertebrates, insects, fish, vertebrates, fungi, and fossils. Kids with a naturalist or scientific bent will love this place.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Greenheart TreeWalk and the UBC Botanical Garden

Our kids had a blast tearing along this 310 metre (1,000 foot) long canopy walkway. It’s not as tall or scary as the Capilano or Lynn Canyon Suspension bridges, but the multiple walkways make it a lot of fun for kids. At its tallest, it’s almost 20 metres (65 feet) above the forest floor.

Tip! The Greenheart TreeWalk is not included in the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass, but the pass offers a 10% discount on the treewalk.

The Greenheart TreeWalk is in the larger UBC Botanical Garden, which covers about 110 acres (44 hectares) and has over 8,000 different plants. We loved the long, winding trails through big, shady trees, as it gave the kids (and us!) a chance to burn off some energy.

Greenheart TreeWalk at UBC Botanical Gardens

Museum of Anthropology (MOA)

If your kids are a little older, they may appreciate the beautiful Museum of Anthropology (MOA). Inside, there are stunning displays of First Nations totem poles plus 38,000 ethnographic objects, as well as 535,000 archaeological objects. The MOA building, designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson, is a gem in itself.

Museum of Anthropology Vancouver

The best family accommodation in Vancouver

Deciding where to stay in Vancouver with a family can be a bit tricky. All of the accommodation downtown can be a bit pricier, but it’s a good choice if you want to be near the city’s main attractions. We’ve picked our favorite downtown hotels, an excellent choice just out of the center, as well as a great airport hotel, and our best value option out of the downtown.

The Perfect Location – Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

A couple of years ago, our little family stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver for two very happy days.

It’s a gorgeous hotel in a perfect location downtown across from Canada Place, and it caters perfectly to families. Our kids loved sitting in the room looking out over the harbor to watch float planes land and take off, and cruise ships like the Disney Wonder dock. Rooms are modern and beautiful, with plenty of room for little ones to run about, and it has every amenity you would want, from a heated outdoor pool to a spacious gym to quality dining downstairs. There’s even a rooftop herb garden and beehives that you can visit!

See prices and availability.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

The relaxed family hotel – West Coast Suites UBC

Don’t get me wrong, we love Vancouver’s downtown. It’s interesting and vibrant, with plenty to do and see. However, downtown’s not always a kid friendly place. When the kids were a bit younger, we were in town for a wedding, and got a hotel a close to Granville Street. On the way back to the hotel from the reception, with our then nine and six year olds in tow, we had to dodge a lot of drunk and rowdy folks so choose your place accordingly.

Needless to say, we were up for a hotel that was a bit more relaxed the next time we visited the city.

West Coast Suites at UBC was a perfect choice, with its location out of the downtown core, and surrounded by quiet grounds. Driving to the hotel, you’ll see the spacious UBC campus to one side, and get peeks of British Columbia’s stunning Pacific Coast on the other.

All of the rooms at West Coast Suites at UBC are one bedroom units with a full kitchen and a pull-out Queen bed for the kids. You can read more about our West Coast Suites stay here.

See prices and availability.

West Coast Suites UBC living area

West Coast Suites UBC living area

The airport choice – Fairmont Vancouver Airport In-Terminal Hotel

The Fairmont Vancouver Airport In-Terminal Hotel is Vancouver’s only in-terminal airport hotel. It gets great ratings, and might be worth the splurge if you’re looking for a little luxury at the airport. There’s a surcharge for WiFi.

See prices and availability here.

The budget downtown option

If you’re looking for a budget hotel in the heart of downtown, Robson Suites and Sunset Inn and Suites both get good reviews.

We haven’t stayed in either because they’re always infuriatingly fully booked far in advance, but they’re both smaller boutique hotels that should run you close to, or under, $120 a night for a double room. Both hotels include free WiFi, but Robson Suites is closer to Stanley Park (but doesn’t include breakfast, though rooms have a kitchen or kitchenette), while Sunset Inn is right next to Stanley Park (and includes breakfast in the rate).

See Robson Suites availability.

Check Sunset Inn and Suites availability.

A bit of a drive, but great value – Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Riverport Richmond

If you’re up for taking the SkyTrain or driving into downtown Vancouver, and want to save a few $$, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Riverport Richmond is an affordable, clean option. We stayed here for a few days a few years ago, and would stay again. It’s a pretty standard chain hotel, but clean and new, with free breakfast, free airport shuttle, fast, free WiFi, and a pool and hot tub.

See prices and availability here.

The Hidden Gem – The hotel on Granville Island

Granville Island Hotel is one of Vancouver’s less known gems. It’s a boutique hotel located right on Granville Island, overlooking the water, and gets great reviews.

Check prices and reviews here.


As a family, we love staying in Airbnb properties. We always rent a condo or house, which gives us a kitchen, more bedrooms, and often an extra bathroom. The price you’ll pay varies on location and size, but a small private studio starts at around $60/night downtown, while a private two bedroom starts at around $100.

Create a new account using this link, and get $35 USD in Airbnb credits the first time you use them. (We get a credit, too).

Vancouver fun with kids

How to get around Vancouver as a family

Whether you drive, grab the efficient Skytrain, or take a scenic SeaBus, there are plenty of transportation options for families in Vancouver.

SeaBus to North Vancouver

This is relaxing, affordable ride across Burrard Inlet, and gives you a lovely view of Stanley Park, the Lions Gate bridge, and mountains on the distance. Kids will love watching float planes land and watching the other boats on the water.


Vancouver public transit includes the SeaBus (above). To get to Vancouver Island or the other off coast islands, you can take a ferry with BC Ferries.

Granville Island has its own ferry company, Granville Island Ferries, with a fleet of adorable, mini ferries that buzz back and forth between small docks around False Creek and Granville Island.

Hop-on, Hop-off Sightseeing

We haven’t had a chance to take the hop-on, hop-off trolley downtown, but our kids’ eyes light up every time they see it drive by. I’m sure it’ll be a huge hit!

Wee ones are thrilled to see Vancouver from an old-fashioned trolley or an open-air bus. With fully narrated tours, Vancouver’s hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tours give a great overview of the city, along with giving families the flexibility to make stops whenever suits them. Hop off to explore all the downtown attractions, then hop back on again to continue to the next exciting destination.

Vancouver Downtown Vancouver Trolley Hop on Hop off Tour


Driving around downtown Vancouver is certainly possible, and we’ve done it many times. As long as you’re not visiting during a major event, there are usually enough parkades to handle the traffic. Just be warned: traffic can get highly congested during rush hour or if there’s an accident. Parking is also one of the most expensive in Canada and runs $10 to $30 a day in downtown Vancouver, depending on your location.


Most visitors to Vancouver take advantage of the Skytrain service around the city. The system is quick, efficient (trains leave the downtown stations every two to five minutes) and covers most of the city. You can take the Skytrain out to the suburbs, and scenic Westminster Quay on the way to (not so scenic) Surrey.

Public transit

Aside from the ubiquitious Skytrain, Vancouver has a large fleet of buses that cover most of the city and are a great option if you’re staying at UBC.

Uber and Lyft

As of January 2018, ride sharing apps like Uber or Lyft aren’t available in British Columbia, but there are suggestions that may change soon.

Have you visited Vancouver with kids? What were your favorite Vancouver attractions for the family?

Things to do in Vancouver with Kids We travel to Vancouver several times a year with the family. There's always so much to do, including walking or biking the seawall, having fun at the aquarium or hiking through Stanley Park | Vancouver Travel | Vancouver BC Canada | Vancouver with kids | Vancouver with Family #Vancouver #BC #travel Things to do in Vancouver with Kids There are hundreds of things to do in Vancouver with the kids, from indoor fun like the Vancouver Aquarium, to outdoor adventure by the ocean, to thrill seeking fun on the Lynn Canyon or Capilano suspension bridge. | Vancouver Travel | Vancouver BC Canada | Vancouver with kids | Vancouver with Family #Vancouver #BC #travel ]]> 1
When is The Best Time To Visit Dubai? It’s Not When You Think Tue, 19 Dec 2017 22:00:00 +0000 Wondering when is the best time to visit Dubai?

Spoiler: It’s not when you think.

Well, the truth is you can go anytime, but to really have the best experience, you want to be there when the weather isn’t too hot, so you can hit the beaches as well as the mile long designer malls.

Since air conditioning is common throughout the city, and people do in Dubai year round, it’s definitely accessible for most of the year.

When should i visit Dubai As such, the only drawback to visiting Dubai in the winter is that it also coincides with their busiest season. With that kind of weather and so many unique things to do in Dubai, it’s no wonder everyone wants to visit during winter.

However, if you really want to enjoy your trip, the best time to visit Dubai is from early November to late March. That’s when the average highs make going outdoors a joy, and give you plenty of things to see and do both inside and outside the city.

The Best Time to Visit Dubai

Already sold on booking a trip to Dubai? Then check out hotel and flight deals for getting to Dubai on the biggest travel search site in the Middle East, Wego. If you’re still not convinced, read on!

Dubai’s weather

It’s no secret that Dubai is a hot place. Both figuratively and literally. Temperatures routinely go above 105°F or 40 Celsius over their summer (June to September) while daily highs during winter hit the low 80s and high 70s. That’s plenty high for hitting world famous Jumeirah Beach or spending the afternoon driving the nearby sand dunes in the adjacent desert.

Dubai white sand beaches and skyscrapers in the distance

Dubai Beaches

If you’re still not convinced about the best time to visit Dubai, just remember that Dubai is nicknamed the Desert City for a reason. Dubai literally lies in the middle of the Arabian Desert. As such, there’s no shortage of sand, and though the days can get hot, the nights definitely stay cool outside of their hot summer season.

Dubai is also naturally a dry place, and you can expect nothing but sunshine most days of the year. That said, it does get damp in the hot summer months, so there’s another reason to go to Dubai during the winter.

Dubai’s tourist season or high season

What’s the best season to visit Dubai?

It stands to reason that Dubai’s largest tourist season coincides with the weather. Dubai’s high season runs from November to March as well.

As such, the only drawback to visiting Dubai in the winter is that it also coincides with their busiest season. With that kind of weather, and so many unique things to do in Dubai, it’s no wonder everyone wants to visit during winter.

Airfare  and hotel prices reach their peak prices during Dubai’s high season. However, the big plus is that everything is open during the winter in Dubai. Lots of shops and attractions close down during their summer months when most people aren’t willing to brave the heat.

That means that if you go from November to March you’ll get a chance to visit any of Dubai’s three3 water parks as well as the hugely popular Global Village. There’s also LEGOLAND Dubai (read our review of LEGOLAND Florida here) and the world’s largest indoor theme park, the IMG Worlds of Adventure. You can also get your Bollywood on at Dubai’s Bollywood Park!

Global Village Dubai

Global Village Dubai

Dubai’s shoulder season

Dubai’s shoulder seasons, which are unofficially April/May and then September/October, can get pretty warm. If you love the heat, this might be the best time to travel to Dubai, since things quiet down in the city around this time. That means shorter lineups at the attractions and better deals for flights and hotels.

It’s also a great time to enjoy mornings at the beach and early evenings walking around Dubai’s marina and boardwalks. Dubai truly comes alive as the sun sets.

Of course, it also means that certain places and attraction are either shut down or on reduced hours, so you have to weigh everything out. If you want to see Dubai in all its glory, while also working heavily on your tan, while also saving a few dollars, then Dubai’s shoulder season might be for you.

Dubai Marina at night with lighted walkways and anchored boats

Dubai Marina at night

Dubai’s low season

Don’t like the outdoors anyway or just love a great deal? Then Dubai’s low season, which runs from June to September, might be for you. Sure, lots of things are closed down due to the summer heat, but the world class malls and shops are still open and you can get some killer deals on everything from flights and hotels to store wide sales.

Even better, you can often score some fantastic deals on airfare during low season.

If you’re more highbrow, Dubai has you covered as well. Dubai isn’t known as the cultural center of the Middle East for nothing. There are dozens of galleries, art exhibits, cinemas, music halls, cafes and clubs all around the city that aren’t as dependent on the weather. You can also do everything from indoor skiing to indoor skydiving in Dubai year round, and still enjoy early mornings at the beach and late nights walking along the paved paths and boardwalks along the Persian Gulf.

Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall

Best time to go to Dubai

No matter which season you head to Dubai, there’s bound to be something for you to do in this cosmopolitan, man-made marvel of a city.

In winter, you can enjoy sand boarding down the slopes of Big Red, the colorful 91 meter high sand dune just outside the city, or traveling back in time and enjoying the rich scents, sights and sounds of the ancient souks still found at the heart of Dubai.

In the shoulder season, you can visit any of Dubai’s theme parks and enjoy the empty lines, as well as carefree mornings basking in the Arabian sunshine along the miles of Persian Gulf beaches, while still enjoying the marvels of Dubai at night.

In Dubai’s hot summer season, you can forego the lines and prices and enjoy everything a cultured city like Dubai has to offer. Just realize that you’ll want to spend all your time inside to fully enjoy the city in the summer months.

In short, Dubai has something for everyone all year long and having the third busiest airport in the world means that getting to Dubai is as easy as booking your airfare.

Looking for something unique to do in Dubai? Check out our post on unique things to do in Dubai here.

Where to stay in Dubai!

The Dubai luxury hotel

If you’re looking for a luxury hotel in Dubai with a beach and Spa, you can’t do much better than the highly rated Nikki Beach Resort and Spa Dubai. It’s gorgeous, rates well, and many rooms include breakfast. Just be ready to shell out $500 a night or more.

See availability and prices.

The Affordable Alternative

The Dusit D2 Kenz Hotel Dubai is a solid budget choice. It’s got free WiFi and free parking, and often comes in at under $100 a night, and gets great ratings for staff, location, and large rooms.

See prices here.

The family hotel

The Jerimiah Creekside Hotel rates extremely well with families. It has large rooms, good staff, plus fast check in. It should run abour $150 a night.

See prices here.

The Hostel

You can’t do much better than Dubai’s At the Top Hostel. There are Privates, Twins, Quadruples as well as Female/Male/Mixed Dormitories for 2, 4, 6 & 8 guests, and it’s a few minutes walk to the public beach with famous Barasti beach bar. WiFi and breakfast are free.

See prices and availability.

at the top hostel dubai

UAE society celebrates the return of British Polo Day | Dubai

British Polo on Camel

The Best Time to Visit Dubai Since air condition is rampant throughout the city, and people do live there year round, it’s definitely accessible for most of the year however, if you really want to enjoy your trip, the best time to visit Dubai is from early November to late March. Dubai - when to visit. Well, the truth is you can go anytime but to really maximize your experience, you want to be there when the weather isn’t too hot so you can hit the beaches as well as the mile long designer malls. ]]> 1
Marival Residences Luxury Resort Review: Family Friendly Luxury Tue, 28 Nov 2017 18:00:00 +0000 marival sponsored disclosure

Last year, I was lucky enough to spend a few days at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit. So, this year, when Marival invited the whole family along to check out their Family Emotion Program we were happy to join in.

When you need a break, sometimes an all inclusive hotel is the perfect choice. Winter was creeping in on us in Canada, and the idea of a stress-free vacation somewhere with a long stretch of beach and some nice warm swimming pools sounded like exactly what we needed.


Why a special family program? If you’ve ever traveled with kids, you know that it’s a completely different experience than traveling alone or as a couple. Days of lounging on the beach and partying the night away are long gone, and replaced by playtime in the sand and mid-afternoon naps (it’s not all bad).

How much does it cost? Click here to find out.

The Family Emotion Program at Marival does a really good job of figuring out what parents and kids want. There are plenty of fun activities, a concierge to help organize your trip, and goodies for both the parents and the kids!

The Marival Family Emotion program

Marival’s all-inclusive Family Emotion program is just for families. It includes a ton of goodies, all which are customized for your family’s needs. I’m pretty sure they thought of absolutely everything!

Family concierge service

I think the very best part of the program is that each family gets a family concierge to help with their stay. Our Family Emotion concierge, Raquel, was absolutely wonderful. She was attentive to us (but never intrusive), and always helpful and welcoming. We had absolutely first class service from her – as good as any hotel we’ve ever stayed in.

Welcome basket

Inside our room, we found a welcome basket of healthy and sweet snacks. With hungry kiddos, this was the perfect welcome!

snack basket at hotel

A stocked mini-bar with family goodies

Our full size fridge came stocked with soda, beer, juice, yogurt and chocolate milk! Even better, it was refilled every day and we could request just about anything from the resort.

Marival suite kitchen fridge

Nanny Service!

Yes, you heard me right: up to eight hours of child care is included during your stay (conditions apply). That means that if you want to go out together for anything from a special meal to a few hours at the spa you can knowing your children are in good hands.

Kids Club

Every day from 9 am to 5 pm, you have the option of dropping your kids off at the kids club. They can play video games, do crafts, and have a lot of fun while you enjoy a few kid free hours.

Gifts for the kids!

There was an adorable bath basket in the kid’s bathroom, waiting for each child. This included some tub toys and some special child friendly bath products.

kid's gift basket

Pampering for Mom

Our room came with a gorgeous basket of high end L’Occitane pampering essentials for Mom, and a gift certificate for the on-site spa (more on that later!)

moms gift basket

Beach essentials and toys

In our suite, we also found a bag filled with sunscreen and beach essentials, plus a family menu to help us select from a broad choice of beach and pool toys, as well as other vacation essentials. Once you’ve selected from the list, pass the form back to the Family Emotion concierge and they’ll deliver everything right to your room.

Family picnic

One of the great Family Emotion options at Marival Residences is that you can order a fully prepared picnic for wherever you like. You can have it delivered to the beach or by the pool. We had ours dropped off in our room to enjoy beside our semi private demi pool. The chocolate cake dessert where a huge hit with the kids and we enjoyed the mountain of guacamole they included in our specially made picnic basket.Our Marival Family Emotion picnic

In Room Family fun!

When we ventured out on our own, our kids adored the free Xbox console and game rental they provided. There are also DVD players, movies, electronics, water toys and more available via the Family Emotion program.

Outdoor family fun!

As well as the kid pool and the always entertaining splash pad, Marival Residences also has a playground area and they even rent out free bikes so you and the family can go for a family excursion. The best news, a few of them are 3 seaters so even the littlest riders don’t get left behind.

A family photo shoot

I couldn’t remember the last time that we had a family photo shoot!

The Family Emotion Program comes with a professional photo shoot, with a photo album and CD, plus a gift card to develop prints when you’re back home.

We were very happy with our family photo session. The sky was a little cloudy however the photos turned out beautifully and the photographer was fun to work with.

a photo from our family photo session

Included Tours and fun!

The Family Emotion package comes with a free off site activity for every person, as well as a free second family tour.

There are numerous options to choose from so went zip lining as a family, and also had a blast driving on a little RAZR off road vehicle over a giant swinging suspension bridge.

RAZR car over the river

Want to learn more? Check out our article on what to do in the Riviera Nayarit, with 23 wonderful experiences, from visiting the bustling surfing town of Sayulita, to checking out the idyllic vibe of San Pancho, to snorkeling the aquamarine waters off Marietas Islands (where you can see birds like blue-footed boobies of Galapagos Islands fame).

Zip lining fun


Our room at Marival Residences

Our two bedroom Family Emotion suite with a semi private demi-pool was a whopping 1,711 square feet. That’s huge!

When we walked into the nicely air conditioned space, we saw a modern open-plan living space with a full kitchen, dining area and a living room with a large flatscreen TV.

The two bedrooms each had a private en-suite bathroom, plus each had a flatscreen TV. Our master bedroom had a lovely deep bath and King-size bed, while the kid’s room had two double beds.

Marival master bedroom

We even had our own private washer and dryer, plus our ground floor suite had outdoor lounge chairs by the pool as well as a patio table and chairs.

Marival bedroom

The kiddos loved the fridge filled with drinks, and the fruit and snack basket. Anyone with kids knows they get hungry at the most inconvenient times so that was a huge plus when the kiddos were feeling peckish.

Marival kitchen

What about maid service? Yep, it’s included. Our daily cleaning service was always on time, and did a great job. They also provide turn down service complete with tasty little snacks like chocolate or cookies.

All of the Family Emotion accommodation is in two or three bedroom suites, with the option of an ocean view, a demi-pool, a penthouse suite, or even a three bedroom private villa.

In our demi pool ...

In our heated demi pool …

The Hotel

There’s definitely something wonderful about an all-inclusive, no worries vacation. Once we donned our cool, braided bracelets from the Marival Residences Luxury Resort, we could eat and drink all we wanted. Not only could we enjoy all of the facilities at our resort, we also had access to the nearby Marival Resort’s facilities and restaurants.

This is a great deal, as you essentially get two resorts facilities for the price of one. The Marival Resort sister hotel is just five minutes away. There’s a free shuttle that runs every 15 minutes from the main lobby and the Marival Resort also has a special area devoted just to the Marival Residences as well as the rest of the resort.

WiFi: There’s WiFi Internet access throughout Marival Residences Luxury Resort. I had great luck with my connection, which rarely dropped, and worked reliably in my room and all throughout the resort. That said, if you find your internet connection to be slow, ask for an upgrade, as they do have faster speeds available.

The Food at Marival Residences

In general, we found the food quality well above what we’ve had at a typical all inclusive in Mexico.

The all inclusive program includes all snacks, breakfast, lunch, drinks and a la carte dinner specialties, plus national and international brand drinks.

There are five restaurants on site, plus the VIP beach club, room service and poolside service, in addition to six restaurants at the sister resort, Marival Resort & Suites.

As vegetarians, the kids and I were very happy. There were always vegetarian options available, which is wonderful, because we often have a difficult time at resorts!

There’s really not much bad to say about the food here, but we’d love to see a few more family friendly menu items always available at the hotel, like pasta or pizza. Since the menu for the Lemmon Grass was a set menu, there wasn’t a lot for kids there. When we went inside to Omaggio, the theme night was Asian, and like many US and Canadian kids, ours don’t love Asian foods. When we went upstairs to Insu, we found a few items that the kids loved, but it would be nice if the main restaurant, Omaggio, always had a few kids’ items available, or a separate kids menu.

Room Service!

Room service is included with the all-inclusive package at Marival, though you do pay a 10% surcharge. Being able to get room service 24 hours a day, seven days a week was one of my favorite parts of staying at the Marival Residences. The kids loved it too!

We had great luck with room service, as it came quickly and everything was the correct temperature and quite tasty. Our room was close to the main lobby, so that may have made it especially fast. Their breakfasts were especially tasty.

Insu Sky Lounge

Insu was my favorite restaurant at Marival Residences Luxury Resort. It’s located in the penthouse of the main building, above the lobby, with an impressive view overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Menu items are all bite size to share, and we all found everything to be delicious. My kids adored the bite sized Caesar salad and especially the grilled cheese while Charles raved about their great sliders.


The largest restaurant at Marival Residences is Omaggio. The menu is huge, with a great selection, and it offers a themed evening menu for each day of the week.

Lemmon Grass

Located outdoors, Lemmon Grass is a casual and elegant poolside restaurant. It has a set menu at night however the menu varies by day.

Lemmon Grass Restaurant Marival Residences

Grill al Fresco

Grill al Fresco is outside by the pool, and has plenty of dishes for breakfast, including Mexican delights, an omelette station, and a selection of fruits, juice and pastries. At night the Grill al Fresco transforms into a barbecue.

Brunello Lobby Wine Bar

Brunello Lobby Wine Bar is a lovely, intimate spot to enjoy tapas and a glass of wine (some wines are not included in the all-inclusive plan).

Poolside snack service

If you’re in the mood for a snack by the pool, just wave over a server, and they’ll bring you snacks and drinks poolside. Our family can wholeheartedly recommend the chips and dip as well as the fries. The guacamole everywhere in the hotel is extraordinary!

Mozzamare Beach Club

The brand new, ocean side Mozzamare Beach Club serves up (my favorite!) tasty guacamole and chips, fresh seafood as well as gourmet dishes and beverages. They were still partly under construction when we were there however the area was already looking gorgeous and, judging by all the smiling people, a huge hit with the crowds.

Mozzamare beach club

Mozzamare Beach Experience

There’s beach access, a Palapa Restaurant and another gorgeous pool here, and this beach section is only a few minutes walk from the main area, conveniently on site at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort. Charles and Cole both grabbed a free boogie board and enjoyed the waves while we all enjoyed watching dolphins jumping out of the water in front of us. The Mozzamare beach club is new this year, and it’s a fantastic addition from my trip last year.

We also enjoyed a special night time celebration at the Mozzamare Restaurant and think that it would be the perfect location for an outdoor wedding!

Food at the sister Marival Resort

Guests of the Marival Luxury Residences can also eat at the sister hotel, the Marival Resort. The Marival Resort has several restaurants, including La Pergola (the large buffet restaurant), Piazzetta del Forni (thin crust pizza), Las Palmas (Mexican cuisine), La Palapa and Miramar Bars, La Bamba Rodizio, and Amalfi (Italian).

The Melange World Spa

If you’re a spa lover, then the onsite Melange World Spa is for you. The spa treatments and decorations are based on therapies from around the world so if you love choices, then this is the spa for you!

At Melange, you can enjoy a specialized World Spa Experience from Mexico, Italy, Japan, Turkey, Russia, Bali, India, Thailand, or the USA. Each spa is unique, and based on the spa history and culture for which it’s named.

Italy Spa at Melange World Spa Marival Luxury Resort and Residences

Italy Vendimia Wine Experience

We had a wonderful time with the family spa package. Both of our kiddos (aged eight and twelve), enjoyed a facial and massage with us. I think that our daughter may have found one of her new favorite things to do on vacation.

Our little girl enjoying a chocolate facial

Our little girl enjoying a chocolate facial

If you’re interested in a few of the other World Spa experiences, these two definitely stand out as all around faves:

The Italy Vendimia Wine Experience starts with a wine therapy bath in an original wooden winebarrel, where you enjoy a wine tasting, followed by a full body relaxing massage.

The India Shirodhara Spa Experience includes a Shirodhara treatment with herbal oil that is poured in a steady stream onto your third eye, and a gentle scalp massage to help relax the nervous system. All of this is done on a traditional wooden table (with padding to make it comfortable) that was imported from India. Following the oil treatment, there’s an Abhyanga therapy whole body massage with warm herbal oils, followed by a steaming hot water bath in a luxurious copper tub.

Melange World Spa India Shirodhara Experience

India Shirodhara Spa Experience

All of the spa treatments are uniquely customized to the area of the world where they originated. For instance, the Mexico Agave treatment (which I enjoyed last time) featured a facial and body wrap with the native agave plant, cacao, honey, aloe vera, and Mayan mud, with a facial and body exfoliation and a light body massage. There’s also a specialized couples massage, or a men’s wellness & renewal treatment.

Melange World Spa Couples Massage room.jpg

Couples Massage

Melange also offers traditional spa treatments, including facials as well as hand and foot treatments.

Marival Residences Family Emotion

The beach in nearby Sayulita

Where is Riviera Nayarit?

The Riviera Nayarit, which includes Nuevo Vallarta, is the northern neighbor of well-known Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s ruggedly beautiful Pacific Coast. The Puerto Vallarta airport actually serves both areas and is actually closer to Marival Residences (around 15 minutes) in Nayarit than some of the downtown hotels on the Jalisco state side.

The bottom line

Like many Canadians, we’ve been to many all-inclusive resorts, and we’ve visited Mexico many times over the years.

The Family Emotion Program at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort was, hands down, one of the very best family programs we’ve ever enjoyed. It’s a perfect place to visit for a stress-free, relaxing holiday with the kids!

Want to book? Just head over to the Marival website to book directly with the hotel.

We even have a great deal for you with the Marival 100 Free Extra Ahhs promotion.

You can get a $100 Spa Credit to relax and celebrate the brand new Marival Residences Beach World! There’s a 5 night minimum stay.

You need to know:

Hotel: Marival Residences Luxury Resort

Where to book? You can book directly with the hotel.

Online Reviews: TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Address: Av. Paseo Cocoteros Lt 53 Villa 8, 63732 Nuevo Vallarta, Nay., Mexico

Location: Half-hour drive from downtown Puerto Vallarta

Nearest Airport: 15 minute drive from Puerta Vallarta’s PVR airport, the Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport

Phone: +52 322 226 9740

This trip was in partnership with Marival Residences Luxury Resort and the Riviera Nayarit tourism board.

Riviera Nayarit All Inclusive Family Luxury Hotel Riviera Nayarit All Inclusive hotel ]]> 0
Things to do in Isla Mujeres Sat, 25 Nov 2017 18:00:00 +0000 It’s no secret that we love Isla Mujeres on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Warm blue waters, fantastic beaches, good snorkeling, and a great selection of restaurants all make Isla Mujeres a must see if you’re on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera.

Located only a short 20 minute ferry ride from Cancun, Isla Mujeres makes a great day trip and an even greater longer mini escape from your Cancun vacation.

Oh yeah, have I mentioned you can drive the entire island on a golf cart, in half a day? We did it the first time a few years ago and it’s still one of our favorite family travel highlights.

Beach in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Likewise, if you find yourself down in Playa Del Carmen, Akumal, Tulum or even staying on Cozumel, then Isla Mujeres is pretty easy and inexpensive to get to. We’ve done the trip from Playa del Carmen more than a few times now and have enjoyed our trip to Isla Mujeres every single time.

Now, we’ve written about Mexico‘s Isla Mujeres a few times over the years and, to be honest, not much has changed. Of course it’s grown, but that only means more golf cart rentals and more options. We don’t find that it’s gotten any busier and it seems there’s just more to do there these days with a lot more places to rent from.

Isla Mujeres

Things to do in Isla Mujeres Mexico

So, without any further ado, here are our things to do in Isla Mujeres.

Rent a golf cart on Isla Mujeres

Haha, if you read our previous Isla Mujeres post you don’t think I’d miss this one. There are now dozens of golf cart rental companies on Isla Mujeres, and though they do still occasionally run out during the holidays and busiest times of the year, most days you’re fine as long as you arrive before noon.

You can pretty much drive to every place on the island, and if you’re there for multiple days, you can spend lazy afternoons on different beaches every day. You can walk or take a taxi most places on the island, but if you want true freedom, rent a golf cart and enjoy yourself.

Sea birds at Isla Mujeres

Relax on the beaches on Isla Mujeres

Since we just talked about beaches, there are around six semi-official major beaches on Isla Mujeres and a bunch of smaller ones. Some, like Playa Norte, feature bars and beach chairs and on many you can rent SUPs, kayaks, water toys and even snorkeling equipment.

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte (North Beach) is by far the most popular and is often rated one of the best in the Caribbean. Playa Norte is just minutes from downtown, and the palm trees and luxurious white sand make Playa Norte muy hermosa. Playa Norte has almost no current, and kids and adults can wade pretty far out and the water will only reach their waist.

Playa Posada, found along the west side isn’t as crowded, however the water isn’t as clear, and Playa Media Luna is a beautiful crescent shaped beach but the water can be rough.

Playa Indios, Playa Paraiso and Playa Lancheros are all more secluded beaches found on the west side facing Cancun. You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas there, and open air restaurants, gift shops and public bathrooms are close by.

kids playing in the sand in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Stay in one of the many lovely hotels in Isla Mujeres

There are lots of hotels to choose from on Isla Mujeres, and they cater to every taste and budget. You can stay on the beach or off, with a family or as a couple, at places like Beloved Hotels, an Adults-Only Boutique All-Inclusive. With swimming pools and all inclusive plans, staying at a hotel in Isla Mujeres can be a great way to start or end a long day seeing the sites.

La Tortuga Granja (The Turtle Farm)

Love sea turtles? So do we, and that’s why we always stop by the Turtle Farm in Isla Mujeres. Since large sea turtles have made Isla Mujeres their breeding ground for generations, the Turtle Farm gathers up the eggs it finds along the beaches and incubates them at the Turtle Farm thereby greatly increasing their chances of survival.

It's turtles all the way down at La Tortuga Granja

It’s turtles all the way down at La Tortuga Granja

Depending on the time of year you’re there, you can see hundreds of turtles in the tanks growing up in the large tanks around the property. There is a great celebration the day they’re released back into the wild.

Hands on at the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm

In the main building there is also a small aquarium with sea horses, lobsters, crabs, tropical fish and even an octopus. There are also a few land turtles and family of iguanas who hang out along one side of the building.

Sea Turtles at Tortugranja

Sea Turtles at Tortugranja

The Joysxee Floating Bottle Island

If you’re looking for quirky things to do in Isla Mujeres, you can check out the Floating Bottle Island. Created a few years back by Richart Sowa, this floating recycler’s dream is completely built using used plastic water bottles and recycled materials, including a three story house and an outdoor bar. You’ll need to talk to the locals about its current location, since the floating house moves around the island from time to time. There is a small entrance fee.

Punta Sur

Located at the far southern edge of Isla Mujeres, Punta Sur features not only the highest elevation in all the Yucatan, but it’s also the easternmost point in all of Mexico. That’s right, the sun hits Punta Sur before anywhere else in Mexico and we’ve heard that it’s a glorious sight.

Punta Sur on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Featuring an ancient Mayan temple honoring the Mayan Goddess Ixchel, it also boasts a lighthouse and dozens of modern sculptures around the property. Due to some of the most dramatic sea cliffs in all of Mexico, Punta Sur makes a great place to grab a bite to eat while looking out to sea.

Punta Sur Coast

Punta Sur

MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum

Conceived by Jason deCaires Taylor, Isla Mujeres is home to the largest underwater museum on earth. The clear waters off Isla Mujeres make a great place to scuba dive or snorkel while seeing how thousands of underwater sculptures change in time in regards to coral growth and marine interaction. The scope of the project is mind blowing and the combination of art and marine conservation is great to see.

Garrafon Reef Park

The Garrafon Reef Park is a great place to spend an afternoon. Its all-inclusive packages include a buffet lunch and an open bar. Not only do they feature zip lines over the clear aquamarine waters, you can rent kayaks, snorkel equipment, life jackets and they have plenty of hammocks to lounge on as well as relax in their infinity pool. Admission includes bathrooms, lockers, showers and entrance to the Sculpture Garden and Punta Sur.

Garrafon Natural Reef Park

Garrafon Natural Reef Park

Garrafón de Castilla

The Garrafón de Castilla is right next to the Garrafón Reef Park at the south end of the island, and your entrance fee includes lounge chairs with beach umbrellas, restrooms and shower areas. You can rent snorkel gear and lockers here. They have a small snack bar and a restaurant right on the property.

The Zocalo (Town Square)

Located in the center of town, the Zocalo or Town Square comes alive most evenings as celebrations, dances and events kick up with local Mexican families and tourists alike sharing in the celebrations. You can eat tacos and pastries from the vendors lining the park, as well as pick up souvenirs from local artists. The kids will enjoy the small playground.

Isla Mujeres Mexico pier

Fun on the water in Isla Mujeres

We’ve talked about the beaches, but there is also world class deep sea fishing in the water of Isla Mujeres. From deep sea fishing for marlin, sailfish and dorado to spear fishing tuna and barracuda, Isla Mujeres has some of the best sea fishing in the Mexico. Tours and guides can be hired for the day or the week.

Isla Mujeres with Cancun in Background

Look closely! You can see Cancun on the horizon.

Fun under the water on Isla Mujeres

Being surrounded by water means some of the fun things to do in Isla Mujeres occur under the water. You can snorkel and scuba dive all around the island and there are dozens of companies that will take you out on a scuba or snorkel tour to see many types of corral and colorful tropical fish including sailfish from December to June.

From June to September you can swim with giant Whale Sharks and anytime of the year is great to swim in the National Park that’s filled with the MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum’s sculptures. Most tours include lunch buffets as well as snorkel gear.

Have you been to Isla Mujeres? Do you have any tips? Let us know!


Things to do in Isla Mujeres Mexico. We've written about Mexico's Isla Mujeres a few times over the years and, to be honest, not much has changed. Of course it's grown, but that only means more golf cart rentals and more options. We don't find that it's gotten any busier and it seems there's just more to do there these days with a lot more things to do and see. Isla Mujeres Mexico things to do plus tips secrets and photography. ]]> 3
Tips For Getting Great Family Video and Photos with the GoPro HERO 6 Black and Sport Chek Mon, 20 Nov 2017 22:10:00 +0000 So, you’re a regular person and not an extreme athlete or a pro surfer, and thinking of getting a GoPro video camera? Spoiler alert, you probably should.

I’m sure everyone has seen those amazing GoPro videos of surfers on a perfect wave, snowboarders carving down a mountain side, bikers taking 50 foot jumps or those extreme athletes jumping out of perfectly good airplanes or the side of a cliff. I love those.

Honestly though, if anyone needs a compact, hands free camera, it’s a parent. I find myself wishing daily for another set of arms, so carrying around a big, bulky camera just doesn’t work.

Family pool fun taken with GoPro HERO6 Black

Poolside in Mexico. Photo taken with GoPro HERO6 Black

So, it’s probably no surprise that we get a lot of questions from fellow parents about the GoPro who want to know is it waterproof? Is it easy to use? How much does it cost? Does it take photos, too? Those are a lot of questions for one tiny camera.

So when Sport Chek reached out to us to review the new GoPro HERO 6 Black, we jumped at the chance. It’s a perfect opportunity to answer all of those questions and more.

First impressions

Before we got our new HERO 6, we owned the GoPro HERO4 SILVER. It’s a great little camera and we’ve gotten some great footage the past few years, but I always disliked how we had to keep it in an external casing.

That’s changed with the newer GoPros, namely the HERO 5 and Hero 6. Unlike older GoPros (like the GoPro Hero 4 and earlier) the HERO 6 doesn’t need an external case to make it waterproof. This is my favorite feature, as it makes the GoPro HERO 6 so easy and convenient to use, and I never have to worry about putting it in a waterproof case.

GoPro Photo of the GoPro-8406

GoPro HERO 6 Video and photo quality

The GoPro takes great photos and videos. Even better, this tiny camera takes stunning 4K video, which means your family memories will be preserved in stunning detail.

Photo of Jasper, Alberta taken with GoPro HERO6 Black

Jasper, Alberta. Taken with GoPro HERO6 Black

To give it a real try, we took the GoPro HERO 6 Black with us on a early family winter vacation to Mexico and it was the perfect chance to test the GoPro Hero6 in a real world situation.

Take a look at the video below, filmed in 4K on our little GoPro HERO 6 Black. The video is raw and unedited, taken straight out of the camera. We didn’t always have the new image stabiliser on (our bad) and we’ve added titles and music, plus cut out some footage, but we haven’t done anything else. The video quality is just a sample of what you’ll get from this camera.

GoPro HERO6 Features

There’s a lot to like about this camera, and I’m especially fond of the burst feature for photos.

Like a lot of you, I always seem to just miss that perfect moment, like when my kids actually smile at the camera. With the burst mode, I just click the button, and the GoPro takes a burst of photos over several seconds. No more missed photos or that perfect smile.

The GoPro HERO 6 is waterproof to 33 meters. We’ve snorkeled with it, played with it in the pool, and even carried it with us as we boogie boarded in the waves. I let the kids carry it around half of the time, and they dunked it in the pool and the ocean dozens of times. Despite all of this, it remained perfectly waterproof.

Tip! We use a GoPro floating handle to hold the GoPro. This keeps it from getting lost in the surf, or sinking to the bottom of a pool.

underwater with the GoPro HERO 6

Underwater pool photo. Taken with GoPro HERO 6.

How to use the GoPro Hero 6

Is the GoPro easy to use? Well, it’s not hard to use, but using a GoPro is a little different than a smartphone or other camera. If you take ten minutes to learn how to use the GoPro at the beginning, you’ll pretty much know everything you need to.

Thankfully, there are only a couple of buttons: a shutter button, and a mode/power button. There’s also a touch screen in back, which makes getting through the menus pretty easy. Unlike the older models, you can see the photos and video as you’re taking them on the LCD screen just like a regular camera.

You can also download the GoPro app and connect the GoPro to your smartphone to take remote shots or to easily control all the settings. It can also save the videos and pictures directly to your phone so you can easily share them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

GoPro HERO6 Black touch screen

GoPro HERO 6 Voice Recognition

The GoPro HERO6 even comes with voice recognition, which we found works really well. Talk about hands free!

You can use voice recognition to turn the GoPro on and off, take photos and videos, and a lot more. It really makes mounting the camera to your helmet or chest strap easier than ever. Just tell it when to start and stop recording no matter what your hands are up to.

GoPro HERO 6 Video Quality

What’s the quality like? Video quality with the GoPro HERO 6 black is an impressive 4K video shooting at 60p, or 60 full frames per second. Those high frame rates per second also mean that it’s excellent at capturing slow motion video. As well as 4K, you can record in 1080p240, 1080p120, or the more classic 1080p60. What that means is that you can still record in high definition and still enjoy top rate quality with varying compression. This means that if space or extended recording is important, you can lower the resolution and not lose a great deal.

Jasper, Alberta taken with the GoPro HERO 6 Black Action cam

Taken with GoPro HERO 6. Jasper, Alberta.

Here are a few nerdy facts about video compression for you. The GoPro HERO 6 Black uses a new video codec called High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) H.265. It means that the video size can be smaller than the older H.264 protocol, but still retain higher 4K quality. Unfortunately, because H.265 is so new, many video editing software and devices can’t decode its advanced compression at the moment. Luckily, most of the newer Androids and iPhones can play H.265 natively, so wider support is guaranteed as more people get on board with using it. YouTube already supports the new H.265 codec.

Drumheller, Alberta hoodoos taken with the GoPro HERO 6 Black Action cam

Taken with GoPro HERO 6. Drumheller, Alberta.

GoPro HERO 6 Image Stabilization

The GoPro HERO 6 has digital image stabilization making for steadier video. Because it’s so tiny, we did find that we got some shake when the HERO6 was handheld, but there was less when it was mounted on something like a helmet, or the buoyant floaty handle grip we use. We also didn’t realize that we had turned image stabilization off for part of our trip until we had later watched the videos. For smoother motion, especially when it’s handheld, you’ll want to leave image stabilization on.

Jasper, Alberta. Taken with GoPro HERO 6

So is the GoPro for you?

Well, if you’re looking for a camera with 4K video, then yes, the GoPro HERO6 definitely does 4K video well and with it’s wide field of view or the new Superview, you won’t be missing anything as long as you have lots of good natural light.

Want a rugged, waterproof camera that you can take almost anywhere? Well, the GoPro HERO6 definitely fits that bill as well. With it’s small frame and rugged waterproof abilities, as well as the built in image stabilization, the GoPro can take what you’re giving and keep on recording.

Love playing with new technology? With it’s small touchscreen interface, voice recognition and it’s ability to connect seamlessly with your existing smartphone, the GoPro definitely ticks all the boxes when it comes to new tech. There’s a small learning curve, but it’s nothing that a few minutes watching how-to videos or a little reading can’t cure.

The GoPro HERO6 Black HD Action Camera transforms your adventures into incredible QuikStories directly on your phone.

Shopping for a GoPro in Canada? Sport Chek is an official supplier and carries all the latest GoPro devices and accessories.

The Platinum Floating GoPro Camera Mount is designed to ensure your GoPro camera floats if you happen to drop it. We use ours every time we take our GoPro in the water.

Looking for a deal?

Get 10% off your first purchase and free shipping on orders over $49 if you join the email list here.

Get free shipping on orders $99+ at Sport Chek here!

Thanks to Sport Chek for providing us with the GoPro HERO 6 Black for this review. It was on the wishlist and we definitely enjoyed using it.

Shop Sports Equipment, Apparel, Footwear and more at Sport Chek! Click Here!
GoPro HERO 6 Tips and Photos | GoPro HERO 6 tips | GoPro HERO 6 photos | GoPro HERO 5 Black #gopro #goprophotography

GoPro Hero 6 Photo Tips for family photos | GoPro HERO 6 tips | GoPro HERO 6 photos | GoPro HERO 5 Black #gopro #goprophotography The GoPro HERO 6 Black tips | GoPro HERO 6 tips | GoPro HERO 6 photos | GoPro HERO 5 Black #gopro #goprophotography ]]> 1
Top 10 Things to do in Athens Greece with Kids Fri, 17 Nov 2017 21:49:52 +0000 Today we have a guest post from Chrysoula Manika. She is a fellow travel blogger and tourism professional based in Athens, Greece, so she definitely knows a few things about what to do in Athens with kids. Enjoy!

With perfect weather, good family hotels and many activities for children, Greece and its capital are a great destination for family holidays. In summer, a city visit to Athens can be combined with the beaches along the Athenian Riviera or the islands nearby.

Athens in August is almost empty as most Greeks go to the islands for their holidays. In winter time, Athens is an ideal destination for a weekend escape or city break. So take the kids, put on some comfortable shoes and explore one of the oldest cities in the world.

Things to do in Athens Greece with Kids

Looking for some family fun? Here are the 10 things to do in Athens, Greece with kids:

Climb up the Acropolis

On top of the list and a definite must see when visiting Athens with your family is the Acropolis. Travel back to ancient Athens and show your kids the birthplace of democracy. If you enter the Acropolis archaeological site from the main entrance, you will see not only the world-famous Parthenon but also the Theatre of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes. The Acropolis is suitable for children starting from 3-4 years old; it is not easy to use strollers inside the site. 

Visit the New Acropolis Museum

Combine your visit to the Acropolis rock with the exhibits in its nearby museum. The impressive New Acropolis Museum offers family back packs with educational games and organises family tours. A family-friendly restaurant, a kids’ reading corner and a Lego model of the Acropolis guarantee a fun family day visit.

Take a Mythology Tour

Do your kids love mythology? Then a specialised interactive family tour around the ancient monuments of Athens is a great way to explore the city and its history. Under the guidance of a dedicated educator, your kids can become actors in the ancient Theatre of Dionysus, picnic in between the olive trees, search for goddess Athena inside the museums or draw like an ancient architect at the Parthenon. These tours are suitable for children from 5 years old.  

Ride the Athens Happy Train

Are the kids tired of walking around or do they just love Thomas the Train? The little red or green toy-like street Athens Happy Train makes a 40 – minute tour in the historical centre of Athens and the most famous ancient sites and monuments. You can hop-on-hop-off from different points in the city and see Athens as you please at your own pace.

Coffee and snack at the Little KooK cafe

No other place in Athens appeals more to kids than this fairy tale themed cafe in Psiri neighbourhood. Little KooK transfers your family to fantasyland and is amazingly styled around Halloween and Christmas. Enjoy delicious cakes and (savoury) crepes in a fairytale setting and don’t forget to wander around the beautifully decorated streets in hip Psiri.

Admire amazing views from Mount Lycabettus

A unique experience for all kids and adults is the cable car that goes up Mount Lycabettus. There are also telescopes guaranteeing views as far the island of Aegina. Buy an ice cream at the cafe on top and enjoy a panorama over the city.

Syntagma Square and the Parliament

All children will love feeding the pigeons and watch the impressive changing of the guards at the central square of Athens. These ‘Evzones’ are members of the Presidential Guards wearing traditional Greek outfits. They stay completely still next to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Parliament building until the moment that they can move for the change of the guards.

Get lost in the National Gardens of Athens

For a picnic or an escape from the summer heat, go to the National Gardens or Royal Gardens right next to the Parliament Building. A very stroller friendly place that is also suitable for kids of all ages. Inside the National Gardens, you will find a small zoo with farm animals, a turtle pond, a large shaded playground, lots of grass areas for babies to play on and a section with botanical gardens.

Discover Street Art

Travelling with teenagers and tired of ancient monuments? Athens has a blossoming street art scene. Many hip neighbourhoods have transformed into an open art gallery with stunning graffiti that places the city into the top places to see street art around the world. Several tour companies offer guided Street Art Tours.

Taste a traditional Greek sweet

Buy a ‘koulouri’ from one of the street vendors on Syntagma square. Young kids will love nibbling on this healthy large bread-ring with sesame seeds. And don’t miss a chance to try ‘loukoumades’, a small Greek doughnut covered with honey. You can find them in any bakery or ‘loukoumades’ shop.

Athens for the family

Athens is a fabulous place for a family vacation or a weekend trip with kids. It is a safe city to visit with an excellent public metro system, many hotel options, lots of sun and warm winters. Your family will enjoy being outdoors surrounded by historical monuments, good family food choices and easy to visit activities.

Chrysoula Manika bio:

Chrysoula Manika is a travel blogger and tourism professional based in Athens, Greece. She writes in both English and French for Travel Passionate, her blog focusing on luxury travel around Europe. She’s traveled extensively throughout Europe for the past 25 years and has no intention of slowing down. She loves to explore the local culture and gastronomy of the places she visits.

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West Coast Suites UBC and our Vancouver Family Vacation Tue, 03 Oct 2017 13:00:00 +0000 Being so close to Vancouver, it can be hard for us to figure out the best places to stay in Vancouver for a family vacation.

So while we’ve stayed downtown for a quick Vancouver family vacation more than a few times, and though there are some fantastic hotels in the area, there are two big disadvantages to a downtown Vancouver family stay.

The first is cost. Hotels in downtown Vancouver can be quite expensive, especially if you look at getting a suite with a bedroom or kitchenette, or if you’re booking in peak season. Parking can also be crazy expensive if you’re by the water and some of the nicer hotels require you to pay extra for WiFi, sometimes even per device.

Second, downtown Vancouver accommodations can be quite busy, and it’s not always the most kid-friendly place, especially around the bars on Granville Street. Though Vancouver is a great walking city, staying downtown still requires you to be careful, especially with little ones in tow.

So when UBC’s West Coast Suites, located on the quiet and stunning University of British Columbia (UBC) lands, reached out to us about a stay, we were excited to give it a try.

The view at UBC

We planned to use the fully furnished suites, perched on the quiet and expansive green campus, as our base for exploring Vancouver with kids. Not only are the world class Museum of Anthropology, the impressive Beaty Biodiversity Museum, the fantastic Botanical Gardens and more within easy walking distance at UBC, there’s an abundance of great food right on campus.

The best part is that downtown Vancouver and many of the city’s other major attractions are just a short car trip or bus ride away.

See prices and availability here. Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.

West Coast Suites UBC

As we drove through busy Vancouver, and on through the quiet, lush, green oasis of the enormous UBC property, we were sure we’d made the right choice. On one side we could see the spacious UBC campus on the left of us and we kept getting peeks of British Columbia’s stunning Pacific Coast on the other.

Bedroom at West Coast Suites UBC

After the easy drive to West Coast Suites, we checked in at the next door Walter Gage Residences. The helpful front desk staff promptly got our key card, and pointed out some of the fun things to do with kids on the UBC campus. More on the details of our Vancouver family vacation later!

Within a few minutes, we’d whisked our stuff up the elevator, and I was relaxing on our couch, overlooking the trees in the courtyard, and enjoying a fresh Starbucks coffee from the single serve coffee maker in our cozy kitchen.

Our Suite

All of the suites at West Coast Suites are large, quiet one bedrooms with balconies and full kitchens.

West Coast Suites UBC kitchen

There’s no oven in the suites, but there is a stove top, a microwave, and most importantly, a dishwasher, plus a full kitchen table and mini-fridge. The kitchen was fully kitted out, including everything from pots and pans, glassware, cutlery, and even a corkscrew and bottle opener.

All the suites at UBC’s West Coast Suites are one bedroom, with a king bed in the bedroom plus a sofa bed.

There’s a LED TV, an in room safe, plenty of quality toiletries, and high quality linens.

West Coast Suites UBC living area



At the top of my list for hotel amenities is always WiFi. WiFi here is fast, free and reliable, with speeds at well over 35 mbps. That’s far better than the WiFi you’ll find in most homes.

There’s even free long distance in North America, making it easy to connect with friends and family.

View of bedroom at West Coast Suites UBC

Room Amenities at West Coast :

  • Free Canada/USA calling
  • Large LED TVs with cable channels
  • Parking is $10/day plus applicable taxes
  • 24 hour front desk
  • Guest launderette
  • Complimentary newspapers at reception
  • On-site vending facilities
  • Open year round

See prices and availability here.

Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.

What’s nearby?

We were pretty busy around the University of British Columbia itself, before we even headed into Vancouver proper for our downtown Vancouver family day trip. There’s a full list of what we did on campus below, but our highlights included the Museum of Anthropology, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Greenheart TreeWalk at the UBC Botanical Garden. Click here to skip to our list of fun family activities and attractions near UBC.

There’s also a lot to eat on campus at the UBC, with dozens of cafes, restaurants and food trucks. Click here to see all the great eats on the UBC campus.

Family walk at the Museum of Anthropology

West Coast Suites at UBC is a short drive from downtown Vancouver, but located on some of the most beautiful land in Vancouver. The University of British Columbia pretty much owns the entire western tip of the Point Grey Peninsula. Within walking distance, there are rose gardens, Japanese rock gardens, botanic gardens, canopy walks, regional parkland, hiking trails, plus all the amenities below. The Museum of Anthropology is a ten minute walk from West Coast Suites, and Pacific Spirit Regional Park is two and a half kilometers (one and a half miles) away.


One thing we were a little uncertain of was if there was shopping nearby for groceries and other necessities. Luckily for us, it’s a short drive (or even walking distance, if you’re so inclined) to Wesbrook Village shopping center, which has a Save on Foods grocery store, plus plenty of shops.

Vancouver with kids – at UBC Campus

We had a blast being in Vancouver with kids at the UBC Campus. There’s a lot to do on the University grounds, and we’ve listed some of our favorites below. You can check out the other UBC attractions here.

Tip! If you’re planning to visit several UBC attractions, look into the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass. You can buy adult, concession (senior, youth or student) or family passes. The pass gives you admission to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, the Nitobe Memorial Garden and the UBC botanical garden. It also gives discounts on food, books, clothing and the canopy tree walk.

On campus events and the Eclipse!

We were lucky enough to visit UBC during the 2017 solar eclipse. The astronomy society was handing out free eclipse viewing glasses just a short walk from our hotel at West Coast Suites, with displays and plenty of folks on hand to help.

While the eclipse was the big event when we visited (the people in the picture below were all gone an hour later), be sure to check what’s going on at UBC during your visit. There’s almost always something fun and interesting happening on campus.

Viewing the eclipse at UBC pinhole projector

Watching the eclipse through a pinhole viewer

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

The first thing you’ll notice at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum is the blue whale skeleton that looms over the entire facility. There’s an interesting documentary to watch inside about how the fossil was found, unearthed, cleaned and installed. Inside the vault-like downstairs, there are more than two million specimens of plants, marine invertebrates, insects, birds, fish, vertebrates, fungi, and fossils.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Museum of Anthropology (MOA)

We were especially taken by the stunning displays of First Nations totem poles inside the main floors of the MOA. It’s an impressive collection, as the MOA houses 38,000 ethnographic objects, as well as 535,000 archaeological objects inside. It houses collections from multiple cultures, but is best known for the large and impressive collection of art from First Nation band governments of the Pacific Northwest. The MOA building was designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson.

Tip: Don’t miss the outdoor longhouse recreation behind the museum building.

Museum of Anthropology Vancouver

UBC Botanical Garden

Lovers of botany will adore the UBC Botanical Garden, as it covers nearly 110 acres (44 hectares) and has over 8,000 different plants.

We loved the long, serene winding trails under great big, shady trees, as it gave the kids (and us!) a chance to burn off some energy.

UBC Botanical Garden bee on yellow flower

Greenheart TreeWalk

While you’re there, don’t miss the Greenheart TreeWalk! The kids had a blast tearing along this 310 metre (1,000 foot) long canopy walkway. The walkway is suspended from looming cedars, Douglas firs and grand firs (many of them over 100 years old), and reaches a height of almost 20 metres (65 feet). This isn’t for the faint of heart, or lead of foot, but our eight year old managed it beautifully, even taking the lead and egging us on.

Tip! The Greenheart TreeWalk is not included in the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass; the pass offers a 10% discount on the treewalk.

Greenheart TreeWalk at UBC Botanical Gardens

Nitobe Memorial Garden

The Nitobe Memorial Garden is a traditional Japanese Tea and Stroll garden. It’s officially part of the UBC Botanical Garden, but it’s located separately, close to Wreck Beach.

UBC Aquatic Centre

New in 2017, the UBC Aquatic Centre has a kids area, diving pool, swimming pool, whirl pool, hot tub and a sauna. It’s also only a two minute walk from West Coast Suites.

Farmer’s Market

UBC farmer’s markets serve up farm fresh produce at a weekly on-campus market from late spring to fall. We stopped by the pop-up market at the UBC bookstore, but there are also farm gate sales. Dates and details change, so check here first before you go.

Tip! There are also seasonal u-picks for blueberries, pumpkins, hops and more. If you’re around on the weekend, the UBC Farm offers free public tours at 11:00 am each Saturday. Check the UBC Farm page for details

UBC farmers market

More UBC attractions

There are plenty of other attractions on campus, including the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts and the UBC School of Music. Check out the UBC attractions page for more.

Wreck beach

Well, what to say about Wreck beach? There are a few things you need to know before you go.

First, it’s absolutely stunning, and well worth a look. Second, it’s clothing optional, so do with that what you will. Third, the most popular access is by Trail 6 by a steep and difficult set of 473 stairs.

Fourth, it has quite the reputation around Vancouver for it’s alternative culture, which includes the clothing optional scene, but also extends to a hippie culture of body painters, beach casinos, and a relaxed attitude toward pretty much anything. Read into that what you will but everyone we talked to said it was a cool place to hang out on a hot day and the unobstructed Pacific Ocean views from the beach are breathtaking.

Vancouver Family Vacation

There are hundreds of other things to do on a family vacation in Vancouver. I’d say the top, don’t miss family attractions, are the Vancouver seawall, the Vancouver Aquarium, Science World at TELUS World of Science, Stanley Park, the Capilano Suspension Bridge (or the free Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge) and Granville Island. Our comprehensive post on family things to do in Vancouver is coming soon!

While at West Coast Suites, we took the car downtown (it’s a short 15 minute drive if traffic is good) a few of times to visit friends, and check out a few downtown attractions. Most people just jump on a bus and grab the Skytrain around town.

Vanier Park 

Vanier Park is in the Kitsilano neighborhood in Vancouver, and home to the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the City of Vancouver Archives, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. There’s a lot of green space here, making it perfect for a relaxing day under the trees.

If you go during summer, check to see if the International Children’s Festival is happening in the park.

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

Kitsilano Beach Park

Kitsilano Beach Park is just to the West of Vanier Park (you can easily walk from one to another). It’s a long, lovely stretch of sand that faces picturesque English Bay.


We even got a chance to check out a little nightlife in Yaletown, when we popped out for supper with a friend. Yaletown is one of the busiest parts of Vancouver, and packed with trendy restaurants and bars in old warehouse buildings.

Food at UBC

Food on the UBC Campus is divided into two main groups: outlets owned by the Student’s Union, and outlets under the ubrella of the University’s Food Services.

UBC Food Services

UBC Food Services has over 40 outlets on campus with everything from chains like Starbucks and Tim Hortons, to mini marts, to full service restaurants, to food trucks. Many get their ingredients from the on campus UBC Farm, and fresh seafood is 100% Ocean Wise certified. We couldn’t try all 40 places to eat (unfortunately!), but we did get a chance to check out a few.

The Hungry Nomad

Where else would us Barefoot Nomads go to eat than the Hungry Nomad?

This food truck serves up delicious vegan poutine, with large portions for around $6. We bought two poutine as a snack, but there was far too much for the four of us (two adults and two preteen kids) to eat. Great value.

Hungry Nomad Food Truck UBC


We came in quite late one night after a long walk around the UBC Botanical Gardens, and wanted nothing more than to put our feet up and relax in our room. Luckily, Harvest was on the way home, and we grabbed a rotisserie chicken, roast vegetables, a tasty chickpea sandwich, and two bean burritos for the kids. Perfection!


This is the place to go on campus if you’ve got a craving for authentic made-to-order traditional Italian pizzas cooked in a hot stone hearth oven. Each pizza is a great value at about $12, and we only needed two to stuff two adults and two preteen kids to the gills.

Mercante pizza UBC

AMS Student Union

UBC’s student’s union (AMS) has several foood and drink eateries located in the Nest (the main student’s union building), including the Grand Noodle Emporium, Uppercase, Honour Roll, The Pit, Palate, and Ph Tea.

Being the coffee and baked goods lovers that we are, we made a quick beeline for Uppercase, which had an impressive display case of baked goods and bagels. Was it good? Let’s just say that I was contemplating a move to the UBC campus so that I could make this a daily staple.

Uppercase coffee and pastries at the UBC Nest

UBC Vancouver Accommodations

We found West Coast Suites one bedroom suites to be perfect for our family, but UBC has other accommodation choices as well.

Pacific Spirit Hostel at Place Vanier Residence

With rooms starting at $39 a night, this is a fantastic value in sometimes expensive Vancouver.

The Pacific Spirit Hostel has private single rooms or private twin rooms. There’s a shared lounge with LCD TV and on site laundry. Linens, towels and bath amenities are provided. Parking is $10 a day plus taxes, or you can buy a weekly permit.

Ponderosa Residence and Walter Gage Residence

Studio suite at Ponderosa Residence with kitchenette and a view

Private suites at Ponderosa Residence and Walter Gage Residence are only available from May 15 to August 25 each year. There’s a wide range of places to stay here, including studios, one bedroom and two bedroom units.

Units have a full kitchen with complimentary high speed WiFi, LCD TVs and free Canada/USA calling.

Accessible suites are also available. Parking is $16/day plus applicable taxes at Ponderosa. Parking is $10/day plus applicable taxes at Gage.

What you need to know

West Coast Suites is on the UBC Campus, at 5961 Student Union Blvd, Vancouver.

West Coast Suites is easily accessible by car, but can also be accessed by transit, with a major bus exchange located on campus.

Have you stayed at West Coast Suites UBC? What did you think? 

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