It’s only been a few years that we’ve had Family Day here in BC – it was first held in 2013 – but it has fast become a much-anticipated day on the winter calendar. Initially held on the second Monday of February, the day was permanently bumped forward by one week in 2019 so that it would better align with the same holidays in other provinces. This year, Family Day will happen on February 17.
With schools closed, and some (though not all) businesses and public services shuttered for the day, it’s a great time to plan a special activity for the whole family. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Keep it Local
Stay close to home and celebrate in your own neighbourhood with a variety of locally organized events. Most municipalities run a handful (or more) of fun family-themed events for BC Family Day. In the City of Surrey, there’s a geocaching event, baking and history lessons at Stewart Farm, and special challenges at the Surrey Nature Centre, to name just a few. In Richmond, there’s a family breakfast, intergenerational dumpling making, and a variety of arts, crafts, and activities. And in New Westminster, you can check a mix of scheduled events organized by the city at River Market, Anvil Centre, Fraser River Discovery Centre, Queens Park and more. With so many communities in the region, there’s bound to be something in your own backyard – or right next door – that appeals to the whole family. Check out the city calendars in your area to learn more about what’s planned for February 17.
Make it a Museum Moment
Many museums around BC are free or have reduced admissions on Family Day, thanks to funding from the provincial government. If you have the time, hop a ferry (might be wise to make a reservation, since it’s a holiday) and check out the Royal Museum in Victoria, the largest and most famous museum in the province. With new exhibitions rotating into the museum throughout the year, there’s always something new to explore. If that’s too far to go, there’s plenty of history close to home well worth the visit: the Fort Langley National Historic Site, the Vancouver Museum and the Museum of Surrey are just a few of the locations hosting special events that day.
There are few destinations in Vancouver as popular with families as the Vancouver Aquarium and Telus World of Science. Both are world-class centres of science, nature, learning, and research – and both are popular throughout the year. At the aquarium, children 12 and under will be free on Family Day. At Science World, details haven’t yet to be released but the site has had free admissions in the past – keep an eye on their social media in the coming weeks to find out about special promotions or events, if you’re keen to visit.
Gardens and Green Thumbs
If you’re already an avid gardener, you’re probably on top of your planning. But if you’re keen to get started, and 2020 is the year you’d like to grow a few fresh veggies, now is the time to look ahead. It may seem like spring is a long way off but planning can (and should) happen now. Get the kids together on Family Day with some paper and pens and plan out the garden. What will you plant? And where? Check out the BC-based Westcoast Seeds for some ideas or to order seeds – they’re also stocked at most major gardening centres and they have a beautiful shop in Ladner. And you might be ready to get your hands dirty too: some seeds should be started indoors, long before the spring arrives. Once you know what you want to grow, you might discover there’s already work to get started with.
If you’re not ready to think about spring yet, celebrate winter with a day of skating. In East Vancouver, the PNE will be hosting a family skate at the Agrodome, where kids will get the chance to skate with Captain America and Supergirl. Prices run from $4 for adults, $3.50 for seniors and youth ages 13 to 18, $3 for children ages three to 12 and free for two years and under. Skate rentals are not available so bring your own. Helmets are recommended for all skaters; children 12 and under must have a helmet and need to be accompanied by an adult. (No hockey sticks, pucks or ringette sticks allowed.) And downtown, the free skating at Robson Square continues through the rest of the month of February. Skate rentals are available for $5.
Explore the Great Outdoors
The weather isn’t always the best in mid-February but with the right gear – rain boots, good jackets, an umbrella or two – there’s no reason to avoid the trails, beaches, and parks that are so popular in spring, summer and fall. In fact, you might enjoy the relative quiet and calm, with fewer people out exploring. Check out our previous guide on the secret gems in the region and enjoy a day in nature at Barnet Marine Park, Redwood Park, Centennial Beach, Rice Lake Loop or one of the dozens of other options. Make an easy “I spy” game for kids by creating a list of things to look for – squirrels, birds, a new bud on a plant, a special rock – and turn your walk into an exciting scavenger hunt. Ask everyone to keep their eye out for something that “doesn’t belong” like a piece of garbage or discarded beverage containers, and bring along a small bag to gather up the junk as you go – it’s a great way to teach kids how to treat our natural spaces.
Head to the Hills
Grouse Mountain hosts its own special Family Day high above the city in collaboration with CTV. The event kicks off with a charity breakfast, a chance to meet CTV on-air hosts, outdoor live music, sessions on mountain safety, complimentary family snowshoe tours and scavenger hunt, a colouring and craft zone and much more. But they’re not the only mountain adventure with special events. Most of the region’s ski hills have special promotions, discounts and fun events. Check out our recent round-up of snowy destinations in close proximity to Vancouver to explore the offerings for Family Day and the rest of the winter season.
Remember, if heading out doesn’t appeal, Family Day is a great time to stay cozy at home – pick out a few movies, cuddle up with books, make a special meal, or just enjoy a little bit of down-time together. Whatever you do, it’s a wonderful opportunity to get the family together to enjoy each other’s company.