Maybe it’s all the warm days and blue skies lately, but it’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving weekend is already here. Whether you enjoy a big turkey dinner with a crew of family and friends or kick back for a relaxing weekend with small and simple celebrations, it’s a good time to squeeze in some extra autumn fun. Here are a few of the top family-friendly highlights – from perennial favourites to brand new events – happening in the Vancouver region this coming weekend.
Vancouver Halloween Parade and Expo
October 11, 12, 13
Marking its sixth year in operation, this event offers a full weekend for kids of all ages from outdoor musical entertainment, cosplay, exhibits, and more in downtown Vancouver. The popular three-day festival is inspired by comics, anime, video games and mythologies. Most of the events take place outside the Vancouver Art Gallery or indoors at 800 Robson, and the fun wraps up on Sunday with a parade kicking off at 11 am, running along Howe Street (from Drake to Smithe), then from Smithe Street (from Howe to Granville), and along Granville Street (from Smithe to Davie). Check out the website for full details on when, where, and what – plenty of the events are free but for ticketed events, there are one-day passes, weekend passes, and a combo family pass available.
Richmond Night Market
Until October 14
Say hello to fall by saying goodbye to summer with the final weekend of the Richmond Night Market. One of summer’s most loved events wraps up October 14, meaning that the last opportunity to enjoy the market’s food, wares, fun and more is this Thanksgiving long weekend. Kids under 8 can get in for free, and the market is held a block from Bridgeport Station on the SkyTrain Canada Line.
Fort Langley Cranberry Festival
Saturday, October 12
This annual festival kicks off early with a pancake breakfast at 8:30 am and then continues throughout the day with vendors, food trucks, live entertainment and more. A children’s area at Fort Langley Community Hall will feature face painting, balloon artists and more. Exhibits at the nearby Fort Langley National Historic Site and BC Farm Museum. BC is the third-largest producer of cranberries worldwide.
Stanley Park Ghost Train
Begins October 11
Take part in the opening weekend of the annual Stanley Park Ghost Train. Running until Halloween, the first train leaves the station on October 11 and runs through the Thanksgiving weekend. This year’s theme is Alice in Nightmareland: follow Alice into a gothic nightmare world of tombs, tombstones, crypts and more. Matinee rides keep the spook level a little lower. The train travels through the decorated forest all month long (and in a few months, it’ll be all lit up for the Christmas season.) Check out the website for times and ticket prices (but kids under 2 are free!)
Harvestland Festival at PNE
Begins October 10
One of the newest ways to celebrate the autumn season in Vancouver, HarvestLand at the PNE features character actors, a wood labyrinth, medieval sword fight demonstrations, a European style food market (complete with bratwurst and pretzels), amusement rides and children’s activities. There’s also an all-ages ‘Biergarten.’
Bear Creek Park Pumpkin Express and Scream Train
Head to this popular Surrey playground and park to take a peaceful train ride to a pumpkin patch in the forest during the day – or, for older kids with steely nerves, come back at night for the spooky Scream Train, which includes live actors along the train route for extra thrills. The pumpkin ride began October 5, and the Scream Train begins October 11 – both run through to the end of the month. Check the website for times and ticket prices. While you’re there, check out the beautiful trails and large playground that make Bear Creek Park a popular destination all year long.
Capilano Fish Hatchery
There’s never a bad time of year to get out and learn about nature. Head to the Capilano Fish Hatchery on the North Shore to learn more about the science and cultural importance of salmon in BC. The interpretive centre is open daily throughout October from 8 am to 6 pm for visitors. More than 200,000 visitors explore the hatchery each year. Kids and adults will gain valuable insight into river health, environmental stewardship, and efforts to help support and sustain BC’s salmon populations. Trails around the hatchery provide a great opportunity for some outdoor exploring in a beautiful part of the region.
Spooktacular Halloween Market
Head to Sullivan Community Hall for the second annual Spooktacular Halloween Market featuring 30 local artisans, a Zombie Cafe, Harry Potter-themed bouncy castle and face painting. There will be a chance to meet a variety of “famous” characters: Jasmine and Aladdin at 11 to 12 and Captain Marvel at noon to 1 pm. Visitors are encouraged to wear costumes, and admission is by donation with proceeds going to Surrey Memorial Hospital Oncology unit.
Hocus Pocus Focus at Telus World of Science
Here’s one for the older kids in the family: youth aged 13 to 18 are invited to take part in this free SWEET (Science World Extravagant Evening for Teens) event. Hocus Pocus Focus will give youth the chance to play memory games, learn how brains work under pressure, explore EEG brain wave measurements and more. Pre-registration is required, check out the link for details.
ReLeaf Tree Planting in Surrey Parks
Help grow Surrey’s urban forest by taking part in one of a series of tree planting events. On October 12, participants will meet at Bolivar Park from 10 am to noon – subsequent sessions running throughout the season will take place at other city parks. No experience required and tools and training will be provided. Parent participation is required for children ages 13 and under. The event is drop-in, rain or shine. Wear sturdy footwear and appropriate clothing for the weather. Free.
Scales, Talons & Claws at Kanaka Creek Park
Learn all about salmon navigating home to spawn – and the predators that can catch them along the journey. Hosted by Metro Vancouver and the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society, this all-ages learning opportunity is free. A great chance for kids and adults to learn how to help keep salmon safe in the local environment. The event runs from 11 am to 3 pm (and if it sounds interesting but you can’t make it, don’t fret: this event returns on October 27 and November 3.) Check out the Metro Vancouver website for location details.