This summer a sweet friend’s young daughter broke her femur. With a month of summer holidays left my friend asked for suggestions of accessible family fun in Metro Vancouver. A list of family outings that her daughter could master on crutches. I drew a blank. How awful is that?! It’s my job to know every family event happening in Metro Vancouver and I was turning up nothing.

I knew I was in over my head so I to turned to my dear friend Codi. Just over a year ago Codi suffered a fall that resulted in paralysis from the waist down (she has a lower thoracic spinal cord injury and no movement below her belly button). I got to know her as a fellow mom in my youngest son’s grade 1 class. Her wicked sense of humour and can-do attitude made her an instant buddy. If you want a bit of insight into her truthful and highly sarcastic take on life since her accident, I guarantee you will enjoy her blog Help Codi Heal.

We put our heads together and came up with a list of places that make family outings enjoyable when mobility and accessibility are consideration factors. As Codi pointed out to me, mobility driven by crutches is vastly different than wheelchairs. Crutches can handle steps; wheelchairs can’t. Wheelchairs can travel greater distances more quickly; crutches tire out arms and armpits. So while we’ve done our research we recommend each family look at it through the lens of their reality. If you have specific concerns, a phone call to your destination of choice is usually a good way to get the answers you need.

Accessible Family Fun in Metro Vancouver:

Science World

1455 Quebec Street, Vancouver

  • Elevators and ramps provide easy access between the three levels. Please note that the elevator to the Omnimax theatre is out of commission until Fall 2017; the 200m ramp could be ambitious for some
  • Loaner wheelchairs are available on a first come first serve basis. There is a lot of ground to cover so those with difficulties walking may benefit from a wheelchair.
  • Separate accessible washrooms as well as accessible stalls in the main washrooms.
  • Adult aide receives free admission when accompanying a person with disabilities
  • Omnimax theatre offers complimentary tickets to those who require wheelchair seating as it is in the front row and can be uncomfortable to look up at the screen
  • Words from Help Codi Heal: From the time my children were little we have had a family pass to Science World that has been renewed yearly as their birthday present. It is one of the places my kids can go and seemingly never get bored. I love that I can still follow them closely as there is plenty of space around the exhibits. The last time we visited I was very impressed with one of the new stations as it had an accessible area that was within my reach and I could join in on the experimenting. Their newest gallery called “World of Wonder” is geared towards younger children (0-5) and it has an accessible entrance and many areas to explore that are wheelchair friendly. There are a few exceptions but they have done a lot to make the space fun for everyone.

Vancouver Aquarium

845 Avison Way, Vancouver

  • Elevators and ramps are readily available
  • Loaner wheelchairs are available on a first come, first serve basis. There is a lot of ground to cover so those with difficulties walking may benefit from a wheelchair
  • Family washrooms
  • 50% off admission if you have a disability (upon request) or pay full admission and an attendant can enter free of charge
  • The 4-D theatre has an accessible entrance as well as wheelchair seating
  • Words from Help Codi Heal: The Vancouver Aquarium is another place that we have gone as a family for as long as we have been a family! I have to say that going to the aquarium now isn’t much different than it was before my injury. I can explore the exhibits with my kids with ample room to manoeuver my chair. I can watch the shows and be a part of the experience.

Stanley Park Seawall

  • Paved pathway
  • Fairly level grade. Most inclines are gradual but there are a few little hills that may require assistance depending on the wheelchair user.
  • The Second Beach Pool has beach entry with aquatic wheelchairs available
  • Words from Help Codi Heal: The majority of the seawall is manageable in a wheelchair, there is only one spot where I require help from my husband. I like that we are able to experience the stunning scenery as a family. My kids love the playgrounds and the water park. I love that we can take part in the fun all together.

Kits Beach, Playground and Outdoor Pool

Cornwall Avenue at the north end of Yew Street, Vancouver

  • Another location of the Seawall which is completely paved
  • The playground is barrier free and some playground equipment is accessible
  • Beach entry pool with aquatic wheelchairs available
  • Pool lift entry available as well
  • Words from Help Codi Heal: The city of Vancouver currently has two beach wheelchairs available as well as a path kit for above the sand. These can be used at any of Vancouver’s 12 beaches but are located at English Bay Beach and Jericho Beach. If you wish to borrow one, you are recommended to call 604-738-8535 several days in advance of your outing in order to reserve one.

Centennial Beach

541 Centennial Pkwy, Delta

  • Massive beach mat: essentially a path that lays over the sand and allows those with mobility issues a chance to get closer to the water
  • Accessible washrooms and change rooms
  • A large accessible playground. The ground is smooth and flat and there are no barriers
  • Words from Help Codi Heal: Our family had a great time at this beach. I was able to use the beach mat and so we could set up our little station closer to the water and I had a good view of my family as they went to explore. The playground was easy to wheel around and I could follow my kids wherever I needed to.
Accessible Family Fun in Metro Vancouver

Photo credit: Help Codi Heal

White Rock Beach

  • 2 beach wheelchairs are available by donation at Feral Boardsports (15626 Marine Drive)
  • A flat, paved promenade
  • Accessible family washroom
  • Words from Help Codi Heal: I used the beach wheelchair for the first time recently and it was amazing! Getting down to the sand at White Rock is tricky because between the path and the sand are quite a few obstacles. The beach wheelchair rolled over it all without an issue and it was great to get down to the real beach with my family.

Theatre Under the Stars

610 Pipeline Rd, Vancouver

  • Wheelchair seating
  • Accessible washrooms
  • There is an area near the entrance where you can drop-off if the accessible parking stalls are full.
  • The Malkin Bowl is in the middle of Stanley Park. Once you enter Malkin Bowl there is an area of gravel as well as some of the uneven terrain you would expect from a grassy park.
  • TUTS accepts the Access 2 card
  • Words from Help Codi Heal: We have taken our boys to Theatre Under the Stars twice since I have been in a wheelchair. The regular seats are plastic patio chairs. I was able to transfer into one with the help of my husband but I don’t think I could do it on my own and would take advantage of the wheelchair spaces if he wasn’t with me. I was able to get around Malkin Bowl with minimal issues.

Granville Island Kids Market

1496 Cartwright St, Vancouver

  • The building is accessible with elevator access to the second floor
  • Words from Help Codi Heal: Our kids always have a blast here looking around at all of the stores. The building is accessible but can be a bit squishy for my manual wheelchair. A larger power chair may come up against some areas they cannot access. On a busy day it can be somewhat tricky to maneuver around the small stores and all of the people and I can feel very much in the way. But if we time it right, it is lots of fun to wander around and explore.

Nat Bailey Stadium

4601 Ontario St, Vancouver

  • An accessible section
  • Accessible section tickets at Vancouver Canadians games are only $11

Greater Vancouver Zoo

5048 – 264th Street, Aldergrove

  • There is a lot of ground to cover at the Vancouver Zoo. Nothing very steep but a lot of long gradual inclines. It is mostly paved. The exception is one hard-packed trail at the back of the zoo that my wheelchair can go on without an issue but you can skip it as it isn’t necessary
  • There are accessible washrooms closer to the entrance of the zoo. There is an accessible outhouse in the zoo but I wasn’t able to use it
  • The train has an accessible car where you can stay in your wheelchair
  • The playground is not accessible. The surface is pea gravel
  • The zoo offers drive-thru privileges as well as group bus tours for people with difficulties walking through the zoo. Must be booked 2 weeks in advance and are only available at certain times of the year
  • Quadracycle rentals are available from March to October and may be useful if you have a child who can’t easily maneouver around the Zoo
  • Words from Help Codi Heal: The zoo is a great way to spend some time outside but it is a good workout for my arms! I bring my power assist device when we come to the zoo in order to get up the hills on my own. If I don’t bring it I do usually require a bit of help from my husband on a few of the hills. There is a reptile house on the property that has a wide entrance and I am able to roll through without issue. Some of the exhibits however are a bit to high for me to see properly inside. I cannot get up onto the playground in any way which is unfortunate but we always enjoy our time at the zoo.

Castle Fun Park

36165 North Parallel Road, Abbotsford

  • Accessible washrooms
  • Elevator
  • Lots of space to maneuver around
  • None of their three mini golf courses are accessible for a wheelchair user
  • Many of the arcade games are reachable for wheelchair visitors
  • Words from Help Codi Heal: We have gone to Castle Fun Park twice in the last 6 months! There are numerous games I can play with my kids. I skipped some that are too high or would require a difficult transfer. I did actually attempt the outdoor mini golf as I was told it was accessible but it’s not and I don’t recommend it! We had a lot of fun when we were there and I’m trying to figure out how to try the batting cages on our next visit.

Here are a few other family-friendly venues around Metro Vancouver that get a thumbs up from Family Fun Vancouver and Help Codi Heal for accessibility:

Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (1412 Cartwright St, Vancouver)

Arts Club Theatres (Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, Granville Island Stage, Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre)

FlyOver Canada (201-999 Canada Pl, Vancouver)

VanDusen Botanical Garden (5151 Oak Street, Vancouver)

Bloedel Conservatory (4600 Cambie St, Vancouver)

George C Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary (5191 Robertson Rd, Delta)

Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby St, Vancouver)

If we’ve missed a favourite venue, or a must-know tip, please send us an email (