Capilano Suspension Bridge is a Vancouver attraction that I remember hearing about even when growing up in Alberta. It is one of Vancouver’s most popular attractions and a lovely way to escape the big city to enjoy and learn more about the local rainforest.
We headed out to Capilano Bridge on the May long weekend to find out what the hype was about. Conveniently located off the highway, the Capilano park was easy to find, with lots of big signs to point the way. Parking was a bit busy on the holiday, but there were staff in bright vests helping direct traffic.
Just inside the park was a series of books about the history of the park. My husband and I flipped quickly through one book, skimming the story about the original miners and loggers who came up the river. The girls, however, were ready to see what else there was to explore so we soon followed them along the path.
Around the corner, there were a few photo opportunities (at which we attempted to get the girls to all smile and look at the camera at the same time) and a series of totem poles. Again, there was more history to read here, but the girls were so excited to keep going that they missed the first stamp for their maps and my husband had to go back to do it.
Each of them had a map of the park, with six spots along the left side of the map to be stamped at various locations along the park. They were very excited about finding the next stamp and collecting all six stamps for their maps, so it was one way to convince them to keep walking when they got tired.
There was live music at the cafe and trading post, so we stopped to listen. The girls had fun watching the trio singing and playing, but were even happier when the musicians invited them to grab some shakers and help make music.
From there, we headed out onto the Cliffwalk. Sunshine and Jade marched fearlessly down the narrow stairs and out onto the path, hung by cables from the cliff; Lily stayed a bit closer to my husband for the first half of the walk. The entire walk was quite solid, but we had to go single-file in one direction and pause for anyone who was taking pictures.
There were also several plaques along the way, providing information about the rainforest, water and trees, which I tried to read quickly as the girls were more interested in running along the Cliffwalk than hearing about how trees can absorb up to 40% of their water from fog. There was also a few displays about salmon which tied nicely into our field trips to Goldstream and Hell’s Gate (those salmon are everywhere around here!).
We stopped at the cafe for ice cream (it was a hot day but thankfully most of the park is in the shade of the trees) and then ventured onto the Suspension Bridge. It was packed with other people (probably the busiest part of the entire park) and swayed and bounced like any suspension bridge.
On the other side, there was tons to do. We went up to the Treehouse first, where the girls received a clipboard and pencil with activities to complete. Like their maps, this kept them excited about finding the next thing on the list (and they learned about the rainforest while they were at it). Once they completed everything on the list, we returned to the Treehouse where they showed off what they’d found and each picked a button.
The girls were most excited about the squirrels we saw. I think we only saw two or three, who appeared a few times, but Sunshine decided she’d seen five. One of them was being fed French fries by a young woman, who clearly hadn’t seen any of the signs saying “Don’t feed the squirrels.” She tried to offer Lily a French fry to feed the squirrel and I said quickly, “We don’t feed the animals.”
The young woman left after that, but then the squirrel kept running right up to us, trying to get more food. Picturing one of the girls getting bitten, I stomped my foot at it a few times to scare it away. Sunshine asked why we couldn’t feed the squirrels, and I explained that (a) our food is bad for the squirrels and make them sick and (b) that wasn’t normal behaviour for the squirrel or any other animal; what if it was a bear acting that way? (Rant over; if you visit, PLEASE don’t feed the animals!)
The park on the other side of the bridge is all board walks, either up in the trees or down on the ground. The girls had a lot of fun running along the boardwalks, seeing what was around the next corner. It was like a big maze through the trees. Once we’d completed all the activities on their clipboards, my husband and I were ready to find the exit. We’d spent a couple hours wandering around, reading signs and looking at trees and counting squirrels.
Baby-friendly: A stroller wouldn’t be possible here, as the park had numerous stairs and the cliffwalk was too narrow. I’d recommend a baby carrier for any infants (I had my Ergo in case Jade got tired of walking). Signs recommend that young children be carried over the cliffwalk and the bridge. There were baby change tables in the washrooms.
Kid-friendly: Very! The girls loved doing the clipboard and map activities. There was lots of kid-friendly activities around the park.
Fees: Unfortunately, the park is pricey. There is no family rate, but it would have cost us about $100 to visit (kids under 6 are free), including the $5 for parking. BC residents pay once and can then pick up their annual passes at the gift shop, so we got an annual pass for Sunshine.
We actually returned the following week with my aunt and uncle, who’d found discounted tickets online and bought my ticket for me, which I exchanged for an annual pass as well. Now that we have the passes, I plan to visit more often, as it’s fairly close to our house and makes for a great field trip for the girls. If you’re visiting from out-of-town like my aunt and uncle, there are free shuttle buses to the park from most major downtown hotels.