Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!

Sometimes visiting a city can feel really overwhelming, especially if you have kids in tow and it can be even more bonkers if they are under five. Having the inside scoop on where to go and what to see can really make things a lot more enjoyable for everyone. We’ve put together a series of blog posts featuring fun family friendly field trips within Vancouver and first up is a trip to the The Bloedel Conservatory.

One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed doing with my kids is exploring different parts of our city together. It’s amazing how you can live somewhere for so many years and still have never visited something five kilometres away. I know this to be true because over the years we have become quite ‘downtowned’ and venturing over the bridge always feels like quite the event.

On this field trip we left the downtown core, went over the Cambie bridge and headed to Vancouver’s indoor tropical garden at The Bloedel Conservatory. The conservatory is located at the top of Queen Elizabeth park and gets credit for being the highest point in Vancouver. This makes for some amazing views while walking outside the front of the conservatory. It was bit of a drizzly Spring day which made it the perfect escape for us. We arrived early which was smart as it made parking super easy for us. There is a large pay lot just outside the conservatory and ample handicap spots.

The actual conservatory is on the smaller side so taking someone under five is perfect! You can do multiple laps inside and really take in all that they have to offer. There are over one hundred free flying birds to spot and you are provided with a laminated guide so you can learn more about each bird. The chirping birds and humidity almost made it feel like we were back in Hawaii, which was so welcomed.

Whether you are local or coming from afar we would definitely recommend a field trip to Vancouver’s Bloedel Conservatory. Add on a visit to the beautiful Queen Elizabeth park and you’ve got yourself a morning or afternoon adventure with gorgeous scenery.

Stay tuned for our next Vancouver Kid Approved Field Trip!

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Birthday party planning gets me all kinds of excited, thank goodness I have three kids with birthdays split pretty evenly through the year to help keep me going. Over the last ten years I have felt so much joy putting together birthday cakes for all my kids. From the elaborate local bakery cake, to the homemade from scratch cake and even the store bought cake mix. Birthdays are a great occasion to celebrate and enjoy some cake.

As birthdays start to approach I always ask the birthday kid what kind of cake they are hoping for. My son always asks for a homemade from scratch chocolate cake with strawberries. I love that he has a go to birthday cake request and I am happy to make him his special cake each September.

I am not a baking wizard by any means and I can’t make a Pinterest worthy cake at all. So sometimes I am happy to connect with our local bake shop and let them be the master of the cake. One of our Vancouver favourites includes Cadeaux Bakery, they made the horse cake for our middle girls last birthday this January. It was delicious and came out perfect.

Chocolate dinosaur cake from Yaletown’s Ganache Patisserie. It was amazing!

Frozen themed cake from Cupcakes on Denman.

Homemade from scratch! Chocolate cake with strawberries as per request.

A carrot cake from Cadeaux Bakery for a Spring themed first birthday. Somebunny loved it!

Homemade rainbow cupcakes made by my sister for a special unicorn themed fourth birthday.

Mama’s chocolate cake with sprinkles. That year this birthday girl got TWO different cakes. This one was homemade.

Another auntie creation! Lambs, pigs and chicks for a fun farm themed birthday party.

A very special horse on this chocolate cake from Cadeaux Bakery.

My top pick for a bakery bought birthday cake is from Vancouver’s Cadeaux Bakery, they make the best carrot cake in the city and their custom creations are always so pretty. We have also had custom cake orders from Tessa of Sweet Bake Shop, side note Tessa just released her very first baking book!

Short on time or maybe creativity, the best cake can come from a mix or your local grocer. Putting candles on anything instantly makes it feel extra festive and special. Pair that with a family loudly singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and you’ve got yourself a perfect celebration.

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Recently over our two week Spring Break we went and explored our province’s capital city, beautiful Victoria. Just a ferry boat ride away from Vancouver, Victoria is the home to a lot of Canadian history and landmarks. This includes The Royal BC Museum which was founded back in 1886 and, according to Tourism Victoria, is one of the foremost cultural institutions in the world.

Often when we meet up with the local Victoria cousins it can be tricky to find something the whole group will enjoy. The kids range from 2 to 13 with a mix of interests. Fortunately for us The Royal BC Museum has ample interactive exhibits making it a very family friendly activity.  I’m happy to say that all of the kids, and the two mums, enjoyed our day at the museum.

When you enter the museum you can wander the grounds and take in the sites before heading inside. With the parliament buildings off to one side and the old school house and totem polls to the other, there is certainly enough to explore. Hidden inside the museum is this cozy exploratory nook with built in stools. Perfect for the kids to cast a look out the windows and take in the view.

This year we have a new six year old in the group and this visit she got a membership to the museum. She was pretty smitten with her personalized membership card. When your child becomes a member they can enrol in the Kid’s Club for some fun perks, great for locals and regular travellers to Victoria like us.

All three of my kids enjoyed walking through the museum and being able to interact with the different displays. Buttons to push, things they were allowed to touch and move. This museum is definitely one for families of all ages.

If you are looking for a family friendly activity consider checking out The Royal BC Museum. The upcoming feature exhibit is about Egypt. There is also exhibits that we come to count on to explore. Like the Modern History Gallery and my personal favourite, Old Town. Sit in the train station and listen to the trains go by, have yourself a walk through the old house and see if you can smell the pies baking. I love this part of the museum.

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You just might be a true Vancouverite if you know that we are imminently approaching Vancouver’s famous cherry blossom season. It’s that time of  year where the trees swell with gorgeous hues of pink buds and soon canopies of blossom pop up everywhere in the city and in your Instagram feed. In fact, in some neighbourhoods in the city the blossoms are in full bloom.

There are truly many fantastic spots to go and enjoy Vancouver’s cherry blossoms but my favourite spot is the open green spaces in Stanley Park at the formal rose garden. Years ago we went for a walk downtown and ended up in the rose garden and captured these photos. The blossoms were not yet in full bloom but they were still so gorgeous, that pink against the blue sky is my favourite. You can also check out cherry blossoms at Queen Elizabeth Park, VanDusen Botanical Gardens and Granville Island.

Vancouver loves their cherry blossoms so much that we hold an annual Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival. This annual festival runs from April 3 to 29th this year and there are multiple locations to check out and enjoy some outdoor events and the perfect opportunity for a photo. An official Cherry Jam kicks off the festival with a lively noon hour concert right under the Burrard Station cherry blossom canopy.

The saddest part of Vancouver’s cherry blossoms season is just how short it is. It almost seems that just as the gorgeous shades of pink start to appear it all floats away. I have many happy memories walking with my children through Vancouver’s ‘pink snow’ and we once got caught in an epic cherry blossom snow storm. If there are windy days ahead you can guarantee that the cherry blossoms will be taken away.

While the festival occurs through out the month of April you can find cherry blossoms popping up through the city right now. Once a cherry blossom treat starts to bloom there is about two weeks of glorious pink before the blooms start to fall off or get swept away with the wind. This is your cue to stop and take that photo because there’s no guarantee the blossoms will be around when you swing by again.

Cherry blossoms on your mind? Check out the Vancouver history of this blooming tree right here.

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I grew up in a house where we all had our own bedrooms and there was a basement with a big car garage and backyard. When I was about 20 years old I moved out and into my first apartment while I went to university. After nearly eighteen years of living in different apartments, almost ten of them as an apartment mama, big things recently changed for us and we just moved into a townhouse. I adore apartment living and have always loved the feel of all of us together on one level. Living up high in the sky was a perk and I never minded the smallness of our home.

Photo by Miguel Valentin

The condo we were in for the last five years was two bedrooms, one den and a total of about 12oo square feet. This meant that bedrooms were shared, seasonal things were stored off site in a rented storage locker and we didn’t accumulate a lot of extra stuff. We lived this way as a family of five and my husband also worked from home in the den. Oh, and we also have a dog!

I can’t even tell you how many times people would ask us when we were moving. This question ramped up when the third apartment baby joined our family. People just couldn’t believe that we would willingly live in a two bedroom condo and be happy. The condo life worked for us and I have zero regrets about living that lifestyle for as long as we did. The truth is, you don’t need a basement to be happy as a family.

A couple of months ago a rare opportunity came up for us to move to a townhouse around the block from our condo. This new home offered us three bedrooms and a den with more living space than we were used to. We decided to pack up our apartment and move homes. This move would give our oldest boy a bedroom of his own and allowed our two little girls to share a bedroom together. Meaning, the ‘baby’ of the family was finally out of the master bedroom.

Do you know what happened when we told the kids that we were moving out of our apartment and they would have new bedroom arrangements? Well, first they all cheered and then they told each other that they could have sleepovers together every night in each others room. This totally squeezed my mama heart big time. My kids actually really liked sharing a bedroom and we have no regrets about them sharing as long as they did.

The first night in our townhouse all of the things that I absolutely adored about living in a condo bubbled up and I started feeling this odd sense of regret about moving. I couldn’t help but wonder if we should have stayed put in our condo as life there really was working out just fine. I know that it was so silly to feel this way as most people would kill for more living space, especially when it was still in the community you loved.

When I went to bed on our first night in the new place with the kids sleeping upstairs from my bedroom and not in the room right next to us I felt really off and kept waking up all night long wondering if they were doing okay up there. When I was coming home from work and unlocked the front door it seemed so novel to me.

We aren’t permanent in this townhouse. It’s kind of the bridge between making more of a permeant move but also allowing us to have more space. We might even be back to condo living in a year or two but right now this apartment mama and her apartment babies are taking the stairs one at a time. All three levels of them.

I’m not totally sure I am finished being an apartment mama just yet. However, I’d love for you to follow along on our townhouse adventures in the city.

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It turns out that once you have kids they will become your social life and they also love spending time with you. Go ahead and claim the title of ‘fun mum’ and incorporate your kids into your social life. It’s a win win for everyone. We’ve rounded up five fun things to do with your kids.

 

  1. Go to the movies. Before I had kids I went to the movies on a somewhat regular basis and loved the whole experience. Now that I’m a mum I love taking my big kids to a show, while it’s all family friendly flicks I still really enjoy going with and they love going with me. Parenting pro tip: ask family and friends for movie passes for your kids birthday gifts, this is a great way to help cut cost.
  2. Bake me a cake as fast as you can. It takes A LOT of parenting patience to be in the kitchen with kids but there’s just so many rewards that it really is worth trying. My husband is the pro when it comes to cooking with kids and they love being able to crack eggs and mix ingredients together. We start to include the kids in the kitchen when they are old enough to stand on a stool, which is about 18 months. Parenting pro tip: make a mug cake if you are wanting to keep things tasty but low key.
  3. Get in the pool! Kids love going to the pool and playing with you. Whether you pretend to be a shark family or bring some toys and have an impromptu tea party, an afternoon at the pool is a great activity and promotes movement. Perfect for a rainy day in the Winter.
  4. Take it to the coffee shop. If you’re a family in the city you will have multiple coffee shops to walk to but I’m sure every parent out there will know a coffee shop that is nearest to them.  Get your coffee in a proper mug and order up a feel good treat to share. Sit and chat and play eye spy while sipping warm beverages from proper mugs. Also a great add on post pool fun.
  5. Get in some screen time (together). I did not grow up being an avid video game player but I try my hardest when Mario Kart comes on. Some evenings we have ‘Family Racing Night’ and we all sit together trying our hardest to win the race. Extra points if your kids are actually better than you. They will love seeing mum or dad trying to keep up with them.

I’m not a parenting expert but I do like to have fun with my three kids. I find that those long days go much smoother when a little fun is booked into them.

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