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Where to go for a last-minute winter getaway with kids - without crossing the border

Travel with kids remains complicated these days. Here's how to safely explore a bit beyond your backyard this holiday season.
Nightrise Banff - Image Moment Factory
Nightrise is a new family-friendly experience in Banff

As travel restrictions ease, the itch for a beyond-the-border escape persists, but while parents are ready to pack their bags, travel - especially with kids - remains complicated.

With ongoing testing, quarantine mandates, and vaccine checks, cross-border travel for families can be tricky–and expensive. Instead, consider an escape found closer to home, one that takes the varied travel restrictions out of the equation. From basking in the beauty of Banff to trekking through the trails of Tofino, here’s how to enjoy a last-minute winter getaway with kids.

Staycation in the Shipyards District

The Shipyards District (Lower Lonsdale) in North Vancouver is sparkling with holiday cheer, lit up by lights that shine bright against the backdrop of the Vancouver skyline that can be spotted across the water.

Stay: A stay at the Seaside Hotel puts you in the centre of the action, with restaurants and shops found only steps from your door. There’s lots to see and do in the area, but the cozy beds and sweeping city views may entice you to slumber inside instead.

Ice skating at the Shipyards District in North Vancouver is a great family outing. Photo : Charlie Carey / North Shore News

Dine: If you’re looking for casual comfort food that will please the palates of picky eaters, Burgoo boasts a bevy of decadent dishes–the Gooey Cheese Grillers with a bowl of Crab Bisque makes the perfect winter warmer. For a dressier to-do, head to Pier 7 and take in harbour views while noshing on elevated dishes–the three-course holiday menu showcases the best the restaurant has to offer.

Play:  Tie up your skates (rentals are available if you forget to bring your own) and head to the Shipyards Skate Plaza–the region’s largest outdoor skating rink, found on the waterfront and just a stone’s throw from Seaside Hotel. Savour the holiday season with a visit to Canyon Lights, where you can stroll through the Arc de Lumina light tunnel, cross the colourfully-lit Capilano Suspension Bridge, or just take in the shimmering surroundings as live festive tunes
set the mood.

Trek Through the Trails of Tofino

The tiny coastal town of Tofino is best known for its epic, year-round surfing conditions and stunning storm-watching spots, but there’s more to see and do during the cooler months.

Hotel Zed Tofino. Photo: Hotel Zed

Stay:  Retro vibes rule at the vivacious Hotel Zed, where throwback decor and endless amenities invite hours of play on site. Home to the world’s first bike-through lobby, outdoor play is at the forefront of this chic spot, with surprises in every corner (the hidden retro arcade accessed by the pull of a book in the lobby’s library is a hit for all ages).

Dine: Dinner centres around the power of a roaring fire at Roar, where live fire and local ingredients are paired to create the perfect plate. The Smoked & Slow Roasted Brisket is a must-try for meat lovers, and cocktails like the “Lesser of Two Evils” (a modern take on a classic pisco sour) keep parents abuzz. At 1909 Kitchen, pizzas and crab dinners are cooked to perfection in the 1,000-degree, wood-fired Mugnaini oven. Opt for the “Cook Your Catch” program and the culinary team will cook up your crab catch after a day spent on the water–an elevated experience worth the added fee.

Play: The “Ultimate Adventure” tour offered by the Adventure Centre at Tofino Resort + Marina takes you on a private boat tour through Clayoquot Sound, where you can watch for wildlife, SUP in hidden coves, and drop crab traps to catch your own dinner. Older kids will love the hot steam/polar plunge experience at the Tuff City seaside sauna–a Nordic-style wood-fire sauna that sits at the edge of the ocean. A trek along Tofino’s tree-lined trails (Tonquin Trail is steps from town) is also the perfect way to pass the day.

Bask in the Beauty of Banff

The towering snow-capped mountains and historic sites found in Banff make the trip more than worth the trek to this Albertan town where skiing the slopes isn’t the only draw.

Stay: Take in some of Banff’s most iconic views from the comfort of your bed at Mount Royal Hotel, a historic hotel found in the centre of town. Opened in 1908, each wing represents a different decade, which combined with cozy, updated rooms, makes for a unique stay.

Dine: Start the day with freshly-baked treats and hot coffee from The Uprising Bake Shop, and take a sandwich to go for later. The new Farm & Fire restaurant pays homage to wood-fired and slow-roasted staples, with fresh, farm-to-table fare like the Winter Salad and Low & Slow Alberta Lamb Neck to fuel you up after a day of adventure.

Open Top Touring Banff - Banff Jasper Collection
Open Top Touring . Photo courtesy Banff Jasper Collection

Play: Take a tour around town with Open Top Touring–a vintage 1930s bus with a fully-open (or glass-top) roof, where your guide will share fascinating stories about the area’s past and present as you take in the sights. In the evening, head up the Banff Gondola for Nightrise–an immersive, multi-sensory winter experience that allows you to explore the summit of Sulfur Mountain after sunset while exploring a one-of-a-kind spectacle for the senses created in partnership by Moment Factory and the Stoney Nakoda Nation.

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