Exploring playgrounds may be one of my favorite activities as a parent — and I understand the kid enjoys it, too. Moving from Seattle down to Vancouver has given me the option to explore an entirely new set of playgrounds with my little one and I couldn’t be more excited. Here are some top picks for outdoor play in the Vancouver area to get you started.
The Columbia Tech Center is Vancouver’s not-so-secret hidden playground. At the center of an eastside business area, you’ll find a 25,000-square-foot, nature-based play area bordered by fields and walkways. Climb like a ninja warrior and practice some parkour on the rock and log paths or dig in the extensive sand pit. Pro tip — grab the lid off that cardboard shipping box at home and use it as a sled on the turf hill. Permanent restrooms are on-site.
Newly re-opened in 2023, the Esther Short Park Playground is at the heart of historic downtown Vancouver yet boasts a modern and inclusive design. Fans of the Harper’s Playground series will see trademark-inclusive designs such as the Zero-Entry Merry Go All and the Roxall See Saw. Bonus, this playground is right at the weekend farmer’s market and there is a river-based splash feature within the same park block in summer. Porta Pottys only for 2023.
Less of a designed play structure, and more of a trail of activities, the Vancouver Waterfront continues to evolve. One highlight is a giant sand pit so large you won’t miss the beach. Overlooking the Columbia and filled with giant and climbable fish “skeletons” this sand pit is adjacent to a spiderman like climbing web over rubberized turf. There’s a spigot for easy foot clean-off and paved pathways link you to a cascading water feature which adds a little history of the area. There are limited permanent bathrooms nearby, but loads of restaurants including pizza and milkshake options.
Nikkei Park, aka “Dinosaur Playground,” is sure to delight your budding paleontologist. This park boasts rideable dinosaurs, landscape-looking rubberized turf, and an extensive playground. Sit on a dinosaur, explore the sand pit, or crawl through some dinosaur bones. Permanent restrooms are on site. Only one warning — this park gets busy, so check traffic before you go.
Part of Vancouver’s more intimate park settings, Tenny Creek is located just off a side street in north Vancouver. This is my favorite park for young bike and scooter riders with highly visible paved trailers on gentle hills and a beginner’s skate spot with a single hill obstacle. There are two smaller playground structures linked by the trails and lots of shade.
Carter Park is a tiny .7-acre community park just off downtown. Fully fenced with a central play structure, this is one of my favorite parks for toddlers and preschool. There are just enough swings and trees to add to the fun and a few tables and benches to sit and enjoy treats from the delicious bakery down the street. Better yet, this park is off the newly redone Columbia St, with fully marked bike lines all the way back to downtown.
Officially opening on September 9, 2023, this playground build is highly anticipated as the largest endeavor yet by the inclusive team at Harper’s Playground. Officially called the Chelsea Anderson Memorial Play Station (CHAMPS for short) this new build replaces the classic older “castle” style playground here previously with an inclusive design filled with hills and innovative play equipment. Early Facebook previews show nature-themed wood obstacles, cave and sandpit, large turf hills, a firetruck wall, swings for absolutely all abilities, and much more.
Can’t get enough playgrounds? Check out our list of Top 10 Favorite Destination Playgrounds.