The Vancouver Aquarium: Tips from a (New) Member

boy watching the beluga whale

Credit- Vancouver Aquarium

This week I wrapped up a busy conference and rewarded myself with a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium with my daughter. It was a natural choice: the weather has been unpredictable and it seemed a good place to reconnect.

Even though we’re locals, we’d never looked into membership before. This quiet Tuesday seemed a good day to check it out, and I was pleasantly surprised with what I discovered. I learned children are free before age 4 so it makes sense for parents of 3-year-olds to buy memberships before their birthday (the membership is good for a year, so in essence you get some free months out of it).

Members have their own priority entrance, which is nice. And they get invites to exclusive after-hours events and promotions, including a half-hour earlier start to admissions on non-holiday weekends.

But I soon discovered that the greatest benefit of membership: a more relaxed experience. Because you’ve already pre-paid for the year (at a discount), you don’t feel the pressure to check every.single.thing. out in one visit. And naturally that makes for a better time for the whole family.

Beluga whale swimming at Vancouver Aquarium

Credit- Vancouver Aquarium

That said, in our 90-minute visit we still managed to cover:

  • A Star Wars Dive where Darth Vader was in the tank, Leia was the interpreter, and a Storm Trooper provided commentary)
  • The Penguin gallery, viewing the South African penguins in their natural habitat
  • A picnic lunch (brought from home) in the Beluga Viewing area
  • The Amazon exhibit and tropical areas
  • An up-close look at the Sea Otters and a special chat with Alex (Aquarium staff) who shared a pelt and fun facts with us
  • Playing and exploring different areas (while mom scanned QR codes for more science facts)

All without tears or tantrums! We decided to skip the 4-D movie (it’s better for ages 4 and up), the frogs, and a few of the BC-based exhibits. We’ll save those for next time. There’s a playground just up the path in Stanley Park so we spent the rest of the (surprisingly sunny) afternoon there.

Whether you are a local or not, I’d suggest you:

  1. Squeeze in a visit before the end of April and then you get a free visit in May.
  2. Check the school calendar. Avoid Professional Development (Pro-D) days, field trip days, and major holidays. You’ll still have fun if you don’t do your homework, but you’ll have to navigate some crowds.
  3. Try to visit on a weekday before noon or after 2pm.
  4. Check the “today” page on their website before you go for special shows and events (including closures) at
  5. Bring a picnic (lunch or snack) and a water bottle – even if you use the amazing concession stand for an Ocean-Wise treat, you’ll need to take plenty of breaks and keep your energy up.
  6. Expect to pay for parking (we paid $5 for a few hours). The parking meters use your license plate # so don’t worry if you have to park farther away. Just park, and pay right before you enter the main gates.

Happy visiting …

Published: April 24th, 2014

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Morgan was raised on camping by her father and maternal grandparents. A life-long Vancouverite, she is a tourism instructor at BCIT and Royal Roads University and a customer service trainer. Morgan lives in East Vancouver with her family and puts a heavy emphasis on family travel as a way to learn, grow, and reconnect.

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