We live in North Vancouver, BC. It’s a 15-minute drive from Playland in Vancouver. We go annually at least once. Our kids are 10 and 7 so they’re at prime theme park ages. While it’s not my favorite outing of the year, the kids love it. I should mention that I’m not much of a ride guy; if I were, I’d probably love it as much as them.
While it’s not Six Flags or Disneyland, it’s a decent amusement theme park to have so close to us. We’ve been taking our kids since they could walk. The park offers every age-level ride from slow kiddie rides to the daredevil, thrilling rides (that I don’t go on).
Playland is not the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE)
It’s easy to confuse the two. Both are at the same location. Playland is a theme park open weekends in spring and early fall and then daily in July and August.
The PNE is an exhibition on adjacent grounds open for two weeks at the end of August. It offers shows and a petting zoo.
This article focuses on Playland, the amusement park. We typically don’t attend the PNE.
Where is Playland in Vancouver?
It’s located on Hastings Street at Windermere St. It’s just West of exit #26 off Highway #1.
How much are tickets to Playland?
Ticket prices range from $34 to $50. For kiddie rides only, it’s $34 in advance and $39 at the gate. For all rides, it’s $45 in advance and $50 the day.
Nope, it’s not cheap.
Here’s a glimpse through a series of photos I took so that you get a sense of what Playland offers
The first ride once you enter Playland is the Kettle Creek Mine roller coaster. It’s great for young kids. We ride it first every time.
Once done with the little coaster, we stroll through the place. Kids eyeing their next ride which ended up being a small version of the huge drop ride. We all enjoyed the mini version.
After this we divided and conquered. My youngest really wanted to go into the haunted house.
Is the haunted house scary? Not really. My 7-year-old went and wasn’t scared at all. He enjoyed it though. What’s odd is the haunted house entry is not included with your all-rides pass. We had to pay an additional $6 each for the haunted house.
We then did the pirate ship.
From there, we did the Ferris wheel.
After that the kids ran all over the park riding, riding, riding.
Here are more photos of rides at Playland. We didn’t do them all.
Sadly, the big roller coaster was closed.
Young kid rides at Playland
If you have younger kids, Playland is still a great outing. There are many great rides for very young kids. I’ve been going since our oldest was 3. Check out the kiddy rides at Playland.
Are there carnival games where you can win stuff?
You bet there are… many of them.
What I don’t like about Playland
Overall it’s a good outing. Kids love the place. However, I have my grievances. Here they are.
Not open evenings Sun to Thur
This drives me crazy. I’d much rather go during a weekday evening; something like 6 to 9:30 pm when it’s cooler and maybe not as busy. I’d probably go more than once per Summer.
However, for some incomprehensible reason, Playland is only open evenings Fridays and Saturdays. It’s a huge unfortunate oversight.
Not enough shaded sitting areas
Playland is one big, hot slab of concrete. There are hardly any trees or gardens with shaded areas to sit. It’s ugly. It’s hot. It’s not pleasant for parents to pass the time while kids ride. It would not require all that much effort to add more trees and gardens with benches throughout the park. This would make it far more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. As it is, it’s ugly as all get-out.
Not enough food vendors
We waited 30 minutes in line for burgers. 40 minutes for lemonade. It’s insane. Since you can’t bring in bags, you’re forced to buy food there which is fine with me but at least open up more food stands and options so we don’t wait forever.
The lemonade stand almost did us in. No shade. Standing on hot concrete in the sun for 40 minutes was brutal.
Too many rides not open
When we went, the big roller coaster wasn’t operating. A couple other big rides weren’t operational either. I mean come on… you have all year to see that these rides are in good working order for a short two-month season. I’m not much of a ride guy but I do like roller coasters.
The lines are way too long
With being able to buy tickets online, the place should limit ticket sales and set out “sold out” when a certain number of tickets are sold. Maybe it does this and if so, the number of tickets it sells is way too many. We spent an awful lot of our day standing in line-ups. My older son waited 50 minutes to ride the Hellevator. He loved it but seriously, 50 minutes?
The simple solution is to limit tickets sold. I get it that before internet, you couldn’t very well turn people away but now with online ticket sales, require ticket purchases in advance and make it clear on the website for any particular day when it’s sold out. The Cultus Lake Waterslides and Cultus Adventure Park does this very well.
What I like about Playland
I’m not just gripes and complaints. There are some redeeming aspects about Playland. Here they are:
Great ride selection
There’s something for everyone and that’s important.
That’s about it. The rides are good. It’s close to our house. Wish there was more on the positive side I could say but I can’t. That said, it’s all about the rides and that’s really the only reason we go.
Will I go to Playland again?
Yup. If it weren’t for having kids at prime riding age, I’d never go again but our kids love it. I can stomach the place for a day. I just think that it wouldn’t take all that much effort to make it so much more pleasant. If it was open evenings during the week, I’d probably go a few times over the Summer.
Is it worth traveling a long distance for Playland?
No. If you’re going to travel long distance for an amusement park, there are far better options, especially in the USA. However, if you’re visiting Vancouver and have kids or are a ride junky yourself,xit’s worth a day of your time.
Is there parking?
If you want parking across the street (it’s $15), show up early. We showed up as it opened and scored a good parking spot. There are houses in the area selling parking spots on their driveway for $10. I’ve always scored parking so am not sure where one would go if the main lot is sold out.
Is there a lunch place? Beer garden?
Yes, to both questions. There’s a Triple-O’s restaurant (fast food style) that sells burgers. It takes forever. There’s a bar as well. I didn’t go to the bar, but there’s one there if you prefer to drink while waiting for your kids.
Other than that, there are some food stands throughout the park selling hot dogs, cotton candy and other of the usual amusement park fare.
I think the place needs another restaurant or two. We waited forever for burgers. The place was not air-conditioned. It needs a nicer sit-down restaurant with fast service. Standing in lines for food is no fun.