If you are moving to Vancouver with a family, one of the first things you’ll need to do is decide on a neighbourhood. Like most Canadian cities, Vancouver consists of many different districts and quarters. Some parts of town are more suitable for hipsters and young professionals, and other neighbourhoods like Killarney and Kitsilano are going to be more ideal for families and children.
On the whole, Vancouver is a very safe and clean city. In other words, it’s a pretty family-friendly place to live, all the way around. But when you want the best for your family, you have to look at school districts, public parks and playgrounds, pedestrian zones, and so on.
So let’s take a closer look at two of Vancouver’s more popular areas, Killarney and Kitsilano, on opposite ends of town, and see how they measure up.
Kitsilano by the beach
Near the northwest corner of the Burrand Peninsula, Kitsilano has excellent proximity to some of Vancouver’s best beaches. It’s also close to downtown and a rich array of culture and entertainment, as well as an abundance of health food shops and yoga studios.
If money is no object, you’ll probably prefer to live closer to the shore. Kits Beach and the Spanish Banks offer vast expanses of soft sand and captivating views of English Bay and the downtown skyline. On summer days, the beach fills up with swimmers, sunbathers and volleyball tournaments. You’ll also find Canada’s longest swimming pool, an outdoor salt-water pool open from May through September.
But head inland a few blocks, and you can save some money on your house or apartment. You’ll also get yourself a little closer to some of the city’s nicest shops and restaurants. West 4th Avenue is just brimming with trendy bars and eateries, and of course, there’s a Whole Foods.
The median price of a single-family home in Kitsilano is just over $3 million, and even townhouses sell for more than a million.
Culture in Kits
For something more educational and culturally stimulating, you could spend untold days strolling the pathways and perusing the museums of Vanier Park. The Museum of Vancouver exhibits the city’s colorful alongside a fantastic collection of First Nations artifacts. Just next door, the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre puts on some wonderful demonstrations that the whole family can enjoy. Vanier Park is also home to “Bard on the Beach”, western Canada’s largest professional Shakespeare Festival. It takes place outdoors and runs all summer.
The park sits right on the waterfront, with Kits Beach just around the corner. On a clear day you can view the coastline as it stretches out from English Bay. Or simply admire the Art Deco architecture of Burrand Bridge, connecting Kitsilano to Yaletown, Davie Village and the West End.
For even greater cultural fusion, Vancouver’s Greek town makes up a good portion of the Kitsilano neighborhood. Enjoy some authentic mediterranean cuisine, and enjoy the all-day Greek street festival that happens every June.
There are three public elementary schools in Kits and one secondary school. Public schools in British Columbia are free to local residents, and they maintain very high standard of education.
To determine which public school catchment you will belong to based on your address, be sure to check out the Vancouver School Board’s locator tool.
For something more specialized, you can also look into the private and independent schools. Both are tuition based and do not receive public funding. The only difference is that independent schools are governed by the Independent Schools Association of British Columbia (ISABC). Within Kitsilano, there are a handful of these.
For special needs and students with dyslexia, for example, Fraser Academy offers one of the best programs in British Columbia. One of the city’s most highly ranked schools, St. Augustine’s School offers K-7 education with a Catholic influence. St. John’s School is a K-12 international school with a commitment to academic excellence and a global approach to education.
Killarney on the East Side
At the opposite end of the peninsula from Kitsilano, at the southeastern corner, Killarney sits on the south-facing slope overlooking the Fraser River. Out here in East Vancouver, the cost of housing tends to be more reasonable, but without being too far from downtown and the city centre. And as one of Vancouver’s newer neighborhoods, it feels a bit closer to nature and a little less congested.
Single family homes in Killarney are going for about $1.6 million, as of May 2019, which is pretty affordable for Vancouver. And the neighbourhood also has a good supply of condos and townhouses, which are selling for closer to $600,000.
A melting pot
Killarney, which also includes the community of Champlain Heights, has attracted young families as well as an incredibly diverse collection of ethnic groups. Take a look around the neighbourhood, especially up Kingsway, and you’ll find businesses serving the whole spectrum of Canadian immigrant populations, including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Indian, Caribbean, Filipino and more.
Many residents appreciate the balance of feeling close to the city, but far enough from the skyscrapers and high-rises. Killarney still retains enough green space to remind you of of the forest it once was. Everett Crowley Park, covering 38 acres, is the site of a massive native restoration project. A reclaimed landfill, the park has become a biologically diverse and thriving habitat, attracting hundreds of species of birds. The park also hosts an annual Earth Day event and various outdoor learning activities.
Killarney has four public elementary schools, providing K-7 education. Killarney Secondary, on 41st Avenue, is the largest secondary school in Vancouver and has great reputation for its fine arts program.
Remember to check out the Vancouver School Board’s locator tool, to see which public school catchment your address belongs to.
A private school alternative, the Vancouver Formosa Academy (VFA) specializes in English as a second language programs for grades 7-12. Catering to international students, VFA helps newcomers make the transition between their home country and the Canadian way of life.
Consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world, with a very high quality of life, you really can’t go wrong in Vancouver. But when it comes to selecting a neighbourhood for raising a family, you may have to choose between paying a few million dollars for a home in a central location like Kitsilano, or saving a couple million by living further out in a place like Killarney. Either way, you’re never far from some nice waterways, charming parks, great restaurants and quality schools.
To learn more about family life in Vancouver, check out some of these other articles and links.
- Vancouverism: Neighbourhoods of Vancouver
- 10 Things you didn’t know about Vancouver
- Moving to Canada as Family
- Online Relocation Guide for Vancouver
PHOTO CREDIT: English Bay across from Kitsilano, Vancouver (Wikipedia)