Our family spends a lot of time at the Park & Tilford Gardens in North Vancouver. It’s a little gem of a place that offers us a convenient place to let the kids run around and explore after going for coffee and/or grabbing groceries. Their favourite spot has always been the fish pond, now iced over and beautifully decorated for the Holiday Hi-Light Festival.
We kept the kids up late last Friday to pay a visit to the lights, despite the sub-zero temperatures. We walked around the gardens, ending up making cookies and watching the live entertainment included on Family Friday Nights. Damien even had a little visit with Santa!
North Vancouver is an amazing place to live!
Yesterday I was invited to the launch of Christmas at Canada Place for 2013, getting a chance to preview the free holiday activities. Aiden brought along one of his best buds for the event, plus we left the Dads at home with the younger kids, so it was quite the treat for them! It was so nice to be able to really give Aiden the attention of the night.
Christmas at Canada place is held ‘outdoors’, but in the covered parking area, so it was quite warm. We started our night with a little skating on the artificial ice, which kept our boys going for nearly a full hour. Both boys were up on their skates in minutes, neither having really skated before. The artificial ice was a great introduction to skating and really boosted their confidence. It was so cute to see them skate around, happily falling and crashing without getting wet or cold.
After dragging them off the ice, we went for a train ride on the mini train, noting the familiar face of the conductor who runs the Polar Express each year. We checked out the animatronics of the Woodward’s Windows, made a cute reindeer craft and lined up to meet Santa. Both kids balked at meeting Santa this time, but thankfully we have other scheduled Santa visits.
We had a fantastic night, though I do wish the hot chocolate had been closer to the skating area, since us moms could have enjoyed that during the skating! By the time we got to that area, it was too late to give the boys that kind of treat.
It is so great that this event is provided for free, as so many Christmas activities are not. Though they suggest a $2 donation for the skates and for the train rides, it is still one of the most frugal family-friendly Christmas activities in the Vancouver area. Check out the website for full details on hours and musical performances.
A couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to visit some good friends on Keats Island. Keats is one of the smaller islands in Howe Sound, just a short boat ride out of Horseshoe Bay. We took the water taxi out there bright and early in the morning, making the trip in just 30 minutes. Aiden was afraid of the trip, as we knew he would be, but he really pulled through and kept himself calm. Damien listened to Raffi most of the trip to quiet his squirming (he is so not a lap child).
On the island, we enjoyed visiting two different beaches to search for crabs, play in the sand and enjoy the gorgeous weather. We spent some time with our friends, had a relaxed lunch, and later came home via BC Ferries, first taking a trip into Langdale then back into Horseshoe Bay, allowing us to have dinner on the ferry.
This was the first time both kids have been out of our house for a full 12 hours without any down time anywhere inside, so they were quite overtired. Next time we attempt a full-day outing, particularly one that involves a lot of new experiences (stressful for little ones) and lots of walking, I’ll brink Aiden’s blanky. Poor guy needed some down time! Anyway, both kids fared well and it was a great adventure!
For our recent family vacation to Kelowna, we stayed at the Cove Lakeside Resort in West Kelowna. West Kelowna is about 10 minutes outside of the main areas in Kelowna, though it still boasts lakeside properties and convenient amenities including close driving access to shopping and restaurants. The hotel is nestled right next to the historic Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park and offers a serene aspect of Kelowna away from the hustle and bustle of the main thoroughfares in Kelowna proper.
If you are an active runner or enjoy long walks, you couldn’t ask for a more breathtaking area to visit! Whether you walk through the nut farm or go in the other direction along the newly created lakeside boardwalk, it’s a stunning view!
Cove Lakeside Overall Impression
Our goal in this family vacation was to find a hotel that offered the resort feel we’ve come to appreciate with family vacations: beach access, large pools, good restaurant facility, on-site activities, and family-friendly suites for extended stays. I’m pleased to say that the Cove Lakeside exceeded our expectations in many regards!
Had the weather been nicer for our whole stay, we probably would have spent more of our 6 days staying on the property, alternating between time in the pools, time at the beach, and time at the playground. It’s a perfect spot for kids. Thanks to the weather, we ventured out to play a little bit of tourist, but mostly giving the kids some opportunities to burn some energy at kid friendly attractions in Kelowna.
The Cove Lakeside features many high-end resort features such as a spa (I had a lovely pedicure!), fitness centre, an in-house movie theatre for 16, fine dining at The Bonfire restaurant, fire pits and of course the private beach and large pool area. If you’re looking for a getaway for your family, or a home base for taking some wine tours, you can’t ask for a more relaxing spot.
Resort tip: if you want to use the fire pits when they are not on, just ask at the front desk for them to be lit. The front desk also has marshmallow sticks, so be sure to bring your marshmallows!
The hotel offers many different room options, from standard studio rooms to 3 bedroom suites. We stayed in a walk-out 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom suite that had a huge patio and stairs right to the private beach and pool areas. I can’t tell you how convenient this was for us! The walk-out room allowed us to easily come and go with Aiden without taking a room key while one of us stayed close by with Damien during his naps. I do wish the room key worked on the patio door though!
Our suite featured a full kitchen, including everything you’d need to cook most meals. We stocked up the kitchen with a lot of food, to minimize the number of times we’d have to eat out or go off property. We cooked a lot and were additionally pleased to be able to use the communal BBQs in the main courtyard to prepare some burgers and chicken! What a treat!
With kids that go to bed early (typically before 7), it is challenging to arrange sleeping arrangements in most hotels. With the 2 bedroom suite, we were able to separate the children, with Aiden in the bigger bedroom (since it also has a pull-out couch) and Damien in the master bedroom with us. We hoped this would keep them from waking each other up before 6, but they invariably woke up not long past 5 each day. Darn sunlight! With the kids in their own rooms, we were able to kick back to enjoy a glass of Okanagan wine while reading or watching tv. Though I found the bed a little hard, I could have lived on that couch and seriously considered bringing it home ;)
Hotel Amenities of note: The hotel offers free Wi-Fi, a children’s club in high season for kids over age 4, and babysitting services for a surcharge. We made use of these services for a date night at the hotel restaurant during our stay!
Beach & Pools
We were in the pool at least once a day, rain or shine. On the days where the rain held off, we spent most of our days in the water! Aiden came a long way in regaining his confidence in the water. He loved going from the “big pool with the kid side” to the hot tub and to the smaller pool with the water slide. Though Aiden didn’t get up the courage to try the water slide (technically he’s too young anyway), Mom and Dad both enjoyed it! The pools featured ample deck chairs for lounging and a bar, though it wasn’t open during our stay.
The property features a private beach as well as the pool area, though the beach is quite small. Given that the temperature wasn’t very warm, we didn’t swim in the lake during our stay, though we did make use of our buckets and shovels in the sand a few times.
Disclosure: our family received a discount for our stay at this hotel. All opinions are my own. Photos are our own – see more hotel photos here - except for the wide angle of the pools. You can follow along with my Kelowna posts here.
We spent most of a week in Kelowna at the end of June, enjoying some much deserved downtime from a busy schedule of working and taking care of the kids. As I shared earlier, I’d been feeling a need to get away and the family vacation was just what we needed. We chose Kelowna for several reasons:
- I’d never been to the Okanagan (I know, right?!)
- It was only 4 hours away, by car. We knew with Raffi playing, Damien would last a while and we would attempt a nap in the car for both kids. Seemed more workable than an airplane, which offered no easy nap solution for Damien.
- We could stay in a resort with a pool and a beach, getting everything we want from a family vacation with 2 kids… closer to home
- It gets hot there!
While the weather there was not as hot as it typically gets (it averaged 20-27 degrees and went up 10 degrees in a day just as we were leaving!), we had mostly rain-free time there and plenty of time to spend outdoors. On days when it was not so nice for staying close to our hotel, we ranged out to explore some of the more family friendly areas in Kelowna.
Family Friendly Activities in Kelowna
I did a fair amount of research trying to find activities that would be appropriate for a family of 2 young kids, aged 1 and 3. While many activities for families may be obvious – there are over 30 beaches on the lake! – you may find yourself looking for something to do on overcast days.
Here are some of the things we loved or that we read about:
- Kelowna Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We accidentally missed this, which makes me sad. Next time!
- Kelowna waterfront City Park (bottom right), right in the downtown core, features a playground and an amazing water park (the Variety Club Children’s waterpark) that has a mini waterside and lots of spray toys. And it’s free! I wish we had a park like this closer to home – I would be there with the boys often!
- Kelowna itself! Talk a walk down the main street in Kelowna, stoping to pose for a photo on the Ogopogo (top right) at the waterfront before grabbing an ice cream at Moo-Lix or a lunch at the amazing 5-generation owned Bread Co that features a fantastic kids menu
- O-Go Play (bottom left) in West Kelowna, a huge multi-level play structure with a toddler area and a bouncy castle too. Huge fun for a rainy day. Aiden went crazy in here and I think he would have happily stayed the whole day.
- H2O Adventure Centre in the outskirts of Kelowna is a huge indoor pool featuring a spray park (including a baby section), a large river run, a wave pool, water slides and a flow rider for the older set. This pool was insanely busy when we were there, but it had a lot to offer. We managed to coax Aiden onto the spray park after about an hour (he doesn’t like water in his face) and he was just starting to love it when Damien decided he was hungry and tired. Great activity for rainy days and you can come back in later with a hand-stamp if you decide to leave.
- EnergyPlex in Kelowna offers activities for a wider range of young and old kids, from the multi-level structure to a huge play zone for toddlers, and an outdoor bunny trampoline set-up. While we didn’t go here because it was further from our hotel, we heard great things about it.
While the region is known for its wineries, we found that taking our boys on a wine tasting was just a crazy experience. Unless your kids are laid back or are older, consider keeping this for another trip. For families brave enough for it, most wineries allow kids and some even offer sparkling juices to keep them involved in the tasting process (Mission Hill Winery did, for example).
Some other ideas for activities for younger kids in Kelowna include Kangaroo Creek Farm, CrocTalk, and Parrot Island. We didn’t think our kids would last long for any of these options ;)