A Vernon Family Adventure

Nothing trumps a classic family road trip. Join us as we embark on a family adventure to Vernon, British Columbia. Meet my family, Presley (4), Cash (8) and Rod (my biggest boy and loving husband).  Sample the Vernon vibe and discover what makes this lakeside gem of a town the perfect family destination. Families driving from the greater Vancouver area should plan a pit stop in Merritt. While you’re there snap a photo with your favourite country crooner on the Walk of Stars. With over 100 lakes within a one hour drive, expect to be wowed by the Vernon scenery. This is adventure country for kids of all ages (Moms and Dads too) and exploring the area by car is is the best way to do it.

IMG_0885Sleeping anywhere other than home is always exciting for kids. The newly renovated Sandman Inn and Suites in Vernon has everything you need plus an indoor pool. An equipped kitchenette  (and Safeway across the street) makes prepping snacks and meals easy. There’s even a Denny’s and what kid doesn’t love a Moon Over My Hammy? Note to self: Kids eat free on Tuesday evenings. The boys loved the comfy beds and I appreciated the convenience of being able to come back during the day if Presley needed a power nap or I forgot something essential. Daily housekeeping service made it really feel like a vacation.

There is so much fun to be had in and around the Vernon area. Stop at the impressive Tourism Vernon Visitor Centre at 3004 39th Ave. The enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff will help you coordinate an unforgettable itinerary.

 

We are giving you our version of the inside scoop as a starting point. However, depending on your vacation time and budget, there is much more to Vernon than a family can experience in a three-day getaway. Prepare to fall in love with Vernon and everything this charming town has to offer. We can’t wait to go back!

Might we suggest…..

Kangaroo Creek Farm: Not every petting farm or zoo has a community of kangaroos and capybaras let alone a place to hold and feed them. I held a newborn kangaroo and Cash a rare albino. The layout of the farm is open and inviting, allowing kids to really connect with the kangaroos and other more typical farm animals. Our older son Cash had two parrots perched on him at one time and thought that was super cool. Presley woke up every day for the rest of the week asking if we could go back to see the kangaroos. If that isn’t a stamp of kid approval I don’t know what is.

September hours are 10am to 2pm but get there early because Kangaroo Creek Farm is a popular family attraction. Bring cash as debit or credit cards are not accepted. Admission is $5 for individuals over 5 years old and $20 for a family of 5. In countless zoo and farm visits as a parent, I have never before seen my children interact in such a way with animals.

Our next stop, Allan Brooks Nature Centre. Located high above the town of Vernon on the old Upper Air Weather Station site, this centre is a touch and feel, natural wonderland for kids to explore.

Perched high on the hill, the picnic sites, playground and photo opportunities are spectacular. The passionate staff shares a wealth of nature knowledge with their eager young visitors. Cash was dazzled by Mariko McDougall and her extensive knowledge of bees. After this visit he might just end up a beekeeper some day. Presley drew his own version of the owls and learned through play with their extensive collection of bugs, skeletons, snakeskins and more. Let the kids touch, feel and investigate on their own timeline. I would describe the overall experience as a playful version of a science/nature/ecology class.

There are wholesome good times to be had at Davison Orchards. When we pulled up in the 2015 Ford Escape our kid’s eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning. What was this place? A movie set? A giant playground? A kids’ fantasy fun park? This beautiful, immaculate, family-friendly orchard was ours to savour. Arrive on an empty stomach because apples and pies are their specialty. Jump on the giant tractor/train and be whisked around the orchard’s endless aisles of ripe and ready Okanagan fruits and veggies. Learn how to properly husk corn and hand pick your own apple right off the tree. Truthfully this was the best apple I have ever tasted in my life. Sweet, crisp and oh so farm fresh. At the end of the tour spend as long as possible in the kids play area. It’s a mecca for the little ones and complete with an old Ford pick up as a sand box. Farm animals, duck races and a playground made Davison’s Orchards one of our family’s favourite Vernon adventures. Have lunch at Davison’s, the original family farmhouse turned deli. At Davison’s Orchards kids can be kids and Moms and Dads can enjoy some country peace and quiet while the children frolic and feast on farm fresh goodness.

Feeding my boys often makes me feel like a veggie-pusher. I’m always trying to wheel a deal with them to get them to get something healthy or green into their bellies. That was, until we paid a visit to the Vernon Farmers’ Market. Superhero sized veggies are the norm and the price is right. The Okanagan is known for wine and fruit and when you make a stop at the Vernon Farmers’ Market you’ll understand why. Take your time and scope your options while you bask in the sun that seems to shine even brighter in BC’s interior. From bouncy castles to hand knit Minion hats, our boys actually enjoyed the shopping. For me, taking a java break while the kids rocked out to the local buskers and performers was bliss. The Vernon Farmers’ Market has over 100 vendors and is one of the oldest markets in the area. People come from all over the Okanagan twice a week to stock up and to connect with community. The market runs every Monday and Thursday (rain or shine) April 16 to October 29 from 8am to 1pm in the Kal Tire Parking Lot at 3445 43rd Ave in Vernon.

Large and in charge, dinner fit for a Dad:

My husband devoured a two-foot long burrito at Los Huesos Mexican Restaurant while Mama sipped lime Margaritas after a long hot day chasing adventures.

Silver Star Mountain Resort

Nothing lights up a small fry’s face like the anticipation of an alpine adventure. We were just as excited as the kids as we drove from Vernon up to Silver Star Mountain Resort. The mountain top bike shop geared us up like real pros, complete with full-face helmets, body armor and full suspension Norco mountain bikes. This really stoked Cash’s mountain biking adventure! Silver Star Bike Park offers over 90 km of diverse (and a little gnarly) progressive downhill and cross country terrain. As a family unit with a four year old in tow, we opted for the easier but still scenic multi use trails. The selection is vast so choose routes that suit your family’s abilities We rode the Cross-Mountain and Tin Tin trails. Great news for mountain biking enthusiasts, Silver Star is adding 35+km of new alpine cross-country trails in the very near future to be named BeoWulf.

Aside from biking, Silver Star offers some very friendly alpine hiking options for families. Taking a chair lift up the mountain then hiking down the Milky Way is a doable outdoor adventure for kids. The trail runs parallel to the downhill MTB trails so you will catch glimpses of mountain bikers on the move. When you do finally make it to the bottom of the mountain, no matter what season, après should be on your agenda whether it’s beer or hot chocolate. A reward for a hard day on the hill at the Town Hall is a must. One thing kids won’t want to miss at Silver Star is the Gnome Roam, a self-guided trail for the little ones through the forest to hunt for magical little mountain men. There’s also geocaching for enthusiasts. GPS units are available at bike rentals for $25 which includes your GPS, book, and geocache descriptions. Silver Star reminds me of a mix of Candyland and Disneyland, so sweet and so colourful. You have to see it and experience it yourself to really appreciate the magic of this resort. Be it winter, spring, summer or fall, this mountain makes for family magic.

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The Armstong IPE

Giddy up to the IPE and party till the cows come home. There is good ol’ fashioned fun to be had at Armstong BC’s annual Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede. Kid-approved and udderly awesome, this fair draws people from all over BC’s interior. The community vibe is contagious. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. We had a chance to taste famous Armstrong cheese, cheer on Vancouver in the Chuck Wagon races and overdose on fair food. Heads up, invest in a ride wristband ($45 per child) as it is the cheaper way to go if your kids enjoy amusement rides. The fair had a cow theme going on with a plethora of cow-inspired activities. My son Cash won a milking competition and both boys had a chance to learn a thing or two about farm life and agriculture awareness. From the Rodeo to Iron Chef contests and the Lumberjack Show, the IPE is a BC family bucket list item you have to make happen.

Kalamalka Lake Love

What better way to wrap up our family escape than Stand Up Paddleboarding on Kalamalka Lake. It was our lucky day and the annual end-of-summer Kalamalka Classic SUP Festival kick-off. We picked up rentals at the classic Kalavida Surf Shop, a favourite with locals. Home to the largest selection of boards and paddles in BC, their store makes you feel more like you are in Hawaii than in Vernon. We bowed our heads to receive Leis from staff, a tradition before setting out on the annual community lake paddle. We chatted with SUP pro and soon to be Mom Lina Augaitis who shared her reasons why Stand Up Paddlesboarding is the perfect sport for all ages. Both sons took to the experience immediately. As the sun set over the lake, we felt grateful for the opportunity to have been together as a family in this magical place.

Ford Road Trip

We test drove the 2015 Ford Escape Titanium on this Vernon Family Adventure. Even the kids agree that it is the perfect fun-mobile for families. There is plenty of personal space which is a real bonus on a family road trip. Fuel efficiency made it easier on our budget too. (7.4L/100KM hwy and 10.4L/100km city) The sound system and infotainment system in the Ford Escape rocks. When you #GoFurther, pumping some Sirius Radio through the sound system makes everyone happy. The moon roof amped up the fun factor 100%. Other noteworthy features are the hands free, foot activated rear bumper lift gate. This is the coolest feature for active Moms who know what it’s like to maneuver kids and gear while trying to load up a vehicle. When you’re planning to SUP, hike, bike and maybe even more on one road trip, cargo space is key. The Ford Escape has 67.8 cu.ft for your adventure toys. No need to pack light! All seats fold down so if you have any long gear, no problem. Voice activated controls like hands free, a GPS navigation system and a digital screen for parking assistance helps get you to your destination safely. The handsome interior of this ride, the Eco boost engine, an intelligent 4WD system and curve control make the Ford Escape the ultimate family adventure-mobile. We give it our Play Outdoors stamp of approval.

Family adventure time in Vernon isn’t over yet. This was just our introduction to the area but it opened our eyes to the endless possibilities and the adventures that beckon so close to home and year round. Vernon is awesome! Follow the sun to Vernon and find out for yourself.

About the author  ⁄ Stephanie Florian

Founder and fearless leader Play Outdoors Media Inc. TV and radio host, adventure journalist, surfer chick, Mom I'd like to rip with.

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