A Family Getaway Guide: Spring Break in the Okanagan

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BC’s Thompson Okanagan region is a magical summertime mecca for families looking to create golden memories. But why wait? Gather the clan and discover the glory of spring break in the Okanagan.

Below, I’ve proposed a few spring itineraries for families spending near Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton. There’s so much to do wherever you land in this picturesque region, the most difficult decision you’ll face is where to go and what to do first.

Vernon: Spring Skiing at SilverStar

SilverStar Mountain Resort, northeast of Vernon, never gets tired of scooping up awards. In Ski Canada Magazine’s 2016 Awards, SilverStar was named Best Family Resort, Best Grooming, Best Terrain Park, Best Sun (don’t forget to pack that sun block), and Best News for Tree Skiers. USA Today called it the #5 Cross-Country Ski Resort in North America, and both Okanagan Life Magazine and Today’s Parent highlighted the resort’s appeal for families.

Don’t take their word for it, though; discover this true ski-in, ski-out mid-mountain alpine village for yourself. Before you head up to the resort, make a pit stop at Ratio Coffee & Pastry (closed Sundays), located in the old train station. You can’t go wrong with whatever incredible treat you choose, but just thinking of the donuts makes me salivate.

Book a Snowbound Powder Deal, where the longer you stay, the more you save. Accommodation is combined with a pass that includes access to 132 runs with options for every level of skier, unlimited access to free tubing, free skating on a natural pond, free snowshoeing on wilderness trails, free cross-country skiing on the Nordic trail system, and free access to Fat Biking trails. Snowbird Lodge in the village centre is a great family option with its full kitchens, particularly if you have dietary restrictions or finicky eaters.

Dining options here include restaurants, cafes, pubs and lounges. The Red Antler boasts “Canadiana cuisine,” and has a wide menu that appeals to all ages. For an experience the family will cherish, try a sleigh ride dinner tour. Or check out the climbing wall, perfect for beginners to experts. For little ones, there’s a mini Arctic Cat snowmobiles fenced track. Under the Firelight Lodge by the skating pond, there’s Pinheads Bowling with four computerized, laser 10-pin bowling lanes, other activities such as pinball and karaoke, and the Final Run Bar & Bistro. You can work out at the Fitness Centre or take a yoga class. If you need a break from all that physical activity, browse the Silver Star Mountain Museum.

Before you leave Vernon, be sure to visit Planet Bee Honey Farm & Meadery, which offers fun for the whole family and free admission. Learn about The Amazing Bee Dance, sample 15 different floral varieties of honey, and browse the gift shop. Adults can taste mead, with eight honey wines ranging from dry to an ice wine.

Honey and mead at Planet Bee in Vernon

Sample honey and taste mead at Planet Bee

Get Cultural in Kelowna

Stay at the Prestige Inn Kelowna or the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort & Conference Centre, and leave your car in the parking garage while you stroll the Cultural District. In the heart of it all are the Kelowna Museums, where history comes alive. There are special programs designed to engage your family during spring break, so check out the events section to see what captures your attention.

Take Be A Curious Curator, where you “dig for fossils, explore the trenches of foreign wars, and take the apple packing challenge.” Your family’s journey begins at the Okanagan Heritage Museum, where you pick up your curator booklet then travel to the Okanagan Military Museum and the BC Orchard Industry Museum. The cost is $5 per family, and it runs March 22, 23 and 24 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. On March 26, Be A Soldier and learn what it was like for the many Okanagan soldiers in World War I and II. Afterward, grab a wholesome brunch or lunch at The Salted Brick or Bohemian Café.

Snacks at The Salted Brick, Kelowna

Snacks at The Salted Brick, Kelowna

At the Rotary Centre for the Arts, celebrate expression through diverse art forms and disciplines. Check out the schedule for performing arts, concerts, art and photography exhibits, classes and workshops.

For dinner, indulge in true farm-to-table cuisine at RauDZ Regional Table. Enjoy delectable dishes while learning about the independent growers, vintners and crafts people who share the RauDZ philosophy.

For mind/body balance, try out Kelowna’s biggest indoor family recreation centre, EnergyPlex, which includes SkyTrax, Kelowna’s only indoor aerial park. While spring break is a bit early to swim in the Okanagan’s lakes, there’s always H2O Adventure Fitness Centre, a world-class aquatics recreation, health and fitness facility.

And the farmers market season may not be in full swing yet, but for local products, check out the indoor Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market at Parkinson Recreation Centre, or browse the BC Tree Fruits Market.

Penticton: Pathways, Farms and Parks

Book a room at the Penticton Lakeside Resort or the Best Western Penticton, where the indoor pools and fitness facilities augment your outdoor fun. Enjoy the Best Western’s deluxe continental breakfast – who knew making your own waffles could be so fun – and take a morning stroll a few blocks away along Skaha Lake. Or start your day with a breakfast overlooking Okanagan Lake at Penticton Lakeside Resort’s Hooded Merganser, then stroll along the lake to the Ikeda Japanese Garden or west to the S.S. Sicamous Museum.

Take a scenic drive along Naramata Road after stopping at The Bench Market to pick up a lunch to go, and some Okanagan products to take home. At Three Mile Road, visit Andy’s Animal Acres, a small family-owned farm with a passion for animals. Especially orphans. Here, in a farm setting, interact with bunnies, guinea pigs, sheep, potbelly pigs, miniature donkeys, horses and goats, as well as big horses. Admission is $7 per person (children under one are free), or buy a family pass for four for $25. And there’s a picnic area to enjoy that lunch you packed.

Family enjoying Andy's Animal Acres in Penticton

The McGahan family enjoy a Sunday at Andy’s Animal Acres

Stop in at the Penticton Visitor Centre to get your bearings and pick up local maps, then explore the wonderful local cycling opportunities. A primarily paved trail that runs 8 km (5 mi) each way, the Okanagan River Channel is a family-friendly ride on the raised bank between Okanagan and Skaha lakes. Another option is to explore Penticton’s best known bike touring option, the KVR Trail. Hiking in this area is exceptional, with paths from beginner to expert. Start at the Munson Mountain lookout, a local favourite that leads you to a spot above the iconic “Penticton” sign to a stunning view of Okanagan Lake, Penticton, and beyond to Skaha Lake.

If you’re able to travel further afield, head south of Penticton to Vaseux Lake Provincial Park and walk the boardwalk to the viewing platforms. En route, be sure to treat yourself and the kids to ice cream at Tickleberry’s in Okanagan Falls. Enjoy an early dinner at Brodo Kitchen, with it’s locally sourced, down-to-earth cuisine. Or check out Burger 55, featured on the television program “You Gotta Eat Here.” Your family can have some fun filling out forms to build their customized burgers. And did I mention you can order a root beer float?

Make A Spring Skiing Hat Trick

Skiing Apex Mountain Resort, Penticton

Skiing Apex Mountain Resort, Penticton

If spring skiing and snow adventures are your passion, in addition to SilverStar Mountain Resort, there’s Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna and Apex Mountain Resort near Penticton. Why not score a hat trick this spring and visit all three? One of the great things about the Okanagan in the spring is that the skiing is spectacular in the mountains while golfing is in full swing in the valley.