We’re just back from spending a month out of the city at our family cabin on a lake near Kamloops, the first, and hopefully not the last, time we do something like that as it was an amazing family experience. And as beautiful as the lake was and as hot and gorgeous as the weather was we did venture into town to break up the amazing “monotony” of picking wild strawberries, kayaking, swimming, riding our bikes, playing Clue and Ruckus, and then swimming some more.
The thing we found about exploring Kamloops is that there was so much to do and so little time. We could have been out and about exploring daily but the pull of the lake (and the heat!) meant we only fit in a fraction of what we’d have liked to have done.
The easiest way to figure out what you might like to do with kids while nearby, in, or passing through Kamloops is grabbing a copy of their Kids Map which is easy to find at various locations around town or any tourist centre. Not only does it list all the fun to be had – think everything from butterflies to bears and swimming and science – but it includes lots of coupons for discounts and deals. Our kids took possession of the map and poured over it making their “to do” list and we went from there.
One of our favourite things to do whenever we’re near Kamloops is to take in their Farmer’s Market. If you’re staying in town we’d recommend you be sure to visit the market – either the bigger Saturday market or the smaller Wednesday market – and if you’re driving through and you can plan your trip to coincide with either market you totally should. Packed with amazing local produce and more, Vancouver farmer’s market goers will be astonished by the great prices and the selection is amazing. Our kids love to take in the Saturday market as they’re fans of the hot bannock which they liberally sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and they enjoy giving me “advice” on how many cherries and raspberries we “need”. The Saturday market also includes lots of crafts and local artisans – think fudge, soap, wooden toys and more. And the Wednesday market is right by the library and Kamloops Art Gallery (the Kids Map includes a coupon for free art gallery admission) so we often make a morning of it, stocking up on our reading and movies thanks to our BC One Card which lets us take out and return books at any library in BC FTW.
We’re also big fans of the Canada Games Aquatic Centre which has a big waterslide and a smaller, more kid-friendly Pelican slide in their kiddie pool area which also includes a lazy river and waterfalls. If the weather’s ever inclement this is the first place our kids ask to go as they can swim there for hours. (The Kids Map has a coupon to save on admission!) And we love that they get to burn off energy doing something healthy. Of course once we’re done they always clamour to hit up Menchies which may offset all that healthy swimming, or Chapters where they carefully budget their money to buy books and games. The waterpark at Riverside park is another favourite on hot days, as is swimming in the river or playing in the park’s playground.
During one of the rainy days when we were there we took the kids to Ruckers (yes, the Kids Map has a coupon!) which is full of arcade type games and was unlike anything we’ve ever done with them before. They left with lots of little prizes and would happily have gone back anytime. Other things on our list if the rain kept up (which is didn’t, sadly in this case) were the Big Little Science Centre and the Children’s Museum.
There’s lots of nature to explore in (and near) Kamloops as well. We spotted marmots, osprey, loons, ducks, deer and more near our cabin while we also visited the Butterfly Garden in McArthur Island Park. Sadly the weed eaters were out in full force during our visit so the butterflies were conspicuously absent but the park is quite an amazing place to explore.
We also visited the BC Wildlife Park just outside of Kamloops. I’m a bit leery of animals in captivity, but just like the Vancouver Aquarium, the Wildlife Park does lots of conservation and rehabilitation and our oldest was enthralled to discover they’re breeding Burrowing Owls. She did a big Burrowing Owl project around endangered animals for school a few years ago and had never seen a “real” one so was very excited to learn more about their work around conservation. We explored the indoor exhibits which included info on rocks, plants and animals in the lovely cool air conditioning and then ventured out to check out black bears, grizzly bears, elk, lynx, cougars, moose, bison and more. The park also has a miniature train, shows, a super fun playground and a splash park. It’s the kind of place where you could stop by for an hour or two or stay for the afternoon. And if you’re driving through Kamloops to another destination and need to plan a kid-friendly stop on your trip you’ll be very popular if you stop at the Wildlife Park.
Kamloops isn’t just for kids either. I’m a fan of browsing the boutiques on Victoria Street and we had a great night out sans enfants for our anniversary, dining al fresco at Brownstone Restaurant where we could enjoy Music in the Park – free outdoors concerts every night in July and August at the Rotary Bandshell in Riverside part – by proxy. We also met up with friends one afternoon and “the guys” went golfing at Tobiano and “the girls” (big and small) did some back road exploring and then met them for dinner at the clubhouse on the patio. The course runs alongside Kamloops lake and with sweeping views and it was a great place for a post-golf meal with or without kids. If you sit outside there’s lot of manicured lawn for the kids to run and play on without bothering any other diners while you enjoy a more leisurely meal.
When we left after our month there were still lots of things on our to do list. We wanted to catch Project X’s production of Alice and Wonderland, stock up on more produce and generally explore at Tranquille Farm Fresh and fit in some horseback riding. Oh well, there’s always next time. Because we’ll be back…
Kayak & berries: Annemarie Tempelman-Kluit
BC Wildlife Park: Kelly Funk
Butterfly Garden: Karla Hoffman
Original Posting here