As autumn is on its way, Yellow Pages wants you to make the most of summer by helping you throw one last ultimate backyard barbecue party. They offer an Ultimate Backyard BBQ media kit.
This Sunday, September 20th is Rediscover Nature Day! As school revs up and life becomes more structured, we all need to be reminded to stay connected with nature. Our challenge for you is to get outside for at least an hour with your family on Sunday
The first thing my kids do when checking into a new hotel (after saying hello to everyone in the lobby, fighting over who presses the inside button in the elevator and insisting on opening the door themselves) is jump on the beds. We not only do we have lift-off, but we have 150% approval for Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos, British Columbia.
Amenities range from fully equipped gourmet kitchens (the grocery and liquor stores are right next door) and washer and dryer in the suites, to poolside grilling stations for easy dinners (if you can pass up the restaurant.)
This Okanagan lakefront resort offers huge tapas plates in the Watermark Restaurant, wine tastings in the lobby, a waterslide in the outdoor pool, two hot tubs, yoga and pilates classes and the Illumination Spa and Salon.
If the kids tire of the waterslide (funny joke), the lake is adjacent to the property and features a three-sided dock to keep little ones safe yet allows the older ones to practice their cannonball form in deeper water. The Osoyoos Yacht Club is a short walk down the beach and we were able to hitch a catamaran ride and then test our salmon fishing skills, which were excellent incidentally. (Even though it was a banner year for salmon and the government actually increased the limits…).
When the boys and I were by the pool, we ordered to-die-for grilled cheese and homemade mac and cheese for lunch. I actually managed to tear them away from the waterslide for 6 minutes in order to eat!
For dinner, the family went to Watermark’s tapas-style restaurant run by terroir-inspired Chef Adair Scott. It also boasts it’s own wine label and to-die-for views.
They have made the small kitchen into an advantage by creating grilled dishes such as arctic char, chicken confit, local steaks and tapas-style fare (spicy prawns, tenderloin carpaccio or quinoa cauliflower salad, anyone?) presented artfully and cooked skillfully.
It really shouldn’t be called tapas. The dishes are huge – and you will want to finish it all. Much of the organic produce comes from Covert Farms, and the herbs are all grown a few feet away in the resort’s garden.
My son was transfixed one day watching a wedding underneath our balcony and it was all I could do not to ‘shhh’ loudly when he asked questions about the ceremony. There are learning opportunities even while on a beach vacation!
While in Osoyoos we made many a kid-friendly excursion, including the Miniature Train Museum and Rattlesnake Canyon Amusement Park – you can see our Osoyoos Top 10 list HERE). But one of the best ‘excursions’? Home Hardware. Just up the street from Watermark is an amusement park in itself. You will want to set aside about an hour. We picked up swim goggles, a cooler for the 75 pounds of salmon we were bringing home and garden décor.
From now on, Osoyoos will be on my summer hitlist – not only for the fresh salmon and organic fruit, but as an excuse to make memories with my family at Watermark Beach Resort.
Disclosure: Watermark Beach Resort has been awarded the Tripadvisor Hall of Fame for the past five years. We were hosted for a weekend and loved it so much we stayed an extra night. All opinions are my own.
It’s easy to entertain children on a dime in Vancouver, so save your money for a rainy day (not that Vancouver has any of those) and check out these 10 things to do in Vancouver for those on a budget. Here are our top 10 affordable Vancouver family activities – feel free to add to the list in the comments!
There’s something for everyone at this popular Vancouver tourist attraction, from the food and flower market to feeding the pigeons on the wharf. Kids play for free at the indoor playground in the Kids Market, and the outdoor water park if the sun is shining. On weekends, buskers entertain crowds of people and the atmosphere is more carnival than quiet.
Beaches and kids go together like pie and ice cream, so take yours to one of Vancouver’s several sandy beaches. Go to Spanish Banks for incredible city views, Kitsilano Beach to catch some basketball or volleyball pick-up games, Third Beach in Stanley Park for a calmer setting and sunsets, or Ambleside Beach to catch some waves if they’re breaking. Beached logs double as chair backs, just bring a blanket and a shovel and a desire to get your feet wet.
It’s not Vancouver’s most popular tourist attraction for nothing. In Stanley Park, the largest urban park in North America, you can bike around the seawall, play in the water park or playground, smell the roses in the rose garden, check out the Totem poles, ride the miniature train (for minimal cost), and watch the float planes take off and land in the harbour. If you want to get up close and personal with Douglas Firs, there are also well-marked hiking trails to explore.
Similar to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, only without the price tag, the Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge located in Lynn Canyon Park is the most thrilling adventure you can have for free in North Vancouver. Suspended fifty meters above water, the bridge will bounce and sway as you walk across it, thus earning its nickname, the shaky bridge. Bring a picnic or purchase snacks at the cafe in the nearby Ecology Centre, which is also worth a visit and free of charge.
Head east of downtown Vancouver and you will hit the third largest Chinatown in North America. From the ornate gated entrance to the narrowest building in the world, Vancouver’s Chinatown is a vibrant, historical part of the city, loved by young and old. If they like Chinatown they’ll love the Richmond Night Markets for cheap thrills and sampling Asian cuisine, on May 15-Oct 12.
For minimal cost, get a tour of Vancouver’s False Creek in one of these cruisers. Choose one of their eight docks to start from and enjoy a twenty-five minute boat ride around the bay, children ride for $4. The Aquabus is stroller-friendly and the best-kept commuter secret in Vancouver, with boats leaving every fifteen minutes.
May 2015 marked the 138th anniversary of the first train arriving in Vancouver, and you can check it out for free at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre in Vancouver’s Yaletown. CPR Engine 374 is on display, and volunteers will give you a tour—their knowledge of rail history will impress Thomas the Tank Engine aficionados.
We mean this in a good way. Vancouver is home to the finest hiking east of the Rockies, many of which are possible for little legs. Pack water and snacks and head to Deep Cove, the Quarry Rock hike is part of the popular Baden Powell trail, and takes about an hour and a half round trip. The reward is a stunning vista of Indian Arm and mountains surrounding Belcarra. For flatter terrain and less view try Rice Lake, a three kilometre loop in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park.
Libraries aren’t just for bookworms. Head to your local library for story times, author talks, LEGO parties, movie showings, pajama parties, board games, puppet shows and singing, all for free. The summer reading club will be starting soon, sign your children up and inspire them to read more, and game less this year.
While the Vancouver Aquarium and Science World are popular destinations, they aren’t inexpensive, especially for families. Alternatives are the Vancouver Art Gallery, $6 for children and by donation Tuesday evenings, the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre with an $8 evening rate for children, and The Vancouver Maritime Museum with entrance by donation Thursday evenings. Culture doesn’t have to be costly.
Face it, there’s nothing to keep you inside in Vancouver – not even the rain.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/footloosiety/
We arrived and my son was crying. Hard. His precious toy camera had been left on the beach the day before and we just discovered it had been swept away by the tide. I was torn between trying to teach a lesson in responsibility and wanting to comfort him. Colin the bellman saw the tears and took over with ease. Grateful, I was so distracted with the trauma of the tears as well as the transferring of the luggage that I hardly remembered to apologize to the valet about the broken lego and stale Cheerios strewn about the car. Colin was phenomenal. He took a loonie (a tip from a previous guest) and gave it to my son. He engaged the 2 boys with a visual magic trick using the coin. He gave them each a coin to keep, which each boy still keeps in a special place. Wow. I wish I could nab Colin away from the hotel to calm the kids all the time!
Our next adventure on the ‘Kids in the City’ program was the kitchen tour. Both of the boys love to set up tea parties and make elaborate dishes for the stuffed animals.
We met Executive Chef Craig Dryhurst, who went over some culinary principles and helped the kids dip organic strawberries in chocolate and adorn them with even better accoutrements – like candied pineapple, white chocolate and berries. My Jr. Chefs were given ‘power cookies’ from chef Ned Bell, an avid cyclist with a keen interest in sustainability. I’m sure he was the force behind the huge urban cultivator in the kitchen that provides fresh microgreens like kale and watercress to patrons of Yew restaurant.
The room made me laugh in a great way. One son is used to my hotel shenanigans, filming and photographing before anyone is allowed to touch a thing. When I ‘released the hounds’ they both made for the soft beds, and jumped, exclaiming ‘This is first class Mom!!’
The Playzone was a favourite of the kids, and not only did we play together as a family, but I gently encouraged the boys to ask the concierge desk for various controllers by themselves. Typically shy, they overcame the emotion and practiced their manners. We played fussball, guitar hero, ping pong, air hockey, wii and genesis. There was a movie area suitable for toddlers to teens, as well as books and a nap nook.
Dinner at Yew is always an experience, but never so much as when your kids don suits and ties. Megan, our server, paid close attention to the needs of the boys, and the food was spectacular. The Moscow Mule (discovered via the iPad menu on the table) has become our signature drink at the Four Seasons Vancouver, and I am still attempting to replicate the salmon crab fishcake served with mango salsa that we devoured to begin. A fruit and bunny-shaped cheese plate delighted the boys. At every stage of the meal, they were treated as special guests. The kids had buttermilk fried chicken, fish and chips (translated into gourmet terms as Cloud 9 gluten-free crispy halibut, kennebec fries, lime caper and scallion dip). My dish was perhaps the most interesting and special. No vegan dish has ever tasted so good. The gemelli pasta was mixed with sambal roasted cashews, chili, herbs, and woodland mushrooms to produce a creamy, earthy treasure of a meal. We finished with a block of neapolitan homemade ice cream, a twist on 1960’s ice cream parlor culture.
Full and happy, we ignored the special critters left in room for story time and headed to the pool area. Part of ‘Kids in the City’, the patio area looked like a high-end carnival. White towels and bottled water sat on lounge chairs with red cushions and traditional red and white-striped popcorn was served to each guest while we watched ‘Despicable Me’ with popcorn in hand. The boys wore their ‘tiny robes’ with the hotel’s signature tree logo, feeling very special.
Lauren runs the childrens’ programs and mentioned that the pool and spa area design are advantageous to parents, who can work out while watching kids in pool.
She was running kids activities the next morning, assisting little ones in playing with water balloons, painting Canadian flags on smooth rocks and instructing kids at shuffleboard. We were leaving the area on completion of the crafts, and all of a sudden my son ran back. He had forgotten his rock like he had done with the camera just one day before.
Perhaps precious family bonding time, along with a few magic tricks and learning how to politely ask for contollers or dessert had taught a much better lesson than any scolding I could have done. The city can teach many lessons, especially with the Four Seasons at the helm.
‘Kids in the City’ runs each summer and during the winter holidays at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver.
Disclosure: We were hosted for a night at the hotel in order to complete our story and experience the magic.
Looking for some adventure for your family this summer? Try mountain biking at Silver Star in Vernon, BC. This amazing and expanded bike park has a little something for everyone from beginners to expert rippers. And with over 100 km of total trails, including 50 km of downhill and 50 km cross country you are sure to never get bored!
Ian Galbraith, summer business manager at Silver Star Galbraith says, “Last season we saw rider visits increase by 8% and when riders become aware of the expanded trails, it will solidify Silver Star’s reputation as one of the best bike parks in Canada. The expansion will play a big part in increasing rider visits this summer and while we are a long way from matching skier visits we are building a healthy summer business and increasing the resort’s four season appeal.”
Silver Star has expanded its downhill trail network to provide riders with the option of riding a new intermediate trail from the summit to the mountain base. Jedi Mind Trick, a blue trail that runs from the base of the mountain to half way up is being extended to the summit and the double black diamond trail Pro-Star – Walk the Line, that runs from the summit to half way down the mountain will be extended to the bottom. The trail network that will link existing trails with new trails are currently in their final stages of construction.
Silver Star’s bike park currently consists of over 50 kilometres of downhill trails ranging from green (easy) to double black (expert only) that challenge both beginners and advanced riders. It has18 downhill mountain bike trails: three double black diamond, five black diamond, six blue, three green, a vault skills area, five multi-use trails and seven XC bike trails. They offer camps and lessons for every level of rider so everyone in the family can get their “shred” on!
“Given the well-rounded experience we provide for riders at Silver Star, I am confident we will join the elite status of trail networks around the world with this exclusive designation,” said Ian Galbraith, summer business manager at Silver Star. “We offer a mix of XC and downhill trails for all abilities and are a full-service resort.”
And after a fun day on the slopes you can cool off with a nice dip in Lake Okanagan or by doing a wine tasting at one of the local wineries!
Leaving my airport hotel this morning, there was a sign that left me breathless. ‘It’s not only about the destination, but about the journey.’ As I approach a milestone year, this message hit me as a powerful explanation of the first 40 years of my life. Recently the family and I travelled to Big White Ski Resort, near Kelowna, British Columbia. Their typical champagne powder is such a given that it is often taken for granted. I have a secret suspicion that in fact, the staff have so little worry about snow conditions that management have been able to use their extra time and passion to focus entirely on customer experience. Our room at Trapper’s Crossing included a loft with bunks for the kids and a private hot tub on the deck. The kitchens make a huge difference for families and the grocery store across the street is much better stocked than most resort stores. The moose stencilled on each wall and requisite wooden skis and snowshoes as part of the décor made the kids squeal in anticipation for our Big White weekend. Something miraculous and unexpected happened over the next few days. Ready to hit the hill with the new automatic RFID lift cards in hand, we started getting apologies from people… But it was a bluebird sun-filled day with a perfect temperature and a fabulous buzz in the Village Common Mall (VCM for hipsters). The VCM is like the Great Hall in a Harry Potter film – the nerve-centre of the resort where ski instructors grab their morning latte, phones get power from Telus charging stations and rental assistants never make you wait for equipment. With this vibe – why the apologies, I wondered. I soon found out that just before we arrived, a crazy mild spell hit the region. It was accompanied by torrential rain which washed away some of the fluffy powder. For the first time in decades, the slogan ‘It’s the Snow’ wasn’t fitting. Being somewhat familiar with the resort, I knew there were always hidden caches of great skiing but I was also interested to thoroughly explore the many other activities provided by the resort. After all – not everyone in the family always skis, and Big White offers so much more for the family than their snow. I should note that ‘family’ also includes four-footed ones, and they also offer the ‘Pet Pass‘ in exchange for a donation to the SPCA. My tiny novice snowboarders were not deterred in the slightest by the conditions. They whooped and hollered as my husband made a mental note to give their instructor an extra big tip after he had to pick up the 6 year-old over 200 times. We followed the kids on the hill, spying on them and trying to show off our style a bit too… We all met in the village for lunch and The Woods offers some of the best food and ambiance on the hill. A talented artist on staff has even hand-drawn a depiction of the restaurant and it’s on the back of the kids’ menu as a colouring page. In mid-afternoon, when the sun shines and guests are ready for après ski, huge drums with skis attached are slid onto a snowy patio out front and natural wood fires burn ‘til dusk as a DJ spins tunes that made me feel only half of my 40 years. In past trips to the resort, we have been challenged with climbing the 60 ft tall ice tower. (For me, ‘challenge’ is an understatement). What I hadn’t yet tried was the tube park. A tow rope drags you and the tube to the top and you are spit out of the trail like a ping pong ball. After instructing the attendants if you want spins or no spins (the boys always asked for 2,000 percent spin power), we whizzed down the icy tube run to be slowed by bunches of hay. My face could have cracked with the grins. Then the true magic happened. We would form a duo with one of the kids, holding hands as we laughed and squealed down the icy track. Memories for a lifetime. Near the tube park in Happy Valley is a bunny hill for beginners, snowmobiling (including two tiny ones for kids), horse and sleigh rides and of course, the huge outdoor skating rink complete with nets, sticks and pucks. After the activities we all hit the Loose Moose, where resort staff were holding a ‘Games Night’, teaching families how to play checkers and connect four, and being uber-generous with prizes. I have always believed that good parenting requires great balance, and the ad
ults of our family decided to experience the resort’s more mature offerings. Having no trouble finding an excellent babysitter, my husband went to Showshoe Sam’s to hone his pool skills while I hopped over to 6 Degrees Bistro for a tasting of wines and small plates. Owner John Mooney and his accomplished chef had prepared foie gras and local lamb to serve with an exceptional local pinot noir. I laughed happily when I realized Covert Farms was a supplier. Not only was the preparation and presentation at 6 Degrees more fitting of a New York City starred-establishment than a ski hill, but I found a kindred spirit in Mooney’s daughter, who has been volunteering with kids in Liberia. Though it has been two years since I travelled to Monrovia with Right to Play, we exchanged stories and smiles. After deciding that pool really wasn’t our game, my husband and I wandered into the VCM to check on the boys. It was carnival night, and rumour had it that Big White’s mascot, the Loose Moose, was to get a female partner in crime. The building was packed with bouncy castles, carnival games and cotton candy. Trying to high-five the boys, they were too busy throwing bean bags and getting prizes to pay much attention to mama. We headed around the corner to check out the newest watering hole and dining establishment called Sessions Taphouse. After a near $1MM renovation, this former ‘dive bar’ (they said it – I didn’t!) had been transformed into a restaurant and après ski paradise by day, and nightclub by night. What I entirely didn’t expect was the cuisine. On our next visit for lunch a day later, the cheesy bacon balls were devoured by the boys a la Homer Simpson, and every single dish we tried during the three visits during the trip were perfection. Early Monday morning my husband rose early for the shuttle to Kelowna airport so as not to miss his day at work, and the boys and I were feeling the stale negativity that comes when leaving a beloved place. Given that it was the final week of school before the holidays, I didn’t think they would miss much if we extended the stay. Central Reservations was brilliant and helped us so much. While I was chatting with the desk, the two boys were playing in a festive section of the room, donning elf hats and playing with a stuffed Rudolph. On a table there was a microphone – a toy that apparently ‘called an operator’ in the north pole. The eight year old, doubting the existence of Santa, pressed the button. An operator connected him to Mrs. Claus. His eyes wide, she asked him what she and Santa should do for a special date night. My son answered that they should snowboard like he was doing at Big White Resort. Mrs. Claus got very excited by the idea, commenting that she would tell Santa that he had suggested it. My son was in a dream-like state. He has never believed in goodness and magic so strongly. So as we still received numerous apologies about the snow, we left Big White with life lessons, felt closer as a family and had tried new challenges. Though the champagne powder is the typical feather in Big White’s cap, it’s not nearly the only reason to pick this resort destination. Our journey experiencing the plethora of activities offered for everyone in the family reminded me never to focus on the end game. It’s cherishing every second of the journey that’s important. And now I’m 40 so that’s true wisdom talking. Addendum: After our family left the resort had 45 cm of fresh snow. The base is now at 183 cm with a cumulative snowfall of 360cm.
Disclosure: UrbanMommies was provided with accommodation and passes for the purposes of crafting this story.
Denman Street – the urban centre of cool in Vancouver. Rainbow flags, English Bay Beach and bike rentals for Stanley Park sightseeing contribute to the vibe. And now we are blessed with Left Bank. On the north end of Denman, veteran Vancouver restaurateur John Blakeley created the only restaurant blessed with an alley patio and spectacular, moderately priced French cuisine.
I ate a spicy albacore tuna cone and sticky pork rib with my cocktail. Perfection.
Delicate salmon and desserts of a master, I savoured every bite and didn’t want to stop eating.
After the meal, I could have been wandering out into the Marais of Paris instead of a hot Vancouver evening. I would be back.
I came back a few days later, husband on my arm. He must try. We met a lovely theatre actress who comes weekly for the happy hour special. She felt at home and luxurious, as if in her native land across the ocean.
We shared plates, exchanged stories and could easily have been mistaken for old friends in a french bistro.
The weather becomes crisp and you’ve finally finished filling out mounds of paperwork for kids’ activities and school. Photos are done, pumpkins composted and you sit down for a steaming cup of orange pekoe when it hits – you need a holiday. But with the bustle of December looming, a holiday will have to wait. Panic rises from somewhere in your belly that you haven’t exercised in a while and deep breaths don’t seem to impact a racing mind that is compiling to-do lists faster than a room full of monkeys can type.
Calm yourself. This year it will be different. You’ve got a secret weapon that constantly reminds you of travel to come. This holiday season my family is using our five tips for maximizing your AIR MILES so that we can get away together in 2015.
This year I plan to do my usual over-the-top holiday décor – three themed spruce trees, a minimum of 5 holiday squares and cookies at the ready and way too many vegetables at Christmas dinner. The light at the end of the tunnel for me is always travel, and the collection of AIR MILES for my family helps facilitate our trips – either by using our reward miles for flights, or helping the budget by getting cash redemptions at AIR MILES Cash Sponsors.
My mantra? More travel = more educational opportunities. More savings = less stress!
1. Check the fliers at your local grocery store that issues AIR MILES on purchases. Better yet? Get on their email list so that you always know when you can earn bonus miles on the items you have to buy.
2. Ensure your spouse and any other family member who wants to help the cause have a duplicate AIR MILES card in their wallet. Sponsors always ask if you are a Collector, so you won’t miss any chance to accumulate miles! Our whole family uses the same account for flexibility and ease.
3. Use an American Express AIR MILES Credit Card alongside your AIR MILES Collector Card at Sponsors to earn double the miles. Earning twice is always much more nice.
4. Use that same credit card to earn rewards miles on all of your everyday purchases. I use the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Card to earn one mile for every $10 I spend at AIR MILES Sponsors but I also earn one mile for every $10 spent at other eligible stand-alone grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores in Canada and one mile for every $15 spent everywhere else.
5. The AIR MILES website is full of special offers and promotions. When you need to rent a car, do the things that keep every family afloat on a weekly basis, be sure to check the bonus offers, as you can accumulate hundreds of bonus AIR MILES by being a savvy shopper.
American Express is currently hosting their #MoreAIRMILES contest to let AIR MILES members answer the question, “What would you do with more AIR MILES?”. Once answered, you’re entered into a draw for a weekly prize. Invite a friend and each one who participates in the contest lands you an additional entry.
Remember: AIR MILES + Amex = MoreAirMiles and You + Daily Entries + Your Friends = More chances to win! Check out the contest here.
Are you ready to dream? To save? To eliminate holiday stress? I’d love to hear about the holiday that your family is working toward throughout this holiday season! Bon voyage!
This post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.
Gene Covert is a pretty cool guy. But he has to be. His mother is still a pilot, and the 1952 Mercury truck that she decided to learn how to rebuild is still the touring vehicle for the farm. Not only does the farm started by his father specialize in organic growing, but they grow grapes for Peller Estates wines, house a summer freestyle ski training jump for the Apex Mountain freestyle team, produce organic wine and have the biggest puffy trampoline thingy and plastic rolling apparatus for kids I’ve ever seen. Oh, and his wife homeschools. So I pretty much can’t even begin to feel worthy.
With a grumpy 6 year old who was instantly charmed by Gene, we began our tour of Covert Farms, nestled beside McIntryre Bluff which separates the north and south Okanagan. It took us all a while to get over the beauty of the truck and I admit that I took more photos of it than I did the farm for quite some time. Seeing grape varietals, feeding organic corn to cows and having a ‘snack break’ at an organic fruit mecca was incredible. But discussing vinticulture, sustainability and permaculture with Gene? Priceless. I spoke of my experiences as a McDonald’s All- Access Mom while touring cattle and potato farms. We talked at length about canning and preserves (yes. I did buy 90 pounds of organic tomatoes which have now been transformed into tomato sauce). The harvest season is the perfect time to go organic at Covert Farms, Osoyoos BC.
Feeling entirely comfortable, the kids asked questions and made observations. We were all sad when we had to get out of the truck. But it was then that the kids noticed the huge bubble-trampoline, and the adults sampled wines with local cheese and charcuterie. At which point we may have purchased a case of wine.
Disclosure: Our family was given a tour of the farm and a wine tasting for the purposes of this story.