North America – The Barefoot Nomad https://www.thebarefootnomad.com Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Fri, 15 Jun 2018 22:40:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Kid Friendly Things to do in Colorado Springs That Guarantee Family Fun https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/kid-friendly-things-to-do-in-colorado-springs/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/kid-friendly-things-to-do-in-colorado-springs/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 21:00:57 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15295 On our recent family trip to Colorado, we enjoyed some of the most fun kid friendly things to do in Colorado Springs. We had a few great days seeing everything Colorado Springs has to offer and loved our sunshine filled days exploring this part of Colorado, USA.

On this trip we rode a train, spelunked in a massive cave system, fed giraffes, played on water slides, explored nature, climbed a mountain, swam in giant pools, ate at some delicious restaurants and ran wild in a former elementary school.

It was a great experience, and since it was just my son Cole and I representing the family on this trip, we spent some amazing time together getting a chance to further strengthen our already great relationship. Read on to see our top picks for family fun!

Kid Friendly Things To Do in Colorado Springs: Day 1

So what kids activities did we enjoy in Colorado Springs? Well, the first day we rode a cog train up North America’s most visited mountain, Pikes Peak. We then wandered through the beautiful Garden of the Gods. Next, we descended to the depths in the Cave of the Winds and we ate s’mores as well as went on a MagiQuest at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs. And that was only a small portion of our time.

Before we even hit Colorado Springs, we had the opportunity to visit the area around Cañon City. At just over an hour from Colorado Springs and to the west of Canon City itself, is home to some of the best whitewater rafting in the state. Not only did we get our feet wet while white water rafting down the Arkansas River, we also checked out the newly opened Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience. We even had the chance to spend a night in the newly built Royal Gorge Cabins. If you’re curious, you can check out our Cañon City Colorado family experience here.

That said, overnighting in Cañon City was only one small part of our family Colorado tour.

The second day we had breakfast and a pint in the re-purposed sprawling Ivywild School, fed giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and finally relaxed in class and comfort at the sprawling Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

Sound like fun? It was, and now here’s the lowdown on all the fun things to do with the family in Colorado Springs.

Ride a cog train up Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs

The entrance to Pike’s Peak is just 15 minutes west of Colorado Springs in quirky and charming Manitou Springs. Hosting nine natural mineral springs and a collection of spiritualists, visiting Manitou Springs itself can be a great way to get the kids drinking water while you do the Springsabouts Walking Tour and sample the varieties of water the springs offer (and yes, each spring does taste different).

The entrance to Pike’s Peak highway is also found in Manitou Springs and though you can drive yourself up to the summit of Pike’s Peak (it’s about 19 miles of crazy switchbacks), or climb the 13 mile long Barr Trail (only for the fit and bold), we chose to go up via the old Pikes Peak Cog Railway train that runs year round (weather permitting).

Once we picked up our tickets and determined our departure time, we got in line and jumped into one of the three open aired coaches our train provided for that run. Luckily for us, the windows close because, as we got closer to the peak, our very hot day suddenly became much, much cooler.

On the way up the 14,115 foot summit of America’s most famous mountain, we saw waterfalls and rock formations, old miner cabins and a post office. We also saw deer and about 2/3rds of the way up we saw a bunch of yellow- bellied marmots known locally as whistle pigs. These huge woodchuck shaped ground squirrel relatives were fun to watch and the kids loved spotting them. Some days you can also spot bighorn sheep and even black bears.

Tip! Remember a jacket, even in summer! What started as a very warm summer day at the bottom became downright cold by the time we reached the top

Once you get to the summit of Pikes Peak, which takes just over an hour each way, you can stretch your legs and walk around the top before the Pikes Peak cog railway returns you to the bottom. The entire trip lasts three hours and 10 minutes, so it makes a great morning or afternoon getaway.

Up on Pikes Peak, you’ll find washrooms (there are none on the train so make sure you go before you leave) as well as a snack bar featuring some unique donuts (they had to be specially crafted to rise at a high elevation) and also a gift shop. Other than that, the view in all directions is simply beautiful so make sure you have a camera with you.

Note! Departure times, seating assignments and return times for the Pikes Peak cog train from the summit are all preset in advance, so make sure you pay attention to the times otherwise you could be left at the summit.

Descend to the depths in the Cave of the Winds in Colorado Springs

While we were in Manitou Springs, we also checked out the infamous Cave of the Winds. These caves were discovered over a century ago by a couple of young brothers and then later explored in depth by a slew of early adventurists.

Over the years, as new tunnels have been discovered, the Cave of the Winds has been opened up to the public and is now a major tourist destination. The huge complex features multiple cave trips, two adrenaline inducing aerial lines (the Bat-A-Pult and aptly named Terror-Dactyl free fall) as well as the Wind Walker climbing course that sits directly over a 600 foot drop. It also has a large concession area, a picnic area, a giant slide and a mining station for kids.

Wind Walker climbing course, the Bat-A-Pult adrenaline ride and the free kids slide

We did the 45 minute long Discovery Tour and that was perfect for the kids.  We walked up and down pathways and also stairs and ladders as we explored everything that a million year old cave system features. We saw tons of stalagmites, stalactites, amazing waterfall like flowstones, fossilized shells and other speleothems (cave decorations).

At one point, our guides shut off all the lights and, well, you haven’t experienced darkness until you’ve stood in the middle of a cave a hundred feet below ground. It really made me want to take the special Lantern Tour where the group travels only with handheld lanterns like the early spelunkers and explorers did while telling ghost stories and delving into the caves past.

For the truly adventurist, there’s also the well reviewed Cave 101 tour where you strap on your helmets, grab your flashlight and climb and crawl your way through undeveloped caves and smaller passageways. Claustrophobics need not apply for that tour.

Wander the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

If gods roamed gardens, you might find them in this oversize 480 acre garden of giant colored sandstone formations. The Garden of the Gods was donated to the city of Colorado Springs in the early 1900s from the head of the Burlington Railroad, Charles Elliott Perkins, after he passed away.

Set forth with strict provisions, the Garden of the Gods nature park is set to remain free for all visitors and free from all structures not prevalent to maintaining the park for all time. As such, you won’t find much in the park except the world class Visitor & Nature Center and the Café at the Garden. It’s simple, but still one of the many fun family things to do in Colorado Springs that’s worth a visit.

You can walk around the park, take a Segway tour or, go on an open aired Jeep excursion that drives around the park just like we did. A guide will tell you all about the history of the park and the formations you’re seeing. No matter how you see the Garden of the Gods you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the main 300 foot sandstone formation as well as all the different colors of the smaller formations.

Inside the sprawling Visitor & Nature Center is a museum featuring local flora and fauna as well as the cool multi screen Geo-Trekker theater experience explaining how all the red sandstone rocks were formed and how they became part of the amazing scenery. (Shows start every 20 minutes.)

Eat s’mores, enjoy waterslides and go on a MagiQuest at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs

What’s the best way to end a long day seeing all the sights and sounds of Colorado Springs? Well, if you’re a kid, or a kid at heart, not much beats water slides and s’mores.

The newly opened Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs has that and a lot more and the kids loved ending their day there. The rooms were a huge hit as well with many theme rooms and, every kids fave, bunk beds!

On the fun side, not only were there indoor water slides for the whole family, but there is an indoor ropes course, indoor mini golf and of course, MagiQuest! All it takes is a special wand and your kids will be running around the huge Great Wolf Lodge waving their magic wands at everything they see as they go on their very own magic quest.

Not only that, there are ice cream parlours, candy stores, restaurants, pizza joints, and, luckily for parents, a bar you can sit in, as your kids run around burning off whatever remaining energy they have. The kids might have their own favorite memories of Great Wolf Lodge, but mine will be sharing a few delicious locally produced beers with my fellow parents.

To be honest, sitting by the campfire roasting s’mores was definitely a highlight for everyone and we all vowed we would be back to Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs again in the future.

Eating smores by the campfire at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs

And so finished our fist day of fun things to do with the family in Colorado Springs. Want to see more things to do in Colorado outside of Denver? Check out our post of fun things to do in Canon City Colorado as well.

Fun things to do with kids in Colorado Springs: Day 2

We had so much fun on our first day in Colorado Springs that the entire group was excited to see what was in store the second day. Luckily for us, it was a little slower than the first day but we all welcomed the relaxed pace and had a good opportunity to enjoy even more things to do with the kids in Colorado Springs.

Eat, drink and be merry at the Ivywild School in Colorado Springs

Ever had that dream where you’re walking through your old school but it’s not quite as you remember it? Even better, ever dream that your old school has turned into a happening place filled with delicious eateries, micro brewers, art spaces and a movie theater in the gym?

Well, the former students of Ivywild sure must when they walk through the revamped Ivywild School in Colorado City. This actual decommissioned school built back in 1916 was on the verge of being torn down in 2009 before an enterprising group of individuals decided that yeah, they could work with it.

So a dream became reality and the Ivywild School has been converted into a trendy boutique of shops, eateries and micro pubs with the expansive Bristol Pub headlining the site.

The interesting part? They left the majority of the old school in place. Nowhere is that more evident than when walking in and looking at the principals office or seeing the old style urinals and the crazy kids artwork in the boys washroom.

Even walking down the halls makes you feel like you should have a hall pass for skipping class, and the fact that you can order dozens of tasty micro brews in old classrooms just highlights the surreal feeling you get while walking through Ivywild School.

Kids will love that there’s no teaching at Ivywild School in Colorado City and it will definitely fuel a few daydreams of what their own classroom might look like if they put in a restaurant or a few vats of cider in the broom closet. It also doesn’t hurt that the food you can get at Ivywild School is much, much better than anything I ever got in my school canteen.

The hard fact is that the Ivywild’s Old School Bakery had some of the tastiest cinnamon buns I’ve had in some time. Even better, all the eateries in Ivywild School also practice the food to table approach with gardens planted throughout the old schoolyard and close ties with local farmers. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.

One of the gardens at Ivywild School in Colorado Springs

Feed giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs

What has four legs, a blue tongue the length of a small child and has to be standing 10 feet below you to look you squarely in the eye? No, it’s not a giant lizard, it’s a giraffe and they’re just one of the many highlights we found while walking around the beautiful Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

The coolest part about having these gentle giants at eye level is you can feed them lettuce right from your hands. It’s still a little unnerving to see those huge giraffe tongues come out but the look of happiness they have as they grab their lunch from you is undeniable. Who knew lettuce could taste so good?

As well as hand feeding giraffes from the largest giraffe herd in the Americas, at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo you can take a chairlift called the Sky Ride that will have you soaring above it all. Not only do you get some amusing bird’s eye views of the many animals below but you get some amazing views over Cheyenne Mountain and a good portion of the valley around Colorado Springs.

Love animals? The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has over 750 animals and 170 species from all over the the world. We thought we walked just about everywhere while we there but, as we left, we realized we still hadn’t seen everything.

From lions, tigers and snow leopards in the African and Asian exhibits to learning about and interacting with chickens and goats in My Big Backyard, there are tons of things for kids of all ages.

They also have some great wildlife encounter shows that get you up close to the animals and we both enjoyed the elephant exhibit and the hippo section. Their monkey and primate section were also quite extensive, especially the gorillas and orangutans.

Since the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is also the only mountain zoo in America, they also have an extensive collection of local wildlife like mountain lions, grizzly bears, moose, river otters, lynx and porcupines. Even though all these animals exist back home, it’s still nice to see them in an authentic mountain setting.

One of the kids favorite areas at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was their walk-through aviary in their Australia section, where you can have budgies and parakeets eating right from the palm of your hand. As you leave this area, you walk through the wallaby walkabout which has small wallabies hopping about freely everywhere around you. We had to usher the kids out of this area otherwise they would have spent all day following the little kangaroos around.

Ever dreamed of being a zookeeper? Who hasn’t? Well, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has an area called The Loft where you get to go behind the scenes and see what it takes to make it all happen. From training and weighing, to feeding and cleaning, The Loft is designed from the ground up especially for kids (and would be kids). It’s not only a great space for hands on training and learning, it also preps them for all the responsibilities that comes with taking care of animals themselves.

Relax in comfort at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs

Ever watch a summer movie of teens hanging on the beach, then playing a little beach volleyball before heading to one of a half dozen different swimming pools, tennis courts or basketball courts while the parents are off enjoying a round of golf or maybe spending the day being pampered at the spa? Well, the Cheyenne Mountain Resort is that place.

It turns out that this huge sprawling mountainside resort with their own private lake is the dream resort of my childhood. Before arcades, wave pools and fancy electronics were a thing, the Cheyenne Mountain Resort would have been my epitome of resort high life.

With their own private 35 acre lake complete with a sandy beach, volleyball courts, canoes, kayaks and SUP rentals, they have the outdoor enthusiast covered.

They also have an aquatics center complete with four outdoor swimming pools, including a huge 50 m Olympic sized pool with water slide, a splash pad and a kiddie pool as well as an adult only pool and spa. They also have another heated pool in the main complex.

If you’re a tennis fan, they do tennis with 17 covered and uncovered tennis courts including two outdoor clay courts. For the fitness buff, there’s an expansive 9000 sq. foot fitness center complete with yoga, spin and cross training group classes.

One of the coolest features of Cheyenne Mountain Resort is that the resort has its own championship grade golf course surrounding it that makes this mountain sided, lake adjacent course not only one of the most beautiful in Colorado but also one of the best. With over 300 days of sunshine in Colorado Springs, and separated by the Rocky Mountains from snow loving Denver, you can enjoy golf 365 days of the year here. For the kiddos, they even open the course at night with a mini putt glow golf course.

Not only were the grounds beautiful at Cheyenne Mountain Resort, the food was tasty as well. From their award winning Sunday brunches at Mountain View Restaurant, to tasty bites and local brews from Elevations Lounge, I always left the table satisfied.

Staying at Cheyenne Mountain Resort was a treat not only for adult me but also for 12 year old me who never got to go to a cool camp in summer. To say that I was a little jealous of my son Cole getting to stay here probably speaks more about the place than all those sentences I just wrote. It’s a lovely place and you and your kids will definitely enjoy it.

Some final words about Colorado Springs

Well, that about wraps up our time in Colorado Springs. We saw and experienced some amazing things and my son and I both had a great time checking out everything the area had to offer.

If it’s your first time heading to Colorado Springs in Colorado, USA, know that it borders the Rocky Mountains. It’s a gorgeous hilly area with beautiful vistas and stunning plateaus’s around every corner.

There are so many great things to do in Colorado Springs with kids that you might just need to come back more than once. That’s okay, I’m sure you’ll discover even more to do the second time. For even more ideas, make sure you check out my previous post on fun things to do in Canon City Colorado as well.

How to get to Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs is about 70 miles due south of Denver down highway I-25 S. It’s just over an hour by car from the Denver International Airport (DEN) or you can fly directly into Colorado Springs (COS) from 15 cities across the USA.

What are you favorite family things to do in Colorado Springs? Let us know; we’d love to hear!

Many thanks to Colorado Tourism, who hosted us. We definitely had a great time in Colorado. You guys were the best!

Colorado springs kid at campfire, giraffes at zoo, mountain sunset

hiking with older kids in Colorado Springs

]]>
https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/kid-friendly-things-to-do-in-colorado-springs/feed/ 0
A Locals Guide to the Great Okanagan Beer Festival GOBF in Kelowna BC Canada https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/a-locals-guide-to-the-great-okanagan-beer-festival-gobf-in-kelowna-bc-canada/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/a-locals-guide-to-the-great-okanagan-beer-festival-gobf-in-kelowna-bc-canada/#comments Mon, 28 May 2018 17:30:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=16510 Have you ever walked into a room and felt instantly at ease?

The Great Okanagan Beer Festival is that kind of party.

As I walked onto the grounds, the early summer sunshine warmed my shoulders, and a cooling breeze swept across the lake.

The kegs were tapped, the band was playing, and the smokies were sizzling on the grill. Charles and I had left the kids at home, and it was time to enjoy ourselves.

Cheers for beers GOBF

As I looked around at the hundreds of smiling faces around me, I was instantly at home. This was going to be a great day. It was our first year at the GOBF, and I was excited to take in all the fun (plus all that tasty food, beer and cider!).

Great Okanagan Beer Festival (GOBF)

Every year, the Great Okanagan Beer Festival puts on a heck of a great party in our beautiful home city of Kelowna, BC, Canada.

The GOBF takes place in early May. It’s hosted by the fun folks at Gibbons Whistler, founders of the insanely popular Whistler Village Beer Festival.

The GOBF features 70 breweries with over 120 varieties of craft beer and cider. No matter which way you calculate it, that’s a lot of delicious suds.

You’ll find some of our favorite local breweries and restaurants at the Okanagan Beer Festival, like the Train Station Pub, Grimm’s Fine Foods, BNA Brewing, Tree Brewing, Freddy’s Brewpub, Okanagan Spring, Boundary Brewing Company, BC Tree Fruits Cider Co. and Wards Hard Cider, plus plenty of other great craft beer and cider brewers from all across Canada.

pouring sample somersby cider at the GOBF

Plus, there’s great food with food trucks and vendors galore.

If you’re looking for something fun to do, there’s plenty of entertainment on site, including live bands up on the main stage. This year, there were four live bands for the main event, plus a DJ to keep the crowd going between sets.

Depending on the year you go, the lineup will be different, but we enjoyed Red Chair, Lucky Monkey, The Hip Replacements (a Tragically Hip tribute band), and Hot Knox.

Entertainment at the GOBF Kelowna stage

In among the beer and cider tents, we found that a lot of local businesses had also shown up. All of them had something fun to do and many offered everything from free meals at local restaurants to hats, shirts and Frisbees. The games ranged from blackjack, to beanbag toss games, to axe throwing.

Yep, you read that right… axe throwing. We had a blast trying a free round of axe throwing with Axe Monkeys, though I think we’re both going to need some coaching before we become axe throwing masters!

for the love of beer mug at the lake kelowna

All that axe throwing gave us an appetite, so we wandered over to the food trucks.

Given that this is a Canadian Festival, you’d better bet there’s a poutine truck (Smoke’s Poutinerie), and a lot more too, including The Keg Steakhouse, The Grub Truck, Surfside California (with tacos!) and Thai on the Fly.

Smoke's Poutine Food Truck Kelowna

Grimm’s Fine Foods BBQ made an especially tasty appearance, with mouthwatering smokies on a bun and ice cold drinks.

GOBF fun around town

There’s a lot going on in the days and weeks leading up to the GOBF, with everything from yoga to bowling to Kelowna Craft Brewery tours.

Lonetree Cider Great Okanagan Beer Festival Kelowna

Pregame Brunch at the Train Station Pub with Grimm’s Fine Foods

We were lucky enough to get a spot at one of our very favorite local pubs, the Train Station Pub for a Pregame Brunch presented by Grimm’s Fine Foods.

The Train Station Pub is in a restored 1926 railway station, and is just a hop, skip, and jump from Waterfront Park where the GOBF main event is held. As well as great food, the Train Station Pub features their own craft beer as well as rotating favorite brews from around the area.

Train station pub and Grimms Fine foods pregame lunch for the Great Okanagan Beer Festival Kelowna

Where’s the GOBF held?

Every year, the Great Okanagan Beer Festival takes place at Waterfront Park on the shores of Okanagan Lake. There’s plenty of lush green grass, meandering paved pathways, a beautiful wooden boardwalk along the lake, and big trees scattered about for shade.

Relaxing in the park at the Great Okanagan Beer Fest

Should you get General Admission or VIP Tickets to the Great Okanagan Beer Fest?

What’s included in the GOBF General Admission ticket:

  • Official 4 ounce GOBF sampling mug
  • 3 beer or cider tokens
  • Live music
  • Access to 70 breweries and 140 craft beers/cider
  • Access to food vendors and exhibitors
  • A fun time with thousands of festival-goers on the beautiful Okanagan Lake

chips for beer at the Great Okanagan Beer Festival Kelowna mug by okanagan Lake for the love of beer

What’s included in the GOBF VIP ticket:

  • Official 4 ounce GOBF sampling mug
  • 10 beer or cider tokens
  • VIP fast access express entry. We had VIP tickets and loved this feature, as it let us speed by the regular security entry line (shown below).
  • Live music
  • Access to 70 breweries and 140 craft beers/cider
  • Access to food vendors and exhibitors
  • A fun time with thousands of festival-goers on the beautiful Okanagan Lake
  • GOBF swag bag
  • Lunch from Grimm’s Fine Foods
  • Vouchers for savings around town

lineup at the Great Okanagan Beer Festival Kelowna

Love beer, cider, great food and awesome music? If you don’t have tickets, you can grab them here! 

Click here to see ticket prices and details.

Looking for a Great Okanagan Beer Festival promo code? Check out the Gibbons Whistler Facebook page – you may get lucky!

About Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley

Kelowna is a small city perched on the shores of Okanagan Lake, with a population of just under 200,000 very lucky people.

It is the largest city in the Okanagan Valley, which is a 200 kilometer (125 mile) valley surrounded by mountain ranges, forests, and with the deep, clear Okanagan Lake as its center.

Kelowna (and the Okanagan Valley) is becoming rapidly known for it’s 300+ world class wineries with hundreds of fun things to do around town. The past few years there’s been a boom of local craft breweries (thus the GOBF) and locally made spirits as well.

In the summer, the valley is home to apple, pear, peach and other fruit orchards, and sees an influx of tourists from Canada and all over the world.

To get here, you can fly directly into the Kelowna International Airport, but many visitors prefer the scenic four hour drive from Vancouver.

Great Okanagan Beer Festival Kelowna mug by okanagan Lake

mmm… cider by the lake at the Great Okanagan Beer Festival

the Great Okanagan Beer Fest one of the most fun things to do in the Okanagan (2) A locals guide to the Great Okanagan Beer Festival ]]>
https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/a-locals-guide-to-the-great-okanagan-beer-festival-gobf-in-kelowna-bc-canada/feed/ 2
10 Reasons Why You Should Visit The Jasper Dark Sky Festival https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/10-reasons-why-you-should-visit-the-jasper-dark-sky-festival/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/10-reasons-why-you-should-visit-the-jasper-dark-sky-festival/#comments Tue, 30 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15308 Looking for something just a little bit different for your next trip?

Does gazing up at endless starry skies and watching the dance of the northern lights sound enticing? How about viewing stunning mountain scenery and seeing wildlife, like elk and moose, every day?

Now what would you say if I said you can do all that while eating at fantastic local restaurants and staying in world class accommodations?

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival delivers all of that and much, much more.

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival – What is it?

Every year, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival takes place in Jasper, Alberta, Canada.

Jasper is nestled in the rugged heart of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. It’s a small town that’s managed to keep it’s unique character, despite being a major tourist attraction. Bighorn sheep and elk are regularly spotted in town, and the town site and surrounding area are home to some of the most stunning views of alpine lakes and mountains you’ll ever see.

The Dark Sky Festival takes place over two weekends in October that are packed with events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation.

There’s even a little bit of geeky celebrity magic that happens here: past speakers have included George Takei (best known as Sulu from the original Star Trek TV series), Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (check out his informative and entertaining Facebook account here), plus Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tory Belleci (former co-hosts of Discovery Channel’s hit show Mythbusters).

So when Tourism Jasper reached out to invite me to experience the Jasper Dark Sky Festival firsthand, I jumped at the chance.

Jasper Alberta Canada lake

Jasper Dark Sky Preserve

The Dark Sky festival is held in Jasper National Park, home to one of the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserves.

A Dark-Sky Preserve is an area in which no artificial lighting is visible and active measures are in place to educate and promote the reduction of light pollution to the public and nearby municipalities. Sky glow from beyond the borders of the Preserve will be of comparable intensity, or less, to that of natural sky glow. – Royal Astronomical
Society of Canada

In Jasper, the city and park have taken extra steps, like replacing older street lights with lights that point to the ground, rather than up, and cast less light. The result is stunning, clear views of the night sky – perfect for catching a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis or Milky Way.

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit The Jasper Dark Sky Festival

There’s so much to enjoy at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, from world class talks, to taking in the night sky, to enjoying delicious meals that it’s hard to narrow it down to 10 reasons! That said, here are my top 10 reasons you should check out the Jasper Dark Sky Festival for yourself.

Stargazing and taking in the northern lights

There are plenty of opportunities to take in the stars at the festival, but don’t miss the Beyond the Stars event at Lake Annette.

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

Northern lights over the Jasper sky Jasper Dark Sky Festival Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper

There’s plenty to do at this night time event, with expert guidance from the Telus World of Science – Edmonton, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Edmonton Centre, Dark Sky photographers, Parks Canada interpreters and other special guests.

For those of us who aren’t fond of cold weather, or those who just love their java, there’s a Tim Horton’s truck parked conveniently nearby, offering up free hot chocolate and lattes! There’s also a free shuttle from the Visitor Information Centre.

It’s an other worldly experience to stand in the middle of the starlit sky, gazing up as the northern lights glow, and change shape, over Lake Annette.

There’s a lot to see here, but one of my favorite activities was to stop by the telescopes set up and manned by knowledgeable volunteers. Each telescope was trained on a celestial object, from far away galaxies to planets. It’s an amazing experience to see these with your own eyes!

Tip! A good stargazing app can make your experience so much more enjoyable! Try out Sky Map for Android (free) or StarWalk 2 for iPhone or iPad.

The Scenery

Ever seen a photo of an impossibly perfect, clear emerald green lake in the Canadian Rockies? It was probably taken in Jasper.

You can catch Jasper’s scenery pretty much, well, everywhere around town. Tourism Jasper has an excellent list of highlights here.

Maligne Lake in Jasper Alberta in winter

For a gorgeous, birds-eye view, be sure to take the Jasper SkyTram‘s fully enclosed tram for some stunning views. Dogs are welcome!

If you’ve ever been on Instagram, you’re sure to have seen an image of the beautiful Maligne Lake and Spirit Island. In warmer weather, the lake is a stunning green.

Spirit Island Jasper Alberta Canada

Spirit Island

Science

You don’t need to be a nerd to love the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, but it doesn’t hurt.

There’s plenty here for science nerds like me, from chances to chat with world class astronomers to hands on chances to view the stars. Be sure to check out events like Stargazing and Observe the Sun with RASC Royal Astonomical Society of Canada, which get stellar Jasper Dark Sky Festival reviews. Events vary each year, but there’s always plenty to do and see.

The Wildlife

Jasper’s relatively untouched location in the Canadian Rockies means that it’s a great place to see wildlife.

The park is home to elk, moose, caribou, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bears and wolves, plus smaller animals like the adorable pika and marmots, plus many bird species.

Tip! Keep your distance, as these are wild animals, and their behavior is unpredictable, no matter how accustomed they are to humans. It’s illegal and dangerous to touch or feed wildlife – both for you and the animals!

A moose casually hanging out by the side of the road in Jasper

The Keynote Speakers

Keynote speakers for the Jasper Dark Sky vary by year, but they’re sure to be informative and entertaining. They’re sure to delve into interesting questions like these. What is dark matter anyway? Why does space exploration matter? Will we ever colonize Mars?

Human Universe by Brian Cox

During my visit, the keynote speakers were UK Professor Brian Cox and Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomer fame.

The talks were interesting and lively, and I was incredibly impressed with how gracious and engaged both men were with audience members, young and old alike, during the question and answer period.

Bad Astronomy book by Phil Plait

The Kids

There’s plenty for kids to do at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, from having fun at the planetarium (more on that later!) to hands on fun at the Big Bang Expo.

family fun at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival The Dark Sky Festival takes place over two weekends in October that are packed with events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation. Jasper Dark Sky Preserve | Things to do in Jasper Alberta | Jasper Alberta | Jasper National Park | Northern Lights | Canada | Alberta | Canadian Rockies | Scenery |Where to Stay in Jasper National Park | Dark Skies | Jasper National Park Things To Do | Jasper National Park Winter | #travel #traveltips

Big Bang Expo, presented by TELUS World of Science at the Jasper Elementary School, is chock full of real life experiments and experiences for kids and adults alike.

There’s a lot of fun building and flying model rockets, and plenty of science-related activities indoors.

Model rocket launch Big Bang Expo at the Jasper Alberta Canada Dark Sky Festival

Model rocket launch!

The Food

For a small town in the mountains, Jasper has a surprisingly excellent selection of top notch restaurants. You’ll find everything from gourmet to casual. Here are the restaurants I had a chance to try during my visit.

Orso Trattoria

One word – Yum! The elegant but relaxed Orso Trattoria is located inside the gorgeous Jasper Park Lodge. It also has an enviable ground level spot with stunning mountain and lake views.

The menu’s full of farm to table goodness, with interesting dishes like breakfast poutine (with hash browns), croque madame, and, of course, avocado toast (delicious!). Breakfast is served all week, but dinner is only served Saturday and Sunday.

Orso Trattoria breakfast in Jasper Alberta

Evil Dave’s Grill

Locally owned, Evil Dave’s Grill is a casual, fun place with great food.

Dishes like Malevolent Meatloaf, Fiendish Falafel and Karma Curry all have a diabolical twist. I tried the Karma Curry, and it was spicy, flavorful, fresh and darn tasty. Be sure to try the Beautiful Brie, a wheel of almond and panko crusted deep fried brie, on chilled pear puree, with toasted baguette. Delicious!

Coco’s Cafe

Of all the restaurants I tried in Jasper, funky and fun Coco’s Cafe was my favorite.

Everything I tried here was perfect, from coffee to a bagged lunch with a spicy, flavor packed vegetarian burrito.

It’s a locally owned joint that specializes in vegetarian, vegan and celiac friendly fare.

Jasper Cocos Cafe sign

Jasper Brewing Company

The Jasper Brewing Company is a bustling place packed with locals and tourists alike. The menu has a great range, from confit duck tacos, to delicious warm buttered soft pretzels, to veggie burgers and pan roasted Ora King salmon. The beer’s pretty darn good, too!

Emerald Lounge

I got a chance to try the Emerald Lounge, located just off the lobby to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. After a long delay with my shuttle, the Emerald Lounge’s roaring fireplaces and comfy chairs were a welcome sight. It’s open all day until late, with gorgeous views and a welcoming vibe.

The Planetarium

Don’t miss a stop at the Jasper Planetarium. The inflatable dome planetarium is a 360 degree astronomical immersive experience that’s fun in any kind of weather, even if the skies are cloudy. It’s well worth a visit, with interesting and informative narration.

See the Jasper Planetarium website for more info and ticket prices.

Planetarium at Jasper Alberta Canada Dark Sky Festival

SPACEtalks panel

In addition to the fantastic keynote speakers, each year the Jasper Dark Sky Festival hosts a Spacetalks Panel.

It’s hosted by knowledgeable and entertaining science journalist Natalie Panek, and features different scientists each year.

This year, the panel was moderated by CBC Radio’s Bob MacDonald, with presenters including astrophysicist Rob Thacker, Scientific American Contributing Editor John Rennie, and Rocket Scientist and Explorer Natalie Panek.

There’s a lot to love at the Dark Sky Festival, but SPACEtalks was one of my favorite parts, as it was fun, casual, and just so interesting!

Watching the Stars at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper.

Watching the Stars at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Photo Courtesy Tourism Jasper.

Niki Wilson

The SPACEtalks panel and other events are hosted by Dark Sky Festival favorite Niki Wilson. She’s a knowledgeable and interesting science journalist, published in the likes of like BBCEarth, Motherboard, Canadian Wildlife Magazine, Natural History Magazine and Canadian Geographic.

SPACEtalks panel Jasper Alberta Canada Dark Sky Festival

SPACEtalks panel at Jasper Dark Sky Festival in Alberta, Canada

The hotels – Where to Stay in Jasper National Park

Jasper’s home to plenty of great accommodation, but I was lucky enough to stay at the iconic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

This is a stunning 700 acre year-round luxury mountain resort that’s located on the shores of Beauvert Lake. There’s a heated outdoor pool (enjoyable even in winter) located in a gorgeous setting, and plenty of luxury touches around the entire hotel.

This is an unusual hotel in that it’s rooms are a village of heritage log cabins all interconnected by picturesque paths. There are also luxurious Signature Cabins.

Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge outdoor pool

Heated pool at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Bonus reason! The Community

Despite being known worldwide, Jasper, Canada is still a small town, and it feels like it. There are only about 4,500 residents in the town, so you’re almost guaranteed to be bumping into people you recognize from earlier in your trip. It makes for a welcoming experience.

Candy Bear's Lair in Jasper

What you need to know

You can get all of the Festival details as well as learn where to get Jasper Dark Sky Festival tickets on the Jasper Dark Sky Festival Website.

You can learn more about Jasper activities, accommodation and places to eat from Tourism Jasper’s excellent website right here.

Jasper is located 362 kilometres (225 mi) west of Edmonton, Alberta, and 290 kilometres (180 mi) north of popular Banff, Alberta via the Icefields Parkway.

The Icefields Parkway is a beautiful stretch of highway with cascading waterfalls, ancient glaciers that you can walk upon and clear emerald lakes set in gorgeous valleys of thick pine forests.

You can also get there from Kamloops, BC in about 4 1/2 hours or from Calgary, Alberta in about the same amount of time.

Temperature: During October, Jasper’s surprisingly warm for a town high in the Canadian Rockies, with daily highs averaging 50 Fahrenheit (10 Celsius), and lows averaging 30 Fahrenheit (-1 Celsius). When I was there, there was little to no snow in the town site, but higher elevations like Maligne Lake already had some heavy snow.

What to bring: Because this is Canada, and it’s October in the mountains, be sure to bring a warm coat, warm shoes or boots, mittens and a touque (warm hat, for the non-Canadians out there). Since you’ll be outside at night watching the stars and northern lights, make sure you dress for the forecasted lows.

Jasper Alberta Canada Maligne Lake in the winter

A winter trail on Maligne Lake

How to get there

The closest airports to Jasper are Edmonton International airport (390 km) or Calgary International Airport (430 km). There is an airport in Jasper itself, however there’s no direct commercial flights offered, as it’s used mostly for diversions and delivieries use.

From Edmonton or Calgary, you can self drive, or take a shuttle. SunDog Tours operates shuttles from both Calgary and Edmonton.

If you’re not used to driving in snow and ice, I’d advise taking a shuttle during the winter for safety.

I was hosted at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival by the kind folks at Tourism Jasper.

Things to do in Jasper Alberta. Visit the Jasper Dark Sky Festival! Looking for something just a little bit different for your next trip? Why not visit the Dark Sky Festival in Jasper? Bighorn sheep and elk are regularly spotted in town, and the town site and surrounding area are home to some of the most stunning views of alpine lakes and mountains you’ll ever see. The Dark Sky Festival takes place over two weekends in October that are packed with events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation. Jasper Dark Sky Preserve | Things to do in Jasper Alberta | Jasper Alberta | Jasper National Park | Northern Lights | Canada | Alberta | Canadian Rockies | Scenery |Where to Stay in Jasper National Park | Dark Skies | Jasper National Park Things To Do | Jasper National Park Winter | #travel #traveltips Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Ever dream of being far away from the bright lights, and spending an evening staring up at the starry night sky, and maybe even seeing the Northern Lights. Then this is your Festival. The Dark Sky Festival runs over two weekends in October, and is packed with ways to see the night sky, plus informative, entertaining events, speakers and activities that feature science, space and conservation. Jasper Dark Sky Preserve | Things to do in Jasper Alberta | Jasper Alberta | Jasper National Park | Northern Lights | Canada | Alberta | Canadian Rockies | Scenery |Where to Stay in Jasper National Park | Dark Skies | Jasper National Park Things To Do | Jasper National Park Winter | #travel #traveltips ]]>
https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/10-reasons-why-you-should-visit-the-jasper-dark-sky-festival/feed/ 5
Things To Do in Vancouver With Kids https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/things-to-do-in-vancouver-with-kids/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/things-to-do-in-vancouver-with-kids/#comments Thu, 04 Jan 2018 01:30:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15159 Vancouver, one of Canada’s premiere destinations and wildly regarded as one of the world’s great cities, is also only a few hours away from our our place. As such, we’re in Vancouver several times a year with the family.

It’s a fantastic city, and there are plenty of things to do in Vancouver with the family, from indoor fun like the Vancouver Aquarium, to outdoor adventure by the ocean, to thrill seeking fun on either the Lynn Canyon or Capilano suspension bridges.

Things to do in Vancouver with kids

There are hundreds of fun things to do with kids in Vancouver, but we’ve picked the very best for this list.

The Vancouver Aquarium

The non-profit Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is committed to rehabilitation and re-release (wherever possible) of injured, ill or abandoned marine creatures. It also operates Ocean Wise, a conservation program that works directly with local restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers to ensure that they have the most current scientific information and to help them make ocean-friendly buying decisions.

The Vancouver Aquarium is Canada’s largest aquarium and home to over 58,000 animals. It’s a great place to take kids, with the new Discover Rays touch pool, and plenty of kid-friendly exhibits and play areas.

Vancouver Aquarium kids fun

Stanley Park

I’m not sure I can count how many times we’ve visited Stanley Park over the years. Quite handily, it’s right next to downtown and it also houses the Vancouver Aquarium. There are over 1000 acres here, with stunning views of Vancouver’s skyline, and plenty of room for kids to run free. It’s a special place that lets you glimpse the natural wonder of British Columbia’s coast in an urban setting. Be sure to take your time and wander through the giant Sequoia trees. If you love trees, Stanley Park won’t disappoint.

Ducks on Misty Beaver Lake Stanley Park Vancouver

First Nations heritage

The First Nations people of Vancouver have played a large role in preserving Stanley Park in its natural state. If you’re interested in First Nations culture, and especially the relationship between First Nations people with Northwest coast trees and plants, I’d highly recommend taking the Talking Trees tour with Talaysay Tours. It’s a two hour tour, and I was fascinated by our soft-spoken guide’s intimate and detailed knowledge. Just a note, this tour may be better suited to slightly older children.

Horse-drawn tours and railway tours

Everyone on these old-fashioned horse drawn carriages looks like they’re having a blast. The tour leaves from Coal Harbour, and a guide describes Stanley Park’s attractions, which include the Vancouver Harbour, Lions Gate Bridge, the cedar forest, totem poles, and Deadman’s Island and more.

The kids will also love the Stanley Park Miniature Railway and the Prospect Point totem poles.

Stanley Park beaches and more

Everyone in your group will love the miles of stunning boardwalks that line the rugged coast with walkers, joggers, bikers and rollerbladers all cruising by. There are also numerous beaches and beach volleyball courts set up along the shoreline.

Science World at TELUS World of Science

Kids adore Vancouver’s Science World, with it’s fun, hands-on interactive displays like Eureka!, as well as huge special events, OMNIMAX films and real life art exhibits. Even if you don’t go inside, there are plenty of free fun things to check out outside like the giant marble maze and the moving water stand.

With continually changing exhibits and galleries designed just for kids, there’s something new at Science World every time we go.

Vancouver Science Centre

Vancouver Seawall

The Vancouver Seawall is a 28 km (17 mile) long paved pathway that runs along the ocean front through most of metro Vancouver. Views are fantastic here, and it’s always busy with families and health enthusiasts. There are beaches, kids play structures and beach volleyball courts running along the seawall at various places so make sure you grab your swimsuit if you’re there in the summer months.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Kids will love this suspension bridge, which stretches 140 meters (over 450 feet) long and 70 meters (230 feet) high above the Capilano River. The only negatives I can say about it are that it can be busy, and that admission is steep at over $40 for an adult. Kids under six are free, though. As well as the bridge, there’s the Treetops Adventure, a decent collection of First Nations totem poles, rain forest ecotours, gardens, nature trails and the new cliff walk which lets you climb on the outside of a cliff along a slim cable suspension bridge.

The FREE Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

As an alternative to the pricey Capilano Suspension bridge, we like to visit the free Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. The lesser known (and free!) Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon Park is a solid alternative to the Capilano bridge and has some pretty pathways that cross the bridge and lead down to natural pools and waterfalls.

Granville Island

Granville Island, in Vancouver’s downtown district, is the city’s most popular tourist attraction. Both kids and adults usually love a visit.

The main attraction here is the bustling Granville Island public market, full of fresh fruit and veggies, pastries and breads, specialty coffee, ethnic specialty cuisine, and artisan handicrafts. There are also almost 300 stores on Granville Island itself.

As well as the shops, there’s almost always some sort of show being performed on Granville Island. Whether that’s buskers blowing enormous water bubbles for the kids, musicians playing everything from bongos to reed instruments to banjos to dance troupes performing acrobatic stunts, there’s always something there to entertain the kids.

Vancouver Foodie Tours The Best of what to see do and eat in Vancouver British Columbia

Granville Island is surrounded by lovely views of the waters of False Creek and the Burrard Street Bridge. There are marinas and boats all along the shore front here. Also, be sure to take some time to walk by the floating water homes just east of the public market.

Getting to Granville Island

You can either cross the Granville Island bridge on car or on foot (it’s a very long walk by foot) however parking is very limited on Granville Island. As such, most people take an Aquabus Ferry to get there.

The kids will also love cruising around False Creek on the Granville Island Ferries, which runs a fleet of adorable, mini ferries that buzz back and forth between small docks around False Creek and Granville Island. It’s also the easiest way to get to Granville Island if you’re walking in from downtown.

Aquabus at Granville Island Vancouver

The Kids’ Market

Be sure to check out the kid’s market on Granville Island! It’s housed in a large, yellow building, and packed with toy shops and a busy play area. Your kids will love it, but your wallet probably won’t so take that as you will.

The Granville Island Water Park

Despite Granville Island’s small size, they’ve managed to build the largest free water park in North America. It’s open all summer and is a great place to chow down on all the goodies you picked up at the public market.

Kitsilano Beach

Located right downtown, Kitsilano beach is a long swath of soft, gold sand that peeks out over beautiful English Bay.

There’s plenty of fun to be had here resting on huge logs along the beaches, beachcombing for shells and playing in the golden sand. There’s also a playground right there with park benches for the parents and beach volleyball nets set up, ten tennis courts, as well as basketball courts.

Vanier Park

Kitsilano Beach, or Kits Beach as the locals call it, is next to expansive, leafy Vanier Park, which is home to the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the City of Vancouver Archives, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. There’s plenty of grass and space here, making it perfect for a relaxing day under the trees. If you visit during summer, check to see if the International Children’s Festival is happening in the park which is a popular festival for kids every summer.

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

Kitsilano Pool

You’ve likely seen photos of this outdoor, heated salt water pool with city and mountains in the background. It’s only open in the summer, and there’s a place for little kids in the shallows.

Cuddle cats at the Catfe

Catfe is Vancouver’s first cat cafe, featuring adoptable cats from the BC SPCA! Animal loving kids will adore a visit here, but since it’s hugely popular, make sure to make an online reservation as soon as you can since it’s usually booked up days in advance.

Catfe Vancouver

Saving money on your trip to Vancouver

Vancouver’s beautiful and fun, sure, but it can also be a bit pricey. Here’s little list of ways to save some cash in Vancouver.

Attractions near UBC

During our last visit to Vancouver, we stayed on the UBC (University of British Columbia) Campus, at the lovely West Coast Suites at UBC. If you’re looking for a quieter pace, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Museum of Anthropology (MOA) and the Greenheart TreeWalk at the UBC Botanical Garden may be just the ticket.

Tip! If you’re planning to visit several UBC attractions, look into the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass. You can buy adult, concession (senior, youth or student) or family passes. The pass gives you admission to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Nitobe Memorial Garden and the UBC Botanical Garden. It also gives discounts on food, books, clothing and the fun Canopy Treewalk.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

An enormous blue whale skeleton is the first thing you’ll notice at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Inside, we were fascinated by a dated, but interesting, documentary on how the blue whale skeleton was found, unearthed, and installed. The vault-like downstairs houses more than two million specimens of plants, marine invertebrates, insects, fish, vertebrates, fungi, and fossils. Kids with a naturalist or scientific bent will love this place.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Greenheart TreeWalk and the UBC Botanical Garden

Our kids had a blast tearing along this 310 metre (1,000 foot) long canopy walkway. It’s not as tall or scary as the Capilano or Lynn Canyon Suspension bridges, but the multiple walkways make it a lot of fun for kids. At its tallest, it’s almost 20 metres (65 feet) above the forest floor.

Tip! The Greenheart TreeWalk is not included in the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass, but the pass offers a 10% discount on the treewalk.

The Greenheart TreeWalk is in the larger UBC Botanical Garden, which covers about 110 acres (44 hectares) and has over 8,000 different plants. We loved the long, winding trails through big, shady trees, as it gave the kids (and us!) a chance to burn off some energy.

Greenheart TreeWalk at UBC Botanical Gardens

Museum of Anthropology (MOA)

If your kids are a little older, they may appreciate the beautiful Museum of Anthropology (MOA). Inside, there are stunning displays of First Nations totem poles plus 38,000 ethnographic objects, as well as 535,000 archaeological objects. The MOA building, designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson, is a gem in itself.

Museum of Anthropology Vancouver

The best family accommodation in Vancouver

Deciding where to stay in Vancouver with a family can be a bit tricky. All of the accommodation downtown can be a bit pricier, but it’s a good choice if you want to be near the city’s main attractions. We’ve picked our favorite downtown hotels, an excellent choice just out of the center, as well as a great airport hotel, and our best value option out of the downtown.

The Perfect Location – Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

A couple of years ago, our little family stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver for two very happy days.

It’s a gorgeous hotel in a perfect location downtown across from Canada Place, and it caters perfectly to families. Our kids loved sitting in the room looking out over the harbor to watch float planes land and take off, and cruise ships like the Disney Wonder dock. Rooms are modern and beautiful, with plenty of room for little ones to run about, and it has every amenity you would want, from a heated outdoor pool to a spacious gym to quality dining downstairs. There’s even a rooftop herb garden and beehives that you can visit!

See prices and availability.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

The relaxed family hotel – West Coast Suites UBC

Don’t get me wrong, we love Vancouver’s downtown. It’s interesting and vibrant, with plenty to do and see. However, downtown’s not always a kid friendly place. When the kids were a bit younger, we were in town for a wedding, and got a hotel a close to Granville Street. On the way back to the hotel from the reception, with our then nine and six year olds in tow, we had to dodge a lot of drunk and rowdy folks so choose your place accordingly.

Needless to say, we were up for a hotel that was a bit more relaxed the next time we visited the city.

West Coast Suites at UBC was a perfect choice, with its location out of the downtown core, and surrounded by quiet grounds. Driving to the hotel, you’ll see the spacious UBC campus to one side, and get peeks of British Columbia’s stunning Pacific Coast on the other.

All of the rooms at West Coast Suites at UBC are one bedroom units with a full kitchen and a pull-out Queen bed for the kids. You can read more about our West Coast Suites stay here.

See prices and availability.

West Coast Suites UBC living area

West Coast Suites UBC living area

The airport choice – Fairmont Vancouver Airport In-Terminal Hotel

The Fairmont Vancouver Airport In-Terminal Hotel is Vancouver’s only in-terminal airport hotel. It gets great ratings, and might be worth the splurge if you’re looking for a little luxury at the airport. There’s a surcharge for WiFi.

See prices and availability here.

The budget downtown option

If you’re looking for a budget hotel in the heart of downtown, Robson Suites and Sunset Inn and Suites both get good reviews.

We haven’t stayed in either because they’re always infuriatingly fully booked far in advance, but they’re both smaller boutique hotels that should run you close to, or under, $120 a night for a double room. Both hotels include free WiFi, but Robson Suites is closer to Stanley Park (but doesn’t include breakfast, though rooms have a kitchen or kitchenette), while Sunset Inn is right next to Stanley Park (and includes breakfast in the rate).

See Robson Suites availability.

Check Sunset Inn and Suites availability.

A bit of a drive, but great value – Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Riverport Richmond

If you’re up for taking the SkyTrain or driving into downtown Vancouver, and want to save a few $$, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Riverport Richmond is an affordable, clean option. We stayed here for a few days a few years ago, and would stay again. It’s a pretty standard chain hotel, but clean and new, with free breakfast, free airport shuttle, fast, free WiFi, and a pool and hot tub.

See prices and availability here.

The Hidden Gem – The hotel on Granville Island

Granville Island Hotel is one of Vancouver’s less known gems. It’s a boutique hotel located right on Granville Island, overlooking the water, and gets great reviews.

Check prices and reviews here.

Airbnb

As a family, we love staying in Airbnb properties. We always rent a condo or house, which gives us a kitchen, more bedrooms, and often an extra bathroom. The price you’ll pay varies on location and size, but a small private studio starts at around $60/night downtown, while a private two bedroom starts at around $100.

Create a new account using this link, and get $35 USD in Airbnb credits the first time you use them. (We get a credit, too).

Vancouver fun with kids

How to get around Vancouver as a family

Whether you drive, grab the efficient Skytrain, or take a scenic SeaBus, there are plenty of transportation options for families in Vancouver.

SeaBus to North Vancouver

This is relaxing, affordable ride across Burrard Inlet, and gives you a lovely view of Stanley Park, the Lions Gate bridge, and mountains on the distance. Kids will love watching float planes land and watching the other boats on the water.

Ferries

Vancouver public transit includes the SeaBus (above). To get to Vancouver Island or the other off coast islands, you can take a ferry with BC Ferries.

Granville Island has its own ferry company, Granville Island Ferries, with a fleet of adorable, mini ferries that buzz back and forth between small docks around False Creek and Granville Island.

Hop-on, Hop-off Sightseeing

We haven’t had a chance to take the hop-on, hop-off trolley downtown, but our kids’ eyes light up every time they see it drive by. I’m sure it’ll be a huge hit!

Wee ones are thrilled to see Vancouver from an old-fashioned trolley or an open-air bus. With fully narrated tours, Vancouver’s hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tours give a great overview of the city, along with giving families the flexibility to make stops whenever suits them. Hop off to explore all the downtown attractions, then hop back on again to continue to the next exciting destination.

Vancouver Downtown Vancouver Trolley Hop on Hop off Tour

Drive

Driving around downtown Vancouver is certainly possible, and we’ve done it many times. As long as you’re not visiting during a major event, there are usually enough parkades to handle the traffic. Just be warned: traffic can get highly congested during rush hour or if there’s an accident. Parking is also one of the most expensive in Canada and runs $10 to $30 a day in downtown Vancouver, depending on your location.

Skytrain

Most visitors to Vancouver take advantage of the Skytrain service around the city. The system is quick, efficient (trains leave the downtown stations every two to five minutes) and covers most of the city. You can take the Skytrain out to the suburbs, and scenic Westminster Quay on the way to (not so scenic) Surrey.

Public transit

Aside from the ubiquitious Skytrain, Vancouver has a large fleet of buses that cover most of the city and are a great option if you’re staying at UBC.

Uber and Lyft

As of January 2018, ride sharing apps like Uber or Lyft aren’t available in British Columbia, but there are suggestions that may change soon.

Have you visited Vancouver with kids? What were your favorite Vancouver attractions for the family?

Things to do in Vancouver with Kids We travel to Vancouver several times a year with the family. There's always so much to do, including walking or biking the seawall, having fun at the aquarium or hiking through Stanley Park | Vancouver Travel | Vancouver BC Canada | Vancouver with kids | Vancouver with Family #Vancouver #BC #travel Things to do in Vancouver with Kids There are hundreds of things to do in Vancouver with the kids, from indoor fun like the Vancouver Aquarium, to outdoor adventure by the ocean, to thrill seeking fun on the Lynn Canyon or Capilano suspension bridge. | Vancouver Travel | Vancouver BC Canada | Vancouver with kids | Vancouver with Family #Vancouver #BC #travel ]]>
https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/things-to-do-in-vancouver-with-kids/feed/ 1
Things to do in Isla Mujeres https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/things-to-do-in-isla-mujeres/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/things-to-do-in-isla-mujeres/#comments Sat, 25 Nov 2017 18:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15372 It’s no secret that we love Isla Mujeres on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Warm blue waters, fantastic beaches, good snorkeling, and a great selection of restaurants all make Isla Mujeres a must see if you’re on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera.

Located only a short 20 minute ferry ride from Cancun, Isla Mujeres makes a great day trip and an even greater longer mini escape from your Cancun vacation.

Oh yeah, have I mentioned you can drive the entire island on a golf cart, in half a day? We did it the first time a few years ago and it’s still one of our favorite family travel highlights.

Beach in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Likewise, if you find yourself down in Playa Del Carmen, Akumal, Tulum or even staying on Cozumel, then Isla Mujeres is pretty easy and inexpensive to get to. We’ve done the trip from Playa del Carmen more than a few times now and have enjoyed our trip to Isla Mujeres every single time.

Now, we’ve written about Mexico‘s Isla Mujeres a few times over the years and, to be honest, not much has changed. Of course it’s grown, but that only means more golf cart rentals and more options. We don’t find that it’s gotten any busier and it seems there’s just more to do there these days with a lot more places to rent from.

Isla Mujeres

Things to do in Isla Mujeres Mexico

So, without any further ado, here are our things to do in Isla Mujeres.

Rent a golf cart on Isla Mujeres

Haha, if you read our previous Isla Mujeres post you don’t think I’d miss this one. There are now dozens of golf cart rental companies on Isla Mujeres, and though they do still occasionally run out during the holidays and busiest times of the year, most days you’re fine as long as you arrive before noon.

You can pretty much drive to every place on the island, and if you’re there for multiple days, you can spend lazy afternoons on different beaches every day. You can walk or take a taxi most places on the island, but if you want true freedom, rent a golf cart and enjoy yourself.

Sea birds at Isla Mujeres

Relax on the beaches on Isla Mujeres

Since we just talked about beaches, there are around six semi-official major beaches on Isla Mujeres and a bunch of smaller ones. Some, like Playa Norte, feature bars and beach chairs and on many you can rent SUPs, kayaks, water toys and even snorkeling equipment.

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte (North Beach) is by far the most popular and is often rated one of the best in the Caribbean. Playa Norte is just minutes from downtown, and the palm trees and luxurious white sand make Playa Norte muy hermosa. Playa Norte has almost no current, and kids and adults can wade pretty far out and the water will only reach their waist.

Playa Posada, found along the west side isn’t as crowded, however the water isn’t as clear, and Playa Media Luna is a beautiful crescent shaped beach but the water can be rough.

Playa Indios, Playa Paraiso and Playa Lancheros are all more secluded beaches found on the west side facing Cancun. You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas there, and open air restaurants, gift shops and public bathrooms are close by.

kids playing in the sand in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Stay in one of the many lovely hotels in Isla Mujeres

There are lots of hotels to choose from on Isla Mujeres, and they cater to every taste and budget. You can stay on the beach or off, with a family or as a couple, at places like Beloved Hotels, an Adults-Only Boutique All-Inclusive. With swimming pools and all inclusive plans, staying at a hotel in Isla Mujeres can be a great way to start or end a long day seeing the sites.

La Tortuga Granja (The Turtle Farm)

Love sea turtles? So do we, and that’s why we always stop by the Turtle Farm in Isla Mujeres. Since large sea turtles have made Isla Mujeres their breeding ground for generations, the Turtle Farm gathers up the eggs it finds along the beaches and incubates them at the Turtle Farm thereby greatly increasing their chances of survival.

It's turtles all the way down at La Tortuga Granja

It’s turtles all the way down at La Tortuga Granja

Depending on the time of year you’re there, you can see hundreds of turtles in the tanks growing up in the large tanks around the property. There is a great celebration the day they’re released back into the wild.

Hands on at the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm

In the main building there is also a small aquarium with sea horses, lobsters, crabs, tropical fish and even an octopus. There are also a few land turtles and family of iguanas who hang out along one side of the building.

Sea Turtles at Tortugranja

Sea Turtles at Tortugranja

The Joysxee Floating Bottle Island

If you’re looking for quirky things to do in Isla Mujeres, you can check out the Floating Bottle Island. Created a few years back by Richart Sowa, this floating recycler’s dream is completely built using used plastic water bottles and recycled materials, including a three story house and an outdoor bar. You’ll need to talk to the locals about its current location, since the floating house moves around the island from time to time. There is a small entrance fee.

Punta Sur

Located at the far southern edge of Isla Mujeres, Punta Sur features not only the highest elevation in all the Yucatan, but it’s also the easternmost point in all of Mexico. That’s right, the sun hits Punta Sur before anywhere else in Mexico and we’ve heard that it’s a glorious sight.

Punta Sur on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Featuring an ancient Mayan temple honoring the Mayan Goddess Ixchel, it also boasts a lighthouse and dozens of modern sculptures around the property. Due to some of the most dramatic sea cliffs in all of Mexico, Punta Sur makes a great place to grab a bite to eat while looking out to sea.

Punta Sur Coast

Punta Sur

MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum

Conceived by Jason deCaires Taylor, Isla Mujeres is home to the largest underwater museum on earth. The clear waters off Isla Mujeres make a great place to scuba dive or snorkel while seeing how thousands of underwater sculptures change in time in regards to coral growth and marine interaction. The scope of the project is mind blowing and the combination of art and marine conservation is great to see.

Garrafon Reef Park

The Garrafon Reef Park is a great place to spend an afternoon. Its all-inclusive packages include a buffet lunch and an open bar. Not only do they feature zip lines over the clear aquamarine waters, you can rent kayaks, snorkel equipment, life jackets and they have plenty of hammocks to lounge on as well as relax in their infinity pool. Admission includes bathrooms, lockers, showers and entrance to the Sculpture Garden and Punta Sur.

Garrafon Natural Reef Park

Garrafon Natural Reef Park

Garrafón de Castilla

The Garrafón de Castilla is right next to the Garrafón Reef Park at the south end of the island, and your entrance fee includes lounge chairs with beach umbrellas, restrooms and shower areas. You can rent snorkel gear and lockers here. They have a small snack bar and a restaurant right on the property.

The Zocalo (Town Square)

Located in the center of town, the Zocalo or Town Square comes alive most evenings as celebrations, dances and events kick up with local Mexican families and tourists alike sharing in the celebrations. You can eat tacos and pastries from the vendors lining the park, as well as pick up souvenirs from local artists. The kids will enjoy the small playground.

Isla Mujeres Mexico pier

Fun on the water in Isla Mujeres

We’ve talked about the beaches, but there is also world class deep sea fishing in the water of Isla Mujeres. From deep sea fishing for marlin, sailfish and dorado to spear fishing tuna and barracuda, Isla Mujeres has some of the best sea fishing in the Mexico. Tours and guides can be hired for the day or the week.

Isla Mujeres with Cancun in Background

Look closely! You can see Cancun on the horizon.

Fun under the water on Isla Mujeres

Being surrounded by water means some of the fun things to do in Isla Mujeres occur under the water. You can snorkel and scuba dive all around the island and there are dozens of companies that will take you out on a scuba or snorkel tour to see many types of corral and colorful tropical fish including sailfish from December to June.

From June to September you can swim with giant Whale Sharks and anytime of the year is great to swim in the National Park that’s filled with the MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum’s sculptures. Most tours include lunch buffets as well as snorkel gear.

Have you been to Isla Mujeres? Do you have any tips? Let us know!

 

Things to do in Isla Mujeres Mexico. We've written about Mexico's Isla Mujeres a few times over the years and, to be honest, not much has changed. Of course it's grown, but that only means more golf cart rentals and more options. We don't find that it's gotten any busier and it seems there's just more to do there these days with a lot more things to do and see. Isla Mujeres Mexico things to do plus tips secrets and photography. ]]>
https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/things-to-do-in-isla-mujeres/feed/ 5
West Coast Suites UBC and our Vancouver Family Vacation https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/west-coast-suites-ubc-and-our-vancouver-family-vacation/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/west-coast-suites-ubc-and-our-vancouver-family-vacation/#comments Tue, 03 Oct 2017 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15135 Being so close to Vancouver, it can be hard for us to figure out the best places to stay in Vancouver for a family vacation.

So while we’ve stayed downtown for a quick Vancouver family vacation more than a few times, and though there are some fantastic hotels in the area, there are two big disadvantages to a downtown Vancouver family stay.

The first is cost. Hotels in downtown Vancouver can be quite expensive, especially if you look at getting a suite with a bedroom or kitchenette, or if you’re booking in peak season. Parking can also be crazy expensive if you’re by the water and some of the nicer hotels require you to pay extra for WiFi, sometimes even per device.

Second, downtown Vancouver accommodations can be quite busy, and it’s not always the most kid-friendly place, especially around the bars on Granville Street. Though Vancouver is a great walking city, staying downtown still requires you to be careful, especially with little ones in tow.

So when UBC’s West Coast Suites, located on the quiet and stunning University of British Columbia (UBC) lands, reached out to us about a stay, we were excited to give it a try.

The view at UBC

We planned to use the fully furnished suites, perched on the quiet and expansive green campus, as our base for exploring Vancouver with kids. Not only are the world class Museum of Anthropology, the impressive Beaty Biodiversity Museum, the fantastic Botanical Gardens and more within easy walking distance at UBC, there’s an abundance of great food right on campus.

The best part is that downtown Vancouver and many of the city’s other major attractions are just a short car trip or bus ride away.

See prices and availability here. Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.

West Coast Suites UBC

As we drove through busy Vancouver, and on through the quiet, lush, green oasis of the enormous UBC property, we were sure we’d made the right choice. On one side we could see the spacious UBC campus on the left of us and we kept getting peeks of British Columbia’s stunning Pacific Coast on the other.

Bedroom at West Coast Suites UBC

After the easy drive to West Coast Suites, we checked in at the next door Walter Gage Residences. The helpful front desk staff promptly got our key card, and pointed out some of the fun things to do with kids on the UBC campus. More on the details of our Vancouver family vacation later!

Within a few minutes, we’d whisked our stuff up the elevator, and I was relaxing on our couch, overlooking the trees in the courtyard, and enjoying a fresh Starbucks coffee from the single serve coffee maker in our cozy kitchen.

Our Suite

All of the suites at West Coast Suites are large, quiet one bedrooms with balconies and full kitchens.

West Coast Suites UBC kitchen

There’s no oven in the suites, but there is a stove top, a microwave, and most importantly, a dishwasher, plus a full kitchen table and mini-fridge. The kitchen was fully kitted out, including everything from pots and pans, glassware, cutlery, and even a corkscrew and bottle opener.

All the suites at UBC’s West Coast Suites are one bedroom, with a king bed in the bedroom plus a sofa bed.

There’s a LED TV, an in room safe, plenty of quality toiletries, and high quality linens.

West Coast Suites UBC living area

 

Amenities

At the top of my list for hotel amenities is always WiFi. WiFi here is fast, free and reliable, with speeds at well over 35 mbps. That’s far better than the WiFi you’ll find in most homes.

There’s even free long distance in North America, making it easy to connect with friends and family.

View of bedroom at West Coast Suites UBC

Room Amenities at West Coast :

  • Free Canada/USA calling
  • Large LED TVs with cable channels
  • Parking is $10/day plus applicable taxes
  • 24 hour front desk
  • Guest launderette
  • Complimentary newspapers at reception
  • On-site vending facilities
  • Open year round

See prices and availability here.

Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.

What’s nearby?

We were pretty busy around the University of British Columbia itself, before we even headed into Vancouver proper for our downtown Vancouver family day trip. There’s a full list of what we did on campus below, but our highlights included the Museum of Anthropology, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Greenheart TreeWalk at the UBC Botanical Garden. Click here to skip to our list of fun family activities and attractions near UBC.

There’s also a lot to eat on campus at the UBC, with dozens of cafes, restaurants and food trucks. Click here to see all the great eats on the UBC campus.

Family walk at the Museum of Anthropology

West Coast Suites at UBC is a short drive from downtown Vancouver, but located on some of the most beautiful land in Vancouver. The University of British Columbia pretty much owns the entire western tip of the Point Grey Peninsula. Within walking distance, there are rose gardens, Japanese rock gardens, botanic gardens, canopy walks, regional parkland, hiking trails, plus all the amenities below. The Museum of Anthropology is a ten minute walk from West Coast Suites, and Pacific Spirit Regional Park is two and a half kilometers (one and a half miles) away.

Shopping

One thing we were a little uncertain of was if there was shopping nearby for groceries and other necessities. Luckily for us, it’s a short drive (or even walking distance, if you’re so inclined) to Wesbrook Village shopping center, which has a Save on Foods grocery store, plus plenty of shops.

Vancouver with kids – at UBC Campus

We had a blast being in Vancouver with kids at the UBC Campus. There’s a lot to do on the University grounds, and we’ve listed some of our favorites below. You can check out the other UBC attractions here.

Tip! If you’re planning to visit several UBC attractions, look into the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass. You can buy adult, concession (senior, youth or student) or family passes. The pass gives you admission to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, the Nitobe Memorial Garden and the UBC botanical garden. It also gives discounts on food, books, clothing and the canopy tree walk.

On campus events and the Eclipse!

We were lucky enough to visit UBC during the 2017 solar eclipse. The astronomy society was handing out free eclipse viewing glasses just a short walk from our hotel at West Coast Suites, with displays and plenty of folks on hand to help.

While the eclipse was the big event when we visited (the people in the picture below were all gone an hour later), be sure to check what’s going on at UBC during your visit. There’s almost always something fun and interesting happening on campus.

Viewing the eclipse at UBC pinhole projector

Watching the eclipse through a pinhole viewer

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

The first thing you’ll notice at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum is the blue whale skeleton that looms over the entire facility. There’s an interesting documentary to watch inside about how the fossil was found, unearthed, cleaned and installed. Inside the vault-like downstairs, there are more than two million specimens of plants, marine invertebrates, insects, birds, fish, vertebrates, fungi, and fossils.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Museum of Anthropology (MOA)

We were especially taken by the stunning displays of First Nations totem poles inside the main floors of the MOA. It’s an impressive collection, as the MOA houses 38,000 ethnographic objects, as well as 535,000 archaeological objects inside. It houses collections from multiple cultures, but is best known for the large and impressive collection of art from First Nation band governments of the Pacific Northwest. The MOA building was designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson.

Tip: Don’t miss the outdoor longhouse recreation behind the museum building.

Museum of Anthropology Vancouver

UBC Botanical Garden

Lovers of botany will adore the UBC Botanical Garden, as it covers nearly 110 acres (44 hectares) and has over 8,000 different plants.

We loved the long, serene winding trails under great big, shady trees, as it gave the kids (and us!) a chance to burn off some energy.

UBC Botanical Garden bee on yellow flower

Greenheart TreeWalk

While you’re there, don’t miss the Greenheart TreeWalk! The kids had a blast tearing along this 310 metre (1,000 foot) long canopy walkway. The walkway is suspended from looming cedars, Douglas firs and grand firs (many of them over 100 years old), and reaches a height of almost 20 metres (65 feet). This isn’t for the faint of heart, or lead of foot, but our eight year old managed it beautifully, even taking the lead and egging us on.

Tip! The Greenheart TreeWalk is not included in the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass; the pass offers a 10% discount on the treewalk.

Greenheart TreeWalk at UBC Botanical Gardens

Nitobe Memorial Garden

The Nitobe Memorial Garden is a traditional Japanese Tea and Stroll garden. It’s officially part of the UBC Botanical Garden, but it’s located separately, close to Wreck Beach.

UBC Aquatic Centre

New in 2017, the UBC Aquatic Centre has a kids area, diving pool, swimming pool, whirl pool, hot tub and a sauna. It’s also only a two minute walk from West Coast Suites.

Farmer’s Market

UBC farmer’s markets serve up farm fresh produce at a weekly on-campus market from late spring to fall. We stopped by the pop-up market at the UBC bookstore, but there are also farm gate sales. Dates and details change, so check here first before you go.

Tip! There are also seasonal u-picks for blueberries, pumpkins, hops and more. If you’re around on the weekend, the UBC Farm offers free public tours at 11:00 am each Saturday. Check the UBC Farm page for details

UBC farmers market

More UBC attractions

There are plenty of other attractions on campus, including the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts and the UBC School of Music. Check out the UBC attractions page for more.

Wreck beach

Well, what to say about Wreck beach? There are a few things you need to know before you go.

First, it’s absolutely stunning, and well worth a look. Second, it’s clothing optional, so do with that what you will. Third, the most popular access is by Trail 6 by a steep and difficult set of 473 stairs.

Fourth, it has quite the reputation around Vancouver for it’s alternative culture, which includes the clothing optional scene, but also extends to a hippie culture of body painters, beach casinos, and a relaxed attitude toward pretty much anything. Read into that what you will but everyone we talked to said it was a cool place to hang out on a hot day and the unobstructed Pacific Ocean views from the beach are breathtaking.

Vancouver Family Vacation

There are hundreds of other things to do on a family vacation in Vancouver. I’d say the top, don’t miss family attractions, are the Vancouver seawall, the Vancouver Aquarium, Science World at TELUS World of Science, Stanley Park, the Capilano Suspension Bridge (or the free Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge) and Granville Island. Our comprehensive post on family things to do in Vancouver is coming soon!

While at West Coast Suites, we took the car downtown (it’s a short 15 minute drive if traffic is good) a few of times to visit friends, and check out a few downtown attractions. Most people just jump on a bus and grab the Skytrain around town.

Vanier Park 

Vanier Park is in the Kitsilano neighborhood in Vancouver, and home to the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the City of Vancouver Archives, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. There’s a lot of green space here, making it perfect for a relaxing day under the trees.

If you go during summer, check to see if the International Children’s Festival is happening in the park.

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

Kitsilano Beach Park

Kitsilano Beach Park is just to the West of Vanier Park (you can easily walk from one to another). It’s a long, lovely stretch of sand that faces picturesque English Bay.

Yaletown

We even got a chance to check out a little nightlife in Yaletown, when we popped out for supper with a friend. Yaletown is one of the busiest parts of Vancouver, and packed with trendy restaurants and bars in old warehouse buildings.

Food at UBC

Food on the UBC Campus is divided into two main groups: outlets owned by the Student’s Union, and outlets under the ubrella of the University’s Food Services.

UBC Food Services

UBC Food Services has over 40 outlets on campus with everything from chains like Starbucks and Tim Hortons, to mini marts, to full service restaurants, to food trucks. Many get their ingredients from the on campus UBC Farm, and fresh seafood is 100% Ocean Wise certified. We couldn’t try all 40 places to eat (unfortunately!), but we did get a chance to check out a few.

The Hungry Nomad

Where else would us Barefoot Nomads go to eat than the Hungry Nomad?

This food truck serves up delicious vegan poutine, with large portions for around $6. We bought two poutine as a snack, but there was far too much for the four of us (two adults and two preteen kids) to eat. Great value.

Hungry Nomad Food Truck UBC

Harvest

We came in quite late one night after a long walk around the UBC Botanical Gardens, and wanted nothing more than to put our feet up and relax in our room. Luckily, Harvest was on the way home, and we grabbed a rotisserie chicken, roast vegetables, a tasty chickpea sandwich, and two bean burritos for the kids. Perfection!

Mercante

This is the place to go on campus if you’ve got a craving for authentic made-to-order traditional Italian pizzas cooked in a hot stone hearth oven. Each pizza is a great value at about $12, and we only needed two to stuff two adults and two preteen kids to the gills.

Mercante pizza UBC

AMS Student Union

UBC’s student’s union (AMS) has several foood and drink eateries located in the Nest (the main student’s union building), including the Grand Noodle Emporium, Uppercase, Honour Roll, The Pit, Palate, and Ph Tea.

Being the coffee and baked goods lovers that we are, we made a quick beeline for Uppercase, which had an impressive display case of baked goods and bagels. Was it good? Let’s just say that I was contemplating a move to the UBC campus so that I could make this a daily staple.

Uppercase coffee and pastries at the UBC Nest

UBC Vancouver Accommodations

We found West Coast Suites one bedroom suites to be perfect for our family, but UBC has other accommodation choices as well.

Pacific Spirit Hostel at Place Vanier Residence

With rooms starting at $39 a night, this is a fantastic value in sometimes expensive Vancouver.

The Pacific Spirit Hostel has private single rooms or private twin rooms. There’s a shared lounge with LCD TV and on site laundry. Linens, towels and bath amenities are provided. Parking is $10 a day plus taxes, or you can buy a weekly permit.

Ponderosa Residence and Walter Gage Residence

Studio suite at Ponderosa Residence with kitchenette and a view

Private suites at Ponderosa Residence and Walter Gage Residence are only available from May 15 to August 25 each year. There’s a wide range of places to stay here, including studios, one bedroom and two bedroom units.

Units have a full kitchen with complimentary high speed WiFi, LCD TVs and free Canada/USA calling.

Accessible suites are also available. Parking is $16/day plus applicable taxes at Ponderosa. Parking is $10/day plus applicable taxes at Gage.

What you need to know

West Coast Suites is on the UBC Campus, at 5961 Student Union Blvd, Vancouver.

West Coast Suites is easily accessible by car, but can also be accessed by transit, with a major bus exchange located on campus.

Have you stayed at West Coast Suites UBC? What did you think? 

]]>
https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/west-coast-suites-ubc-and-our-vancouver-family-vacation/feed/ 1
LEGOLAND Florida Tips and Secrets to Save You Time and Money https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/family/legoland-florida-tips-and-secrets-to-save-you-time-and-money/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/family/legoland-florida-tips-and-secrets-to-save-you-time-and-money/#comments Mon, 25 Sep 2017 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=13177

Earlier this year, we had a chance to team up with LEGOLAND Florida and checked out their amusement park and waterpark as a family. We’ve been huge LEGO fans for years, and we have the bins of LEGO pieces in our living room to prove it, so we were thrilled to visit!

While it’s not as big as the Universal or Disney parks in Orlando, there’s still a lot to see and do in LEGOLAND. It can be a bit confusing and overwheming, honestly, so we spent our time at the park looking for helpful tips and tricks to help when you visit LEGOLAND Florida. You’ll find everything in here, including the best rides and attractions, how to save money, where to stay, and where to eat in the park.

LEGOLAND Florida tips and secrets that will save you time money and trouble

Read on for our…

LEGOLAND Florida Tips and Secrets

How to Save Money

First, let’s get you the best deal we can for LEGOLAND. Generally, you’ll save money buying tickets online, rather than at the gate. Plus, you’ll avoid having to wait at the gate to buy tickets!

Undercover Tourist

If you’re looking for a great deal on park tickets, check out Undercover Tourist first, which offers a significant discount over gate admission. They also don’t charge sneaky delivery fees or extra taxes like some sites. Delivery is instant, as these are electronic tickets sent to you by email.

For example, when we looked, the Undercover Tourist price for adult 1 day park and waterpass admission was $95.91. At the gate, the price was $113.99.

See prices for a single day ticket.

See all discount LEGOLAND tickets on Undercover Tourist.

... the trusted name in attraction tickets

Get a Kids Go Free Coupon on Amazon

Check to see if you can pick up a kids go free coupon for LEGOLAND on Amazon here. They run around $18 (including shipping) for a coupon for Kids Go Free with a full price one day adult Ticket to Legoland Parks or Legoland Discovery Centers. Check the terms and conditions, but these can be a great deal if you’re booking ahead of time.

Go Orlando Card

If you’re looking at doing multiple other attractions in Orlando, a Go Orlando Card might save you a good chunk of money.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find passes that combined LEGOLAND with the other large parks at Disney and Universal, but there are some great combo deals for LEGOLAND and smaller Florida attractions.

Click here to save $10 & visit four attractions, including LEGOLAND Florida!

See the Go Orlando Card discounts here.

Groupon and Living Social

You never know when a good deal will pop up for LEGOLAND on Groupon or Living Social, so be sure to check before you go!

See deals here.

What to Bring

It’s pretty easy to spend the whole day at LEGOLAND, so pack accordingly.

  • Camera. We took most of our photos with our smartphone, but you may want to bring a waterproof camera for the waterpark.
  • Sunscreen. We like water resistant spray sunscreen.
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Jacket, if it’s cool
  • Comfortable shoes. The park is a lot smaller than Universal or Disney, but there’s still a lot of walking.
  • You can’t bring coolers, food and beverages into the park. However, there are exceptions for infants and if you have special medical needs. Bottled water is allowed. Alcohol is not allowed.
  • An emergency poncho (great for The Quest for CHI water ride, trust us). Get a 5 pack at Amazon for less than 2 on site.

LEGOLAND Tips and Tricks You Need to Know

LEGOLAND Florida is not open every day during the low season, so check hours and dates before you go.

If you adore LEGO, look at getting a two day pass, as it’s only about $10 more than going one day on the Undercover Tourist site. See 2 day pass pricing on Undercover Tourist.

Bring minfigures to trade. All LEGO employee wear minifigures on their name tags, and they’re happy to trade. Just don’t bring your rares though since most of fairly standard issue. There’s also a minifigures ambassador with hundreds of minifigures who’ll trade, if you can find them!

LEGOLAND

If it rains, indoor activities like LEGO Mindstorms, building a minifigure, the Imagination Zone and the LEGO NINJAGO ride will keep the kids busy.

There’s a lot of walking, so if you have young children consider bringing a stroller. You can rent strollers, but they’re first come, first serve with no reservations.

There’s no free WiFi in the park, unlike at larger parks like Universal Orlando.

LEGOLAND entrance family photo

Raising the roof at LEGOLAND

What age is best for kids at LEGOLAND Florida? The LEGOLAND best age for kids is probably under 12. Our son was 11 turning 12, and while he still enjoyed himself, I think he would have loved LEGOLAND even more when he was a little younger. That said, we saw plenty of teens and older adults having fun!

Wait times vary a lot, depending on weather, peak season, and even time of day. Almost all the rides had a sign at the front listing the current wait time, and we found them pretty accurate. If you have limited time or you’re visiting during peak days like Christmas, you can buy a Premium Play Band that offers front of the line access. You can buy it when you arrive on the day of your visit.

Is there a LEGOLAND Florida app? Nope. Unlike Universal or Disney, the LEGOLAND Florida Park doesn’t have an official app yet. We looked through the app store, and there are a few unofficial apps, but they got horrible reviews, so we decided to forgo the app. You really don’t need one, as the park is not overwhelmingly big, and we found the wait times and lines much more manageable than the larger Orlando Parks.

Best things to do at LEGOLAND Florida

There’s a lot of fun to be had at LEGOLAND, but these were our favorite rides and attractions.

Build your own LEGO character at the Minifigure Market

This was one of our kids absolute favorites of our LEGOLAND Florida secrets. Well, it’s not really a secret, it’s more of a don’t miss! At the minifigure market, the kids can build their own customized LEGO character.

It costs $9.99 to build a set of 3 mini figures, which includes 3 heads, 3 torsos, 3 legs, 3 headgears and 3 accessories, plus a handy holder to bring them home.

LEGOLAND Florida Minifigure Market

LEGO NINJAGO The Ride 

Make sure you try the Lego Ninjago ride!

It’s one of LEGOLAND’s newer rides, and a lot of fun! Lines were long when we passed it when we first entered the park, so we waited until the end to try it. Such a mistake! We only had time for one ride as it was closing on the way out, but we wish we’d gone on it several times. The good news is there wasn’t a single person in line in front of us so we just walked directly on.

To play, you put on 3D glasses, and practice your ninja moves while the computer records your movements.

LEGO NINJAGO The Ride 

Loved this ride! This is a snap of the scoreboard at the end.

The Quest for CHI

This ride was an absolute blast! It’s an interactive boat ride with water cannons, where you shoot bystanders and other boats with water guns. When we were there in March mid-week, the wait was only about five minutes.

You will get soaked! If you want your clothes to stay dry, LEGOLAND does sell ponchos for around $5.99 at different places around the park. If you want to save a few bucks, grab a poncho at a dollar store on the way or order one directly from Amazon before you go.

LEGOLAND Orlando The Quest for CHI

The Battle for Brickbeard’s Bounty

Full disclosure here: this about about as cheesy as they come. That said, we all had a lot of fun watching this live water show at the site of the old Cypress Gardens. As it’s set on the water, you’ll see lots of acrobatic water skiing with plenty of live LEGO action. We especially loved Miranda, the head of the Imperial Navy.

Just a note, though, if you’re in the front few rows you’ll likely get wet but the crew definitely gets the crowd going.

LEGOLAND The Battle for Brickbeards Bounty

Imagination Zone

The Imagination Zone was one of our kids’ favorites. There’s a lot to do here, including free play with a huge number of LEGOs. The kids loved the Flight Zone and Wheels Zone where you pick up parts to make your own flying or racing machine.

In the Imagination Zone, the kids can also build skyscrapers, virtually build water creatures, or even take a LEGO Mindstorms course. You have to sign up to take the course since it fills up every day so we decided to skip it to our son’s displeasure.

Imagination Zone car at LEGOLAND

Flying school

This looks like an upside down roller coaster, and gives you the feeling of flying through the air.

It’s especially lots of fun for the older kids (and us too). Our eleven year old son had a blast here, but our eight year old didn’t want to ride. The minimum rider height is 44 inches, and kids below 52 inches tall need to be accompanied by a responsible rider of this height or taller.

Flying school LEGOLAND

Dragon Coaster

We all tried the Dragon Coaster, and honestly had fun. It’s a smaller coaster, so don’t expect terrifying thrills and drops. There was only a 15 min wait when we went in March.

Attractions we didn’t love as much

In the LEGO Driving school, the kids go through driving instruction, and then drive around a track in a LEGO-themed mini car. This was really cute, but the driving portion only lasted about five minutes, and the line up took about half an hour.

Did you know there are LEGOLAND locations all over the world? You can visit LEGOLAND in Florida, California, Denmark, Dubai, Malaysia, England, Germany and more! There are also LEGOLAND Discovery Centers all across North America. See all LEGOLAND Discovery Center locations here.

Miniland USA is a large outside area dedicated to LEGO displays, most of them USA-based. It’s a pretty impressive display that takes up a good chunk of the park, with detailed recreations of scenes in LEGO miniature, like Daytona Speedway, Las Vegas, and the White House. While it’s cute and shows a lot of imagination and creativity, many of the scenes are fading and showing a little wear.

LEGOLAND Joust is ride where kids sit on the back of LEGO-themed horses that pretend to joust. It’s honestly an adorable ride, but our kids, at eight and eleven, were just too big to fully enjoy it. Little kids should love it.

LEGOLAND Royal Joust

Our 11 year old on the Royal Joust. Just look at that enthusiasm, lol. He perked up pretty quickly when we visited the Flight School, though.

Where to stay near LEGOLAND Florida

There’s a cute, new LEGOLAND hotel right outside the LEGOLAND front gates! This is our top pick if you’re visiting LEGOLAND in Florida.

That said, you have two options for staying at LEGOLAND: the LEGOLAND® Florida Resort and the LEGOLAND® Beach Retreat. Because we were based in Orlando, we didn’t get a chance to stay here during our visit, but they would have been our first choices for a hotel near LEGOLAND.

The bonus is that people staying at one of the LEGOLAND resorts get early access to LEGOLAND Park! That’s right. Hit the park before anyone else and then sneak out during the afternoon rush for a quick dip in the pool (or a nap) and then enjoy the park again until it closes.

The LEGOLAND® Florida Hotel

The Legoland Florida Resort is within walking distance of Legoland Florida Theme Park. Rooms are LEGO themed, and there are plenty of fun surprises for the kids!

More than two million LEGO bricks make up over 2,000 LEGO models throughout the hotel.

See prices and availability now.

LEGOLAND Florida Resort - Outside

The LEGOLAND® Beach Retreat

The LEGOLAND Beach Retreat is about half a mile from the park itself. It has 83 themed bungalows, each with its own whimsical LEGO décor inside and out. There’s a pool, a kid’s outside play area, and lots of fun activities for the kids.

Click to see prices and reviews

LEGOLAND Beach Retreat 

Holiday Inn Winter Haven

The Holiday Inn Winter Haven

This is a good family choice, with good reviews and a pool. It’s only about a nine minute drive to LEGOLAND Florida, and walking distance of Winter Haven Amtrak Station.

See prices and reviews.

Holiday Inn Winter Haven

Airbnb

When we travel, we often stay at an Airbnb, because it gives us a full kitchen and more room to run around. Since we were spending two days visiting the Universal Studios The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (check out our post on it here), we picked an airbnb closer to Universal, and we drove out to LEGOLAND for the day.

Click here to get a $35 credit on your first airbnb stay!

Where to eat at LEGOLAND Florida

There are plenty of places to eat at LEGOLAND. You probably won’t find five star dining here, and prices are generally on the expensive shade of reasonable (as are all theme parks), but we found the food to be decent.

Granny’s Apple Fries

We heard great things about Granny’s Apple Fries, so we tried them for our first snack. Honestly, they were good, but I don’t think they were as good as their reputation. The apples were a little sour for our taste.

They come with whipped cream, which is a huge plus. The combo with a drink was the best deal we saw, at $2 more.

Granny's apple fries

Fun Town Pizza and Pasta Buffet

FunTown Pizza and Pasta Buffet is a great alternative if you’re a big eater or absolutely starving. It’s all you can eat and drink. Prices are $9.99 for children plus tax, and $15.99 for adults plus tax and they include beverages.

Firehouse Ice cream

We were pretty much sold at ice cream. This is a great place for sundaes, floats and coffee.

Firehouse Ice Cream

Panini Grill

Looking for something healthy? We ate at Panini Grill for our main meal, and it was pretty good, especially for amusement park food. I’d give it a solid C+.

Our meal at Panini Grill ended up costing $45 for two adults and two kids. The $10 adult panini meal has an option of roast beef, ham and white cheddar, chicken Florentine, and the vegetarian panzanella. Drinks are extra. For kids, the $6.99 kids panini meal includes a drink, fruit and chips. Kids’ choices are ham and cheese, or ham only, or cheese only. There are free fountain drink refills so it’s a good place to quench your thirst. The Panini Grill is in the Imagination Zone.

There are also plenty of other food options at LEGOLAND Floride, including the Fried Chicken Restaurant, Castle Burger, Sunshine Sweets and more!

LEGOLAND water park

We were pretty tired after an almost full day of rides and attractions at LEGOLAND, so we almost skipped the water park. However, we decided to buckle up and spend an hour and a half here, and I’m glad we did. It’s a fun place to hang out.

We started by building a LEGO raft on the lazy river. The water was just a little too cool for us in March, but once we were in we had a blast. We ended up going around the lazy river three times.

After that, it was on to the wave park and water slides. Charles and Cole had a blast taking the tubes down the Twin Chasers tube slide and careening down the giant dual Splash Out slides while Jordan and I enjoyed the wave park.

Water Park at LEGOLAND Florida

Locker rental at the LEGOLAND waterpark

We didn’t want to wander around all day at the main park in our swimsuits, so I was happy to find out that you can rent lockers inside the LEGOLAND waterpark. We used them to stash our clothes and valuables while we were having fun in the water.

It’s $7 for a small, but the small truly tiny. It would work for a single person, or two people without much gear. A large is $10, and this was plenty big enough for clothes and shoes for the four of us. It costs $13 for a jumbo, which would work for a larger group.

Water Park at LEGOLAND Florida end rental button on locker

 

You pay using an automated system, where you pay with credit card at the automated kiosk. You’re then given a code and locker number to match.

This part is a bit tricky. To end the rental, there’s a RED END RENTAL Button at the bottom of the locker keypad. The problem is that it’s virtually impossible for an adult to see, as it’s tucked away under the keypad. Luckily, our eight year old daughter pointed it out to us.

How to get to LEGOLAND Florida

Driving to LEGOLAND Florida

LEGOLAND Florida is approximately 45 minutes away from Disney World, an hour from Universal and around an hour from the Orlando Airport. It’s address is 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 3388.

Parking at LEGOLAND Florida

Parking at LEGOLAND Florida costs $15 online and $17 on site. Most of the parking stalls are only a few minutes walk from the front gate and there are plenty of stalls with shade. Parking opens 30 minutes before the gates open and there are handicapped parking spots right outside the front gate.

LEGOLAND Florida Shuttle Bus

If you don’t want to drive, there’s a $5 shuttle to LEGOLAND Florida that picks people up at I-Drive 360, the massive entertainment complex at 8401 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819. Parking in the garage is FREE.  The LEGOLAND shuttle bus pick up area is outside the parking deck by the back entrance of the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye on the Universal Boulevard side.

The LEGOLAND Shuttle bus picks people up at 9 AM and drops them off after the park closes. You need to book the shuttle at least 24 hours beforehand and arrive 30 minutes before the shuttle leaves to be guaranteed a seat.

Final Thoughts on LEGOLAND Florida

All in all, we had a great day at the LEGOLAND Florida amusement and waterpark. Unlike the bigger parks, there’s definitely more room and shorter lines to deal with however, that said, it’s more geared for those under 12 or for people that are huge Lego fans. We had both so it was resounding good day for all of us.

Have you been to LEGOLAND Florida? Do you have any LEGOLAND secrets or tips to share? We’d love to hear them. Leave us a comment below!

UPLOADING 1 / 1 – LEGOLAND Florida Tips and Secrets.jpg ATTACHMENT DETAILS LEGOLAND Florida Tips and Secrets LEGOLAND Florida Tips and Tricks

 

]]>
https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/family/legoland-florida-tips-and-secrets-to-save-you-time-and-money/feed/ 3
Fun Family Things to Do in Cañon City Colorado https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/fun-family-things-to-do-in-canon-city-colorado/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/fun-family-things-to-do-in-canon-city-colorado/#comments Sun, 20 Aug 2017 01:06:28 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=14636 What do you get when you cross a mountain town with a fast moving river? That’s right, good times!

My son Cole and I recently had the opportunity to check out some activities around Cañon City, in the heart of wild Colorado, and to be perfectly honest, we both had an amazing time.

Quick facts about Cañon City, Colorado

First off, let’s talk about the town’s name. It seems a few years back they added a tilde over the Ñ so the town is actually pronounced Canyon City as opposed to Canon City. Didn’t realize that? Well, neither did I until we talked to some locals on the plane ride down there and they couldn’t figure out where Canon City was either.

If you’re looking at a map, Cañon City is around 2 hours due south of Denver, Colorado and an hour southwest of Colorado Springs down long gorgeous highways. The city has been around since the mid 1800’s and has quite a nice historic downtown.

Charles and Cole on the Arkansas River in Colorado

Since it has the warmest year round temperatures in the state, thanks in part to its high elevation (5,300 feet or 1,600 m) and the mountains to the West that protect it, Cañon City is also known as the “Climate Capital of Colorado”.

When we were there at the beginning of summer, temperatures were already starting to soar in the high 80’s (that’s low 30’s in Celsius), however, luckily for the residents and visitors alike, there’s always a breeze in the valley and there isn’t much humidity so it’s a very dry heat.

Family Things to Do in Cañon City Colorado

For anyone who hasn’t been to the area, Cañon City is famous for two things. The first is its many long-standing penitentiaries (there are 13 in the area) and the second is amazing whitewater rafting, climbing and exploring just west of the city.

This means that Cañon City is a fantastic place to take in outdoor pursuits for the whole family, from white water rafting to checking out dinosaurs at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience.

Royal Gorge Cabins: Where to stay and eat near Cañon City

We were fortunate to be able to raft the amazing white waters of the Arkansas River with the region’s biggest whitewater company, Echo Canyon River Expeditions. Not only that but we also had the opportunity to stay onsite in their brand new Royal Gorge Cabins. They have both one and two bedroom bungalows with lofts, so Cole got his own king sized bed, while I got mine. Needless to say we both had a great night’s sleep.

Some of the new cabins at Royal Gorge Cabins

I can go on and on about the amazing views at the Royal Gorge Cabins, the understated luxury, the comfortable beds, good showers, nice kitchens and the beautiful outdoor living areas, but I think a few pictures might be better suited for this.

Upstairs loft in 2 bedroom at Royal Gorge Cabins

Living Room with two way fireplace

Kitchen area

Main floor master bedroom at Royal Gorge Cabins

Our cabin at Royal Gorge Cabins

To put it simply, if I was doing a review on the new Royal Gorge Cabins at Echo Canyon it would rate five stars. Both the buildings themselves, as well as the people, were first class. I especially loved the extended outdoor area with its two way glass fireplace. It would make the perfect place to sit around with friends after a long day spent rafting on the river.

Lovely outdoor area

For those that truly love the outdoors,  Royal Gorge Cabins even has some gorgeous glamping tents for rent for those if you’d like to have a few s’mores around the campfire, but still want to sleep in a comfortable bed at night.

Typical glamping tent at Royal Gorge Cabins

Not only that, we had some delicious fare across the street over at Echo Canyon’s 8 Mile Bar & Grill. Their fresh fried waffle chips were worth the trip in themselves, and everyone raved about their fried pickles. We ended up eating there for both lunch and dinner and both times we left satisfied.

Outside 8 Mile Bar & Grill

Waffle chip fries and fried pickles

Kids Mac & Cheese at 8 Mile Bar

For those that like their beer cold after a day on the water, 8 Mile Bar & Grill also has 16 draft beer options. Throw in a king sized firepit, some beach volleyball courts and lawn games to occupy the little ones and what more could anyone ask for?

Fire pit outside 8 Mile Bar & Grill by Echo Canyon Rafting

Echo Canyon River Expeditions white water rafting near Cañon City, Colorado

For anyone coming to white water raft the Arkansas River, there are several whitewater companies to choose from just to the west of Cañon City.

If your goal is to spend your day or half day on the river like we did, Echo Canyon River Expeditions is the biggest and highest rated over at TripAdvisor. All the guides, boats, buses and equipment were top notch.

On top of that, we had the pleasure of meeting Andy, the owner of the company, who was both extremely friendly and highly knowledgeable on the river and the area in general. What’s more, even with up to 50 boats running a day during high season, he still manages to get out and guide a few times a week so he’s always in touch with every aspect of the company.

Outside Echo Canyon River Expeditions

Entrance sign at Echo Canyon River Expeditions

Equipment rentals at Echo Canyon River Expeditions

Echo Canyon River Expeditions bus and rafts

Waiting area at Echo Canyon River Expeditions

Due to the Arkansas River still being high from the late Spring thaw, and because we wanted to do a Colorado family rafting trip versus the more adventure filled one, we ended up going the Upper Arkansas River run. After being fitted for lifejackets, wetsuits and helmets, we all waited for the bus to take us to our location.

30 minutes or so later, and after the guides set up all the rafts for us, we jumped into the boats and set off. Along with Mack, our guide and seven other boats, we hit some class three and class four rapids and everyone on our boat had a great experience. Not only were the rapids fun, we even saw a black bear running along the river beside us!

On the Bus to Raft Arkanasas River in Colorado

About to launch our rafts on the Arkansas River

Our 2 groups of 4 post launch on the Arkansas River with our guide Mack in the center

Our group rafting on the Arkansas River with Echo Canyon

We enjoyed white water rafting so much in Cañon City that Cole and I both want to go back and raft the famous Royal Gorge canyon section of the Arkansas River. After numerous tales from the owner and some of the experienced guides, the class 4 and 5 rapids sound like an exhilarating ride filled with breathtaking scenery.

Charles and Cole on the Arkansas River in Colorado

There are also some gorgeous views from the Royal Gorge Bridge, which is one of the highest suspension bridges in the world, and some good zip lining in the area, which we didn’t get to try, so yes Colorado, we will be back!

Dinosaurs in Cañon City, Colorado

After our morning on the water and another quick tasty snack at Echo Canyon’s 8 Mile Bar & Grill, we headed next door to the newly opened Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience. If you or your kids love dinosaurs then this place shouldn’t be missed. Not only does it have some great indoor exhibits with plenty of information, including castings of some locally found fossils, but it also has a collection of full sized animatronic dinosaurs just outside to get a feel for just how big dinosaurs were back in the day.

Triceratops and more at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience

Big dinosaurs and big exhibits inside

Life sized animatronic dinosaurs outside the Royal Gorge Experience

As well as the guided exhibits, the kids really loved the three story rope course outside. Ever adventurous, I decided to liberate the child within me and walked the heights as well. I think I enjoyed it more than a few of the kids but that’s another story. I will say the wind can really gust near Cañon City so that coupled with the heights made the climb that much more exciting.

Ropes Course at Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience

The cool part about Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience is that they have a miniature rope course designed for three to five olds and a dinosaur dig area where kids can unearth their own dinosaur fossils. Rope courses are becoming popular the world over, but this was the first time I saw one aimed perfectly for the toddlers complete with safety gear especially designed for them.

Toddler rope course at Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience

Family Fossil dig area

Besides for the indoor and outdoor exhibits, there’s also a small canteen and a very generously sized dinosaur shop at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience with more dinosaur merchandise than I think I’ve ever seen in one location. We walked away with tshirts, mugs, gems and dinosaur candy. All perfect to bring back to my daughter Jordan who was at home.

We also had the pleasure of meeting the family that built the Cañon City Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience. Not only were they super friendly and knowledgeable, their love for all things dinosaur related was quickly evident. I’m curious to see what they add next to their ever growing Dinosaur Experience.

Colorado Springs and area attractions

Overnighting in Cañon City was only one small part of our Colorado tour, so stay tuned for my forthcoming review on Colorado Springs and the many things you can do in that great little city.

These include riding a cog train up Pike’s Peak, checking out the beautiful Garden of the Gods, visiting the giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, eating s’mores and going on a MagiQuest at Great Wolf Lodge, descending to the depths in the Cave of the Winds, having breakfast and a pint in the Ivywild School and relaxing in comfort at the sprawling Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

Many thanks to Colorado Tourism, who hosted us. 

Family activities in Canon City Colorado, including white water rafting with Echo Canyon River Expeditions and visiting the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience. Family things to do in Canon City Colorado, including white water rafting with Echo Canyon River Expeditions and visiting the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience. things to do in Canon City Colorado with kids ]]>
https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/fun-family-things-to-do-in-canon-city-colorado/feed/ 9
21 Incredible Things To Do at the Calgary Stampede Before You Die https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/21-incredible-things-to-do-at-the-calgary-stampede-before-you-die/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/21-incredible-things-to-do-at-the-calgary-stampede-before-you-die/#comments Thu, 17 Aug 2017 01:45:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=14601 When it comes to the Calgary Stampede, you can say we go back a long way. I not only grew up on the wide open prairies east of Calgary in the province of Alberta, Canada, I also spent nearly a decade in Calgary itself getting my MSc and then working corporate jobs. It’s also where Charles and I first met.

During those years I was lucky enough to enjoy the greatest outdoor show on earth, the Calgary Stampede.

Most years I would hit the midway, some years I’d visit the free Stampede breakfasts about town, and some years I would hit up the shows and exhibitions.

I’ve been traveling in, living in or storing my things in British Columbia for years now, and honestly, sometimes I still miss the Stampede spirit. So, when I got an email from GMC inviting me to join their team and some other media folks to Stampede like a pro, I replied yes faster than a Tasmanian devil in a windstorm.

21 Incredible Things To Do at the Calgary Stampede Bucket List

21 Incredible Things To Do at the Calgary Stampede Before You Die

While this obviously wasn’t my first rodeo, the folks at GMC Canada have been a partner of the Stampede for over three decades and they were able to show even me a few new Calgary Stampede tips. We took in chuckwagon races, the rodeo, enjoyed front row seats to concerts, went horseback riding at the Calgary Stampede Ranch, and they even got us kitted up in authentic Stampede gear.

So without further ado, here are my top 21 bucket list things to do at the Calgary Stampede.

Take in the Rangeland Derby

My uncle raced pony chuckwagons for years, so I grew up watching horses roar around the dusty tracks of southern Alberta. At the Calgary Stampede, Rangeland Derby chuckwagon races are almost a sacred experience.

Rangeland Derby Calgary Stampede

Photo courtesy Lucas Scarfone

Each team consists of one rider in a semi-enclosed wagon, and four horses tearing around a well maintained dirt track. Make no mistake, these horses are athletes, and serious money and time are spent on their upkeep and welfare. If you want to see the Stampede crowd roar to life, this is the event that will make it happen.

Enjoy the GMC VR chuckwagon experience

GMC Rangeland Derby Virtual Reality chuckwagon experience

The closest a mere mortal like me can get to racing the quick and deadly chuckwagons is via the GMC Rangeland Derby Virtual Reality chuckwagon experience. Make sure you stop by the GMC display on Stampede grounds, strap on a headset, a prepare to get immersed in a pretty accurate virtual reality simulation. You’ll find yourself racing around the (virtual) chuckwagon track at the Stampede like a pro, too!

Watch the rodeo

If you haven’t seen a live rodeo before, or even if you have, you’ll be wowed by the athleticism of the cowboys and cowgirls at the Stampede.

The 2017 Stampede saw the introduction of the Indian Relay Race as a demonstration sport, featuring teams of Indigenous racers. Riders go bareback around the chuckwagon track, and switch horses at a breakneck speed. I spent years watching rodeos as a kid, and grew up on a farm in South-Central Alberta, and I can say that I’ve honestly never seen horse riders that could equal the agility of these racers.

Take a road trip to cattle country

As a born and bred Albertan, I know first hand that the bigger the truck, the better the drive around Calgary. The Stampede is the perfect occasion for GMC to show off its brand new fleet of trucks, and we were told to pick a truck and venture out of the city and into cattle country to tear up the roads like a pro.

GMC convoy in cattle country

GMC convoy in cattle country

These GMC trucks are truly gorgeous vehicles, and equipped with plenty of features, including OnStar and a fast, reliable built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.

GMC Acadia SUV at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

My sweet ride – the GMC Acadia

I was quick to hop into the Acadia, which is GMC’s mid-size SUV. As a mom with two kids and lot of cargo, I really appreciated the seven passenger capability and silky-smooth, quiet ride. As someone who likes to have fun, I loved that it had plenty of power under the hood, and rugged 4×4 capability.

Want to find out more about these great GMC trucks? Visit the GMC Canada website here.

Visit the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

The 8,000 acre Stampede-owned OH Ranch is a sprawling 130-year-old working ranch in the heart of Alberta’s foothills in Longview, Alberta.

Cow and calf at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

I was lucky enough to get a chance to drive around the ranch’s back trails in a brand new GMC truck, taking in gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains.

GMC truck at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

Ride a horse!

Arguably, no fully immersive Stampede experience is complete until you’ve had a chance to pull on your cowboy boots and climb atop a horse.

cowboy on a horse at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

Now, I grew up riding bareback on my favorite long past retirement thoroughbred horse, but that was a long time ago. A very long time ago. I expected to be a bit rusty, but between the 20 years that have passed since I last rode, and my somewhat feisty steed, I felt pretty darn awkward in the saddle. I also forgot how high those animals are from the ground. That, said, I would do my two hour trail ride again in a heartbeat.

Wear a cowboy hat

If you haven’t been in Calgary during the Stampede, you’ll probably be surprised that almost everyone downtown dresses up like a cowboy for the event. For men, that means a Stampede uniform of cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans, and a western-style button-up shirt. Women have a little more latitude, with cowboy boots preferred (but not essential), jeans or a denim or Western-style skirt, and shirt that matches the outfit. For both sexes, one thing is essential: a cowboy hat.

Hand crafting a cowboy hat at Smithbilt Hats

If you want to be dressed like an authentic Calgarian, that means you should mosey on over to the local Smithbilt hats. Smithbilt is home of the Official White Cowboy Hat of Calgary, and they make all of their hats by hand, in their Calgary factory.

Smithbilt Hats womens hats

There are thousands of hats to choose from, including some innovative women’s styles, but most people settle on a traditional felt or straw cowboy hat. They personally hand-fit every hat, and I loved the country look of the black felt hat.

Smithbilt hat black cowboy hat Calgary Stampede midway

Get a feel for the history of the Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede has its roots in Calgary and District Agricultural Society events started way back in 1886.

Calgary Stampede entrance 2017

The Stampede, as it is now, began in 1912, with just a few founding families taking part, and it’s lasted as an integral part of Calgary’s history through two World Wars to the present day. Many of today’s chuckwagon racers and rodeo participants are descendants of those original founding Stampede families.

Take in the Evening Grandstand show

I was expecting a good show, but honestly, the level of energy and professionalism at this year’s evening show really wowed.

Calgary Stampede evening grandstand show

Photo by Lucas Scarfone

The evening show is held at the Stampede Grandstand, which holds up to 25,000 folks (including standing room). The Grandstand also hosts the rodeo and chuckwagon races.

Tuck into a great steak

Alberta beef is famous for a good reason, and it’s a perfect accompaniment to the Stampede’s cowboy culture. Located smack-dab downtown on 8 Avenue SW at the former home of the iconic downtown Hudson’s Bay store, the The Guild is a carnivore’s dream come true.

 The Guild Restaurant Steak

Photo by Lucas Scarfone

If you’re looking for a great cut of meat, you can’t go wrong with the Charcut Roast House. The rustic-chic Charcut also has Canada’s first beer steward.

Pancake breakfasts

The tradition of the free pancake breakfast started way back in 1923, with cowboy Guy Weadick (a rough-and-tumble character of the pet badger fame). These days, there are hundreds of free pancake breakfasts around Calgary, which are organized by local restaurants, charities and local businesses. There’s even an app to help your find your new favorite pancake breakfast. You can download the Flapjack Finder app here.

Get behind the scenes with Agriculture Showcases

A little love and care behind the scenes for Troy Flad's horses at the Calgary Stampede

The Agriculture Showcases are hands on experiences with the animals and the people that tend them and allows everyone to get up close to the animals. With everything from barn tours to blacksmith showcases there’s something for everyone. There’s even a milk and cookies shack for the little ones.

I was fortunate to get a peek behind the barns at all the love and care shown for chuckwagon rider Troy Flad’s horses. For these racers, the horses are family and when you see them together there’s a lot of love in the way they treat them.

Prairie oysters

You’ll find something called prairie oysters popping up on menus all over Calgary during Stampede. These are about as far from real oysters as you can get. The tradition has its roots in real-life ranching traditions, where cowboys would chow down on prairie oysters after a long day of castrating cattle.

Castrating cattle? Yep, you guessed it, each prairie oyster is a bull testicle. I’ve heard they have a spongy, but not unpleasant taste, but I have to say I’ve never had the urge to try one myself.

Party it up!

Since Stampede is pretty much a 10 day excuse to party, Calgarians and visitors alike take full advantage, and dance the night away each and every night.

Nashville North, which is right on the Stampede grounds, amps up the fun with up to three acts a night. The vibe is fun, inclusive, and all-out loud and brash. While the crowd is largely in their 20’s, we saw plenty of folks in their 30s and 40s (ahem) or even older having a blast.

Once you’ve checked out Nashville North directly on the stampede grounds, be sure to head to the iconic Cowboys and Ranchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall for a dose of local Calgary cowboy culture.

If music is your thing, the Coca-Cola Stage is onsite at the Stampede. Access is free with admission to Stampede Park, and the stage hosts some big name acts each year.

Watch the Showriders

Calgary Stampede Showriders

The Stampede Showriders were originally formed to accompany the Stampede Showband. They’re a team of equestrian riders that perform musical rides several times a day at the Stampede.

Meet a real life cowboy

Calgary Stampede cowboy

You may be surprised to learn that there are plenty of real life cowboys at the Calgary Stampede. Sure, plenty of city slickers and tourists visit, but the Stampede also draws a huge crowd of honest-to-goodness ranchers from far and wide including Canada, the USA and even from down under in Australia.

Listen to the Stampede Showband

There are 150 members of this iconic Stampede marching band, all aged between 16 and 22. They’re pretty darn good, too, and have been named the world champion of marching show bands five times. They usually play a few times throughout Stampede.

Visit the midway!

The midway is probably the part of the Stampede that I’ve visited the most over the years. There are fantastic and fun things to do and see all over the midway, from riding rollercoasters and tilt-a-whirls to playing carnival games. You can even take a look at GMC’s rugged and snow-worthy all mountain truck.

GMC All Mountain truck at the Calgary Stampede Midway

GMC All Mountain truck

Eat all the crazy midway foods

If I have one regret for this Stampede visit, it’s that I didn’t get a chance to scarf down more outrageous midway goodies. There are food and drink trailers found throughout the midway however they are mainly found in the concession area.

Calgary Stampede midway BBQ

Photo by Lucas Scarfone

The list of eats at the Calgary Stampede is long and quirky, and includes deep fried Oreos, ghost pepper pizza, crispy chicken feet (I may skip that one), deep fried Jell-O, Flinstones’-sized BBQ ribs and legs, Canadian bacon pickle balls, and of course, all things poutine. If you’re a regular carnival goer, relax. They have corndogs and mini doughnuts too for all you purists.

Browse the Indian Village

Indian Village has been part of the Stampede since 1912. The 26 tipis on site represent the five nations of Treaty 7: Kainai, Tsuut’ina, Stoney Nakoda, Siksika and Piikani. There’s plenty to do and see here, from trying traditional bannock, to watching First Nations youth dancers and learning about Native Canadian culture and history at the interpretative program.

Enjoy the Stampede Parade

The provinces largest parade kicks off the 10-day Stampede celebration, and winds its way all through downtown. It’s such an institution in Calgary that most downtown companies give their employees a day off to attend.

The city puts up stands all over downtown to accommodate all the parade goers however, if you want to ensure a seat, make sure you get there early.

Bonus Tip! Check out the Canine Stars at the Dog Bowl

Love your little four legged friends? So do I and there’s an amazing Canine show every year at the Calgary Stampede. From high jumping to Frisbee catching to dock-diving this show will please the youngest to the oldest and everyone in between. We used to take the kids to see the canine show every year when we lived in Calgary as it was one of our favorite activities at the Calgary Stampede so don’t miss it!

So, have you ever been to the Calgary Stampede? Do you have any iconic, can’t miss experiences to share? We’d love to hear about them!

The wild rose, Alberta's flower

Calgary Stampede Tips | Calgary Stampede things to do | Calgary Stampede Bucket List

Calgary Stampede Tips | Calgary Stampede things to do | Calgary Stampede Bucket List

]]>
https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/21-incredible-things-to-do-at-the-calgary-stampede-before-you-die/feed/ 3
Why You Need To Visit Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery in Vernon BC https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/why-you-need-to-visit-okanagan-spirits-craft-distillery-in-vernon-bc/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/why-you-need-to-visit-okanagan-spirits-craft-distillery-in-vernon-bc/#comments Tue, 23 May 2017 22:30:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=13826 Do you enjoy bourbon, rye or single malt Canadian Whisky? How about vodka, gin, brandy or delicious fruit liqueurs?

Now, what are your thoughts on locally made craft spirits sourced straight out of people’s backyards? Interested?

Okanagan Spirits, out of Vernon, BC is western Canada’s oldest craft distillery and the quality comes through both in the taste and in the story of how this small family owned distillery has become a driving force behind the provinces’ burgeoning small craft distillery market.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon CEO Tyler Dyck pouring BRBN

BRBN bourbon style whisky at the family owned Okanagan sprits

We were lucky enough to find ourselves at the impressive new 16,000 square foot Okanagan Spirits Vernon location and had the opportunity to try out some of their newer lines, as well as some of the classics, while talking with the family who helped bring this product to life.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon tasting bar

Okanagan Spirits Vernon tasting

We visited our local Kelowna’s Okanagan Spirits branch a few years back and loved trying out all their specialty craft liqueurs. Well, two years on, we’re still big fans and the fact that all of Okanagan Spirits’ ingredients are 100% locally cultivated here in our home province of British Columbia makes it all the better. We especially love that the majority of their spirits retain a little of their fruit heritage.

The Okanagan Valley is a 200 km (125 mile) long mountain valley boasting a string of crystal clear mountain lakes, pine forests and stunning mountains in the southern interior of British Columbia, Canada. It’s best known for some of Canada’s warmest weather and it’s hundreds of world class wineries centered around the valley’s largest city of Kelowna. It’s also the home to the majority of Canada’s fruit orchards, all bursting with apples, cherries, peaches and apricots.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon CEO Tyler Dyck checking on fermentation

Okanagan Spirits CEO Tyler Dyck checking on fermentation

At Okanagan Spirits family owned distillery, all alcohols are made from local 100% British Columbia grains and fruit. The produce comes from local farmers, growers, orchardists and often even from some local’s backyards.

When they couldn’t source enough rhubarb from local growers, the company put a out call out to local gardeners. Soon, they were inundated with locally Okanagan grown rhubarb for their award wining rhubarb liqueur. Likewise, they’ve traditionally made their apricot brandy from a local 100 year old apricot tree.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon distillation apparatus

Okanagan Spirits Vernon distillation apparatus

Today, Okanagan Spirits is North America’s only World Class designated distillery and masterclass designated distiller from the World Spirits Awards in Austria.

We met with Tyler Dyck, whose family has been at the center of Okanagan Spirits from the beginning. Tyler says that the demand is especially strong for gin, vodka, and whiskey spirits. In fact, their Canadian whiskys are so popular they can’t keep up with demand, especially for their award winning Laird of Fintry single malt.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon BRBN bourbon whisky barrels

Luckily for us, they hold back a percentage of every release so you can still try Canada’s first bourbon style corn whisky (BRBN), Western Canada’s first single malt whisky (Laird of Fintry) and their fabulous Canadian Rye whisky (Okanagan Spirits Rye) at either their Vernon or Kelowna branch.

What’s in a name? You’ll notice that Okanagan Spirits spell whisky without the ey at the end. Guess what, both whiskey and whisky are allowed spellings. Traditionally, the Scots spelled it whisky while the Irish spelled it whiskey. American whiskey’s traditionally end with the extra “e” as well, and most Canadian and European countries spell it whisky.

Laird of Fintry single malt whisky

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Laird of Fintry

The quality of Okanagan Spirits whiskey-based liquors hasn’t gone unnoticed in some pretty notable quarters. During a Royal visit to the Okanagan Valley in 2017, Prince William and Kate had a chance to sample the spirits, with William saying he “liked the Laird of Fintry, and Kate thought the blackcurrant liqueur was lovely” says Tyler.

Lovely blackcurrant Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge Kate’s lovely blackcurrant liqueur

There’s no denying that the Okanagan Spirits Canadian whiskeys are hugely successful, not only with customers who love their unusually smooth quality, but with judges at the World Spirits Awards in Austria.

The Laird of Fintry Single Malt Whisky was the first Canadian Whisky to receive a gold medal at the World Spirit Awards. It’s one of eight awards taken home from the World Spirit awards in 2017, including five gold, one silver and two bronze.

Tip! Want to get your hands on the award winning Lord of Fintry whisky? Click here to join their newsletter and you’ll find out when the next batch is ready.

BRBN

Okanagan Spirits Vernon BRBN with Tyler Dyck

Since bourbon can’t officially be called so in Canada unless it’s US made, similar to how sparkling wine can’t be called Champagne unless it’s made in France, a fortified wine can’t be called Port unless it originates in Portugal or Scotch has to be made in Scotland, Okanagan Spirits has had a little fun with the name and BRBN is the result.

BRBN bourbon whisky on the shelf at Okanagan Spirits Vernon

Regardless of how it’s spelled, Okanagan Spirits BRBN is made in the traditional bourbon way using corn and barley all sourced just miles from their shop. Milled onsite, once fully fermented it’s left to mature in carefully selected white American toasted oak casks. If you fancy yourself a bourbon lover, you’ll love it’s sweet honey and molasses flavour with just a touch of burnt caramel.

Scroll down for our Suburban BRBN Iced Tea Lemonade Recipe for a tasty summer drink!

Okanagan Spirits BC Rye Whisky

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Rye Whisky

Canadian rye whisky is known the world over. While you’ll find a Canadian whiskey behind nearly every bar around the world, Okanagan Spirits rye isn’t setting out to imitate what has come before. With their own blend of locally harvested rye and malted BC barley, there’s a lot of love that goes into every bottle.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon rye whiskey being poured

This love is apparent when you get a chance to sample the Okanagan Rye for yourself. Like all of Okanagan Spirits alcohol, extra time is taken to remove all the impurities resulting in some of the highest quality spirits you’ll find this side of the border.

Visit for yourself to get a world class tour and tasting, and ask any of the helpful and knowledgeable staff about the fermentation and distillation process and how the team at Okanagan Spirits goes that extra mile to ensure that only the best of the best ever sees the inside of a bottle.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon sea buckthorn

While you’re there, be sure to try the amazing sea buckthorn liqueur. You’ll most often see sea buckthorn touted as a new super-antioxidant used in top tier skin care products. In a liqueur, it’s honey-smooth taste is finished by a note of almost citrus. It’s light, not cloying, and will make you want more!

The story and the team behind Okanagan Spirits

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Tony Dyck with barrels

Tony Dyck

Okanagan Spirits is a true local success story. It was started with a group of like minded investors led by the Dyck patriarch, Tony Dyck, back in 2004. A few years later, Tony and the family bought out the rest of the group and now Okanagan Spirits is wholly a family owned (and run) business.

The Dyck family has been part of the Okanagan Valley for close to a century, with roots among family and friends in the early days of back yard stills and moonshine so in some ways you can say they’re carrying on a long family tradition.

Okanagan Spirits liqueur samplers

In 2004, the new distillery started with Eau de Vie fruit brandy, aiming to blend high quality spirits with local origins. Over time, customer demand saw them expand to spirits like gin, vodka, whiskey, absinthe and their many delicious fruit liqueurs. The fact that the majority of their liqueurs are fruit based rather than grain based means a little of that lovely fruit flavour remains present in every product.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Tyler Dyck

Okanagan Spirits CEO Tyler Dyck

Today, son Tyler Dyck (CEO) has a hand in what seems to be every aspect of the business and even heads the Craft Distiller’s Guild of BC to help bring about change in how BC deals with local craft distillers.

Extended family, like Tony’s sister Mary are often on hand to help out and when large events occur, every one in the family gets called in. Last year, the distillery was part of about 80 fundraiser and charity events.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Master distiller Peter von Hahn

Master distiller Peter von Hahn

Master distiller Peter von Hahn has been the creative mastermind behind a lot of the products and is a major part of Okanagan Spirits focus on quality. He is Canada’s most awarded Craft Distiller and the only distiller in North America with both the Master Class and World Class Distillery designations from the European Based World Spirits Awards.

In person, von Hahn is both engaging and personable, with plenty of travel stories, and it’s easy to see where the creativity at Okanagan Spirits alcohols originates.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon Junior Distiller Christopher Burke

Junior Distiller Christopher Burke

Junior Distiller Christopher Burke is in charge of Okanagan Spirits’ expansion into one of Micki’s favorite Okanagan Spirits whiskeys, the Bourbon-style BRBN. With a degree in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, he brings a European sensibility to the team.

Despite talented distillers and family teamwork, getting a new craft distillery up and running hasn’t always been an easy ride. The Dyck family has pushed for years for changes in liquor laws to allow craft distilleries to succeed in British Columbia. They’re still struggling with provincial requirements that cap the amount of whiskey that craft distillers are allowed to produce and sell and have even formed the Craft Distiller’s Guild of BC to help fight for those changes with the government.

A peek inside Okanagan Spirits Vernon distillery location

The new location in Vernon opened in 2015. It’s an impressive facility, at over 16,000 feet with a gorgeous 1930’s prohibition era theme.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon distillation system

distillation system

Without a doubt, the stunning showpiece of the distillery is North America’s tallest copper pot still, a 24 foot, 50 plate distillation system. We’ve never seen anything like it. In fact, the distillation system is so tall they had to cut a skylight in the roof to accommodate it.

The distillation system was purchased from Germany and assembled on site in Vernon, as what Tyler says was like “the world’s largest and most challenging LEGO set”.

Each type of alcohol is carefully distilled in the behemoth distillation system and due to it’s height and design, Okanagan Spirits can achieve a higher purity than many of it’s competitors.  This means a lot of their alcohols, and their whisky for sure, have a smoother finish with less of the burning sensation you get from less pure blends.

Okanagan Spirits Vernon antique car and whiskey vat

The distillery itself taps into the rich history of homegrown stills and bootleg moonshine in the Okanagan. The showrooms speakeasy style features a vintage car plucked from the dusty garage of an old family friend and a long bar set on aged barrels.

Want to see more? Peek inside the Vernon location.

Suburban BRBN Iced Tea Lemonade Recipe

We experimented with about five bourbon-based drinks at home for this post so we could bring you our own tasty BRBN-based summer cocktail (yes, lol, sometimes our job is tough), and this was by far our favorite. It’s a light, refreshing summer cocktail that’s easy to drink yet still allows a little of that bourbon flavour through.

BRBN Iced Tea Lemonade Okanagan Spirits Distillery

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 1 oz BRBN
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup (you can also use 1 tbsp granulated sugar as a substitute)
  • Ice
  • Orange slices, for garnish
  • maraschino cherry, for garnish

How to make

Pour boiling water over tea, steep for five minutes. Take out tea bags and refrigerate for at least an hour.

In a highball glass, add 1/2 cup iced tea, bourbon, juices and syrup or sugar. Serve over ice and garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry.

Tip! We used fresh squeezed orange and lemon juice, and it gave a nice flavor, but boxed juice works perfectly well.

Irish Buck

While this is traditionally a Saint Patrick’s Day recipe, we love the combination of BRBN, lime and ginger ale for summer.

BRBN Ginger and Lime Okanagan Spirits Distillery

 

What you’ll need

  • Ice
  • 1 oz BRBN
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 5 oz ginger ale
  • lime wedge, for garnish

How to make

Fill a glass with ice, and pour over BRBN, fresh lime juice and ginger ale. Garnish with a lime wedge.

When to Visit

 

Inside the Okanagan Spirits Vernon

Inside the Okanagan Spirits Vernon

Visiting the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada this summer? Besides for hundreds of wineries, great beaches and some amazing hikes, make sure you check out Okanagan Spirits Vernon or Kelowna locations. They’re open year round and besides for the taste rooms, they also have a lounge and patio in the summer.

You can check out our previous Okanagan Spirits Kelowna tour here and if you’re trying to figure out what else there is to do in Kelowna check out this post we wrote last summer.

Want to find out more?

You can order Okanagan Spirits online, or pick some up at your local BC liquor store.

Okanagan Spirits Gin Sea buckthorn liquerur and BRBN bourbon style whiskey

 

You can also visit Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery  in store in the new Vernon distillery location, or at their Kelowna storefront.

Visit them on their website, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Why You Need To Visit Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery in Vernon BC

Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery in Vernon BC

]]>
https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/why-you-need-to-visit-okanagan-spirits-craft-distillery-in-vernon-bc/feed/ 1