Clinking glasses with my husband over an elegant seafood dinner beside Lake Okanagan, lights over Kelowna’s Bennett Bridge fading into the distance as cars whiz by, and the light buzz from the distillery tour we just finished, makes it easier–just for now– to forget the devastating dumpster fire that has been 2016.

Being married and raising kids is hard. Just being a citizen of the world is hard. This year more than others before (and let’s all pray, for the years to come) I have had to draw on many supports and resources to bear the weight of every day, and to find the quiet moments of peace where ever I can.

And so while I was happy to have an extended long weekend in Kelowna,  B.C. kid-free, I know it’s not always preferable or even possible. Luckily Kelowna offers excellent options for moms and dads, with or without the kidlets!


An autumn lakeside vineyard, the giant bottle beckons to Summerhill Pyramid Winery, the tasting room at CedarCreek Estate Winery. credit M. Mallia

Wine not whine

A Deux:  When you think of the Okanagan, you think of wine. If you don’t, I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends. With stunning scenery and delicious varietals, an Okanagan wine tour is a must-do! If you are going as a couple, I can’t recommend a guided tour strongly enough. No one wants to drink alone (or you shouldn’t, you wino) and making someone be the designated driver is not romantic. I guess you could just spit it out. Just kidding. Don’t do that.

With my unabashed love for full-bodied reds, sparkling wine and sweet whites our tour guide extraordinaire, Chris Cruz of AMC Tours crafted a specialised tour for us, selecting CedarCreek Estate Winery, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Sperling Vineyards, Gray Monk Estate Winery and Arrowleaf Cellars for a day of delight.

En famille: Finding a tour company that can customise a tour is vital if you are bringing kids. For instance, AMC Tours will put together a family tour for the day, incorporating family fun stops with wineries. You may want to put in a stop at a zip-line or Kangaroo  Creek Farm to keep things balanced (and whining to a minimum.) An excellent tour company will also be able to tell you which wineries are more kid-friendly. It’s good to know that at Summerhill, and CedarCreek kids can join in on tour at no charge (the pyramid at Summerhill is especially cool!) There is a play area at Arrowleaf, Summerhill and Sperling, and kids can join in on a tasting with juice (when available) at Summerhill, Gray Monk and CedarCreek. Some of the other wineries offer kid-friendly amenities too, make sure your guide knows that’s what you are looking for!


The Okanagan Spirits Distillery in Vernon (there’s another location in Kelowna!) The skates are up for grabs in the lobby at Hotel Zed.

Walk this way

Afternoon Delight: The Downtown Grapes and Grains Trail that winds its way through the city’s core is pretty much the best thing ever. It’s a walking tour of the metro wineries, cideries and distilleries, and a great way to spend a boozy afternoon with your significant other. If you think you are going to buy anything, bring a backpack, or you may end up carrying two bottles of wine and two litres of beer in addition to, possibly, your wife. Ahem.

With kids: I’d give this one a hard pass if you have the young uns with you. From our hotel in the southwest part of downtown, it was quite a hike, and my kids would have tapped out before we hit the first stop. And although some of the stops along the Grapes and Grains trail profess to welcome children, my overall impression was of a lot of breakable things and not a lot of things to distract and/or occupy the younger set. A better afternoon might be spent at the super fun BNA Brewing Co & Eatery, with its indoor bocce court (go in the afternoon, it’s a popular joint, and you won’t get near the bocce in the evening) If you are staying at the Hotel Zed, you might want to hop on some of their complimentary roller skates or bikes—they even have a tandem bike, although we did not partake (see above paragraph.)

The upscale La Cachet lounge and the king suite where the magic can happen at the Prestige Beach House (courtesy M. Mallia) The funky front desk and the King of Bunk Beds suite at Hotel Zed (courtesy Tartan Group)

The upscale Caché Lounge and the king suite where the magic can happen at the Prestige Beach House (courtesy M. Mallia) The funky front desk and the King of Bunk Beds suite at Hotel Zed (courtesy Tartan Group)

Sleep Tight

Couples Retreat: Newly renovated, a king room at The Prestige Beach House is perfect for a couple. There are also some great amenities for families, including an indoor pool, but soaking in the hot tub without constant admonishments to “Watch this mommy!” made it seem a wonderful retreat without kids. We spent an enjoyable evening in the vintage Parisian atmosphere of the attached Caché Lounge and gorged ourselves on seafood at the West Coast Grill. Our first server suggested we may have ordered too much (the prodigious West Coast Tower) but the second server assured us it was only too much for people that don’t really like seafood. Word to the wise: Make it an early dinner and take advantage of the awesome Happy Hour specials.

Family Matters: The Hotel Zed has only been open in Kelowna for a short time, but has already gained a fun reputation. Anytime we told someone where we were staying, they asked if it is as cool as it looks. And it is totally as cool as it looks, with its brightly painted hues and funky retro motif. We laughed at the instruction sheet of how to use the rotary phone. Well, laughed until we stopped and felt very old. There are several configurations of room in the Hotel Zed; families may want to look into the bunk beds in one of the family suites. You will also want to check out the dress-up accessories in the self-service mini-disco or chill with the games in the Ping Pong Lounge.

Kelowna is a great town with so many options! You can customise your trip so it is precisely what you are looking for, whether it is a couple’s time to rest and recharge, or a fun family vacay.

Many thanks to Tourism Kelowna and their partners and Hotel Zed for hosting our trip. The opinions expressed are my own.