Nothing screams summertime like the sunshine and heat of Osoyoos, BC. Roughly a 4 hour drive from Vancouver, Osoyoos offers numerous adventures for families with kids of all ages. We found the Destination Osoyoos website incredibly helpful when putting together our trip. The site offers a complete overview of accommodation, dining, activity and attraction options available in the city. Osoyoos is nestled in the heart of BC wine country and is surrounded by orchards bursting with summer fruit. Treat your family to a wonderful holiday in Canada’s only desert.
Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad: My kids’ heads nearly popped off when they walked through the doors of te Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad. Yes my kids are crazy for trains but even a non-enthusiast would be awed by the 4,000 sqft wonder created by Paul and Ulla Pedersen. I have experienced a ridiculous number of train shows, train displays, train rides and more. If it says “chugga chugga woo woo” I’ve checked it out. Nothing, and I mean nothing, comes close to the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad.
The vast number of scenes is actually hard to take in, there is over 2km of track (the display is Canada’s largest Marklin train layout). The whimsy and humour are delightful. If you have the chance, ask Paul to show you some of the risque vignettes he has worked into the scenes. The kids miss it entirely but it provides a fun chuckle for the adults. Paul, Ulla and their daughter have created this masterpiece themselves. Ulla has hand-painted every single figurine. There are over 25,000 of them!
The Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad is open Monday – Saturday from 10am – 5pm year round. Admission is $7.50 for adults and $4.50 for kids. We visited for two hours and, if it hadn’t been closing time, our kids would have stayed for hours longer. The more time you spent, the more detail and treasures you see.
Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort: I have found my new happy place! Spirit Ridge Resort is just gorgeous and incredibly family friendly. I’m always impressed by hotels and resorts that keep the glamour for the parents but understand the realities of travelling with kids. Our one bedroom suite at Spirit Ridge came with a full kitchen, 2 queen beds, a pull out sofa, kitchen table, balcony and spacious bathroom. Ample room for a family of four! While I’d prefer to avoid the kitchen when on holiday, I greatly appreciate having the option to prepare food. The kids eat constantly and being able to throw together quick snacks is very useful.
When planning your summer visit to Spirit Ridge Resort have a look at their Spirit Seeker Summer Kids Program. The program is for kids aged 5-12 years and is offered Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through the summer. The sessions are offered in both the afternoon and evening (the evening sessions include dinner for the kids). There are a variety of sessions offered which will entertain the kids and give mom and dad some alone time. Win win!
There is so much to do at the Spirit Ridge Resort. We loved the fact the family-pool was mere seconds from our front door. It is brilliant that Spirit Ridge has a loud (aka kid-friendly) pool and a quiet (aka adult-only) pool, that arrangement keeps all the guests happy. Our boys had a hoot on the water slide. They easily went down that thing 200 times each day we were there. Us parents enjoyed the shaded lounge chairs and the yummy slushies from the nearby bistro.
Once everyone is sufficiently water-logged, take a wander over to the NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre (it is located at the entrance to the Spirit Ridge Resort). The history of the Osoyoos Indian Band is told in an interactive and fascinating manner. Our boys really liked the translation-station: a machine that turned simple English words into the traditional language. We enjoyed a lovely walk through the desert to visit the recreated traditional settlement with a pit house and sweat lodge. The posted signs of “Beware of Rattlesnakes” provided a heightened sense of excitement to our journey. Throughout the summer months the NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre offers interactive programs geared towards families: interpretive trail walks, crafts & Chaptikw stories, snake presentations, and drumming & singing demonstrations. Before you visit the NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre take time to download this coupon for 10% off the cost of admission.
Rattlesnake Canyon: Even in scorching temperatures the fun is never-ending at Rattlesnake Canyon. Kid-friendly activities abound (mom and dad had a hoot too). I’ve decided that not all mini golf courses are created equal. I much prefer courses that add personality, character and fun to the experience of chasing a ball around 18 putting greens. The Rattlesnake Canyon mini golf course does not disappoint. The buzzard circling the train tickled my funny bone! A big thank you to the designers of the course for providing numerous shady spots to hide in while you wait your turn.
After golf was over, the kids couldn’t wait a moment longer for the bumper boats. On a hot day, the bumper boats are brilliant as they cool the kids down, and within minutes their clothes dry. If the day isn’t so hot make sure to pack a change of clothes; the dosing is thorough on the boats!
A few other must-dos at the Rattlesnake Canyon are the go-karts (if your kids are too short there are cars that accommodate 2 riders), the bungee trampoline and the delicious windmill ice cream shop. We met a lovely family who have a fun tradition of always trying a new flavour of ice cream when buying non-grocery-store ice cream. Definitely copying that idea!
Rattlesnake Canyon is open daily (until Labour Day) from 9:30am until 11pm. There is no cost to enter Rattlesnake Canyon. You just have to pay for each activity. They have a great package deal of $21.95 or you can select the individual attractions you want and just pay for those.
Restaurants: We were positively delighted to discover a number of foodie treasures in Osoyoos. No trip to BC’s desert can be considered complete without an indulgence at Talons Restaurant at Spirit Ridge Resort. Again, in their family-friendly tradition, the super fancy, high-end restaurant had a kids’ menu. Our kids opted for the adult menu to our great enjoyment. The four-year old LOVES prawns, so he enjoyed coconut prawns for both his appetizer and main course. Our six-year old ordered quail. Entertainingly he thought he was ordering narwhale when he requested quail. Not sure where he got the idea narwhale was a meal worth pursuing but I’ve got to applaud his adventurous palate. The kids devoured their meals, as did us adults. My husband is still going on about the above-pictured steak bites.
While I would love every meal to be a three-course fancy experience that just isn’t practical. Two other places that provided fantastic food enjoyed by all four of us were: Spirit Beach Cantina (be sure to try their pork tacos) and doLci (their farm board and flat bread get the thumbs up from us).
Wine country: Of course one of our top reasons to visit Osoyoos is the wine. I love BC wine and Osoyoos is tripping over wineries. Let’s be honest, visiting wineries with kids isn’t the easiest of experiences. The kids get bored (I still remember touring Napa with my parents when I was a little kid and 30-odd years later the all encompassing boredom I felt at every winery stop is still palpable). In the passing decades a number of wineries have gotten smart: parents drink wine, parents travel with kids, parents will be happier at wineries if kids are entertained. You betcha! I was so impressed by the number of wineries that offered juice-tasting for the kids. Our young sons had a grand time imitating the adults with the sniffing of their juice, swirling it in their cups, and taking little sips. Hilarious!
Did you know there are nearly 40 wineries in Osoyoos? Isn’t that grand! We spent a generous amount of time at the NK’Mip Cellars; they make my favourite chardonnay. NK’Mip is one of the family-friendly wineries that offers sparkling juice tasting for the kids. NK’Mip Cellars is located mere feet from the front door of the Spirit Ridge Resort. Be sure to give yourself time to try The Patio at NK’Mip Cellars. The view is spectacular and the food is perfect.
With 4 weeks of summer holidays still left there is ample time to plan a family holiday to Osoyoos. Be sure to hop on the very useful Destination Osoyoos website for help planning your trip.