At Monday morning school-drop off I know I sounded utterly ridiculous saying “I’m tuckered” after four – kid-free – days in Vernon. There was so much to do, so many activities to try, so many glasses of wine that HAD to be sipped, that this momma needed a day to recover. Let me be clear, I’m not complaining! I’d do it again in a heart beat.
The city of Vernon is nestled in the Southern Interior with a population of 40,000. Known for a plethora of wineries, the city is just 4 hours from downtown Vancouver. Our drive up was quick and easy. We stopped in Kelowna for a positively divine lunch at Quail’s Gate. Our trip was actually a retreat for the Family Fun team. We are scattered across the country (Calgary, Edmonton and Halifax) so this was the first time most of us were meeting in person. What a delightful way to bond! A plate-licking meal, a wander through the vineyards, and wine which had us all craving more. It was hard to say goodbye to Quail’s Gate but we knew even greater indulgences lie ahead.
STAY Predator Ridge became my home for 4 glorious days. Helen, our lovely and hilarious editor of Family Fun Halifax, was my roommate. Our two-bedroom suite was larger than my first apartment! Somehow I lucked out and got the big room. Gorgeous views over the golf course, a bed that I swear was made out of clouds, and an ensuite which I was able to enjoy without “Mom!! Where are you?!” I could have happily spent the four days just in my room at Predator Ridge.
SPA But with so many adventures waiting loitering in bed would have been just plain stupid. Would you pick laying in bed or lounging around the most glamorous of spas: KurSpa at Sparking Hill Resort? Oh I felt like a Disney princess! Upon arrival we were given plush robes and slippers and sent down the hall to find pure serenity. From 7-themed sauna and steam rooms, to a wonderfully invigorating walking pool, to an outdoor infinity pool, Sparking Hills Resort was like nothing I had ever experienced. While the 6 Family Fun members had a terrific time lounging and talking, I must admit to being envious of individuals who were vacationing with their spouses. I am going to bring my husband! While he hasn’t fully embraced the joy of the spa experience, I can only imagine what a weekend at Sparkling Hills Resort would do for a marriage. We could pretend to be newlyweds…and I’ll leave it at that!
SWING To earn our nightly spa ritual, we did need to exert ourselves somewhat. Driving a golf cart counts, right? Imagine six giddy child-free moms paired with a national golf pro. AJ Eathorne, a former LPGA player and PGA caddy, was our superstar instructor. Despite a mid-fall drizzle, our group had a terrific time improving our golf swing and learning that sticking out our butts was a necessary evil of a good golf swing. Predator Ridge’s course has won numerous awards and is known for having courses that challenge every level of player. Want to get your little one playing golf? Sign up kids aged 5-18 for Predator Ridge’s Swing Like A Kid program.
SUP I won’t lie, I was terrified when told SUP (aka stand-up paddle boarding) was going to be part of our team building weekend. I’m always a fan of making a fool of myself in front of colleagues….not! Despite my grumbling and mumbling, I had a hoot out on the water. The fact that our teacher was a world SUP champion and 6 months pregnant made me shut my yap rather quickly. Our little group had Lake Kalamalka to ourselves and come the end of our hour-long lesson no one had fallen in! If you are interested in giving SUP a go, book a lesson through the KalaVida Surf Shop, walk across the road and get onto the water. Easy peasy!
SIP And now to my favourite part…the wine tasting! Sure you can travel on your own but with dozens of wineries to pick from why would you? There is absolutely no way I’m spitting into a bucket! Our saviour and designated driver was MJ of MJo Tours. What a classy lady! She wears Fluevog shoes, serves brie and gourmet chocolate, and takes fantastic care of her clients. What is not to love about that? MJ is also a fount of information on both the history of Vernon and the wineries.
We spent the first part of our day visiting non-traditional stops on the wine tour…places that didn’t serve wine, really. We started – at 10am no less – at the Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery. These brilliant folks create gin, vodka, whiskey, brandy, aquavit and absinthe from fruit! A G&T is my go-to cocktail and I was super impressed by the complex flavours in their gin. Our morning also included stops at a family-run cidery (BX Press) and a meadery (Honeymoon Meadery at Planet Bee). And while MJ’s cheeses and crackers were a life saver, a large mid-day meal was a definite must. Our group of increasingly tipsy moms had a delightful lunch at Gray Monk. From there it was time to visit the traditional wineries: Gray Monk (I love that they provide sparkling fruit ciders for the kids to sample while waiting for their parents), Arrowleaf (one of my all time favourites), Ex Nihilo, and 50th Parallel (a relatively new winery and one I’ve already sought out at my local liquor store). I spent way too much money on wines but how could I resist the glorious nectar produced by the Okanagan Wine Valley?
So you can see with all of our activities and adventures, I was bound to be exhausted after four days of luxurious indulgence, right? Let me guess, you are rolling your eyes at me in the same manner as the parents at school-drop off. Ok fine, the weekend was absolute heaven and everyone should treat themselves to a glamorous weekend in Vernon!