Summer is a great time of year to explore British Columbia. We traveled with our trailer from Ontario all of the way out to British Columbia this summer. We decided that, since we have to spend the winter in Canada, the best province to RV in is British Columbia because of its mild winters. British Columbia is an RVers “playground’ – full of mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, and islands on the Pacific Ocean.
It’s been easy for us to find waterfalls and hiking trails that aren’t too difficult for our three boys while we stay the rest of the year in the Fraser Valley. One of them we have enjoyed a couple of times is Bridal Veil Falls. It is a very short 1/2 kilometer walk to the falls. The fun part is climbing up the falls. It’s quite steep, but we all managed to make it up to base of the waterfall. The water trickles down over the rocks to where the trail starts and the view of the falls is impressive from the trail, but climbing up to the base of it helps you realize how big the waterfall is.
And if you’re adventurous, you can step onto some rocks and have an icy cold shower in the falls! We chose not to do this, but were entertained by watching some adults who did. If you are ever in the Chilliwack area, make sure you visit this waterfall.
If you go south of Chilliwack to Cultus Lake, don’t miss Teapot Trail. It’s a 3.8 mile hike to a lookout area. The view isn’t necessarily spectacular, but what makes this hike unique are all of the teapots and teacups hidden by people along the path. There are over 100 placed along the path, in the woods, and even up in the trees!
The boys helped paint a white teapot that we picked up on clearance at Ikea, and we brought it with us on the hike. It was fun looking for the perfect spot to set ours. It was also motivation to get to the top of the trail because we told our boys we’d place it near the top. And that’s what we did! So, if you go on this hike, look near the top of the trail, in the trees, along the path, and let us know if you spot it!
North of Chilliwack close to where the Fraser River meets Harrison Lake are the towns of Aggasiz and Harrison Hot Springs. This area is peaceful, away from the busy cities, and surrounded by mountains. You’ll find that it’s a beautiful area to get out on the water.
Our new friends here let us try out their paddleboard. Our boys had never been out on one before, but know how to row, so it was fairly easy for them. Joel was the only one able to balance while standing on it. I think we just might need to buy our own! Being out on a lake in the mountains is so peaceful.
Check out Harrison Hot Springs, north of Chilliwack. The little shops and restaurants are great! You’ll also find a beautiful, sandy, beach next to Harrison Lake. There is also a small, shallow pond next to the lake that is warmer for swimming in, great for younger kids, and also is surrounded by sand.
We spent an afternoon soaking up the sun in both areas. I brought homemade sushi for lunch. Who brings sushi for a picnic?! We do! Our boys love it, and so do Adam and I. The shallow pond is a fun spot to hang out because there is a playground nearby as well.
Harrison Hot Springs also has a gorgeous resort where you can spend a night, relax in the spa, and swim in the natural hot springs pool. We hope to be back to enjoy this resort someday.
Vedder Mountain, beside Cultus Lake, is a great area for hiking, biking, and going out in an ATV. Vedder Mountain Ridge Trail is over 8 kilometers long! We decided not to do the entire hike but enjoyed the beautiful hike into the woods.
We spotted different kinds of mushrooms growing and saw moss and slugs. It was not a difficult hike and a great afternoon outing on a sunny day. Our boys love to explore everything on our hikes, especially our youngest, Ian. He will spot the tiniest mushrooms, pretty wildflowers, tiny bugs, and unique trees, stopping many times to take it all in. This slows us down a bit, but we love his and our other two boys’ interest in nature.
These are just some of the outdoor, family outings we have taken here in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia.
(Note: some of the affiliate links in this article will pay us a commission at no cost to you if you choose to make a purchase.)
We recently RV’d as a family for a few nights in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. We spent some of the time in West Kelowna (on the west side of the Okanagan lake) and the rest in Kelowna (on the east side).
Where is Kelowna?
Kelowna is part of the Okanagan Valley, a mountainous area surrounding Okanagan Lake in south-central British Columbia. The ground is so fertile. Snow melts off of the mountains watering the area. Many of the fruit and vegetable crops grown in the province of BC come from this area – grown in the foothills around the mountains.
We were concerned about making the trip in our RV to the Okanagan Valley, known as the wine region, and wondered if there would be anything for our kids to do, but we were pleasantly surprised with what we discovered. We began our trip towing our travel trailer just outside of Vancouver (Kelowna is about a 4-hour drive east of Vancouver). We took the Coquihalla Highway (British Columbia 5) through Merrit to Kelowna and decided to take Hwy 3 through EC Manning Provincial Park on our way back west. Neither was a simple drive while towing our 30 ft travel trailer, and our evidence is entirely anecdotal, but it seemed like driving west on Hwy 3 was less of a challenge than driving east on Hwy 5. It could merely be that driving any direction west out of the Cascade Mountains is more manageable than going east into them.
When you’re planning your trip to the Okanagan, keep in mind that at the north end of Okanagan Lake is Vernon, and to the south end of the lake, you’ll reach Penticton, with Kelowna on the east side (halfway down the lake) and West Kelowna on the westside, along with Peachland and Summerland.
While this is all considered the Okanagan Region, around the lake, it’s about a 2-hour drive (depending on traffic) to get from Vernon on the north shore to Penticton on the south shore, so give yourself some time between planned activities, or plan your schedule based on region. If you want to be in the midst of all the action and aren’t visiting the area with an RV, choose a hotel near City Park in Kelowna!
Experience the Okanagan for Family Vacation
We don’t typically rush to do mini-golf, or visit nearby batting cages or laser tag (although many of these activities are available in Kelowna). For family fun, we mostly choose adventure experiences that are specific to the area (with the necessary stop at an ice cream shop, of course). While there are plenty of winery and cidery tours, we were looking for family-friendly experiences that would leave us with happy memories with our kids, and Kelowna did not disappoint.We only had a few days for our trip, at the end of August, so here’s what we enjoyed doing in Kelowna, as well as a few things on our ‘to-do’ list for the next time we visit the Okanagan Valley.
Fun Things for Kids in Kelowna near the end of Summer (August) / Beginning of Fall (September)
Kelowna Wibit on Okanagan Lake
The Wibit water park on the Okanagan Lake in City Park Kelowna was probably the highlight of the trip for our three boys (ages 6, 8, & 11). Not only is it a family-friendly water park with inflatable slides, trampolines, climbing ropes, and obstacles, but it’s floating right on the lake, so we could enjoy our time on the beach, and wade in the ankle-deep clear water that outlines City Park (right in downtown Kelowna) as our boys played – not to mention enjoy the stunning views of the mountains across the lake.
Our boys enjoyed climbing around the water park, for about 90 minutes, then our younger two had their fill. They played on the beach and in the water while our oldest burned off more energy on the floating obstacle course. Our youngest thought the lake was similar to a wave pool since the wake made by passing boaters would wash up onto the shore.
We opted to buy tickets later in the afternoon from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm, which was a discounted rate (you can get an ‘all-you-can-play’ pass for the day if you’d prefer). The discounted pass was perfect for us, and since it was August, it wasn’t too cool in the evening, and it was unlikely that our kids would have spent more time than the 3 hours we had with our pass. The water temperature in Okanagan Lake is cool in late August, but, of course, once you get in, you get used to it.
West Kelowna Skate Park
Skate parks are a bit of a new thing for our boys who have recently looked for ways to enjoy their rollerblades or scooters while we’re on the road since not every campground is paved. This is a free outing we enjoy taking and an easy way for us to burn off some energy. (Side note: we wrote a post about 9 free things to do on the road with kids. Skateparks is there!)
While it’s not something that our entire family participates in, our kids love it, so we’re happy to take them every now and then to skate parks. West Kelowna Skate park, tucked behind the Johnson Bentley Memorial Aquatic Center, is one of the most spacious skate parks we’ve found.
Many skate parks are tucked into a corner somewhere with very little parking nearby, but this skate park has a large parking lot behind the aquatic center. There is a large flat paved area where our younger kids could enjoy rollerskating on. There is a second area connected by a few ramps with pits to skate down into that our oldest son loved. We went back to this skate park a few times during our 2-night stay, and there were usually young teens and families using the park; they were always very friendly and respectfully enjoyed the space along with us.
City Park, Kelowna
Located in downtown Kelowna, City Park is nestled between main-street shops, restaurants, and Okanagan Lake. While we were visiting Kelowna, this was our favorite, kid-friendly park. It has so much to offer – a splash pad, playground, skate park, beach, marina, the Wibit water park, food trucks, and steps away from the shops downtown. Not only does City Park have plenty of developed amenities, but it also has a large amount of green space to enjoy a family picnic, throw a frisbee, or find your own family fun.
From what we’ve seen of pictures online, City Park is well-maintained year-round to allow for winter walks on the paved sidewalks and bike paths. We know that our kids will definitely be asking to visit City Park the next time we’re in the area. If we were not RVers, and were wanting to visit Kelowna, we would specifically recommend choosing a hotel near City Park, near the shops and numerous restaurants, with a view of the mountains and Lake Okanagan,
Farmers Markets & Pick Your Own Fresh Fruit in Kelowna
While we missed the local cherry season that the Okanagan is famous for (it usually runs until the end of July), we were able to find ‘you pick’ orchards with a variety of fruit ready to pick. We found quite a few around Kelowna so it was easy to choose a couple of them that were close to where we were staying, We visited two orchards/farms and found peaches, apples, plums, and nectarines ready to pick. There’s nothing like picking fruit and eating it immediately! It’s so fresh and so delicious! Available at both locations we visited were fresh produce stands where we bought a (pretty sure the world’s largest) zucchini, bell peppers, fresh mint, and watermelon.
Besides picking fruit, we also visited Kelowna’s Farmer’s & Crafter’s Market on a Wednesday morning. There was LIVE music, food trucks,and lots of local vendors with fresh produce and homemade goods. We purchased some handmade perogies to cook at home.
We also stopped at Paynter’s Fruit Market in West Kelowna to purchase some fresh vegetables. Getting the experience of picking fresh fruit was really why we wanted to visit the Okanagan Valley, so we made a full day of visiting orchards and markets. The fresh produce is amazing here!
Harvest Hosts allow you to stay on their property – often a farm, vineyard, or orchard – and in exchange, you’ll spend about $20/adult at their location – whether purchasing a gift from their store, buying dinner at their on-site restaurant, or taking their facility tour. Instead of paying for a night at a campground, we were able to stay at the bottom for a beautiful apple orchard for free. Most host locations are dry camping (no water or electric) but some include these hookups for a small fee.
Things our Family would do next time we visit the Okanagan in BC
While we enjoyed our trip, we didn’t have time to do all of the things on our list, like make a trip to at least one more ice cream shop. Here are some things to consider for your next trip to Kelowna, and activities that are available around the Okanagan (and let us know what you enjoyed doing most!)
Myra Canyon Trestles
A little bit out of the way, the Myra Canyon Trestles are about 40 minutes east of Kelowna. This highly-rated trail for hiking or biking takes you through 2 tunnels and 18 trestle bridges. This would be a beautiful outing when the Myra Canyons are full of plants budding in the spring, and a picture-perfect postcard adventure of colours in the fall.
Myra Canyon Adventure Park
Most reviews we’ve read indicate that the trestles are about a half-day experience, so while you’re out visiting Myra Canyon, fill the other half of your day with an outdoor adventure at the Myra Canyon Adventure Park. With zip lines, ropes courses, and team-building activities, it will be easy to fill the rest of the day swinging through the trees with breathtaking scenery. A little closer than the trestles, Maya Canyon Adventure Park is about 22 minutes from downtown Kelowna, BC.
Kettle Valley Railway
Take a 90-minute ride on a restored 1912 steam engine locomotive for 10 miles through the stunning views of British Columbia, leaving from Summerland. The Kettle Valley Railway can provide a year-round experience, from Christmas light trains, or Mothers Day Rides, to a summer BBQ and mock train robbery (with live bandits on horseback) and musical entertainment. This kid-friendly train experience has a limited schedule, so make it one of the first items you book into your Okanagan itinerary. Since it leaves from Summerland (on the southwest side of Okanagan Lake), build this experience into your schedule while staying at nearby West Kelowna, or south in Penticton.
Kangaroo Creek Farm
Sadly, we missed the Kangaroo Creek Farm when we were searching for things to do in Kelowna. We found out about the farm when we told someone that we had just visited Okanagan, and they asked if we went to the Kangaroo farm petting zoo. Take an afternoon of hands-on interaction with kangaroos, wallabies, and sugar gliders, and get eye level with parrots and peacocks. If we had to choose one thing we shouldn’t have missed in Kelowna, it’s the Kangaroo Creek Farm.
How Do You Decide What to Do in Kelowna with your Family?
It seems like no matter how long you spend time in this part of BC, you’ll find that there are so many fun things to do. The tricky part will be deciding what you’ll do while you are there, and what you’ll save doing for your next trip. You will consider what adventure you could fit into your schedule if you only had one more day.
Families who take a trip out to the Okanagan can easily spend time enjoying at a wave pool, go bowling, do water activities on Okanagan Lake, experience laser tag or paintball for the first time, or play a family-friendly round of mini-golf.
When we are heading to a place we’ve never been, we often start by telling our kids about the available activities there and ask each of our 3 boys to pick one that they would really like to experience. It’s not an exact science, since sometimes we’ll have 2 boys pick the same activity, or one of our kids can’t decide what they want to do. This method also depends on how long we’re staying, and it’s also fun to throw in a surprise here and there for our kids. We often get answers all over the map since they are all different ages and each one has their own idea about what makes a great vacation.
As a full-time RVing family, we often meet people on our travels who are a bit shocked, slightly envious, or even perplexed at how we travel as a family full-time and share 270 sq feet in our travel trailer between 5 of us. (I remember one woman listening to our story at a restaurant, and then replying “Wow. May the force be with you.”)
Two of the most frequent questions we get when someone finds out we RV full-time as a family:
How do you not drive each other crazy living together in such a small space and RVing with kids?
How much does traveling in an RV full-time cost compared to living in a house?
While these two questions seem unrelated, they have a pretty close connection, not just for our family, but for how other full-time RV families handle family time on the road and keep their kids busy and learning.
The first answer is that we don’t spend our life in 270 sq feet. Most days, we treat our travel trailer like you might treat the hotel room on vacation. Our goal isn’t to travel somewhere, and then spend all of our time in the trailer. We’re out exploring the place where we’re visiting, and that includes finding things for our kids to do.
Often one of us will take the kids out for the day, or the evening, while the other stays home to work. It’s also common that one of us is dropped off at a coffee shop to work while the other takes the kids to explore.
None of the 9 ideas below are probably groundbreaking ideas for you, and they’re not specific to being a full-time RV family, but they are things we make part of our routine and spend time together as a family without breaking the bank. While most of these may be happening out of habit for you, once you get on the road as a full-time RV family, you’ll want to make these a regular part of your routine.
The best part about using this same list over and over is that as you travel, the “new playground” will seem like a brand new idea for your kids. We know it’s a repeat of visiting a “new playground” in the last city, but we won’t tell your kids.
1. Playground or Skatepark Near You
A simple google search will pull up plenty of nearby areas to go to a playground or skatepark (and often both in the same area).
It’s amazing to me how excited our kids get about a new slide. “Daddy, this slide is blue!” To me, most playgrounds look pretty similar: a slide, monkey bars, and a rock-climbing wall or ladder to get up, but to my kids, they are happy to explore new territory.
Skateparks have become the recent rage for our boys. They’ll put on rollerblades or ride their scooter around for hours in just about any skatepark. It’s great that we’re not telling them to go out but watch for cars. It’s simply a place intended for them to skate around and enjoy.
Skate parks and playgrounds are also great stops in the middle of travel days. We search ahead of time, find a location, and then check the satellite view to see how easy it will be to pull our trailer in or out of the area. Often these parks have a large parking lot, are located next to a road with plenty of parking, or in a schoolyard where there is unused bus parking on the weekends or in the evenings.
It’s great to pull our travel trailer into a large parking lot, let the kids out to grab their scooters and helmets, take a break for a snack, and then continue our car ride to the next campground.
2. Enjoy a Local Library
I can’t promise that your kids will love your proposal to ‘hang out at a library’, but besides books (which our oldest can’t get enough of) our kids have found games on computers, comic books to read, magazines to check out, and frankly, sometimes just decent wifi for the iPad and a quiet place to unwind for a rainy afternoon (while I get some work done, or at least a few emails answered).
In our traveling as a family, we’ve found libraries that have evening storytime, afternoon concerts or sing-alongs, movie nights on the lawn, and costume parties at different times throughout the year. It’s not something we plan our schedule around, but it is a great way to get out with a purpose if we happen to be in the area when there is an event going on.
Most of the time, we aren’t able to take books or movies away from the library since we aren’t locals, but if you ask any of the librarians, “What things are there to do for kids near here?” they usually have at least 2 or 3 ideas of things you can do as a family in the nearby area.
3. Free Zoos, Museums & Factory Tours
This free activity for families comes as a surprise to many people, but there are quite a few large and reputable zoos, museums, and factory tours in major cities that are completely free.
Most traveling families recognize that in Washington, DC, many museums and art galleries are free to access, but we’ve found many small, local-run museums that are free to access (or by donation, which can fit any budget).
A quick google search about “Museums for kids or families near me” can lead you to plenty of museum options, and it takes a little digging to find free ones that may interest you.
Sure, museums, but zoos? Sure! The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and the St. Louis Zoo are two of the most awarded zoos in North America, and both are free admission. Don’t let the free ticket set a low expectation. They have lions, tigers, and bears – oh my – they are worth the trip.
Check ahead of time, since there is often a cost for parking, or you may save a few dollars by parking out of town and taking public transit.
Free Factory tours have become one of our favorite things to do as a family as we travel. Our kids are fascinated by the machines, watching the workers, the packaging, and seeing the process of how things are made.
The factories love to have you come through for free, because you’re almost certainly going to promote your visit on social media, and probably pick something up in the store on your way out.
For many factories, offering free tours for individuals or families is a promotional opportunity.
4. Local Live Music in your City
Finding live music could be as casual as buskers to listen to in Quebec City, or New Orleans, or it could be a summer festival with music in the park or a local festival. You might hear about a local school performing a Christmas concert, or someone playing at the amphitheater at a park nearby.
Something about hearing live music is exciting, and it doesn’t have to be a genre you already love – just being around people enjoying the music with you is enough to create a great experience.
RV living is about new experiences, not things. In our first month living in an RV, we sat and listened to buskers play in Quebec City. In our second month on the road, we were invited by other full-time RVers to a ceilidh (basically a fiddle dance in a barn in Eastern Canada), and shortly after that, we listened to a Beatles tribute band in Nashville at a library and danced to a DJ in Orlando in an outdoor mall.
My kids were surprised to learn that I didn’t like any of the music that the DJ was playing, but enjoyed spending time together as a family. Life on the road with kids is about appreciation, not preferences.
5. Browse Farmers Markets
Our youngest has a fascination with seeds, gardening, fruits, and vegetables.
Full-time RV living doesn’t allow us to have a garden, but free farm tours when we’re staying at a Harvest Host or Boondockers Welcome site are a perfect fit for his 6-year-old interests.
While we’re not staying on-site at a farm, we like to find local markets to wander through – often not buying anything, or choosing to spend some of our grocery budget which we would have spent anyway.
Often markets have local crafters, samples that our children love to taste, and simply broadens our horizons in a different way than a family trip to a national park, for instance.
6. Visit Historical Sites and take a family photo
Historical sites not only give something to add to a “to-do” list but also offer an educational opportunity for our kids (and let’s face it, we usually learn something too as parents). While we’re full-time RVing, we homeschool, so visiting ‘whatever is near us’ gives us a way to talk about topics that may not have come up naturally during lessons.
A statue or monument gives us insight into a local historical figure, and often ties into another site we visited a few days ago, or a site we’ll visit a few days from now. A historical plaque will let us know why a city was established where it is, or what the purpose of its location originally was.
Since we travel full time, we have a map that we use to show our kids where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re heading to next. Often, the history of an area plays into their clarity about how certain regions are connected.
7. Have Your Kids Plan and Prepare a Family Picnic
Picnics are not just about eating at a park. An entire process can be built around preparing for a family picnic. You may imagine that when we live in an RV full-time that picnic is an exciting daily occurrence since we often have a picnic table at our campsite, but this often just becomes part of the routine of traveling full-time; eating at the picnic table outside our RV.
Planning a picnic includes deciding what to eat, making a grocery list, shopping for the groceries together as a family, preparing and packing your lunch, then the enjoyment of unpacking it at a park, or near a lake, or in the middle of a hike to sit together and enjoy a meal as a family in a newly-explored place.
You are going to eat anyway, so this is an opportunity for your kids to do some planning and see the whole process of how to make a well-rounded meal.
8. Walking, Hiking, and Biking
Whether you’ve parked your RV near a National Park, State Park, Provincial Park, Municipal Park, or none of the above, traveling as a family almost always puts you in or near somewhere that you can go for a hike.
You don’t always have to imagine a hike as tromping through a forest. Maybe for your family, a hike is wandering downtown in a city you’ve never explored before, or biking through a park and stopping for ice cream, or wandering around your campground and counting flags or taking pictures near flowers.
We usually go for a hike once a week – sometimes more – and the longer we travel full-time, the more frequently we seem to decide to get out and go for a hike.
While a google search can help you find hiking trails in the area, we’ve talked with other families about RVing with kids, and many of them also say that the best way to get a recommendation for a hiking trail to do with kids is to ask a local. Stop by the campground office and ask for an opinion on a great hike to do as a family, or while you’re in a toy store, or ask the librarian.
Most people whose profession includes working with kids will know exactly what there is to do in the area in a way that a google review may not help with.
9. Community Events & Festivals
Many community organizations have free events for kids, from Hallowe’en events to summer programs, to plays in the park, to endless possibilities.
We love going out to do an event, and not just be passive observers. While festivals often have a concert or presentation aspect, we also love to see vendors, exhibits, and craft tables while we’re there.
Search for a community event calendar in the area where you’re staying on Google, or check Facebook for “Events Near Me” to find out what’s coming up in your area while you’re traveling.
We’ve even changed our travel plans to be in a specific area at a specific time for an event we found out about. Usually, it’s because we were already in the area and decided to stay an extra day, or found out about an upcoming event in the next area where we’d be staying and decided to travel a day early.
A few times, we’ve pulled an all-nighter road trip to get somewhere for a specific event that we just found out about, and that freedom is one of the joys of the fulltime RV lifestyle.
Full-time RV living is about staying flexible and gathering memories and experiences, not things. As an RV family, we’re always focusing on what we can do to make those memories, without breaking the bank.
While we’re traveling, we do have times when we choose to treat ourselves and spend a portion of our budget on a unique experience, but it’s possible to both travel full-time and be aware of your budget and stay within it.