You're visiting Vancouver, BC with the kids and you'd like to venture outside the city to see some of the rest of British Columbia. But, at around five hours, "Napa of the North"-aka the sun-drenched, wine-'n-fruit-laden Okanagan Valley-seems just a bit too far for the squirrelly set in car seats.
Just point your car east to Harrison Hot Springs. At about one-and-a-half easy hours, you'll drive through some lovely farm country along the way. Maybe even stop for some farmstead cheese, clover honey or just-harvested hazelnuts and a picnic. There's an April tulip festival with 40 acres of colourful blooms that will delight everyone.
Once you get to this
mineral-springs resort town dating back to the 1800s, now a village of about 1,600 full-time residents, you can pretty much check out (i.e., trashy novel; a session at the
Healing Springs Spa) while the kids spend the entire day splashing in the bathtub-warm water. There's also three golf courses near Harrison Hot Springs and marina on Harrison Lake.
The best part? So the weather is crappy (yes, it rains a lot in BC), you'll still have a great time because the steamy pools are just as nice in a downpour. The beautiful glacial setting is a bit Austrian Alps, the village a bit hokey-sort of mountain town meets "The Sound of Music." Says Ian Maw,
resort director of sales and marketing: "I call it Lake Louise on a budget."
Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa has handsome rooms-130 face the lake, 17 are suites-with comfy king- and queen-size beds and big TVs and in addition to the resort, there are 10 pet-friendly cottages.
Do: Honestly? Just stay in the mineral hot springs pools (five in all, three outdoor, two indoor; 60° C or 140° F coming out of the ground) for most of the day 'til your fingers and toes turn pruney. Perhaps switch from the family pool to the round hot-tub-like hot pool, or hit the lap pool if you're feeling energetic. You could also rent bikes, quadra-cycles, kayaks (try Harrison River) and canoes, explore the lake by boat, or climb and hike nearby. There are three operators who can take you out and about, including for catch-and-release
sturgeon fishing. Don't miss eagle spotting and salmon-spawning in fall time. In winter (December to April), you can ski, go tubing and snowshoeing at nearby
Hemlock Valley Resort.
Date: Remember dating? Sign the kids up for the resort's children's programs, which run during the busy season (ages 6 to 11; crafts, games, movie night, volleyball, field hockey, nature hikes) and get to know the guy you married back when.
Eat: Harrison Pizza & Deli (604-796-2023) is easy on the pocketbook and a crowd-pleaser. Go for the Hawaiian. A large will feed four.
Cookin' Kim's Country Café is great for a hearty breakfast and friendly, kids-fit-right-in service. Try the resort's retro, 400-seat Copper Room for a fancy night out, even some dancing (live entertainment nightly). Or stay in. Room service is surprisingly affordable.
Shop: In Harrison, pick up some local ag goodies-smoked salmon, honey, hazelnuts-at
Papples Market stand while the kids admire the Paul Bunyan-style chainsaw wood-art out front. Stop at nearby farms (there's a map for a "
Circle Farm Tour") for some home-grown booty to take home to the pantry. Pack the cooler. Don't miss
The Farm House Natural Cheeses and
Limbert Mountain Farm. If you visit in during garlic season (late July to mid-August), be sure to pick up some garlic The Back Porch-there are at least 18 varieties.
Harrison Festival of the Arts in July; monthly arts events and performances at the resort and Memorial Hall in town; the
Harrison DragonFest dragon boat regatta;
Agassiz Cycle Tour-a Slow-Food cycle event in August.
Camp: If you decide to camp at
Sasquatsch Provincial Park, Deer Lake (electric motors only) and Hicks Lake (speed boats allowed) have tidy campgrounds and great hiking opps. Then you can dip into
Harrison Hot Springs Public Pool, owned by the resort, with the same sulphurous mineral water for $8.50/adult. The facility even rents bathing suits. Open daily.
Stop: On the way-
Minter Gardens, a stunning 32-acre show garden and nursery for any gardening buffs;
BC Hydro Stave Falls Visitor Centre to check out hydroelectric power in action;
Kilby Historic Site, a 1920s historic farm with furry critters and a home-style restaurant; water slides at
Bridal Falls Water Park.
Courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission
Michelle Pentz Glave is the freelance content editor for the CTC Media Centre website. She worked on staff at CTC in the media relations department for five years managing the media centre. For 16 years prior to joining CTC, Glave worked in the US and Germany as a writer, editor and reporter for newspapers and magazines-including stints with The Wall Street Journal Europe, Gruner+Jahr (Bertelsman) publishing house, the Albuqerque Journal and The Santa Fe New Mexican. Glave's work has appeared in magazines such as Outside, Wired, Travel + Leisure, Sunset and Fortune.