July 20, 2024

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Family travel: Swing into summer exploring Naramata and Penticton

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“I don’t want to,” “That’s boring,” or “Ugh, do we have to?” are common retorts my 12-year-old groans after I suggest we go for a walk. As most children believe, walking for leisure is a complete waste of time, especially during a vacation. But Naramata, the picturesque paradise fringing Okanagan Lake, is arming parents with a new collection of GPS-guided audio tours, creating a unique, child-friendly way to explore the area. After downloading the VoiceMap App, Brooklyn and I set off on the Wonderland: Children’s Village Walking Tour, which begins at Naramata Centre Beach. While the narration is more suitable for toddlers and younger children, we giggled throughout the 2.3-kilometre route, exploring multiple playgrounds and a public vegetable garden, playing eye spy, and learning about the resident peacocks, Peter and Kevin, who enjoyed free range of the village for over a decade.

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The tour also passes by the conveniently located Naramata General Store, a sweet spot for an ice cream cone or slushie. This family-owned and operated store, a community hub since 1979, is stocked with everyday staples, gourmet grab-and-go meals, a deli, wine, beer and spirits. Families can find another delicious spot across the street, Just Baked Naramata, at the Village Motel. The tiny coffee shop, with a pretty outdoor patio, serves exceptional coffee and bakery delights made fresh daily. Brooklyn and I were fortunate to stay at the charming motel and walk across the garden courtyard to indulge in tea and scones for breakfast. The property is perfect for families, given its village location – a five-minute stroll from the beach – and its selection of large one-bedroom suites with kitchenettes.

The garden courtyard at Naramata’s Village Motel. Photo, Mhairri Woodhall cal

Two doors down from the motel is Sun n’ Sup, a hub for water activities. We rented stand-up paddleboards from here a few years ago. Sadly, the weather and water conditions weren’t in alignment for us on the morning we hoped to paddle. The family-run shop is open from May through October, and boards, kayaks, and lifejackets can be rented by the hour, day, or week. Although we missed out in the morning, we lucked out with an evening of sunshine, which we spent at Manitou Beach enjoying a picnic dinner from Real Things Pizza.

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Holidaying in sleepy, sunny Naramata feels like stepping back in time, reminiscent of my family’s annual summer vacation in the Okanagan. It’s the perfect place to slow down, unplug, and connect with your kids. However, if you’re craving a slightly livelier setting, Penticton, one of only two cities in the world to sit between two adjacent lakes, is a 20-minute drive away. Saturday morning, the downtown core transforms into a bustling pedestrian-only Farmers Market with food trucks, buskers, and an array of stalls where artisans, makers, and bakers peddle their wares. The weekly dog-friendly event is always a win with Brooklyn, who loves perusing the tents for unique crafts, toys and treats. We always stop at The Book Shop, a cherished family-run store celebrating its 50th year in business. June is the best time to visit, as the shelves are piled high with children’s stories and comics. We nabbed three treasured Calvin and Hobbes, a Beano and Rupert the Bear comics on our recent visit. However, our previous trip last September was not as fruitful, thanks to summertime visitors buying beach reads.

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Just Baked Naramata Street Coffee is a favourite among locals and visitors. Photo, Mhairri Woodhall cal

LocoLanding Adventure Park is a Penticton institution boasting hours of amusement for kids. Brooklyn’s favourite attractions are the mini golf, bumper boats and Badlands inflatable bounce park. My nieces and nephews are partial to the adrenalin-inducing go-carts, monkey motion bungee and high-level ropes course. A family tradition we all agree on is a post-play frozen treat from the Cherry on Top Shake Shack. Crazy soft-serve creations from the Insta-worthy pink shop, featuring over 30,000 ruby-red cherries, are over-the-top, decadent and picture-perfect. To work off the sugar rush, families can book a two-, four-, or six-person bike cart from Penticton Bike Rentals, located a few doors down, then cool off with a swim in the lake at Okanagan Beach across the street.

Cherry’s on Top Shake Shack is a delicious find in Penticton. Photo, Mhairri Woodhall cal

Penticton’s dining scene is eclectic, comprising innovative restaurants specializing in fusion fare and local-driven cuisine and longtime staples like the Barley Mill Brew Pub, which opened its doors in 1982. Brooklyn recently tasted her first-ever root beer float in the pub’s upstairs family-friendly bistro, which offers a great kid’s menu and activity sheet. We then played four ridiculously slow foosball matches, involving fits of laughter about how terrible we were. Kin and Folk, a comparatively new kid on the block, draws inspiration from chef / co-owner Zachary Chan’s heritage, fusing Asian flavours with contemporary technique and fresh local ingredients. Innovative dishes, like pea mochi and ginger scallion crab, are designed to satisfy a more sophisticated palate. However, a secret kid’s menu ensures all members of your party leave satiated. Wayne & Freda’s sustainable coffee, toasts, bowls, and smoothies are exceptional for breakfast and best enjoyed on the sun-drenched patio.

We completed our getaway with a night at the newly branded and reimagined Balcomo, which, in my opinion, is Penticton’s best hotel for families. In addition to a beautiful outdoor pool and hot tub, courtyard with barbeques and children’s playground, the hotel features luxurious and spacious one-bedroom kitchen suites, accommodating up to six guests.

If you go

Visit DiscoverNaramata.com for GPS-guided audio tours that reveal unique sights for all interests and abilities. The tours include driving, cycling, and walking routes from Naramata and Penticton.

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