Cowboy culture to First Nations sites, ranching, and museums attract families to Canada's Kamloops and the nearby Sun Peaks mountain resort.
Travelers touring the Rockies are familiar with Kamloops – often spending an overnight in this, the third largest city in British Columbia. However, this city, situated in the province’s interior region, is well worth a much longer stay. Kamloops offers its visitors a whole host of family activities all year round, not to mention breathtaking natural beauty including 1,000 lakes where vacationing families can count that the fish will be biting!
A Crossroads for Sports & Festivals
Kamloops is a four-hour drive from Vancouver and just seven hours from Calgary, Alberta, and is known as the Tournament Capital of Canada. Because of its easy access, four major highways (the Trans Canada, Yellowhead, Coquihalla and Highway 97) come from every direction and they will lead you, and the many competing sports’ teams, to the city. Catering to the international market, the city also offers full service air and rail connections, which come in especially handy when the city puts on a festival, as these events attract people from all parts of the globe.
Festivals include the Kamloops Festival of the Performing Arts that runs for about three weeks commencing the third week in February, the Kamloops Film Festival both running simultaneously at the beginning of March.
The most popular may be the Kamloops Cowboy Festival, running a week later. This festival showcases cowboy art, country music and cowboy poets from as far away as the state of Texas and Nashville, Tennessee. Over the course of a long weekend, you can expect to hear Western singers, songwriters and guitar pickers, and will be able to attend a cowboy trade show, free workshops and a Western Art show.
Families can be kept extremely busy during their stay with outdoor activities, like fly-fishing trips with Gordon Honey’s Flyfishing Guide Service.
Kamloops Heritage Railway boasts of a journey reminiscent of the golden age of steam-powered railway travel. Engine No. 2141 was built in 1912 by the Canadian Locomotive Company in Kingston, Ontario for the Canadian Northern Railway. Since its rebirth in September of 2001, adventures have been had enroute between Kamloops and Armstrong. Passengers experience a 115-mile round trip among stunning scenery and enjoy the thrill of climbing steep grades, traveling through a 493-foot tunnel, and traversing a horse-shoe curve. There are also very scary “Ghost Train” tours and the “Spirit of Kamloops” offers a ride back in time. Some adventures include a stage coach ride thrown in with some real old west surprises – yahoo!
The Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park is just east of the Kamloops Pow-Wow Grounds on the Kamloops Indian Reserve, and it houses both indoor and outdoor exhibits including a botanical garden. Inside exhibits allow visitors to learn the rich yet torrid history of the First Nations Secwepemc or Shuswap peoples.
Not to be missed is the British Columbia Wildlife Park, where 65 species including grizzly bears, cougars, goats and a kissing moose hang out. The newly enlarged and renovated interactive Discovery Centre includes an Eco-Inquiry Gallery with interactive displays where the entire family can learn about BC’s wildlife.
Also found in the area are many golf courses. Additionally, there are a number of cattle ranches and some, such as the Douglas Lake Ranch, just 40 minutes from Kamloops, welcomes visitors. In Kamloops, you can visit The Horse Barn, a two-story structure selling everything from cowboy souvenirs and artwork to western gear.
Out of the ordinary is the Sunmore Ginseng Spa. This ultra-luxurious spa with a state-of-the-art facility rivals any premiere spa worldwide, and not only offers a wide variety of services, but you can top off your day of pampering with an ancient Chinese tea ceremony. It’s a perfect treat for mom, while dad is fly-fishing with the kids.
Where to Stay
Accommodations in Kamloops run the gamut from chain motels like the Hampton Inn, to the historic Plaza Heritage Hotel in the city’s downtown core, or the beautiful South Thompson Inn & Conference Centre, minutes away from the BC Wildlife Centre. This upscale resort sits in the middle of a ranch on the banks of the South Thompson River.
Just an hour from Kamloops is Sun Peaks Resort. Next to Whistler, it is British Columbia’s biggest ski resort, coming into its own in 1993 at the base of what was known until this time as Tod Mountain. In fact, 1968 Olympic gold and silver medallist Nancy Greene Raine, Canada’s “Sweetheart of the Slopes” and her husband, Al Raine, left Whistler to open Nancy Greene’s Cahilty Lodge, a condo/hotel.
There are three mountains at Sun Peaks Resort. The terrain is varied over the area’s 4,000 acres, offering powder-filled alpine bowls, groomed cruisers, and lushly wooded glade skiing. In the winter, families can partake in a number of activities such as skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, the Cat Trax Grooming Tour and snowmobiling. In the summer, mountain biking and hiking are but a few of the many things to keep your family occupied.
For more information and other lodging options in this four season resort area, visit Tourism Kamloops.
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