Photo: Great Wolf Resorts
As one of the most miserable winters in recent memory drags on (and on, and on) everyone is dying to get away. But with the loonie dropping and all those airport hassles, staying close to home has never looked so good.
Painted Boat Resort Spa & Marina offers families cozy comfort inside spacious, multi-bedroom villas decked out with fully equipped kitchens. Explore Pender Harbour on the resort’s single-person and tandem kayaks or comb the coastline, sussing out the aquatic life along Roberts Creek and Davis Bay. For more beach combing, plus bistro and boutique action, dip into Gibsons Landing a short drive away.
Canada’s city of gardens blooms beyond Butchart. Plunge into the children’s workshops at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea in Sidney, just north of the city. For a treat, bed down at the Fairmont Empress or the Delta Hotels by Marriott Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort. Both anchor the inner harbour and are awash with family activities and amenities.
What’s great about this resort is that families can choose to be ridiculously active, or kick back in front of a roaring fire, whipped cream-topped hot chocolate in hand. The car-free pedestrian centre emits a classic mountain village vibe and is ideal for letting little ones loose. Powder hounds will still find plenty of hidden stashes, while non-skiers can barrel down the mountain in the Coca-Cola Tube Park or glide across ice rinks decked out with twinkling lights. Families with young children will be impressed by Whistler Kids‘ renowned on-and off-hill kid’s programming.
Delta Hotels Kananskis Lodge
If you’re looking to indulge in lazy days punctuated with bursts of activity, take this as your cue to head to the Kananaskis. Weekends are jam-packed with activities that range from nature walks to crafts to human curling! Best of all, if you reserve babysitting when you book your room, parents can swan about the spa while staff take the tots to the Children’s Creative Centre.
The dinosaur capital of the world is an ideal outpost for T. Rex-obsessed tykes. Keen to snore with the dinosaurs? The Royal Tyrrell Museum offers Camp-Ins every March weekend, letting diehard dino fans frolic with fossils all night long. Be sure to also budget time to climb the World’s Largest Dinosaur and scramble through the otherworldly hoodoos.
It’s not hard to fall in love with winter all over again when you’re surrounded by stunning snow-capped peaks in this sweet mountain town. Just a few minutes outside of town lies Pyramid Lake Resort, where families can quickly limp back to the chalet-style lodge after an invigorating session skating or snowshoeing around the tranquil lake. Hit the slopes at Marmot Basin, track deer, elk and big horn sheep on a wildlife safari, or discover a frozen wonderland on the Maligne Canyon Winter Ice Walk.
Elk Ridge Resort
The abundance of outdoor activities at this year-round resort make Elk Ridge Resort well worth the over two-hour drive from Saskatoon. Explore the many groomed trails via foot, snowmobile, snowshoe or skis (make a pit stop at one of the heated warm-up stations along the way), go tobogganing, play shinny on the onsite rink, and more. If you prefer the great indoors, splash around the indoor pool with waterside, take a soak in the hot tub, or treat yourself to a full-service spa experience.
Delta Hotels Regina
Hello, room service! Take advantage of the many deals for families at the Delta Hotels Regina. Kids six and under eat free from the children’s menu, while older kids up to age 12 eat for half-price from the regular menu. The kids will have a blast sliding down the three-storey waterslide (yes, three storeys!) or splashing around the kiddie pool in the hotel’s indoor waterworks recreation complex. The best part? Kids stay for free when staying with a parent, making this weekend getaway extra affordable.
Elkhorn Resort & Spa
Located on the edge of Riding Mountain National Park, this rustic lodge is all about reconnecting with your family. Affordable spring break specials include dining coupons and complimentary half-day rentals of skis, skates or snowshoes.
Lakeview Hecla Resort
It’s not every day you find a swish, contemporary resort in the middle of the boreal forest, but this property is nothing but surprising. Partake in a myriad of outdoor snow sports, including tobogganing and ice fishing, or plunge into the indoor water park, which features a kiddie pool, fountains and waterslide, in addition to a lap pool and hot tub. Need a break? For an unobtrusive history lesson, take a romp through Hecla Village, a kilometre-long self-guided trail that showcases the area’s Icelandic heritage.
Falcon Trails Resort
This winter adventure destination lures families looking to escape and unwind. Less than two hours east of Winnipeg, in Whiteshell Provincial Park, these lakefront, multi-room cabins are perfect for family getaways with their full-service kitchens and outdoor hot tubs that sit on each deck. Snowshoe, cross-country ski or suss out at Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes.
Great Wolf Lodge
Families flock to Great Wolf in Niagara Falls for so many reasons. Besides a substantial indoor water park, this beloved resort has added a kid-friendly bowling alley. At Ten Paw Alley, the lanes are cut in half and the balls are super light, allowing tots to take a stab at striking.
This lakeside retreat located in the heart of Muskoka makes it really tough to choose between outdoor and indoor activities. Hit the trails on snowshoes or cross-country skis (equipment is included in your resort fee), rent a fat bike (new this year, their thick tires are made for snow cycling), let the kids try zooming around on a mini snowmobile, or skate the frozen pond. Or watch other people do all of that from your cozy seat in Eclipse, the resort’s restaurant with a stunning view over the grounds. A 20-minute sleigh ride—complete with jingle bells and hay bales—is another good way to take in the vast property. Head down the road (a one-minute drive) to the Stables for that, as well as pony rides for kids—which offer more than just thrills, but a little lesson in tacking up and caring for a horse—and a petting zoo starring some very vocal donkeys. Kids in need of some liquid energy? You’ll find the resort’s own Sugar Shack across the road—maple syrup typically starts flowing mid-March. Back inside, there’s tons to keep you busy: A rock climbing wall, Stargazers arcade, family cooking demos with Deerhurst’s chefs, and the sprawling Playzone. Available during holidays and March break, Playzone is essentially a ballroom stuffed with three huge inflatables, life-size chess and checkers, badminton and ping pong, and a massive screen showing kids’ movies (provided you can get them to sit still), all free. There’s also a brand new indoor treehouse in the works, set to open May 2017. For a soak, head for the hot tub while the kids frolic in the pool (there are a bunch of life jackets up for grabs), or escape to the adults-only steam room and whirlpool in the onsite Amba Spa—go on, get a massage for your sore snowshoeing muscles while you’re at it.
There’s more than one way to soar down the mountains with your brood! Skis are obviously an excellent option—the snow school is a great introduction for newbies of any age and you won’t believe how quickly kids get the hang of it. Plus they’ll love the “magic carpet”—the conveyor belt that takes kids gently up the hill, which is almost as much fun as skiing back down! Don’t be alarmed by all the shouts of “Pizza! Pizza!” on the bunny hills; It’s just the cute way instructors remind kids to keep their skis in triangle formation (and their speed in check). For a little less work—and a huge rush!—try winter tubing down the chutes at Horseshoe Adventure Park. Helmets aren’t mandatory here, but if you prefer your kid to wear one, you’ll need to grab it ahead of time at Guest Services, located at the bottom of the ski hill. Right beside the tubing station: Mini snowmobiles. You won’t believe how adorable your kid looks all suited up in the pads and helmet. Don’t freak out: The track is totally enclosed and padded with hay bales, and the motorized sleds don’t actually go that fast (but good luck getting your speed demon to put on the breaks). If you prefer a slower pace on flat terrain, pop across the road to rent a new flat bike, or set out on a cross country ski—the trails are super peaceful and dotted with beautiful hillside homes and lots of animal tracks (is it a chipmunk or a woodpecker?). After dinner in the Steakhouse, head out for a moonlight snowshoe and finish the night off with hot chocolate and S’mores around the campfire. Attention parents: Rehab your muscles and clear your mind at the sweet-smelling onsite Shizen Spa.
Size isn’t the most important factor when it comes to great family ski resorts. What Tremblant might lack in altitude, it makes up in other ways. Resort guests enjoy free access to the tube park and crazy afternoon outdoor games. Wee ones get a rosy glow hoofing it through the forest on kid-sized snowshoes, while their older siblings soar through the treetops on suspended bridges and zip lines.
Quebec’s invigorating Outaouais region beckons Ottawa-area residents with their ski and snow packages, or you can go all-inclusive at Le Centre touristique La Petite Rouge. Kids will get a kick out of feeding deer and other wild animals directly from the car at Parc Omega, and if you’re looking for indoor adventure, Tubes & Jujubes, the largest family amusement centre in the region, offers full-day camps.
This charming country resort woos nature-loving families who don’t mind a bit of pampering. Located in St. Paulin, a mere 90 minutes away from Montreal, there are plenty of temptations for all age groups. Get your bearings gliding down the five-kilometre-long skating track or mushing through the countryside by dogsled. With a sugar shack, top-notch dining options and robust spa, it’s a good bet this is one vacation you’ll return from well rested.