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Where to Stay and Play in Cowichan with Kids

Dreaming about a quick family getaway this winter, but don’t want to worry about passports, flying or maxing out your credit?

Between Victoria and Nanaimo on the east coast of Vancouver Island, the Cowichan enjoys Canada’s warmest mean temperature, making it the perfect destination for a romantic getaway or family vacation throughout the calendar year.

What draws most people to ‘the Island’, myself included, isn’t just the water and scenic inland mountains, it’s that relaxed coastal lifestyle that forces you to slow down and savour life.

From bird or whale watching, hiking, exploring local farmers markets and unique culinary experiences to a thriving arts and cultural scene, there is so much fun to be had for families.

Here’s where we stayed and played in Cowichan with kids on a recent three-day getaway.

DAY 1

Cowichan is located at the southern end of Vancouver Island – To get there from the Fraser Valley, we flew via Helijet {Read about it here} back when it was just Jason and myself, but for this getaway with Molly, 9, and Zoe, 7, we took the BC Ferries from Tsawwassen to Schwartz Bay. The sail took just over an hour, giving us enough time to play a game of cards and partake in hearty bowl of White Spot Clam Chowder.

“Mom, what is that? Is that a whale???” asked our observant little red head, pointing out to the open water.

Seconds later we spotted a fin and then came the spray, confirming she was indeed correct.

Once the ferry docked, it was time to head for the open road.

The sky was clear, both girls had both fallen asleep in the backseat and Bing Crosby was softly crooning a Christmas carol on the radio. Our winter family getaway was just getting started, but I was already so relaxed.

Microtel by Wyndham

Microtel By Wyndham

As a travel blogger, I’ll admit we’ve been spoiled with opportunities to stay at some pretty incredible hotels over the years. When I discovered that Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Ladysmith Oyster Bay was on our travel itinerary, I may have hyper-focused on the M-word.

“I wonder just how ‘micro’ is our room gonna be?” I asked Jason as we unbuckled our two rambunctious girls from their car seats.

One look at our candy-fuelled kids (thanks daddy) and we both knew that any hotel would feel pretty small bunking with the two of them.

“Wow, look at that water slide! That’s so cool,” said Molly, running ahead with her little Hello Kitty suitcase in tow.

“You guys, wait for us!!!”

Stepping inside the bright, airy and ultra modern lobby, I’ll admit I was pretty impressed.

Cowichan with kids

A clerk at the front desk let us know all about the game room and indoor pool with waterslide, as well as their fully equipped fitness centre, free breakfast and WiFi.

“Can we please go to the pool NOW? Please mom?” begged both girls in unison.

“Yes, but let’s go check out our room first.”

Microtel by Wyndham

It turned out I was worried for nothing. Our suite had everything we could possibly need and more to enjoy our two-night stay, including a flat-screen HDTV with cable, microwave, mini-refrigerator, coffee maker, desk and full bathroom with a bathtub. For around $110 CAD/night, this hotel is an incredible value for families — especially those not wanting to eat out for all their meals, which can add up, fast.

Jason and the girls burned off all their energy at the pool, while I hit the gym. We all needed to work up an appetite for dinner, but first, we’d have a little fun at a local gem that wouldn’t have typically been on our radar.

PLAY…& SIP

Riot beer

Riot Beer

Located in the seaside town of Chemainus, famous for its murals and skate park, Riot Beer is a kid-friendly award-winning brewery with a hip Commercial Drive kinda vibe. Inside, you’re likely to spot a few regulars on the bar stools sampling their signature craft brew, perhaps some live music–maybe even a family enjoying an old school board game like Operation or Jenga, ours included.

“This is so nice,” said Jason, who had ordered a sample flight and was keeping watch of our girls from afar.  They were  both fully immersed in an old-school arcade game of ping ball, which gave us some time to actually talk.

A massive calendar on the wall was crammed with upcoming events in their lounge, such as Open Mic, Kitchen Party, Karaoke and Comedy Shows — just to name a few.

Considering the fact that I’m sober and that we had kids with us, I still had a lot of fun chilling out at this edgy hot spot.

DAY 2

Cowichan

Shop till You Drop

After the complimentary hot breakfast buffet at the hotel, we headed for Chemainus –a charming little seaside town in Cowichan with a thriving arts community that’s snuggled in between a mountain range and the ocean.

We all enjoyed checking out all the eclectic shops — many of which hold unique handmade treasures, housed by unique architecture.

Of course we had to visit the town’s famous Christmas store called ‘Christmas in Chemainus (it’s open year-round), pick up some sugar-laden treats from Hansel & Gretel’s Candy Co., and take in all the gorgeous 40-plus murals scattered around the town that depict its culture and vibrant history.

Chemainus Theatre Festival

The combination of fresh island air, all the walk walking and excitement had made us all famished.

That afternoon we had a reservation for a quintessential Chemainus dining and entertainment experience –a buffet lunch at the newly renovated Playbill Dining Room, followed by a show in the Chemainus Theatre.

On this particular day, we had tickets to Louisa May Alcott’s beloved holiday story– ‘Little Women.’

It wasn’t until I was 13 that I had the opportunity to experience  a musical. While I don’t recall much of the show, I do know that was the start of a lifelong love affair with live theatre, which is something I’ve always wanted to pass on to my own children.

Fortunately, they’re avid theatre fans like their momma, and were dazzled, entertained and inspired by this production.

Please note that children age three and under, including babes-in-arms, will not be admitted to performances (except KidzPlay Series).

Click HERE to see the roster of upcoming shows for 2019.

BC Forest Discovery Centre

To finish off a fabulous day of festive family fun, we boarded the Christmas Express — a 1910 steam locomotive that travels through the thousands of twinkling lights adorning the 100-acre enchanted woods of the BC Forest Discovery Centre.

Thousands of visitors over the years have made a Christmas tradition of attending this truly unique and entertaining event.

Our girls really enjoyed visiting with Santa on site, riding the train alongside Ebenezer Scrooge and snuggling up to us with steamy cups of hot chocolate in hand while we ‘oohed and ahhhed’ at all the dazzling colours.

DAY 3

After breakfast, we headed over to The Raptors in Duncan, where we had a unique opportunity to meet eagles, hawks, owls, falcons and vultures (among other birds) and watch them fly above and around us, free of all constraints.

Founded by Gillian Radcliffe in 2002, the team at The Raptors is comprised of a small group of caring biologists and falconers on Vancouver Island, who bring people closer to birds of prey. Their goal is to educate, illuminate and encourage a sense of personal responsibility for the future of these essential creatures we share the planet with.

We all enjoyed the unique opportunity to see up close how amazing these birds are and learn about the critical roles they play in the ecosystems we all share. Note: Flying demonstrations are offered daily from March through December.

Merridale Ciderworks

You absolutely cannot properly visit the Cowichan Valley without a stop at Merridale Ciderworks — especially during the holiday season.

It is the perfect spot to relax, and learn how to pair cider with meals inspired and created from locally sourced ingredients and taste premium small batch wines from local vinters.

We just happened to visit during their one-of-a-kind Christmas experience. From the moment we arrived at Merridale, we were transported into a Christmas wonderland.

cowichan

“Wow, this is so pretty!” said Molly as we took a stroll through the courtyard, which was illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights and displays.

Afterwards we sat down for a farm-to-fork pizza dinner served family style at beautifully set rustic long table.

visit www.merridale.ca for more information.

cowichan

After all that pizza, hot apple cider and fresh air we were ready to get in our PJS, get cozy in our hotel beds, and talk about all the fun adventures we had experienced over the course of our three-day getaway.

Are you planning a quick trip to Cowichan over the Christmas break or perhaps are enticed to plan ahead for Spring Break? Visit www.tourismcowichan.com for even more tips on where to eat, stay and play in Cowichan.

Also, stay tuned for our next post highlighting all the incredible culinary experiences our clan had during our visit.

Disclaimer: While all experiences and our hotel stay was complimentary, all opinions expressed in this post are my own. ValleyMom reserves the right to refuse the posting of a an experience that is unsatisfactory.

One of Vancouver’s top Mom Bloggers, Kristyl Clark is a work-at-home mom of two little Valley girls proving there is nothing bland about the burbs. Her adventurous family seems to always be out on some sort of crazy quest, from helicopter rides and wild river rafting, to top-secret paranormal investigations and living the high-life sampling the fine wines and foods of the Fraser Valley region. The ValleyMom.ca blog inspires her loyal fanbase through the trials and tribulations of suburban family living, guiding readers to local hotspots and hidden gems in her Canadian backyard

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