** July 2020 – I am amazed that after 10 years, this continues to be the most popular post on this site. Winery wine shops are now more restrictive because of Covid-19 protocols and because of that, many wine shops are less kid-friendly than they were before, if indeed they really were at all. Please call ahead to any winery that you intend to visit and book ahead if that is required. This summer in particular, most wineries do not have extra staff on hand to deal with children. If your parenting style is low-supervision and your kids cannot stay close to you during the experience, perhaps the beach is a better place for them instead. I know of some wineries that have actively started restricting children from their properties (not just wine shop) – something that I completely disagree with. But I also understand that everyone’s kids have different types of behaviour and unfortunately, the few often ruin it for the many. Calling ahead is still the best way to find out.
** Please note that all of these experiences were pre-Covid so wineries’ experiences may have changed significantly since. **
Got kids? Got a life? Usually it’s hard to answer both of those questions with a yes. If you are a wine enthusiast and love to tour wineries, you don’t have to give up the wine-tourist life completely. There are wineries out there that are kid-friendly and have things for them to do while you sniff-n-sip.
Children are not really on their business radar for obvious legal reasons and many wine shops have lots of breakable bottles, decanters and stemware that are all within reach of wee-ones. Most wine shops offer sparkling juice from Okanagan Applessence sparkling juices for the kids to drink. After a couple of stops with these sweet drinks, they’ll be more than a bit keyed up on sugar so make there is enough food around as well. Kids will get tired of beautiful scenery pretty quickly.
Some wineries out there are just plainly unsafe for children. Wineries are industrial areas and have many potential hazards that are Work Safe compliant for big people, but not little ones. There are lots of high places and hard concrete surfaces everywhere that make even running around a bit of a hazard sometimes. Even winery parking lots are more dangerous simply because most of the people driving in them aren’t looking out for small children. There can also be all manner of farm machinery, forklifts, and ATV’s
If you can’t leave the kids with the grandparents for a while, there are some wineries that are more kid-friendly than others. Here is a short list of a few wineries I’ve noticed recently that have extra little attractions for little people;
Covert Farms lots of space for kids to run around. They host all kinds of special events for kids throughout the season (including the epic Freakin’ Farmer) and have farm tours and tons of ways to get your kids dirty.
Tinhorn Creek has a self-guided tour where kids can see down into the cellars and tank rooms. There is a demonstration vineyard out in front of the wine shop and an amphitheatre for them to roll down until they can’t stand up. There are also hiking trails that lead up the mountain from the parking lot to help burn off some of the Applessence sugar.
Road 13’s wine shop is located in a building shaped like a castle. While not really meant to be interesting to children, my son loved to run around on the terraces in the front where he would slay the dragons and rescue the princess.
vinAmité Cellars is easily accessible and has a kids’ table and colouring area as well as a few comfy chairs for new moms and dads to rest.
Adega on 45th has a beautiful view and a lovely patio that is perfect and safe for family picnics. They have an annual Customer Appreciation Day every Father’s Day with live music and treats. It can be very hot and sunny so bring hats and sunscreen. The patio is not fenced in so for the wee ones that have just learned to walk will need to be kept close although falling into a cactus at any age is never a good thing.
8th Generation has a picnic area (shaded in the summer) with a train set made out of old barrels. My kids had a blast on it when we were there one Easter weekend.
Burrowing Owl Vineyards in Oliver has a self-guided tour and a beautiful view from the top of their building. Lots to see and there’s a even a harvest bell that they can ring at the very top. There are a lot of stairs though so I wouldn’t recommend this for very small children or toddlers.
Township 7 Winery in Langley has lots of room for kids to run around. There were also some demonstration vines next to the parking lot where the kids can taste some of the grapes in the right part of the season.
Van Westen Vineyards has a large, gentle dog that spends its day being fawned over by everyone who visits the winery. They also give street chalk to the kids so that they can write all over the walls and driveway.
Mocojo Winery is a small garagiste-type winery with a stunning lake view and a beautiful winery dog that kids love. There is not a lot of room here and a narrow parking lot that kids should not be running around in, so please keep them close.
Sperling Vineyards has a place to play as well as a market with all kinds of treats for young and old. It is also not far from the historic Pandosy Mission site where kids can run and learn about the history of the Okanagan.
Volcanic Hills – Huge wine shop, great wines, and last time I was there they had a small kids’ colouring area. Plus comfy sofas for new mom’s and dad’s to relax with a sleeping baby.
Mission Hill is clearly huge and the best parts are not really interesting for kids at all. But there is a huge grassy amphitheatre (see Tinhorn Creek above) and awe-inspiring views. Plus, the place just feels other-worldly somehow and the architecture alone is beautiful to look at. Exposing children to artistry on that level is always inspiring and this is far and away the place in BC to do it.
Beaumont Family Estate – Small boutique winery right on Mount Boucherie Road. They have toys. Lots and lots of toys.
Orofino Winery in Cawston has a little space to run and they’ve been known to host ball hockey tournaments on their crush pad so check their website for things like that.
Rustic Roots in Cawston has treats that make a hot day in the Similkameen Valley more enjoyable. There is no play area nor much place to run around. But they do have ice cream, cold drinks, and the freshest fruit all available right there.
Forbidden Fruit in the southern end of the Similkameen Valley is the ultimate place to enjoy a family picnic and taste from great wines. It’s quiet and with a great view of the river – perfect for spotting eagles.
Other attractions that you shouldn’t miss:
Tickleberry’s in Okanagan Falls – Quite simply, do not miss this place. More ice cream than a family of 12 could possible even try in a day, fudge, popcorn, gifts, and fun stuff all in one place. Adults also meet there even if their kids aren’t with them. (Uh, so I’ve heard.) No trip to the Okanagan is complete without a trip to Tickleberry’s.
Locolanding in Penticton – Adventure playground extraordinaire. Epic mini-putt, bumper boats, go-carts, and lots of things to jump on / off / or in to.
Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad – Clearly a hobby gone horribly out of hand, this massive indoor model railway will have the kids and adults bug-eyed. It is absolutely worth it and it gets you out of the sun for a little while. Shaded picnic spot on the north side of the building.
Rattlesnake Canyon in Osoyoos – Rides that spin, games, an arcade, gas-powered go-karts, and a wicked mini-putt. It’s an adventure park in the heart of the southern Okanagan’s vacationland.
Playgrounds and Beachs – Okanagan Lake in Penticton has an inflatable play island but the beach is often quite crowded. The Skaha Lake Beach in Penticton is crowded but there is more space to run around and there is also a great playground. Okanagan Falls has a great beach with a playground (and bathrooms) that is great for families and usually less busy than Penticton and has a lot more shade. Water parks are also quite frequent in many Okanagan towns.
Have lots of water available. It’s hot and dry here in the summer (much more than other places in Canada) and kids being kids will need the liquids. Bottles can be refilled at most wineries if you ask. Hats are a must as well.
While you can’t really let your kids taste the wines, you can let them smell it. Legally, it is your choice as parents to let your kids taste anything but since wineries can get their license yanked, they are pretty apprehensive about any parent letting their kids taste wines in their wine shops. Governments haven’t figured out a way to license smelling yet so there’s your loophole! Developmentally for kids, focusing on the sense of smell is always fun and kids love using all of their sense to discover new things. My kids loved smelling the wines and I would ask them what they smelled. Sometimes it was strawberries (good), sometimes it was dinosaurs (not good), but every time it was fun and it involved them a little in the experience.
You won’t be able to hit as many wineries as you used to BK (before kids). With kids, you’ll be lucky if you can get to 3 wineries in a day. I know that with my kids in tow, the eyes glaze over with every new winery because to them it’s all the same. Every vineyard is just like every other vineyard to them. As they’ve gotten older, they’ve become used to the idea that Daddy visits a lot of vineyards and wineries for work and they’ve found ways to cope or make an adventure out of it. I’ve found that breaking up the trip with non-wine destinations and activities can make all the difference.
Have fun on your family wine country adventure!