Friday, August 26, 2016

Getting "Wild" on our Summer Vacation in Kelowna

We travel to the Okanagan in British Columbia every summer to spend a week mountain biking swimming, and seeking out crazy adventures. We base our fun around the Cities of Kelowna and Penticton, and we look for something new to do every year. Last year we hugged kangaroos at a farm near Kelowna and jumped off a bridge in Okanagan Falls. The year before that we rode our bikes over 18 trestle bridges and through 2 train tunnels on the Kettle Valley Railway Trail in Kelowna. This year, we decided to try one of the adventure parks near Kelowna because our son absolutely loves ziplines when we go to Mexico in the winter, and we'd never tried an aerial adventure course before. The result was one of the best days we've had in the Okanagan over the past 7 years exploring the area as a family!

Getting "Wild" in Kelowna

WildPlay Element Parks - Kelowna 

There are 6 WildPlay Element Parks across Canada and hopefully we'll visit them all some day. For now, we started with the Kelowna WildPlay Park since we planned to be in the Okanagan area for a week in August. 

WildPlay Parks have five main elements: Ziplines, Aerial Adventure Courses, the "What's to Fear" Jump, the Primal Swing, and Bungy Jumping. Kelowna doesn't have a bungy jump but they have the other four elements including a special aerial course for children.

The Kelowna WildPlay Park is located 25 minutes outside of Kelowna off of Hwy 33. It is conveniently located near several wineries (a lovely way to finish off your WildPlay Tour) and is 12 minutes away from the Kelowna Mountain Bike Park (which we discovered by total random coincidence on our drive back to Kelowna.) Read to the end of this story to see how we made the most of our day in Kelowna.

Climbing a ladder on the Monkido Classic Aerial Course

Family Bonding at WildPlay Kelowna

Spending the day at the Kelowna WildPlay Element Park gave us the opportunity to reconnect as a family in an adventurous way as we pushed through comfort zones, tried new activities together, and joked about who was the bravest. It was an amazing day of family bonding and I loved how we were all fully engaged in activities together! Taking turns on the "What's to Fear Jump" off of a 40 foot platform was a far cry from sitting on the beach, children playing in the water, parents reading or occupied with their cell phones.
Hanging out in the trees at WildPlay Kelowna

We try to be fully engaged as a family in everything we do on our summer vacation so when we go to the beach, we all swim out to the dock to jump off, we take turns on the diving board at the outdoor pool, and we all go biking together. Ziplining together was therefore perfect for our family who likes to play together!

Our WildPlay day started on the Aerial Adventure Course where our son did the Monkido Kids Course. Meanwhile, my husband and I got to do the Monkido Classic Course where we  completed the easy, intermediate, and advanced challenges. Sadly, we ran out of time before getting to the Monkido Extreme Course but that just means we have to go back another time! 

After our aerial adventure, we all did the DragonFLY Ziplines together as a family. Our son got to ride tandem with one of the guides on the longer lines which was appreciated so that we could all do this activity together rather than waiting until our son was heavy enough to ride solo.

We finished off our day on the "What's to Fear" Jump and again, it was awesome that we all got to take the jump. Our son was too young for the Primal Swing (and I was too scared) but we all got to participate in three different adventures and easily spent four hours at the park.

Riding across the DragonFLY Zipline Course

Wild Play For the Adults Too 

I remember family vacations as a child and it looked a lot like this: my brother and I at the waterslides, at the beach, swimming at a pool, or at an amusement park - always with my mother sitting on the sidelines watching. And while I suspect this is pretty normal (my husband assures me that his parents didn't participate in this sort of stuff either on family vacations,) I don't want this to be our family style.

I want to play together as a family. I want to swim together, go on waterslides together, ride rollercoasters together, and be an active participant in the fun stuff! I refuse to sit on the sidelines while my child is jumping off of a 40 foot platform at an adventure park. I want to jump too!! And there's no way you are going on a zipline course while I sit on the sidelines taking photos! Not this mom! You jump, I jump first! 

Nobody on the sidelines in this family

Fortunately for adventure moms and dads like us, adults get to play too at WildPlay Parks. In fact, it's highly encouraged!! Our day started off on the Monkido Classic Aerial Adventure Course and it felt like my husband and I were on an adventure date. Our son was occupied on his own adventure course accompanied by guides watching out for him, and this allowed my husband and I to go off and play on our own. I don't know about you, but it's a rare opportunity for us to get some quality "date time" in the midst of a family vacation!! I'd return to WildPlay for this aspect alone.

I've done a lot of zipline tours from Mexico down to Costa Rica, so for me, this part of our adventure was about my son and what he would find enjoying. The aerial adventure course though was absolutely amazing and it will most definitely be my number one highlight of 2016. 

So much fun!!

What I loved most about the aerial course is that I was fully challenged, engaged, and "in the zone" concentrating on every move I made.  I was responsible for all of my clipping and un-clipping on the lines, got to take care of my own zipline crossings (which involved hooking yourself up to the line and crossing without a guide to help you on either end,) and was fully independent up on the aerial course. Guides watch from below but you are ultimately responsible for every move you make on the course. Compared to this, the zipline course was anti-climatic with guides doing everything for me. 

It's safe to say that I have a new obsession and love for aerial courses!! We will be adding a new aerial course to our annual summer bucket list going forward and I can't wait to try more courses each year. With our without kids, this is an adventure I'd happily participate in with a group of girlfriends or on a date day with my husband.

Hopefully the video below adequately portrays the challenge I found on this particular element. Next time, I will conquer it!

Wild Play for Kids

The Aerial Adventure Course is broken down by Kids, Classic, and Extreme. Our son did the Monkido Kids Course which included kid-friendly ziplines (the children sat on big orange balls to go across the lines,) and had height appropriate, 3 metre high, elements that were very similar to what we did on the adult course.  The kids get to do the course three times and are always supervised by a guide on the ground as they move independently through the course, building self confidence and courage. The minimum age is 5 with a minimum reach requirement of  4’ 7” (140cm), with feet flat on the ground.

What I loved most about the Monkido Kids Course was that the kids were supervised on this course while adults get to complete the Classic Course. The other thing that impressed me was that the height was suitable for the average 5 - 8 year old. We tried another aerial course in Penticton after and the course was way too high for young children. My son froze on the top level (which was at least 6 metres above the ground) and it took both of us to rescue him and guide him safely back down to the ground.

The Monkido Kids Course (perfect for the 5-8 year old crowd!)

After completing the aerial adventure course we moved on to the DragonFLY Ziplines and it was a very safe and family-friendly activity. The minimum age for this is 7 but our son still had to ride tandem with the guides on the longer lines so that he'd be heavy enough to make it all the way to the end. We rode 7 lines and it was a great introductory zipline adventure for kids who may not have tried a zipline adventure before. After riding the ziplines in Kelowna, your family will be ready to try bigger courses when you travel further away to Mexico or Central America.

We finished off our day on the "What's to Fear" jump where kids have to be 7 years old (minimum weight requirement of 44 pounds) to make the jump. This was probably the scariest part of the day for kids but our son wasn't fazed in the slightest. He easily took the step off the 40 foot ledge and didn't even scream. (unlike his mother!)

Climbing up to the WTF Jump Platform

Planning Your Visit to WildPlay Kelowna

 Below are some tips for making the most of your WildPlay Day:

  • Arrive a 10am and plan to spend a good chunk of your day at WildPlay. You'll easily spend 4-5 hours at the park if you want to try everything. We participated in the "Do it All Deal" which allowed us the opportunity to conquer all four elements at the park in one day. We opted out of the Swing and ran out of time for the Monkido Extreme aerial course, but we tried everything else.

  • If you're doing both ziplines and aerial course, start off the day on the ziplines. Enjoy the guided zipline tour, get comfortable on the lines with a guide accompanying you, and then enjoy the freedom in the aerial course where you'll be responsible for all of your own zipline crossings without a guide. We did the aerial course first and it was hard to just sit back on the guided tour after while somebody did all the work for us.

  • Bring lunch and snacks with you. You'll have time to grab quick bites between elements. You'll also want to bring water to re-hydrate between your activities.

  • Dress in layers. The park is located high up in the hills above Kelowna and when we arrived, the sun was barely out yet. I had nothing other than my tank top on and froze for the first half hour.

  • Make reservations in advance so that you don't have to wait around when you arrive. We were all set to go when we showed up and just had to sign waivers.

  • Apply sun block ahead of time (even if the sun isn't out yet.) You don't want to be half way through your zipline tour and realize that you now want to put on sunblock (which is back in the car.)

  • If you have to choose between elements and only have money or time for one activity, choose the aerial course. It's definitely what WildPlay is best known for and it's what we enjoyed the most. I've done a lot of zipline courses and the one at WildPlay was nothing "above and beyond." (though I have high standards after ziplining in Costa Rica.)The aerial course however was a top ten highlight moment for me for the entire year so far. (Probably number one highlight in fact!) Our son was also thoroughly challenged on his Monkido Kids Course and I'd say it was a good push for him in terms of what he felt comfortable doing at his age.



Planning Your Kelowna Adventure Day 

We were staying in Penticton so had to get an early start on our adventure day. Thank goodness for Mcdonalds en route! We arrived at WildPlay for 10am and were definitely at the park until 2pm (or later.)

On  our way back down to Kelowna we stopped off a couple wineries in the Fab. Five Collection. The tastings were free and the wine was amazing! We bought bottles to take home with us at both the House of Rose and Camelot.

Winery Touring after our day at WildPlay Kelowna

After our winery tours, we drove by the Kelowna Mountain Bike Park on Hollywood Road South by complete random coincidence (and we've been trying to find this park for years!!) Needless to say we stopped to play!

Pump Track, Jumps, and Ramps at the Kelowna Bike Park

We finished off our day downtown Kelowna at the City Park and Hot Sands Beach. Our son loves the playground and splash park there and had been begging to do the Wibit Aqua Park. Me, I just wanted to have dinner at the Earls Rooftop Patio. Success for all of the above.

Kelowna Wibit Aqua Park

We spent the whole day in Kelowna and headed back to our house in the South Okanagan later that evening. It was a full but very adventurous day. Perfect in every way!!!

View of downtown Kelowna from the rooftop patio at Earls

Big Thanks to Tourism Kelowna and WildPlay Kelowna for assisting in our big adventure day. We'll definitely be back to a WildPlay Element Park again and can't wait to spend more time in Kelowna next summer.


  1. That`s very interesting, thanks!

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  3. Any experience on how this compares to the myra canyon adventure park?

    1. I'm sorry but I don't actually know. We've only done the WildPlay one.