We embarked on our first family road trip earlier this month to visit Jason’s grandmother in Medicine Hat, Alberta. It would be a tight seven days, driving in a minivan with J, three-year-old H, and four-month-old T.

I thought the Internet would do all the work for me as I tried to find some other parent’s driving itinerary, complete with rest stops and great places to explore for kids. But Google disappointed me this time. I did however find a ton of useful tips on surviving the road trip itself here, here and here.

While highway rest stops and visitor’s centres are plentiful between Vancouver, Calgary and Medicine Hat, I wanted to take advantage of the fine summer weather, and provide H fun places to blow off some steam. Also, clean washrooms. That’s how we got to discover some great playgrounds en route.

HOPE, B.C.

Lions Memorial Park playground, Hope B.C.

Lions Memorial Park playground, Hope B.C.

I couldn’t stop looking up at the soaring, shady trees in Lions Memorial Park in downtown Hope, B.C. There are picnic tables and clean public bathrooms (with a change table in the women’s washroom). Products of the city’s chainsaw wood carving competitions ring the park. The two playground structures had enough tunnels, stairs and slides to keep H engaged until it was time to get back on the road.

Lions Memorial Park, 2408 Voght St., Hope, B.C. Public washrooms open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. May 1 to Sept. 30, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 1-April 30.

KAMLOOPS, B.C.

Riverside Park beach, Kamloops

We loved Riverside Park in Kamloops so much, we stopped there twice. There is not only a playground, but also a beach with lifeguards, water park, lawn bowling area and a rose garden. There is a building with bathrooms as well as change rooms. 

With lots of grassy areas in the shade, we put down a blanket and had a picnic lunch. H, who has hardly shown any interest in water activities in general, became a beach bum, romping through the sand and the warm lake.

The Kamloops Ribfest was taking place, so there was an additional bouncy castle and soccer games. I will have to come back next summer to taste those ribs.

To get Riverside Park on our GPS, I plugged in the Interior Savings Centre at 300 Lorne St., Kamloops which is right next to the park.

Riverside Park, Kamloops

REVELSTOKE, B.C.

I tried to keep costs down, and avoid fast food, by packing picnic lunches whenever we could.  Instead of a bulky cooler, we got this insulated, collapsible, soft picnic basket from AvonIf we couldn’t re-freeze ice packs the night before, then we would stop at a grocery store to buy carrots, fruit, milk and deli sandwiches etc. then head to the closest park/playground. The fastest way to figure that out is to ask a parent or the staff at the supermarket.

Queen Elizabeth Park playground, Revelstoke

A lady at Cooper’s Foods pointed us to The Queen Elizabeth Park in Revelstoke, B.C. (“Turn right at the bears, then keep going straight, you can’t miss it.”) It was exactly what we needed. A bathroom, shady trees, picnic tables and a playground for H. There are also tennis courts and soccer fields.

A word of warning though, the wasps came straight for us as soon as we unpacked our food, so eat quickly!

Queen Elizabeth Park, along Mackenzie Avenue, Revelstoke, B.C.

BASSANO, ALBERTA

Kinsmen Park, Bassano

The flat, straight drive between Calgary and Medicine Hat is pretty uneventful. The town of Bassano is smack in the middle, so we stopped at the lovely Kinsmen Park. From afar, I thought the playground was filled with dirt. But it’s actually made of recycled scrap tires, made possible by an Alberta government grant. Very cool.

We stopped to snack at one of two picnic tables under an awning. There are no bathrooms here, but we needed to get gas so used the facilities at the Esso off the highway. Tip: fill up in Alberta because B.C. gas prices suck hard.

Kinsmen Park, 622 -2nd Ave., Bassano, Alberta.