Everyone's doing it. The staycation. It's more economical, it's easier to get there and who couldn't use some time exploring the place they live? If you don't live in Brandon itself, I guess this isn't technically a staycation (does one need to remain in their city or just the province for it to count?), but regardless, whether you live in or near Brandon, this city with small town charm is the perfect spot for a quick family getaway. Here's a guide to help make the most of your visit.
Where to stay
There are plenty of great hotels in Brandon to choose from, but if your kids are anything like mine, it's not a holiday if there isn't a pool. CanadInns Destinaton Centre Brandon delivers on that front with a water park complete with a twisting yellow slide, toddler pool area and two hot tubs. You can up the fun by opting for a theme room that features two bunk beds (no fighting for the top bunk if you've got two kids and maybe less fighting if you've got more), their own personal TV and PlayStation. We got the monkey room on this stay--other options include themes like under the sea, sports, magic kingdom and others (you can request your top three choices when you book your room).
The hotel also features several restaurant options for picky eater's palettes. We opted for dinner at Tavern United one night and Aaltos was perfect for breakfast (particularly since it opens early and if your kids are usually up at the crack of dawn, you'll appreciate that).
There's also an open bar area that would be perfect place for a cocktail if you didn't have your kids with you. (Plan a parents-only weekend sometime too, but that's a different blog post.)
Some other places to stay with kids (i.e. places that have a pool):
For a complete list of Brandon hotels and accommodations, visit this link.
What to do
While my kids could easily have stayed at the hotel for two days and been perfectly happy (how many hours in a pool is too many?), I wasn't about to let them get away without going out to do fun things.
Westman Reptile Gardens
One of our first stops was the Westman Reptile Gardens. If you have a 4-year-old who is obsessed with dinosaurs in your retinue, then this place is a must-visit. Located just outside of town, the garden consist of a series of almost prehistoric looking tunnels leading you past windows filled with alligators as big as cars, giant snakes, tiny frogs, a variety of lizards and even a row of creepy tarantulas (no photos of these because, quite frankly, I was too scared to get close).
While there are no actual dinosaurs here, it's hard not to compare these scaly creatures to their long, long, long ago ancestors (note: I'm not sure if alligators are actually related to dinosaurs, but they sure look like it). As a result, my son thought this place was literally the greatest thing he'd ever seen.
Just 4 Kidz
If you've got smaller kids, then a stop at Just 4 Kidz is worth a visit. This indoor play place features a giant climbing structure, three bouncy castles including the most terrifying slide (according to me--the kids were completely fine) and one specifically for extra little kids only. There is also a toddler area, mini golf, comfy couches for parents to hang out and a full video game arcade upstairs with plenty of games easy enough for even pre-schoolers to participate in and win something.
Riverbank Discovery Centre
When it's time to get outside, head to the Riverbank Discovery Centre. This urban oasis is a perfect spot to take a wander, watch the wildlife and breathe in some fresh air. Take one of the self guided walks around the pathways (pick up a brochure inside the centre's main building), let the kids burn off some energy at the playground, and then finish it off with some ice cream from the big blue van known as The Batchery. The area is also home to numerous special events throughout the year, so be sure to check their website for what might be happening during your visit.
Daly House Museum
For something a little on the educational side, visit Daly House Museum. This 2 1/2 story home recreates what life might have looked like for an upper middle class family in the early 20th century. Once you've taken in some of the original fixtures like the hardwood floors, brick fireplace and oak staircase, be sure to explore the stunning gardens. This little oasis is a perfect spot to sit and rest for a bit. After all, you've had a busy day already!
Other things to do:
T-Birds: If your kids are too old for Just 4 Kidz, then a similar but equally awesome alternative is at T-Birds. It features glo bowling, an arcade and pizza restaurant.
Downtown: Take a stroll through Brandon's historic downtown and visit Fraser Sneath Coffee, Chez Angela bakery and It's Charlow Darling for shopping of the locally made variety. On Saturday mornings, be sure to check out the farmers' market too.
Albert's Bistro: This quirky spot is both a family friendly Greek restaurant and 18-hole mini golf course all in one!
Fun Time Pottery: If creativity is something your kids love, head to this spot to make their own custom pottery creations.
For more on unique experiences (for all ages), visit this link.
Where to eat
I dunno about you, but when I'm on a vacation (or a staycation), the question of where and what we'll eat is foremost on my mind. If you have picky eaters then you'll want to be even more vigilant about choosing places where there are kid-friendly options. Two surefire hits are Tavern United and Aaltos' Family Dining, both with huge menus sure to cater to all tastes and couldn't be more convenient if you've opted to stay at CanadInns.
Venturing further out, the Dock on Princess offers a variety of pub faves combined with some more adventurous offerings like coconut onion rings (so delicious), miso beef wrap and seared tuna salad. Another great option is Browns Social House for familiar and friendly cuisine (there is a secret kids menu, so be sure to ask about it).
We were told some of the best pizza in the city is at Pizza Express and judging by the number of people both dining in and taking out, a lot of other people think so too. For breakfast, there are plenty of options and the meal we had at Mum's Family Restaurant was tasty, simple and satisfying.
Some other places to eat:
Prairie Firehouse: More on the fine dining side, featuring local ingredients, this beautiful fire hall, turned restaurant is a must-visit.
Komfort Kitchen: Featuring comfort food to fill your belly. Stop in for fantastic breakfasts.
Crows General Store: This eclectic spot features knick knacks of every variety and type making a trip out here about much more than just the ice cream.
Chili Chutney: Featuring Indian cuisine either in buffet or a la carte form.
Sabor Latino: Stop in for authentic Spanish cuisine from a variety of regions.
For a complete list of Brandon restaurants, visit this link.