I recently had the pleasure to spend the weekend before Canada Day in Williams Lake, British Columbia which happens to be the weekend of the Williams Lake Stampede. For a town with a population around 11,000 and no marquee attractions, I found lots of fun things to do in Williams Lake.
I did this stop on my epic road trip to Alaska. This post contains affiliate links. This website earns a small commission for items purchased through these links with no additional cost to you.
Fun Things to do in Williams Lake – Williams Lake Stampede
If you can visit Williams Lake during the Williams Lake Stampede, do it! The following were my highlights of the Stampede:
Williams Lake Stampede Rodeo
It’s fun to attend a rodeo to see a wide variety of rodeo events, from bull riding to calf wrestling. One of my favorite events was a team event where 3 guys had to get hold of a wild mustang, get a saddle on it, and then one of them had to ride it around a barrel. Hilarity ensued as the mustangs literally dragged them through the mud (it had rained the night before and the rodeo ground was thick mud.
Williams Lake Stampede Parade
You have to love a small-town parade. We braved the long lines at Tim Hortons to get coffee for our parade viewing pleasure. The parade lasted a little under an hour. If you were a kid in the first row, you got a nice stash of candy! After the parade, we had the treat of seeing horses and stagecoach in the drive-thru at Starbucks.
Williams Lake Stampede Stage Entertainment
The rodeo beer garden, just behind the grandstands, is the location of lots of live entertainment all weekend. All the young folks go for the late-night bands. Insider tip: try to arrive before 10 pm when there is little line. By 11:30, the line was 2 blocks long and they were only letting people in as people left.
Fun Things to do in Williams Lake – Williams Lake Attractions
Williams Lake Discovery Center, aka Williams Lake Visitor Center
The visitor center and museum is one of the nicest visitor centers I’ve seen. They have a café, big shop, all the free materials you might want to pick up on British Columbia and visiting further north to Alaska. There’s also free wi-fi and if you register your vehicle, you can sleep overnight in the parking lot.
Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex – Williams Lake Rec Center – West Fraser Aquatic Centre
Since I was camping over at the Stampede Campgrounds, after a couple of days I was in need of a shower. One of my top tips for overnight camping in van is to look for a local swimming pool if you need a shower – gives you a chance to shower and use a pool for one small fee and this one is really nice with a water slide and lazy river. Be sure to check their hours as the complex is sometimes closed for certain activities.
Scout Island is a small nature preserve on the edge of town. While it’s not a quiet as a provincial park, with noise from the wood mill and the road, the sound of chirping birds nearly drowns out the noise once you take a short walk on the island trails. I only came across a couple locals strolling on a late Friday afternoon. Most of the wildlife is birds, but there were signs to stay clear of a mother moose and calf that have be frequenting the park.
Catch a Movie at Paradise Cinemas
I like visiting small town cinemas. Sure, they’re not IMAX megaplexes, but they’re cheap and it’s fun to check out a new theater. I didn’t get a chance to go to a movie on this trip because I was busy at the Rodeo and entertainment, but the cinemas is a good evening or rainy day activity in Williams Lake.
Where to Stay in Williams Lake – Williams Lake Hotels
There are a few places to stay in Williams Lake town. Two of the nicer places are the Best Western or the Fraser Coast Hotel. There are a handful of other decent places to stay, including a couple great B&Bs. Check Rates and Availability for Williams Lake
For Camping, the Williams Lake Stampede grounds is a campground even when the Stampede is not going on. It’s run by volunteers and profits the rodeo association. It’s a beautiful campground with nice grassy areas, a bathhouse, and wi-fi that occasionally worked. It’s a popular place to stay for RVer’s on their way to or from Alaska.
How to Get to Williams Lake
Williams Lake is best visited by Car or RV. It’s located on the very busy Highway 97, a good stop if you’re driving from Vancouver or Seattle to Alaska. The Vancouver to Williams Lake drive takes about 6 hours. If driving, it’s worth stopping at Bridal Veil Falls near Rosedale, BC for a short hike to the waterfall.
While it appears there used to be Greyhound Bus service to Williams Lake, this has been discontinued. One must connect by bus to Kamloops, BC to connect to Vancouver. There are also short, direct flights from Vancouver to Williams Lake on CMA or Pacific Coastal Airlines, but expect the flight to cost more than $200 USD.
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