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Kelowna – Lakeside Jewel of the Okanagan
Stretching out lazily along the shores of British Columbia’s Lake Okanagan, Kelowna offers visitors an array of waterborne leisure opportunities matched in extent only by the endless summer days in which to enjoy them. But it is not only the lake that attracts visitors to this slice of paradise. Kelowna is in the heart of what is arguably Canada’s premiere wine growing region, with local estates eagerly welcoming visitors with tastings featuring estate reserve wines and some of the provinces best cuisine in their boutique restaurants.
A Shimmering and Mesmerizing Source of Enjoyment
It doesn’t matter whether you’re staying in a standard room in one of the downtown Kelowna hotels, or in one of the cabins or cottages in one of the lakeside resorts just out of town, Lake Okanagan is ever-present. Sometimes it draws visitors out onto its surface and at other times to its shore. There are a number of parks where visitors can play, barbeque and just enjoy the scenery, including very popular Bertram Park. Those up for a bit of a secret mission should ask a friendly local (nicely) for directions to Skim Beach. This is an especially lovely spot, but is hidden and very easy to miss. Visitors looking for adventure, especially families, shouldn’t miss a trip to H2O Adventure Centre, a massive water park with slides, Olympic size pool and numerous other attractions offering fun in the sun. Winter travellers should not feel put off, since one of the most extensive ski resorts in the BC interior, Big White, is less than 40 miles to the east of downtown. Tourism Kelowna should be able to provide a map if necessary.
La Dolce Vita in the Heart of the Interior
Whatever preconceptions visitors, including those from outside Canada, have of the British Columbia interior, they would be advised to think of it in terms of the sophistication and lifestyle typical of top wine growing regions. The whole Okanagan Valley, especially the areas immediately surrounding Kelowna, is littered with vineyards and wine estates that really have it all. Not only do they produce some of the best wines in Canada, if not North America, but are often set on spectacular hillsides with endless and gorgeous lake views. Add to this boutique restaurants that serve wines from the estates and some of the most imaginative cuisine available and the scene is set for an epicurean experience that may well cause some visitors to pull into a real estate office on the way back to their hotel. It’s not as if it hasn’t happened before. While there are far too many great estates to list, one of the largest and most straightforward to visit, is Mission Hill Winery. It is just seven miles from downtown Kelowna and offers especially spectacular views over the lake.
Arts, Crafts and Events Galore
If the wineries and the many activities on Lake Okanagan don’t consume all of a visitor’s time, they’ll find there’s a lot more to Kelowna, including a thriving arts and festival scene. This is driven by both long term residents and self styled “urban refugees” who have moved to the city to be closer to nature, often contributing their unique talents in the arts and entertainment. While the city does offer “high culture” such as its own symphony orchestra and an incredibly popular ballet company, it is perhaps better known for its more informal theatre and arts and crafts. The summer months see many farmers markets that double as craft markets, where local craftspeople and artists showcase their work. Live theatre is especially strong, with multiple performance spaces, including outdoor locations in summer. Many events are held at Prospera Place throughout the year. With productions ranging from Shakespeare to cutting edge modern performances, there’s bound to be something playing for all tastes. The city really comes alive on Canada Day (July 1), with food, parades, performances and spectacular fireworks above the lake in the evening. Many head to the other side of the lake to get a better overview of the fireworks, with the city lights as a backdrop.
Be on the Lookout for Ogopogo
While talk of serpents and monsters may cause some to flee back to their hotels and motels, there is no reason to be afraid. Ogopogo may be a lake monster, said to be at least 40 feet long and have the face of a dragon, but he has a reputation for friendliness and has never been known to harm a human observer. He is of ancient origin and lives in Lake Okanagan. Like his more famous cousin, the Loch Ness Monster, he keeps mostly to himself and only rarely reveals himself to the people of Kelowna, and then only to special individuals. Long term visitors and those on weekend getaways alike should be sure to have their camera at the ready just in case. A selfie with friendly Ogopogo photobombing in the background is sure to be a treasured holiday snap. But take note, he swims really fast so there’ll be no time for elaborate poses.