Must-dos in the Okanagan Valley

If you’re heading to B.C. this summer, or are thinking of somewhere to visit, be sure to stop in this trendy Western Canadian locale.

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British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is a tourist hot spot for good reason: The dry, sunny summers make lounging lakeside an appealing pursuit, and come winter, several ski hills welcome guests from around the globe to sample their many metres of natural powder. Whether you’re flying into Kelowna or Penticton airports or driving in from Vancouver or Calgary, there’s more to see and do than you can fit into any single vacation. Here are five ideas to get your planning started.

Get wet

Whether on massive Okanagan Lake or its smaller – but no less worthy – cousins like Kalamalka, Osoyoos or Skaha, the valley’s numerous beaches cater to every taste, from lounging on the sand with a paperback to paddling or jet-skiing for fresh views of the shores. At Vernon’s Kalamalka Beach, for instance, you can rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards to explore the pretty teal-coloured waters.

Break a sweat

Winter or summer, the Okanagan is adventure central, with myriad offerings in every part of the valley. In Penticton, Hoodoo Adventures offers a wide selection of gear rentals and tours, such as beginner-friendly rock climbing outings in the well-known Skaha Bluffs. In Kelowna, Myra Canyon Ranch will get you out on the hills on horseback, while Monashee Adventure Tours will set you up to bike trails like the renowned Kettle Valley Railway. And Vernon is known for its mountain-biking scene: Try it out at Silver Star Mountain Resort (which also offers rentals) or at Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park.

From beer to cider and spirits, countless tasting rooms throughout the valley welcome guests to sample their wares.

Quench your thirst

Yes, there are wineries, and yes, you should visit some, but the Okanagan’s beverage scene has expanded from its grape-growing roots. From beer to cider and spirits, countless tasting rooms throughout the valley welcome guests to sample their wares; must-visit spots include Penticton’s Bad Tattoo (for both the pizza and the beer), Vernon’s BX Press, Okanagan Spirits in Vernon and Kelowna, and Naramata’s Legend Distilling, which also serves locally made craft sodas by the People’s Crafthouse.

Tempt your taste buds

The Okanagan is historically an agricultural region, and that heritage is reflected in the cuisine. Many wineries are also home to fine restaurants – think Burrowing Owl in Oliver or Evolve Cellars in Summerland – or even just food products, like the stellar sourdough focaccia at Platinum Bench. It’s easy to stock your fridge with local products picked up from markets and shops – top stops include the Penticton and Vernon farmers’ markets and Kelowna’s Okanagan Grocery – or directly from producers, like Carmelis Goat Cheese. Or eat at some of the region’s finest restaurants and cafés, like Sandrine French Pastry & Chocolate or Salted Brick, both in Kelowna.

Get cultured

But there’s plenty to do that doesn’t include eating, drinking or the outdoors – or at least, not entirely. In Osoyoos, the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre offers guests a learning experience that covers local nature (the area is home to Canada’s only desert) as well as the history and culture of the Okanagan First Nations. In Vernon, you can tour historic O’Keefe Ranch by foot or on horseback, or attend a cowboy dinner show. And in Armstrong, Caravan Farm Theatre proves that you don’t have to go to the big city to find quality performing arts.

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