On your next vacation, would you like to experience a combination of sandy beaches, winery tours, a challenging day on a golf course, good food and impressive galleries? If those activities seem to fit the bill for your next getaway, find the map and pinpoint Kelowna, situated on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake in the Okanagan Valley, in south central British Columbia.
Kelowna (population 105,621) is the seat of the Regional District of the Central Okanagan, the third-largest metropolitan area in British Columbia (outside the Lower Mainland and Victoria), and the largest in BC's interior. Kelowna annually attracts visitors from around the world.
Many return and often remain. Kelowna is one of the fastest growing cities in North America and is considered by some to be one of the most desirable cities in the world in which to live, in large part because of its dry and mild climate relative to its northern latitude and scenic location.
Because of Kelowna's unique climate in Canada, it is often referred to as “California North”. Its name derives from a native term for "female grizzly bear." You’ll find this city just 80 miles of the United States border.
Set against a spectacular backdrop of mountains and lakes, Kelowna offers a host of recreational activities and an array of cultural offerings. As a result of its location along the edge of Okanagan Lake, the city has numerous great beaches and endless water recreation.
Kelowna residents and tourists alike find the lake offers wonderful opportunities on a sunny day: for going on a relaxing (or thrilling!) boat ride, for a day of swimming and frolic, or for fishing for a full catch.
The city lore is colorful, as the lake is a central heartbeat of the city. Some believe a lake monster named Ogopogo lives in Lake Okanagan. In the past, naysayers have pointed out the similarities between the so-called monster and a beaver, a log, and other less monstrous lake denizens.
The nearby mountains attract hikers, skiers and outdoor enthusiasts of all descriptions. Three major ski hills are within a one-hour drive. In winter, Alpine skiing at the nearby Big White Ski Resort is a popular activity.
After enjoying the beauty of the lake and its shores, golfers will be enticed to grab their five iron and explore some of the city's beautiful golf courses, some of which are among the upper crust in the country. Pristine courses such as Gallagher's Canyon and Kelowna Springs Golf Course are well known in the region. There are thirteen courses within the city limits and five more within a thirty-minute drive
Because the climate here is idea for growing quality grapes, Kelowna produces wines that have resulted in the regions internationally acclaimed wine industry. Vineyards are common around and south of the city, and tourists can be educated and entertained – all at the same time – when they visit different vineyards and wineries.
There are over 30 local wineries. Many offer tours and/or wine tasting. Notable ones include the Mission Hill Estate Winery, specifically for its unique architectural design. Calona, Quails' Gate and Summerhill Wineries also welcome visitors to share in their bounty of wine. At least two major wineries were damaged or destroyed in 2003 due to the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire.
Kelowna is also the home of Sun-Rype, a popular manufacturer of fruit juice and snacks.
You’ll also find areas outside Kelowna where the landscape is covered in orchards as far as the eye can see.
We’ve talked a lot about the recreation availability in Kelowna, but it’s important to note that culture abounds as well in this area, making it a very balanced area in sports and the arts. Kelowna is home to several local theatre groups, a symphony orchestra, museums and numerous art galleries. Be sure to make time to take in some of the city’s culture.
Kelowna has become the main marketing and distribution center of the Okanagan Valley, with a flourishing tree fruit industry and a growing light industrial sector that competes on a world scale.
Best known for forestry and the manufacture of boats, plastics, fiberglass, body armor and oil field equipment, Kelowna also has a growing high technology sector that includes aerospace development and service.
Kelowna's airport is the 11th busiest in Canada with approximately 35 scheduled flights a day; it's also one of the fastest growing in North America. The service industry employs the most people in Kelowna, the largest city in the tourist-oriented Okanagan Valley.
Okanagan College is the predominant center for vocational and undergraduate post-secondary education in Kelowna. With over 5000 full-time students it constitutes the largest college in British Columbia outside the Lower Mainland and Victoria.
Sports enthusiasts have their fair share of teams to cheer on during any given season. Kelowna is home to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League (and winners of the 2004 Memorial Cup).
They play their games at Prospera Place, a 6,000-seat multi-purpose facility that also attracts major entertainers and events to the city. Other teams like the Okanagan Sun - Canadian Junior Football League; Kelowna Falcons - West Coast Collegiate Baseball League; and the Kelowna Wilderness - Outdoor Basketball Association are also located here.
Since Kelowna seems to be a best-kept secret, has anyone important ever come from here? Yes! Look at the list and you’ll be impressed. Kelowna was home to the late Premier of British Columbia, W.A.C. Bennett and the birthplace of his son, William R. Bennett, who would also become Premier of the province.
Former Major League Baseball players, Jeff Zimmerman of the Texas Rangers, his brother Jordan Zimmerman, and Paul Spoljaric were born here. The city is also home to The Grapes of Wrath, one of Canada's most popular rock bands in the 1980s and early 1990s. And of recent, actress Evangeline Lilly of the hit TV show Lost was discovered on the streets of Kelowna.