Stately wineries, neat rows of vines stretching over rolling hills. Napa? Nope. It's Kelowna, in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. The five distinct wine trails in the Kelowna area ("Scenic Sip", "Fab Five of Kelowna", "Grapes & Grains Trail", "Lakeshore Wine Route" and "Westside Wine Trail"www.KelownaWineTrails.com) each has its' own identity as well as unique history and compelling stories. From B.C's first commercial winery (opened during the Great Depression!), to a wine country architectural masterpiece, to biodynamics and bubbly - you'll be enchanted by the interesting proprietors and dedicated, award-winning winemakers.
Over 2,000 hours of sunshine every year equals the longest, driest golf experience in Canada! And in Kelowna there's essentially a course for every 15.5 sq km (6 sq miles) - the critical mass of golf courses we have in one destination is unmatched anywhere in Canada. With 20 golf courses to choose from that's over 112,000 yards waiting to be challenged! www.golfkelowna.com
Sandcastle aficionados will tell you that carefree Kelowna has always been a family vacation stronghold. The long and sunny days of summer lend themselves well to all sorts of kid activities, like playing on the beach, mini-putting at 19-Greens, exploring rides at Scandia, petting goats at Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan, or just eating ice-cream in a park. Even Kelowna’s award-winning wineries welcome kids. Wine tasting? That’s right. While mom and dad slurp and spit the region’s Pinots, kids can get into the action with their very own juice tastings at wineries like Summerhill Pyramid Winery or Mission Hill Family Estate. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids about the beauty and farming of vineyards and the culture around wine. So go ahead and inject a little grown-up culture into your carefree family vacation. Just don’t forget to teach your kids to spit. Teach Your Kids to Spit
Bouldering, quite possibly the purest form of rock climbing, has found an unparalleled niche in Kelowna. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of numerous local climbers, ‘The Boulderfields' in South Kelowna is gaining a reputation of the place for people who do bouldering to challenge literally thousands of almost untouched problems in a spectacular gully of rocks formed thousands of years ago by glaciers. Imagine...no ropes, no harness, no belay partner. Just climbing using pure strength, adrenaline and focus to reach the top of a boulder. Bouldering ‘problems' are the path that the climber works through to complete the climb and are assigned ratings based on their difficulty, just as in rock climbing. Most boulders are under 20 feet high and the climber moves horizontally from one position to another to complete the problem and reach the top. With prominent bouldering areas though out France, Spain, Switzerland and the U.S.A, it looks like Kelowna is Canada's answer to a ‘problematic' sport!
In 2003 many Canadians learned the news of the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, and watched in horror as 12 of the historic trestle bridges in the Myra Canyon – a portion of the Kettle Valley Railway – burned down. The Kettle Valley Railway was built at the turn of the 20th century to transport silver, nickel, and other ores from the Interior of BC to the Coast. Later, this railway became part of the Trans Canada Trail and the rail lines were taken out. The most scenic portion of the railway is the Myra Canyon, a steep-walled, high elevation canyon overlooking the Okanagan Valley, Okanagan Lake, and Kelowna. Since 2008, the Myra Canyon has been open again with all 12 trestles rebuilt. With our history in North America so closely tied to the railway, this is most certainly a story of true continental pride and breathtaking scenery.
The Okanagan Valley is the northernmost tip of the Sonora Desert and lies in the rain-shadow of the Coastal Mountain range. This means that Kelowna – the Okanagan’s commercial hub - is in a microclimate, getting over 2000 hours of sunshine per year and only about 12 inches of rain annually. The ecosystem in the area is a surprise to most. Among the plant and animal life in our mountains: cacti, rattlesnakes, even Black Widow spiders. The glaciers carved this valley thousands of years ago, leaving interesting rock formations, like Layer Cake Mountain (at left - reportedly the only formation of its kind on earth), and extinct volcanoes. The rocky, mineral-rich soils are particularly perfect for grape growing (at wineries such as Quails’ Gate, you’ll find shards of volcanic rock in between the vines), and temperatures in the summer range from 85 to 100 degrees. Surprised yet? Wait till you see it.
Wine and running has shown to be a popular mix as Destination Races announced their 2nd Annual Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon for September 6th after the success of the inaugural 2013 event. Runners commence the spectacular 21.1km (13.1mile) course at The Vibrant Vine Winery and meander past Kelowna's vineyards, orchards and farms then follow Okanagan Lake to the finish line for a post-race wine and music festival. Already producing 6 popular U.S.A. wine country half marathons in renowned wine destinations such as Napa, Santa Barbara and North Virginia, how did Destination Races discover that Kelowna had all the goods to deliver an impressive must run half marathon for wine lovers?
The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2014 ‘The International Year of Family Farming' following an initiative promoted by the World Rural Forum and supported by over 360 worldwide civil and farmers' organizations. Family farming is seen as a model for sustainable agriculture and this is the first major international campaign to bring awareness to it. Good news for farming families in Kelowna, where farm-gate agriculture has thrived for generations. For instance, the Ross Family of East Kelowna Cider Co, who have farmed in the area since 1942. They produce over 300,000 lbs of apples per year - some of which is used for soft cider and after lobbying the Government for 6 years, they now have a permit to produce hard cider also. Down the road, Glenn Cross's grandfather was Kelowna's first commercial grower back in 1884. Glenn and wife Loretta now run the family farm growing fruit and producing delicious apple juice as well as Double Cross Cider. Over the street from the Cross's are the Bal family of Hillcrest Farm Market whose forefather Bhagu Singh walked from Vancouver to Kelowna over 100 years ago to find land to call his own creating an orchard that is still in the family.
The last few months have sparked a flurry of restaurant openings, makeovers, and a new reality television celebrity chef. Among them, micro bar • bites (so small that they don't even capitalize the "m"), the Salted Brick (charcuterie taken to a whole new level... that's right, the whole animal), and pending restaurant makeover at the Delta Grand... And then there's the young and vivacious Chef Evelynn Takoff whose participation in the hit reality television show Top Chef Canada has created ripples of excitement in the foodie community. Kelowna's culinary scene is burgeoning in a very palpable way: BC wine country's capital has hit its stride.
Kelowna is also a very spirited community with two distilleries: Urban Distilleries in the north end of downtown Kelowna, and Okanagan Spirits on Bernard Ave, Kelowna's main drag. Each produce a range of spirits: Urban Distilleries' Spirit Bear line produces gin, vodka, rum, and Scotch whisky; while Okanagan Spirits specializes in fruit brandies and absinthe. Tours and tastings are available at each.
And with an active and innovative cocktail mixing community, these artisan distilleries are in high demand. RauDZ Regional Table's "Liquid Chefs" run a farm-to-glass program that includes daily themed cocktail specials using local ingredients as well as mixology lessons. Indeed, it's a development that is "neat" to see.