The largest city in British Columbia’s Okanagan region, Kelowna sits right in the heart of the province’s wine region. It is a magnificent city that sits along the east banks of Okanagan Lake and is surrounded by mountains.
Kelowna has so much to offer throughout the entire year, with the valley and mountains playing a dominate role in this. Skiers, hikers, mountain bikers and wine connoisseurs flock to the city each year to indulge themselves in what it has to offer.
The amazing outdoors is the main draw to the city, although there are also things to do indoors.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Kelowna:
1. Enjoy the slopes
Anyone visiting Kelowna in the winter must be sure to hit the slopes and do some skiing at the Big White Ski Resort. The resort is located on the highest summit in the region; Big White Mountain.
The resort boasts a vertical drop of 777 metres that is served by 16 lifts. There are also 118 designated trails, more than half of which are for intermediate level skiers and snowboarders.
Another feature of Big White Ski Resort is that it offers night skiing and actually has the largest night skiing in all of western Canada. Those that don’t ski or board can try tubing, sleigh riding, dog sledding or snowshoeing.
2. Go mountain biking
Avid mountain bikers will want to head to the SilverStar Mountain Resort in the nearby Monashee Mountains. The resort runs lifts from June to September to make mountain biking possible.
There are over 50 kilometres of downhill bike trails and a 4 bike carrier lift systems to easily bring your bike uphill. In addition, the resort also boasts more than 30 kilometres of XC trails.
The trails consist of beginner trails, intermediate trails and advanced trails, and expert trails, so anyone can enjoy mountain biking here. Visit in the winter and ski or snowboard along one of its 132 winter trails.
3. Sip on wine
Another favourite in Kelowna thanks to its superb wineries. There are over 40 wineries in and around the city that are all within a 20 minutes’ drive.
There are a few ways to visit the wineries and sample the various varieties, including a guided wine tour, a self-guided wine tour or by cycling or walking along one of the wine trails. There are five wine trails in total, each taking you to different areas.
Regardless of how you visit the wineries, you will learn about their history and often even meet the owner or winemaker. You will also, of course, get to sample wines, which is kind of the whole point.
4. Spend the day at the lake
There is a wealth of things to do on Okanagan Lake, especially on a hot summer day. The lake spans for a total of 135 kilometres, with Kelowna being located around halfway along it.
The lake’s beaches are its biggest draw and boast playgrounds, concessions and public washrooms. There are also places to hire a wake board, stand up-paddle board, canoe, kayak and pedal-boat.
If boating is your thing, charter a sailboat or a powerboat for the day. You can also just laze around on the beach and enjoy the sun.
5. Learn about the city’s history
Walk around the Okanagan Heritage Museum and see local and regional artefacts that tell the story of the city’s history. There are two viewing galleries that display the museum’s collection.
One of the most popular things on display is Kelowna’s oldest log cabin. There is also a fascinating original ‘Chinatown’ shop.
In addition to its permanent collection, the Okanagan Heritage Museum also hosts special exhibitions. Plus, it is home to the Kelowna Public Archives and the Ursula Surtees Regional Conservation Laboratory.
6. Explore the valley
There are a plethora of trails in the Okanagan Valley that provide a fantastic way to explore the region. Trails range from easy to difficult, with the most difficult ones being within the mountains.
Some of the trails boast spectacular views of the city and Okanagan Lake. Other trails run along the lake and offer great views of the mountains rising above.
As well as ranging in level, they also vary in distance, with the longest being around 55 kilometres, though it can be broken up. The shortest hike is roughly one kilometre.
7. Hang out with animals
Visit the Arion Therapeutic Farm and spend the day hanging out with animals. The farm is home to a variety of animals, including goats, llamas, sheep and donkeys.
Feed the animals lunch, brush a pony or watch the animals get ready to go to sleep. The farm also holds special activities, like picnics, jam making and horse shows.
A big thing at Arion Therapeutic Farm is its therapeutic equine experiences, which are designed for each individual’s physical and emotional needs. The farm also offers guides tours that will teach you more about the ins and outs of farm life.
8. Go back in history
Go back in time and explore Kelowna’s first European settlement; the Father Pandosy Mission. It was established in 1860 after three Oblates Mary Immaculates were sent there to open a mission.
The mission was strong until 1906, when it was decommissioned. Today, it is a historic site that features some of its original buildings.
Wander around the Father Pandosy Mission and see the original chapel, barn, the Root house and the Brothers’ house.
There are also other buildings of pioneer significance that were moved to the site, like the Blacksmith shop, the Caretaker’s quarters and Christien house. It is open all year, with access to the inside of the buildings being between March and October.
9. Sample local products
There are a number of farms in and around Kelowna that you can visit and sample local products. See how honey is made, pick cherries or even go on a tracker ride while visiting and exploring the farms.
Cheese lovers will want to visit Carmelis and sample some of their homemade goat cheese, while those with a sweet tooth should head to Gambell Farms for fresh fruit pie and scones.
If you want to just shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, go to Hillcrest Farm Market, Gatzke’s Farm Market or Don-O-Ray Vegetables. Don’t forget to go on a guided tour of the Caldwell Heritage Farm where you can meet free-range chickens and collect farm fresh eggs.
10. Play a round of golf
Kelowna is a beautiful city that sees over 2,000 hours of sunshine each year. So it should not be surprising that there are 18 golf courses in and around the city.
In fact, Kelowna has one of the country’s longest and driest golf seasons! Its stunning orchards, vineyards, rolling hills, expansive lakes and semi-desert terrain results in some truly picturesque golf courses with plenty of hazards.
Regardless of your level, there is a golf course in Kelowna to suit your needs. Some of the courses in the area also offer a golf dining experience, with restaurants ranging from casual to gourmet.
11. Splash around
If you are visiting the city with kids and want to splash around in the water, don’t miss the Kelowna Wibit Water Park. The water park is located at City Park beach on Okanagan Lake.
The water park has fun activities for kids starting as young as 5 years old. Don’t worry, as everyone is safe at the waterpark, with a life jacket being worn by all.
There are castles, slides and trampolines in the waterpark for the kids to enjoy. Actually, it is like a playground floating right on the water.
12. Look at contemporary art
Most works in the Kelowna Art Gallery’s permanent collection feature contemporary Canadian artists. In fact, this is one of the most admired public galleries in the country!
The main focus of the gallery is local and provincial artists, with its collection consisting of over 850 pieces. Most of the collection were gifts by the artists or by residents of the area.
There are four galleries as well as an outdoor courtyard area at the Kelowna Art Gallery, with both permanent and special exhibitions being displayed. The gallery also holds special events and offers art classes.
13. Sleep under pines
The 360 hectares Fintry Provincial Park sits on the former Fintry Estate and is home to historic sites and magnificent nature. There are over 150 campsites in the park where you can sleep under pines and enjoy the surroundings.
Beach lovers, birdwatchers, historians and hikers will all find something to do at Fintry Provincial Park. It is even possible to go cycling, kayaking and fishing here.
The park boasts nearly two kilometres of beaches, numerous picnic areas and public boat launchers. Don’t forget to hike along the Shorts Creek Trail to the two-tiered waterfall and to see spectacular views of the valley.
Totally spoil yourself and spend a day at the Grand Okanagan Resort, or even stay overnight. This is the city’s most luxurious resort and is a great place to shut down and be pampered.
Anyone can spend time in its serene spa and get a massage, a facial or a body treatment. You can even splurge on a package and get all three!
Finish it off by dining in the stylish waterfront restaurant and wine bar. If you can afford it, you can go one step further by spending the night in one of the resort’s elegant rooms or suites.
15. Stroll and shop
Kelowna’s downtown shopping core is not only a great place for a stroll, but also to shop. The neighbourhood features galleries, retail shops and one-of-a-kind boutiques.
Buy some unique gifts or souvenirs at one of the area’s funky shops, or shop for luxurious brands in one of the high-end boutiques. You can even buy and post a postcard to your loved ones at home.
If you would rather shop indoors, head to Orchard Park Shopping Centre. This is the largest mall in the region and features name brands like Sephora, Pandora, Guess? and Old Navy.