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Kelowna for First-Timers

Photo by Peter C

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Kelowna is the largest city in the Okanagan Valley with a population of 124,000. It has the amenities of a major city, yet has thriving fruit orchards and vineyards within a 10-minute drive of the downtown core. While firmly embraces and thrives on its vintner identity, it is the region’s cultural and economic heart, managing to combine the pleasures of its wine and tourism industries with a rapidly growing high-tech sector.

Here’s where you’ll find the Okanagan’s largest numbers of wineries, resorts, and, arguably, its most sophisticated lifestyle. It’s also the center of the Okanagan’s music, theater and visual arts and sports activities with much of the action taking place in the downtown area adjacent to the Okanagan Lake waterfront.


Downtown

The downtown waterfront is the heart of the city with restaurants, boat rentals, attractive plazas and sculptures, a waterfront park, walking trails, and the Grand Okanagan Resort on Lake Okanagan. Prospera Place, a 6,000-seat multi-purpose facility that’s home to the Kelowna Rockets
of the Western Hockey League, attracts major entertainers and events to the heart of the Cultural District.

The Rotary Centre for the Arts is a significant feature of the district. Kelowna was named a Cultural Capital of Canada in 2003. Kelowna Community Theatre is an 853-seat facility located in the heart of Kelowna’s cultural district that showcases a wide assortment of live productions, concerts, comedians, dance performances to kid’s shows. It is home to Ballet Kelowna, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and the Kelowna Community Concert Society.


Wineries

Kelowna and the Okanagan’s wine industry had its start in 1859 when Father Charles Pandosy, a French Oblate, planted the first grapevines. Set on four acres of land in a rural setting in the Mission area of Kelowna, the historic place contains seven 19th century log buildings, including a chapel, a root house, a barn, and dwelling places.

Large and boutique wineries in town and nearby can be sampled by taking wine tours. Check with Kelowna Tourism.


Biking & Skiing

Take a walk or bike ride along the Kettle Valley Railway, an abandoned and restored railway bed that is friendly for both bicycles and walkers with no steep sections. The entire Myra Canyon section has 18 wooden trestles and two tunnels.

Big White Ski Resort is a year-round major resort 56km/35mi from Kelowna. Take the Highway 97 towards Vernon and turn right to Highway 33 until you reach the well-marked Big White turnoff.


Golf

Golf courses for every level of expertise are scattered throughout the region. A unique layout is at The Harvest Golf Course on high terrain that overlooks the city and lake and winds through 165 acres of apple orchards. In season, you can pick an apple while searching for your ball. Golf course information is also available at Tourism Kelowna.


Accommodation

Resorts abound. Among them are Manteo Resort Waterfront Hotel, Delta Grand Okanagan Resort, and The Cove Resort, all on the edge of Okanagan Lake. Nearby is Big White, one of BC’s premier ski resorts.


At A Glance

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