Shot of resort from on the water

An American in Canada: Traveling to the Okanagan Valley (Part 1)

This is the first of a two part blog series showcasing the best of what the Okanagan Valley has to offer.

When you first lay eyes on the warm-water Okanagan (pronounced oak-a-NOG-in) Valley lakes and the lush hills dotted with orchards and vines, you will understand why this is a favourite holiday spot among Canadians. You may not know what a perfect destination the area is for Americans, but since it’s just a one hour flight from Seattle or a five-hour drive east of Vancouver, it’s an easy, accessible getaway.


What Americans want and need from travel

Today Americans use less of their vacation time than they have in the last forty years—and many don’t get paid vacation at all. In 2013 American workers took only 16 vacation days total, and not always at the same time. Fewer than half of all Americans take all of the vacation time they earn, 32 percent take less than half, and 20 percent leave work for only a few days. The bottom line here is that vacation spots for Americans are more popular if they’re close to the US and don’t eat up time with jet lag and inconvenience—score one for Canada.

Various annual travel survey also reveals that cost is a major factor for Americans when we make our travel plans. Almost half of all Americans spend in between $1,000 and $1,600 on their annual summer vacation according to AAA, Visa, and Money Magazine. This is another argument in favour of Canada, and it seems apparent that Americans know it: of all international destinations Americans choose, Canada ranks second, behind only Mexico.

What many Americans might not know is how perfect Canada is for their vacation plans even without the time and financial constraints they face. What follows is my detailed look at what an American travelling the Okanagan Valley can expect, and why it’s the perfect choice for travelers from the USA.


Sport and recreation in the Okanagan Valley

Research indicates that almost all British Columbia residents enjoy outdoor recreation of some kind; in fact, around 85 percent of them say that their recreational hobbies are “very important.” Coupled with the beautiful setting and natural variety the Okanagan Valley offers, it’s no wonder that active fun in the great outdoors is a way of life here. For the huge number of Americans who love sports, recreation, and staying active while on vacation, this makes the Okanagan Valley a natural destination.

There is a wide range of sports and recreation activities and events offered throughout the year in Okanagan Valley. Visitors here get to enjoy the weather no matter what time of year they travel. In the Okanagan Valley, you get to fully experience four seasons. And with nearly 300 sunny days per year on average, the American fear about bad weather up north isn’t a real worry most of the time.



Okanagan Valley is surrounded by green, lush, rolling hills which overlook a stunning lake—it is a natural setting for picturesque golf courses and there are many here to choose from. Well-designed as they are beautiful, these courses are ideal for both beginners and longtime scratch golfers. One more reason to travel here to golf: one of the country’s driest and longest golf seasons.

Skiing and snowboarding

Renowned for being home to numerous ski resorts with every level of terrain, Okanagan Valley is perfect for families, friends, and solo skiers and snowboarders ready to enjoy the ultimate ski destination. As much as 7.5 meters of snow—yes, that’s about 25 feet, Americans—fall on the numbers slopes here each year.

There are four major resorts in the Valley: Apex Mountain Resort, Big White Ski Resort, Silver Star Mountain Resort, and Sun Peaks Resort. All have tremendously convenient ski-in ski-out facilities, and the Okanagan resorts have been recognized by Ski Canada Magazine as the “Best Choice for Lazybones who like to Ski Straight from their Doors” (and who doesn’t?!).

Located just west of Penticton, Apex Mountain Resort is a local favourite best known for its high quantities of pristine powder snow, resort activities for everyone in your family, and terrain for boarders and skiers at every skill level. You can also take to the cross-country and snowshoeing trails here and enjoy the scenery and peaceful setting. Apex also won the honour of “Best Weather” from Ski Canada Magazine.

Nickel Plate Provincial Park also offers snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter months. And if you happen to visit during the warmer months, both Apex Mountain and Nickel Plate Provincial Park offer mountain biking—but stay tuned for more on cycling below!

Guest and spa ranches

There are few better ways to experience the breathtaking best of the Okanagan Valley than at one of its ranches, whether it’s a rustic dude ranch or an opulent spa ranch. These specialty destinations offer a respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life along with a plethora of activities like canoeing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and even luxurious spa treatments. Or, if you’d rather enjoy the (North!) American tradition of cowboys and rodeos, take in the rodeos in Salmon Arm, Keremeos, and Armstrong or the Falkland Stampede.

Hunting and fishing

The Okanagan Valley is a hunter’s paradise. Most of British Columbia’s 65,000 white-tailed deer and almost 200,000 mule deer are in the Okanagan Valley and Kootenays region. There are numerous hunting guides in the area, and travelers need guides to hunt unless they’re hunting with a permitted local friend.

There are more than one thousand lakes in this region, and they are well-suited for fishing. Most have bait shops nearby as well as other amenities.

One highlight is the world’s largest sockeye salmon run which is in the Adams River; this offers not only great fishing but an amazing spectacle.

Another highlight in the region is the Okanagan Lake which is the 130 km (80 mile) long home to large rainbow trout in particular. The Okanagan Lake is perfect for trolling and there are excellent accommodations nearby.

As of 2011, 13.7 million Americans were hunters—that’s about 6 percent of us. American hunters spent about $2,484 each every year to hunt according to those 2011 numbers. And in that same year, more than 33 million Americans fished, spending about $1,262 each annually. With this kind of love for hunting and fishing, Okanagan Valley is an ideal spot for American travelers.


Following the many mountain biking and cycling trails in the Okanagan Valley allows you to experience sights as diverse as the region itself. Desert riding, craggy rock riding and jumping, well-forested trails, and ambling lanes along lakes are all available in the region.

Here are just some of the fun options in this area:

  • The Kettle Valley Trail is 455km (283 miles) of all kinds of terrain from Brodie to Grand Forks running along and across trestles and tunnels of the old rail bed (read more about the Kettle Valley Trail below)
  • Freeriding with lots of challenging terrain can be found in Merritt and Salmon Arm
  • The International Biking and Hiking Trail winds for 18 km (11 miles) through south Okanagan with gentle inclines and picturesque views, from the Okanagan River down to Canada’s only desert
  • Enjoy almost 150 wineries and some gorgeous countryside along the Okanagan Wine Route
  • Mountain biking trails abound in Kamloops and Kelowna
  • BMX and speed fans will love the downhill runs and BMX Olympic training course at the Kamloops Bike Ranch, Silver Star Resort, and Sun Peaks Resort

Would you rather attend an event or participate in a race? Don’t miss out on the mass cycling event in Penticton, the GranFondo Axel Merckx Okanagan.

Penticton also hosted the only complete Ironman event in Canada for 30 years; although the branded race has ended, triathletes and cyclists routinely visit the area.

Since an amazing 1.9 million Americans did triathlons in 2010, a number that was the result of a tremendous growth trend, they’re likely to be among this crowd. Now Challenge Penticton takes the place of the Ironman triathlon in the Okanagan Valley. Or check out Armstrong’s annual Okanagan Shuswap Century Ride which features three races in one day.

If you’re going to cycle, remember that helmets are mandatory in the Okanagan Valley (and in all of British Columbia). Also, ideal cycling weather typically happens from May to October.

Water sports

Americans love their beach vacations, and the Okanagan Valley is a perfect place for sandy beaches, sunny skies, warm waters, and water sports like boating, kayaking, kiteboarding, parasailing, sailing, stand-up paddling, wakeboarding, wind surfing, and waterskiing. There are lots of great rentals convenient to accommodations and other amenities like eateries; for example, you can book a parasail or other equipment through the Penticton Lakeside Resort’s on-site water sport rentals company, Castaways.


Almost 30 million Americans went hiking or backpacking in 2015, so the many great hiking trips in the Okanagan Valley are a major attraction for American travelers. And the exciting diversity of natural beauty and geoclimatic conditions present along even shorter hiking trails in the Okanagan Valley makes this area even more appealing for hikers.

The wonderful array of vegetation in the various microclimates found here mean that you can see not only a range of stunning plant life, but also the variety of wildlife you’d expect to be eating this diversity of plants and flowers. Caribou, deer, moose, mountain goats, and other animals are possible sights along your hike, as are entire slopes and fields of wildflowers in summertime.

Where are some amazing places to hike in the Okanagan Valley?

Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park is more than 10,000 hectares of spruce-fir forests, mountain lakes,  rustic campsites and grasslands, including a hike all the way to the top of Okanagan Mountain. Watch for coyote, elk, gopher snakes, marten, lynx, moose, mountain goats, northern alligator lizards, nuttall’s cottontails, rubber boas, spotted bats, western blue racers, western grebes, western harvest mice, western painted turtles, western rattlesnakes, western skinks, white-headed woodpeckers, white-tailed deer and yellow-bellied racers as you hike in the park.

Cathedral Provincial Park offers a breathtaking range of vegetation and rock formations and a comfortable middle ground between the more desert-like areas and wetter forests of the region. Try the park’s three well-maintained hiking routes or wander around Lake Quiniscoe at your own pace.

Mount Robson Provincial Park, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, surrounds the stunning Mount Robson, an impressive 3,954 meter peak which towers over the park. Berg Lake Trail is the park’s most famous hiking trail for good reason; it features the advancing Berg Glacier and crosses three geoclimatic zones in the process. If you like a more challenging backcountry route, try navigating the Continental Divide and various waterways on the Moose River wilderness route over the space of a few days.

Wells Gray Provincial Park is a truly invigorating place for avid hikers, filled with waterways, lush greenery, natural swimming holes and even a volcanic cave for exploring. It is also home to various waterfalls, including the breathtaking Helmcken Falls, which is more than two times higher than Niagara Falls. Whether your interests lie in even-keel, relaxed hikes or in tough, sub-alpine treks, this is a wonderful spot.

Monashee Provincial Park is one of the best spots in Okanagan Valley for seasoned hikers, with alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers, old-growth forests, and striking rock formations which have stood in the region for eons. Don’t miss Rainbow Falls if you visit this park, and you’ll also want to take in one of the serenely beautiful lakes in the area. Alpine Routes demand advanced skills and to make the 1,000 meter Mount Fosthall climb, plan to bring additional equipment.

perfect lakeside ice rink beside Penticton Resort

Hiking tips for Americans in the Okanagan Valley:

  • Remember, Canada isn’t always cold! The Okanagan Valley is home to some of the country’s hottest summer temperatures, with days that reach into the 30s °C (that’s 86-102° F stateside). From time to time, a summer day might even reach above 40°C (104°F)! Plan accordingly with lots of water, good sun protection, and plenty of time to rest.
  • Like in any other mountainous area, the weather can change fast. Be prepared for rain and changing temperatures.
  • Treat the beautiful wilderness areas you visit with respect; carry out your garbage.
  • There is a lot of wildlife in the Okanagan Valley! Do not chase or follow animals, get too close to them, or try to feed them. They are wild animals and should be observed carefully from safe distances.


If you’re a fan of hiking but love extreme sports and adventure, try heli-hiking! You can take part in this splurge sports activity in the Okanagan Valley and combine classic alpine adventure with luxury; you can even get a wine heli hiking tour. Most packages see participants flown via helicopter to spots that are stunning and rugged that they’d never reach any other way; once there, they get to hike with a guide.


Is it a stereotype that Americans think of Canada when they think of hockey? Maybe, but in this case the stereotype rings true! Hockey is a big deal in the Okanagan Valley, just as it is throughout the nation. Here you can visit the world-famous Okanagan Hockey School, watch the Penticton Vees BCHL Team play, check out the BC Hockey Hall of Fame and time your visit to coincide with events like the Canucks Young Stars Tournament.

Elevator race

Wait, what?! Yes, this is a real thing—and it’s definitely a don’t miss event! The Penticton Ramada Elevator Race is a stages race in which participants road cycle, hike, mountain bike, paddle, run/snowshoe, Nordic ski and downhill ski/snowboard across the finish line (not in that order). This means it’s really exciting and fun to watch, and even more fun to participate in. Even if you can’t do each sport involved, you can join a team!


These are just a few of the wonderful options you have to choose from when it comes to staying active in Okanagan Valley no matter when you go.

Be sure to visit our blog next week for further details on what’s to discover in the Okanagan!

group of happy young people dancing and spraying at the beach on beautiful summer sunset

Best things to do this summer in the Okanagan Valley

The Okanagan Valley is always the perfect place to spend your summer. But what are the best things to do this summer in the Okanagan Valley? You’re going to love what’s going on in 2016:


Looking for some funky “new” stuff for your place? Check out the Okanagan Vintage Fair happening June 4 and 5 all day in Kelowna. If you love retro, kitsch, antiques, and just weird, interesting stuff, this is your event. Keeping to the spirit of everything old being new again, check out the Summerland Bluegrass Festival happening daily from June 10 through June 12. This fun festival features all kinds of bluegrass and other traditional acoustic music, and it’s fun for all ages.

Is doing something sporty more your speed? Check out Hockey Night in Canada’s Play On! presented by Choices Markets on June 18 and 19, 2016 from 8:00am to 6:00pm in Kelowna. This is an incredible outdoor hockey festival and street hockey tournament and a ton of fun for your whole family. Players of all ages 7 and up can compete, so put together a team and sign up on their website now.

Maybe you’d rather attend something akin to a tremendous city-wide party?

Penticton in June has you covered with the Peach City Beach Cruise. This amazing event is happening from June 24 through June 26 between 7:00am to 11:00pm each day, and you won’t believe how many events take place all day long. Some highlights of the weekend include the Friday Afternoon Wine Tour, the Friday evening Main Street Parade of Show Cars, and the outdoor concerts that will happen all weekend. Finally, speaking of concerts, the Penticton Elvis Festival also happens June 24 – 26, and if you’re a fan of The King or rock and roll, you’ll love this incredible weekend.


July is always a great month in the Okanagan Valley. Start it out right with the Canada Day celebration of your choice; Penticton, Kelowna, Vernon, Kamloops, and other towns in the region have excellent celebrations planned this year. Then, on July 2 head to Penticton for Slide the City, a ridiculously fun day when 1,000 feet of slick vinyl adorn the city streets, turning the place into a gigantic water slide.

If you’re a wine aficionado, don’t miss the 5th Annual Party in the Park on Friday, July 8 in Okanagan Falls. At this event 14 premier wineries join together to present a tasting festival and BBQ buffet dinner catered by Chef Jordan Ash. You’ll love picnicking on the shore of Skaha Lake, dancing, and listening to “My Kind of Karma,” a local band. Leave the kids home for this one, because it’s for ages 19 and older with ID.

If you’d rather challenge yourself physically, train for the Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan cycling race taking place on July 10 in Penticton. More than 2,800 cyclists rode the course in 2015, and there will be even more trying the three routes in 2016: the Cortofondo (55 km), Mediofondo (92 km), and Granfondo (160 km) offer varying levels for all different riders.

Finish out the month of July in Kamloops taking in the Kamloopa Pow Wow daily from July 29 to 31. This is the 37th Annual Kamloopa Powwow, and it is among the largest and most significant celebrations of First Nations’ heritage and culture in the nation. Come enjoy the stunning music, dance, storytelling, and culinary offerings.


As summer comes to a close, don’t miss the 5th Annual Ribfest happening daily from August 5 through 7 in Kamloops. This is a lot of fun, and of course great eating.

You’ll also love the rib cook-off which is seriously entertaining and the live entertainment and music throughout the event. And for more old western family fun, check out Canada’s Famous Cowboy Dinner Show Fridays from July 1 through August 26 in Vernon.

Now in its 7th season, this show gives you everything from a stagecoach robber to authentic cowboy steak with all the fixins’. You’ll be getting the real deal from author and historian Ken Mather as you learn to rope, ride a stagecoach, and otherwise master your cowboy skills around he campfire.


2016 is going to be a busy summer here in the Okanagan Valley. Are you ready for an amazing few months? We hope you enjoyed our lineup of the best things to do this summer in the Okanagan Valley, and we will see you there!

Cheers with champagne glasses

The best wines to complement your holiday meals

Cheers with champagne glasses
The holiday season is a time filled with parties, get-togethers and celebrations with friends and family. For most of these events, food and drink is to be expected. Since we’re situated in one of the best wine regions in the world, we couldn’t recommend wine enough for a perfect addition to a great dinner.

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5 Fun Things To Do In Penticton in November

Whether you’re a frequent visitor or visiting Penticton for the first time this month, you’ll be happy to hear that there are plenty of fun things to do in town this month. Penticton is in the heart of the Okanagan Valley, after all!  From outdoor sports to fun outings for the entire family, take a look at our top five things to do in Penticton this November:

1. Festival of Lights

Fireworks at Festival of Lights

If you’re in town on November 27th this month, make sure to stop by the annual Festival of Lights. Taking place in Summerland, this 28 year-old tradition features an amazing light display all around town as well as live music, carnival games, street performers, and fun light up head gear. Take part in all the fun and get into the holiday spirit with thousands of other festival-goers on the last weekend of November!

2. Winter wine tour

Glass of red wine, wine tour

Wine tours aren’t just for the summer! There are several wineries around Penticton that are open for wine tours in the off-season (from November to April 30th.) This will be a completely different experience than your summer wine tour as you’ll get to experience the unique icewine-making process. Walk amongst a picturesque vineyard in the late fall and observe a very special type of harvest and fermentation process. Icewine grapes need to be kept at below -8 degrees celsius at all times before they pressed, which makes it a very difficult type of wine to grow. Canada is one of the few countries to have such consistently, cold temperatures, making it one of only a handful of countries to grow and sell ice wine in the world. For a true wine connoisseur, this is a must see experience.

3. Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park

Skaha lake rock climbing

For travelers looking for adventure, there’s nothing better than Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park. It offers a variety of exciting activities, including world class rock-climbing opportunities, as well hiking, cycling and horseback riding. For those who prefer the scenic route, relaxing walking trails are also open to the public, not too mention wildlife viewing. You never know, you might just be the lucky visitor who gets a glimpse of a big horn sheep!

4. Kettle Valley Rail Trail

Bikes crossing Kettle Valley Bridge

Kettle Valley Rail Trail is the ultimate park for serious cyclists. The park covers over 455 kilometers of land and has every biking trail surface imaginable. From firm cement pathways to advanced sandy terrain, this trail is a great option for cyclists looking for both a challenge and an opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of the area. The full ride takes about four days to complete, with plenty of opportunity to explore the area surrounding the trail (Naramata and Penticton) in between.

5. Beer tour

beer flight

If you favour beer over wine, you’re going to love all of the beer tours available in Penticton. Grape Friends Lounge & Tours offers a slew of tours for you to take part in, including an impressive “Beer Buddies” tour that includes visiting three different distilleries and four micro breweries. If you’re in town in November and need a fun night out, this beer tour seems like a sure thing!

A Behind-The-Scenes Look at Valley View Farm

Woman inside greenhouse at valley view farm

I was lucky enough to visit Valley View Farm in Penticton recently, where I got the chance to chat with the team that has made the organics farm such a hit at the Penticton Lakeside Resort: Resort Owner David Prystay, Valley View Farm’s General Manager Michelle Younie, and Penticton Lakeside Resort's Executive Chef, Chris Remington.

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View from patio of Ogopogo swimming

The Okanagan's Friendly Neighborhood Sea Monster: Is it Real?

View from patio of Ogopogo swimming

Penticton: known for wine, lakes and... a sea monster?

Often considered the Loch Ness Monster’s Canadian sibling, Ogopogo is moving up in the ranks as one of the world’s most elusive sea monsters. With a seemingly permanent residency in the Okanagan Lake, Ogopogo has become a nearly century old mystery, filled with unclear sightings and international intrigue. With a name that means ‘lake demon’ in the Native Salish tongue, Ogopogo definitely has the allure and uneasiness required to become a world-renowned sea monster.

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White and red glasses of wine being toasted

Everything You Need to Know About Wine

Red and white wine classes clashing together for a cheers
Over the last 20 years, the Okanagan Valley has established itself as one of the world's best wine regions.The region’s wineries are regularly featured among the world’s elite at international competitions, and USA Today even named it the 2nd best wine region to visit in the world, only second to Portugal. So what’s the secret to the Okanagan Valley’s burgeoning wine industry?

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Summer Wine Tourism In The Penticton Lake Area

Summer Wine Tours in Penticton Lake AreaIn the heart of British Columbia, the Penticton Lake area offers some of the most spectacular wine tourism around. This part of Canada offers you as much sun as Hawaii or southern California, which is why it is home to acres of fruit orchards—especially vinyards. The Penticton Lake area is part of the “Napa Valley of Canada,” so spending some of your summer sunshine time here sampling hand-crafted wines is a sure bet.

Planning Your Trip

To start out and plan your trip, visit the Penticton and Wine Country Visitor Centre. There you'll find listings for more than 40 wineries in the immediate area—none more than a 20 minute drive from central Penticton. You can also take advantage of the Vintners Quality Alliance boutique which offers wine-tasting tutorials.

Another great tool for planning is the British Columbia tourism board, which calls the Penticton area “the heart” of the Canadian wine scene. The board lists almost 50 different wine tours in the area.Read more

Travel apps are a must-have when traveling

7 Travel Apps For Your Best Vacation Ever

Travel apps are a must-have when traveling
Travel made easy with these easy-to-use travel apps

You’ve just booked your first vacation in years. You know who you’re going with and for how long. You know you can expect beautiful weather, spectacular culture and unreal memories. But as you pull your dusty suitcase out from your closet, your vision blurred with the dozens of destination photos you scanned earlier on Google, you suddenly realize: Where the heck do I even begin in organizing this trip?

No need to fret, avid-traveler. All too familiar with the stress that can arise from planning and executing an unforgettable vacation, I’ve put together a list of the best travel apps to use to guarantee a smooth trip. Oh yeah, and all these travel apps are 100% free.

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What You Need To Know About Travel Insurance

Do you really need to buy travel insurance? Get the facts and find out.
Do you really need to buy travel insurance? Get the facts and find out.

Chances are great that you've been faced with the issue of whether or not to buy travel insurance before. If you're like most people you probably didn't buy it, and that may have been a wise choice. However, it's important to understand what you need to know about travel insurance if you want to make a smart decision about whether or not to use it.

The Basics

There are four kinds of travel insurance generally, along with several add-ons and variations. The big four are: Trip Cancellation, Lost Personal Effects and Baggage, Emergency Medical, and Accidental Death. Variations and add-ons include 24 Hour Traveler Assistance, Dental, Emergency Evacuation, Rental Car Collision/Damage, and Travel Delay. How much travel insurance costs depends on your age, what kind of coverage you're getting, and the total cost of the trip. According to the Insurance Information Institute, typical policies run about 5 to 7 percent of the cost of the trip. The majority of policies are sold by travel industry professionals who also earn commissions on sales.Read more