13 things you didn’t know about Penticton Lakeside Resort

We sat down with Penticton Lakeside Resort’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Barb Haynes, to get the scoop on all things Penticton. As a Penticton resident for the past 23 years, Barb knows a thing or two about this famous Okanagan town- and some of its best kept secrets too!

Read on to discover them all and how to make the most of your trip to the Okanagan:

 

How is the Penticton Lakeside Resort unique from other hotels in the Okanagan?

Barb: We’re located on the south shore of the Okanagan Lake and we’re the only accommodation in Penticton with a private beach for its guests! We’re full service and offer great dining options with weekly entertainment on our patio.

I think one of the most significant characteristics of the hotel is that it anchors the downtown core on its north end. You can walk to just about anything and the incredibly popular farmer’s market is right outside our front door.

What are some of the best features of the resort?

Our private beach for sure…it offers full service with drinks and food, towels, beach chairs and lots of sun! All our restaurants have patios that look out onto the lake.

I think one of the most unique features of our restaurant, the Hooded Merganser, is that it’s supplied with fresh produce, in season, from our very own Valley View Farm. Our general manager and his family live at the farm and our farm manager delivers food daily to the Hood. We also use all of our own herbs grown fresh here in the gardens at the hotel.

Speaking of food...what is your favourite dish at the Hooded Merganser restaurant?

The grilled lamb chops! The Hooded Merganser does an amazing job of them and sometimes when you order lamb at a restaurant it doesn’t live up to your expectations…at the Hooded Merganser it always does for me.

_Y8A3425-16
Dish in the making! Behind the scenes at the Hooded Merganser.

What’s something cool about Penticton that visitors may not know about?

Our community was established as an agricultural area providing fruits and produce to our province in the early years. Much was shipped via rail on the Kettle Valley train system. With the changes in access to food internationally and the train system disappearing, Penticton has seen a reduction in its orchards. Vineyards have been developed creating a burgeoning wine industry that is unique to our area. We feature the small to mid-sized wineries where you can enjoy a glass, meet the winemaker and tour a vineyard all in easy access. We have also developed an amazing farm-to-table industry, again highlighting the incredible growing season we experience here in the South Okanagan.

The Kettle Valley Rail system is being redeveloped into a major tourism attraction where folks can ride their bikes from Hope to Christina Lake, and from Rock Creek to Vernon. Penticton is a stop along the way and we’re looking forward to hosting our travellers…think west coast trail on bikes!

What is the best part of your position as Director of Sales & Marketing?

I would say working with the amazing team here at the resort and our external contractors. I love the team approach and the great pool of both skills and ideas that come to the table when you work together. I also really like to help create vision and then develop the path to get there.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Sometimes it can be crazy! We have such a diverse line of products, we are always working to stay ahead of the seasons. So, sometimes in the heat of summer we’re planning for the upcoming winter season and vice versa. My day is often filled with staying current on local news, keeping up to date on the daily hotel activities…who are we hosting, what’s happening…and dreaming of new ideas to sell our resort and its amenities!

What is your favourite part of the hotel?

I would say the patios because of the views, the weather, the buzz of activity…it feels like you’re away on vacation every day.

_Y8A3581-60
Penticton Lakeside Resort's private beach and marina.

When do you recommend coming to visit Penticton Lakeside Resort, and why?

Just about anytime! In the summer, we see lots of families and folks participating in a variety of events. Spring, summer and fall bring groups of friends looking to explore our wine region and the winter season attracts snowbirds from the prairie provinces looking to escape the cold…our temperatures are much milder! We also have a robust convention season in our shoulder periods and we are already booking into 2017 for destination weddings.

What’s something exciting guests have to look forward to in the coming year at Penticton Lakeside Resort?

The new accommodation wing that we are currently constructing. It will add 70 rooms to our inventory where the majority of rooms will have a lakeview. All will be king bedrooms and suites with a very contemporary design and wood construction. It is a beautiful building. One of our local businesses, Structurlam, is a key partner in supplying their product to us. Their products have won several architectural design awards and are stunning! We are really looking forward to adding this new wing into our hotel.

Depositphotos_87173472_l-2015
The stunning view from one of Penticton's local beaches.

What are the must sees of Penticton?

The lakes for sure. Penticton is one of the very few communities bordered by two lakes in the world! Our beaches are amazing! Our wine region…you can wander from winery to winery with views that will blow your mind and a quaintness that makes you feel instantly at home.

Our cycling routes…both road and off-road. We have put considerable resources into our routes to map and maintain them for cyclists. Our trail riding is excellent with wineries along the way for stops and our mountain biking is world-renowned.

In the summer, you gotta buy fruit…everyone does! And don’t forget to check our Skaha Bluffs, our climbing park. It, too, is really popular.

What do you consider the best beach in Penticton and the surrounding area?

Sudbury Beach on Skaha Lake was just recognized as one of the Top 10 Beaches in Canada. It’s a great swimming beach, warm water, lots of amenities and easy access to several of the campsites and motels. Okanagan Lake is famous for its restaurants and walkway…as well as its beach! Both shores are spectacular.

What made you decide to call Penticton home?

My husband and I wanted a complete lifestyle change! Our kids were young and we wanted a less crazy life for them. Both my husband and I grew up by the coast and the kids were born there. We made the change 23 years ago and have never looked back. Best decision ever!

Describe Penticton in 3 words:

Picturesque, laid-back, sumptuous – in its food, wine, beaches, land, views and water systems.


The 3 Penticton events you have to check out this September

Summer may be done but the fun is far from over in Penticton. September is a busy month for the city with three major events taking place in town. If you’ve been thinking about visiting the Okanagan Valley this month, now is the time. Besides our favourite go-to attractions that include our casino, water sports, ice rink, private beach, restaurants and endless outdoor fun, these three events are guaranteed to liven up your visit. From an annual jazz festival to our very own grape stomping event, enjoy the best Penticton has to offer and prepare to be entertained!

 

1. Penticton Hot Jazz Festival

September 9th-11th, 2016

Jazz concert

In collaboration with big name sponsors TD and Global TV, the Hot Jazz Festival will be hitting Penticton for its annual celebration of jazz music. With it being the 20th anniversary of the festival, organizers are sure to take it up a notch with a diverse lineup of bands and concerts confirmed for the three day event. Festival favourites Tom Hook and The Terrier Brothers as well as Dave Bennett and The Memphis Speed Kings will perform, not too mention industry darlings Cornet Chop Suey. Tickets cost $60 for Friday performances, $75 for Saturday and $55 for Sunday festivities. With over 11 bands scheduled to perform at four locations throughout the festival, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to catch them all over the course of the weekend! Tickets can be purchased here.

 

2. Dragon Boat Festival

September 10th and 11th, 2016

DragonboatI

f you’re looking for something unique to do while in town, the 16th annual Penticton Dragon Boat Festival will be right up your alley. With a beverage garden, food, vendors, entertainment and thousands of athletes competing for the grand prize, this is one Penticton event you don’t want to miss!  Come down to Skaha Lake to take in the 500 meter dragon boat races over the course of two days-with qualifying heats on Saturday, semi finals on Sunday morning and finals on Sunday afternoon. To register for the race, head over to the festival’s official site for sign up details.

 

3. Great Grape Lake Stomp

September 9th, 2016

Depositphotos_60819607_l-2015

With a large private beach to call our own, we’d be foolish not to take advantage of all that space- which is why we’re hosting the Great Grape Lake Stomp on September 9th. Sponsored by Sun Fm and Hester Creek, Penticton Lakeside Resort is turning its private beach into an entertainment ground featuring a live DJ, food and beverages. Let’s not forget the main event: teams will be facing off against each other in a grape stomp off that includes spectators and complimentary wine and food for participants. Registration costs $70 per team (four members per team) so sign up or call us today (# 250-493-8221) to get your grape stomp on! Guests of the hotel are more than welcome to take part or stop by to take in all of the fun!


Valley First Challenge Penticton

In a few short days it will be time again for the Valley First Challenge here in Penticton, and the whole Okanagan Valley is already buzzing with activity. As the city prepares to welcome the world to the Penticton lakeside community, many athletes are already here, ready to race.

 

Event details

The 2016 Valley First Callenge in Penticton is happening from August 24th through August 28th. It will feature four major events categories: duathlon, aquathlon, cross triathlon, and long course triathlon. Read on for the details within each category.

Duathlon

In the duathlon category athletes will be competing at the national level in a 10 kilometer run, followed by a 40 kilometer bike ride, ending with another 5 kilometers running. This is a truly difficult challenge, and pacing is critical for anyone aiming to become the next Canadian Duathlon National Champion!

Aquathlon

In the aquathlon category, racers swim for 1 kilometer and then run for five kilometers. This race is known as the fast and furious event, with athletes using the first kilometer in the water to focus themselves and take the lead. The remaining five kilometers on land is all about maintaining a breakneck pace and enough of a lead to stay ahead of your competition. If you're hoping to become the next Canadian Aquathlon National Champion, get ready to race against some serious speed demons on both water and land!

Cross triathlon

The cross triathlon event consists of a 1.5 kilometer swim, followed by a quick 27 kilometers cycling, rounded off with another 10 kilometers running off road. The off road sections of this challenge are filled with spectacular natural beauty—not to mention all of the rugged challenges you'd expect from an off road course. The Canadian Cross Triathlon National Champion is invariably a star athlete who doesn't mind getting dirty!

Long course triathlon

The long course triathlon event consists of a 3 kilometer swim, followed by a grueling 120 kilometers cycling, with a final 30 kilometers running on foot—for those who can handle it. This is a brand new distance for Challenge Penticton and a serious long course for world-class athletes. To take the title of Canadian Long Course Triathlon National Champion it take stamina, strength, and sheer will power.

One of the nicest things about this event is the stunning natural beauty contests will enjoy as they compete. Swimmers start on the beaches of Okanagan Lake and end up in the transition in the park. From there, racers cycle along the shores of Okanagan Lake, through downtown Penticton, and then through a series of lush, green rolling hills surrounding Skaha Lake. Finally, for the running portion of the event, athletes take the channel that connects Skaha and Okanagan lakes, enjoying the breezes from the lakes and the views.

If winning the title of National Champion isn't enough, these festival events also serve to qualify athletes for spots in the inaugural International Triathlon Union (ITU) Multisport World Championships Festival. This exciting event will be held on August 18th-27th, 2017 in Penticton. Athletes will compete for 10 qualifying slots, 5 per gender, in each event, for each 5-year age group division.

Two triathlon participants running into the water for swim portion of race.
Two triathlon participants running into the water for swim portion of race.

Why participate in the events?

There are so many great reasons to get involved as an athlete. Canadian athletes can earn their spot in the 2017 ITU World Multisport Championships by participating and return to Penticton next year. Non-Canadian athletes can experience the course that the world will be watching in 2017, and prove their skill and endurance within a world community of athletes. All racers will love competing in Penticton, a triathlon community with decades of long distance history and tons of amazing volunteers.

This brings us to the reasons for getting involved as a volunteer! Penticton has a reputation as a friendly, warm, giving community of people who care deeply about the racing events hosted in their town. Being a volunteer is a fun, exciting experience, and it's a great feeling joining that community of people who care so much about the city and its events. It's also a fantastic way to see the races up close and personal, and get involved with the athletes.

Everyone who participates, from athletes to volunteers, gets to enjoy the beautiful weather, warm sunshine and lakes, and fantastic food and wine of the event and the city. Don't miss out on the experience of really getting involved!

 

This is one of the most exciting events in Penticton, a city which hosts awesome conferences, arts gatherings, food and wine festivals, and other events all year long. This is a don't miss event, for athletes, food and wine aficionados, and anyone who enjoys great weather and good times.

 

 

 

 


An American in Canada: Traveling to the Okanagan Valley (Part 2)

This is the 2nd part of our two part blog series, An American in Canada: Traveling in the Okanagan Valley.

The Okanagan Valley is the perfect vacation spot for Americans not wanting to waste precious time traveling to foreign destinations. What follows is the second part of 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.

What are some of the hidden gems of the Okanagan Valley? Here are a few that Americans will love most.

 

Hidden Okanagan Valley

Kettle Valley Railway and Myra Canyon trestles

The Kettle Valley Trail was once the region’s rail corridor, connecting industrial supplies and workers along with residents across the area. The railroad itself was in operation between 1915 and 1989, and the railroad was later transformed into a multi-use recreational trail.

This is a hidden gem in the valley because there is truly something for everyone along this unique landmark; the scenery and wildlife are unparalleled, the recreational options are fantastic, the historical and cultural significance equates to fascinating activities, and various amenities connected to local wineries are also within reach along this passageway.

Myra Canyon is a beautifully maintained portion of 18 giant trestle bridges and two tunnels along the former Kettle Valley Railway. Hiking (or biking) the 12 kilometer section with the trestles offers fantastic views over the lake. And if you’re a history buff, join a historical tour that describes the century of history surrounding these trestles and the railway, including the major fires in 2003 and the rebuilding that followed.

Penticton Farmer’s Market

The British Columbia Association of Farmers’ Markets named the Penticton Farmers’ Market 2015 Farmer’s Market of the Year in the medium-sized market category and it is the largest in the Okanagan Valley. This hidden treasure of the valley features hand-crafted goods from hundreds of vendors, so visit for antiques, clothing, collectables, food, furniture, jewelry and more, not to mention lots of great live entertainment for the whole family.

SS Sicamous

The SS Sicamous began its life in May of 1914 as a luxury passenger vessel serving isolated communities along the Okanagan Lake. By 1936 the SS Sicamous was retired to the Okanagan Landing Ship Yards where it sat in silence until 1951 when it was purchased for the princely sum of $1.00 by the City of Penticton.

In 1952 the Penticton Gyro Club, hoping to preserve the vessel for posterity, fitted the SS Sicamous with running water, electricity and restorations. Between the 1950s and the 1980s, the boat was home to all manner of businesses and organizations from restaurants to beauty salons, but by the late 80s it had fallen into disrepair.

The final restoration process began in earnest in 1988, and today the SS Sicamous is a stunning reminder of Canada’s cultural heritage. The vessel is home to a museum and a fun visit for visitors to the Okanagan Valley.

Canadian culture for Americans

You may think that Canadian culture is too similar to US culture to care about taking it in, but you couldn’t be further off the mark. The Okanagan Valley is filled with unique, fun cultural experiences Americans should try while in the area.

First nations

The Okanagan Valley is a multicultural region and is in fact named for some of its first nation citizens. As a visitor to the valley you will be able to experience the rich history of the indigenous peoples in the area through their clothing, food, jewelry, historical landmarks, medicine, traditional events and tools. Visit the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre near Osoyoos or the Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park near Kamloops to take in evidence of the original peoples of the valley such as the circular pit houses or kekulis they inhabited.

European immigrants in the 1800s

Europeans arrived in British Columbia in the 1800s as Simon Fraser and others mapped and explored the area. Today’s Kamloops is the site of the North West Company’s original fur-trading post which was established in 1812; this was the first non-native settlement in the region. Once gold was discovered in the late 1850s, the population boom of the era began and immigrants arrived in huge waves. To experience the Okanagan Valley of the gold rush era, visit Historic Hat Creek Ranch for a taste of the old road house life.

Orchards and vineyards

Father Charles Pandosy was the first arrival in the Okanagan Valley to seize upon the idea of planting orchards and vineyards; he is responsible for planting the first in BC. He also founded the first school in the region and the first Roman Catholic mission in 1860; this mission near Kelowna has been beautifully restored and can be toured today.

The Doukhobor pacifist culture

Another cultural feature that is unique to the region is the Doukhobors. This pacifist sect originated in Russia but fled persecution in the early twentieth century. Settling near Grand Forks, the Doukhobors became a prominent cultural force in the Okanagan Valley between 1909 and 1913, a location perfect for farming and their goal of being self-sufficient. The cultural influence of the sect remains today, and as you travel locally you can visit the Doukhobor flour mill and the Hardy Mountain Douhkobor Village Historic Site—and stop for lunch in a local eatery and get some wonderful borscht and blintzes.

Ghost towns

After the gold rush, the railroad industry, and the coal mining towns of yesteryear all waned, various mining and industrial towns that dotted the Okanagan Valley dried up and turned into ghost towns. Take the Dewdney Trail beginning in Princeton to visit them, and don’t miss Blakeburn and Granite City.

The smallest city in Canada with a fascinating history

Greenwood, Canada is the smallest city in the country with only 625 citizens, and this alone makes it an interesting visit. But more than that, its historic importance should keep Greenwood on your list. Greenwood was the site of a World War II internment camp, and with approximately 1,000 internees flooding the tiny town during the war, the town changed significantly.

Many internees stayed in Greenwood permanently after the war, changing the face of the town forever and transforming it culturally in a totally unique way. The 1998 Oscar-nominated film Snow Falling on Cedars, which told the story of Japanese-American internees, was shot in Greenwood.

Napa 2.0: A new wine country experience for Americans

Napa Valley gets all of the press when it comes to wine country, but Okanagan Valley gives Napa a run for its money.

Okanagan Lake stretches through the valley for 70 miles between the Monashee and Cascade ranges. The valley’s walls rise around the lake, and they are almost completely covered with orchards and vineyards—the fruit basket of Canada. Visiting from spring, through summer and into the beginning of autumn, the air itself smells of fruit.

The entire Okanagan Valley is filled with small-batch wineries run by true aficionados who man the grounds and tasting rooms themselves—more than 200 of them. The wines in the region express the land and weather where they are produced.

Towards the northern end of Okanagan Valley the orchards are situated and the temperatures are cooler; these conditions produce fresh, crisp white wines. In the southern portion of the valley, where it is drier and warmer, more reds such as cabernet sauvignons and merlots are produced.

As has happened in California, Okanagan Valley growers have replaced native American vines with high-quality European varietals, further improving their wines. Local wineries such as Cedar Creek have even won multiple gold medals at prestigious American wine competitions like the Los Angeles County Fair Wines of the World.

One of the best ways to enjoy the wine and wineries of the Okanagan Valley is to take a cycle-to-winery tour. There are multiple versions of this kind of tour in the area, and all allow you to experience a huge range of products, take in breathtaking scenery, and finish with a gourmet meal in a stunning setting.

And the place where the Okanagan Valley clearly takes the lead over Napa Valley? Price and value. Okanagan Valley is a younger wine region and the prices reflect that. And with a current exchange rate of about 1 US dollar for every 1.26 Canadian, you’re saving a lot of money there, too.

Wineries to visit in the Okanagan Valley:

For a list of wineries: http://www.winebc.com/discover-bc/okanagan-valley

For some critics’ picks: http://www.winespectator.com/wct/region/rid/101

http://www.fodors.com/world/north-america/canada/british-columbia/okanagan-wine-country

http://www.winesofcanada.com/featured_winery_visit2015.html

Nightlife, arts, and music to suit the American sense of taste and style

Arts and entertainment are widely expressed in the Okanagan Valley, and performing arts centres in the region share a common mission of artistic, creative, and cultural development. Locals, travelers, and artists from all over the world converge here for drumming and jam sessions, creative arts workshops; performances and Indigenous events.

Great events are showcased in the many fine Okanagan Valley theatres. A huge range of events come through the area, and between the South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre, Ballet Kelowna, the Many Hats Theatre, the Vernon Performing Arts Theatre, the Cleland Theatre, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, the Sunshine Theatre Company and many other venues and troupes, there is almost always a range of nightlife and cultural options to suit almost anyone.

Penticton and Kelowna are the arts and nightlife hubs in the Okanagan Valley. The Soundstage Productions annual musical theatre show at the Penticton Lakeside Resort draws lots of excited crowds, as do the Penticton Art and Tumbleweed Galleries.

Downtown Penticton puts on the annual sunshine cabaret summer concert series in Gyro Park that includes the night market. The Barking Parrot Bar has a large patio just steps from Okanagan Lake and offers entertainment throughout the year including summer patio music. The Mule Night Club is open late for those wishing to hit the dance floor for most of the night.

The Kiwanis Music and Speech Arts Festival is an Okanagan Valley spring tradition for amateur performing artists. Each year in March and April participants compete in brass, dance, piano, speech arts, vocals, woodwinds, and other areas just before the Kelowna Kiwanis Music Festival.

The Pacific NW Elvis Festival, also called the Penticton Elvis Festival, is a three day long Elvis celebration—and what could be more American than that?! Elvis impersonators come from all over the world for this event, but there can be only one winner each year in Penticton on the shores of Okanagan Lake. And you can take in the Elvis mania on the same weekend as the Peach City Beach Cruise, right at the start of summer in early June.

Speaking of things uniquely American, you can attend some amazing jazz festivals in the Okanagan Valley. The annual BC Interior Jazz Festival is in Kelowna in April each year and has been in existence for more than 35 years.

The Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival is a summertime jazz offering, taking place in August of each year at the Salmon Arm BC Fair Grounds.

The Pentastic Hot Jazz Festival happens just after Labor Day each year in Penticton, and the Rare Earth Jazz and Blues Fest takes place in Vernon.

For more fun arts and culture that Americans can relate to, check out the Summerland Bluegrass Festival in June at the Summerland BC Rodeo Grounds. And if you like to play, bring your instrument and join in!

Or, if dancing is more your thing, wait until August and the Penticton Square Dance Festival during the Penticton Peach Festival; there you can square dance for four solid days with 800 other enthusiasts.

The Funtastic Sport and Music Festival in Vernon is home to Canada’s biggest slow pitch softball tournament. For the last 25 years the event has taken place in early July over the long Canada Day weekend, and Americans will love this four day long softball and music party.

Family time in the Okanagan Valley

The family vacation is an American tradition and the Okanagan Valley is the perfect place to carry on with it. Here are just a few of the awesome family-friendly things to do in the valley.

Ice skating and skateboarding

For your boarding buddies, Penticton is home to a huge skate park alongside Riverside Park. Admission is free, the park has lots of events during the summer months, and it is supervised. Bonus: Loco Landing Mini Golf Mini golf is right next door, and it also has bumper boats, bungee bouncing, go karts and rock wall climbing. During the winter months head over to Kelowna for outdoor ice skating at Stuart Park on Water Street. It’s a pretty, well-groomed rink near the lake and a fun place to hang out with some cocoa, too.

Penticton Speedway

If you have a need for speed, hit the Penticton Speedway for some family-friendly oval track auto racing. On the weekends there are both day and night races and lots of fun entertainment.

Osoyoos

Head south to the desert region of the Okanagan Valley and visit the Osoyoos Desert Center. There you can explore the unique desert ecosystem and its flora and fauna. This is also the perfect trip for a stop at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory for a look into a massive radio telescope.

Kelowna

Kelowna isn’t a huge metropolis, but they’ve got the market cornered on parks. Visit the Hot Sands Beach and City Park for water sports rentals and beach fun as well as a boardwalk and playground with zipline and waterpark.

The Mission Creek Park has a great playground and rope pyramid as well as an indoor Environment Educational Center (EECO) where you can observe Kokanee salmon spawning right there in town from late September to early October.

Fruit orchards

There are lots of opportunities for picking your own fruit in the Okanagan Valley (as long as it’s not winter). It’s a wonderful experience for kids, and a tasty one!

Family-friendly wineries and distilleries

Believe it or not, there are lots of family-friendly wineries in the Okanagan Valley! Most offer interesting educational activities for kids as well as lots of fun. If you’ve been wondering how to get some wine time in with your kids in tow, you can do it here.

If distilled spirits are more your thing, visit the Okanagan Spirits Distillery. Your kids will be fascinated by the gigantic, bubbling copper distiller and it’s right near the park, the marina and ice cream.

Conclusion

Have you packed your bags yet? The Okanagan Valley is the perfect trip for an American on the go. There is literally something for everyone here, yet it’s only a quick, cheap flight away. You’ll love the experience of doing new, exciting things without breaking the bank or needing a translator, too!


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.

 

Golf

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.

Cycling/biking

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.

Hiking

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.

Heli-hiking

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.

Hockey

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:

June

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

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.

August

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.

Summary

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.

Read more