A Guide to the Perfect Weekend in the Okanagan Valley
One of the things I love most about living in the Okanagan Valley is the feeling of truly having it all. Sun-drenched summers, laid-back small town vibes, an abundance of fresh, locally grown fruit and veggies, close proximity to both sandy lakeshores and mountainous hiking trails, and of course, a flourishing wine and microbrewery scene.
However, I've often found the Okanagan to be overlooked by travelers either on their way to the coast or to the Rocky Mountains. But with its clear lakes, mountain vistas, and distinctive cities such as Kelowna, Penticton, and Vernon, this 200 km long valley is a fantastic place to visit, even if only for a few short days. That's why, in partnership with Expedia.ca, I'm excited to share this guide with you so you can start planning your next weekend getaway to the Okanagan!
Where to Eat and Drink
The Okanagan has so many amazing restaurants, bars, wineries, breweries, and cafes that any foodie will be sure to fall in love with the area! My one big piece of advice is to avoid the chain restaurants and stick with independent places. There are plenty of family-run establishments that only use seasonal and fresh ingredients which makes for a distinctive Okanagan dining experience! Here are some of my favorite culinary hangouts throughout the valley:
Garden Bistro at The Chase Wines in Lake Country / Relax on the breezy patio of the newest winery in Lake Country and try their locally-sourced Charcuterie Board and a glass of Pinot Noir (one of the best in the valley in my opinion). Their menu might be small, but it feels innovative and fresh.
Bad Tattoo Brewery in Penticton / Featuring a selection of "weird pizzas" (their words, not mine) which include toppings like Okanagan fruit jellies and locally made cheeses, Bad Tattoo Brewery is a nice option for a unique bite to eat and drink. Their Dia de los Muertos Cerveza Negra dark lager and house-made root beer are standouts on their drink menu.
Tickleberry's in Okanagan Falls / When the sun's out in the Okanagan, there's no better place to go than Tickleberry's for a huge scoop (or two or three) of ice cream on one of their homemade waffle cones. They have over fifty flavors to choose from, plus they also sell house-made chocolates, fudge, and kettle corn.
The Jammery in Lake Country / Just a few minutes north of the Kelowna Airport, taste all of the sweet bounty the Okanagan has to offer at this large jam production facility. If you're arriving into Kelowna on an early morning flight, stop in first thing for breakfast or lunch at their onsite restaurant.
Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill Winery in West Kelowna / Worth making a reservation and spending a fancy night out on the scenic terrace overlooking Okanagan Lake where you'll enjoy local, sustainable, and seasonally sourced foods. Makes for a great date night or special occasion!
The Marten Brewing Company in Vernon / Located in the North Okanagan, a drive to the Marten Brewing Company is entirely worthwhile. Sip on one of their small batch craft beers like the uniquely titled Cookie Monster Stout and enjoy the rustic atmosphere of the place - the actual brewery is featured in the center of their pub!
The Wild Scallion in Penticton / A completely vegan restaurant that you don't need to be vegan to enjoy! The Braised Shiitake Mushrooms are particularly delicious and the Peanut Butter Chocolate Hazelnut Square is a chocolate explosion of sweetness and textures. You'll leave here feeling satisfied yet not overly full.
Finally, for a quick snack don't forget to check out the farmer's markets happening throughout the valley through spring until fall. You'll find artisan roasted coffee, fresh pastries and breads from local bakers, and colorful and ripe fruits and vegetables. There are also plenty of stands selling handmade goods and artwork. The Penticton, Kelowna, and Vernon markets are the largest and most worthwhile for a leisurely browse.
What to see & do: Spring, Summer & Fall
When the temperatures start to warm up in the springtime, the whole valley seems to come alive and there is plenty to see and do until the temperatures start to dip again in October.
In the summer, one of the best activities on a hot day is to enjoy some of the many beaches and lakes in the area. Osoyoos Lake in the South Okanagan has the warmest water while Sun-Oka Beach on Okanagan Lake is a nice choice for a more refreshing dip. Or head north to the emerald and turquoise-hued waters of Kalamalka Lake for a prime kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding location. Even if you're only here for a weekend in the summer, I highly recommend you make some time to explore the local beaches.
If learning about the history and culture of the area is more your thing, don't miss out on the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Center in Osoyoos or pay a visit to the historic O'Keefe Ranch north of Vernon. The Grist Mill is another important site only a short drive outside of the Okanagan in the neighboring Similkameen Valley.
For a family-friendly activity, a visit to Kangaroo Creek Farm in Lake Country is a laid back way to while away a few hours, and probably something you wouldn't expect to find in the Okanagan.
And, of course, you should also spend some time exploring the surrounding mountains. There are a vast amount of trails ranging from easy walks to expert-level hikes all throughout the region. Be sure to check out sections of the KVR Trail either on foot or by bike (the portions of the trail above Naramata and in Myra Canyon are particularly spectacular in scenery and landscape).
What to see & do: winter
Although there are so many things to do in the summertime, don't discount visiting in the spring, fall, or winter. Spring and autumn provide moderate temperatures and are perfect for exploring the outdoors, while the valley transforms into a snowy winter wonderland in the colder months. You can experience some of the best powder snow in the province at one of the many alpine resorts in the Okanagan. Make your way to Mount Baldy, Apex, Big White, or Silver Star for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, skating, and plenty of other winter activities.
Another special activity you might want to experience is viewing the snowy Okanagan landscape from above in a hot air balloon! It's a chilly but amazing event that takes place each year (usually in February) during the Vernon Winter Carnival.
Or if you'd prefer to stay indoors, cozy up in one of the luxurious and relaxing saunas at Sparkling Hill Resort.