The history behind the name of Kelowna is about as intriguingly intricate as the geography of the British Columbian city. According to Natural Resources Canada, the locals of Kelowna have one August Gillard to thank for the origins of the city's designation. In 1862, Gillard, described as a "half shanty and half underground Indian," decided to settle down in the territory that is today known as Kelowna.
His appearance resembled that of a towering, hairy man, and his presence was routinely heckled by the native Okanagan Indians, referring to him as a "Kimach Touche" or "black bear face." Eventually, both Gillard and the land he roamed were simply known as Kimach Touche, until future inhabitants changed it. It was then agreed upon that Kelowna, which translates to "female grizzly bear," was a much more elegant title that also honored the area's first furry patron.
Since Gillard stumbled upon this lakeside terrain, Kelowna has evolved into one of the more gorgeous and frequented cities in all of Canada. Resting around the shores of the Okanagan Lake, Kelowna is a community that balances its metropolitan features with a number of tranquil amenities, resulting in a perfect stability of stimulating activities and relaxation opportunities. While the late "grizzly" Gillard may not have foreseen how serene his domain would become, one trip to Kelowna will help any visitor notice how this hybrid of nature and culture can produce the vacation experience of a lifetime.
The days in Kelowna are typically spent making the most of all the incredible scenic resources readily available. Inspiration lurks around every trail or mountain pass, and whether it's basking in the beach sun or conquering the alpine terrain, your outdoor recreational desires will surely be fulfilled.
Myra Canyon Trestles
If the pursuit of the ultimate view overlooking the city of Kelowna sounds like an intriguing challenge, then hiking up the Myra Canyon Trestles is how visitors can throw down the gauntlet. The Myra Canyon landscape stretches approximately 12 kilometres, and while usually travelled by foot, can also be toured while cycling. Rent some bikes through Myra Canyon Bike Rentals, and spend the afternoon with your family swiftly steering through evergreen trees against the backdrops of Okanagan Lake.
You can also tour the canyons by train, by purchasing a ticket with the Kettle Valley Steam Railway, where you can even book a Great Train Robbery dinner, where your barbeque suppers will be interrupted by horseback actors, portraying the famous gangs that used to wreak havoc on the railroads in the early 19th centuries.
Of course, nothing adds to the tranquilness of the Myra Canyon Trestles than seeing all the sights on top of a noble steed. Check out the Kelowna Stables at Myra Canyon Ranch, where experienced tour guides will lead you through the immaculate countrysides, providing educational insight on the vast historical secrets the trails hide.
Ask any of the locals and they'll tell you that a summer day in Kelowna practically requires a trip to Okanagan Lake. Spanning 110 kilometres from the northern community of Vernon to the southern tip of the city of Penticton, this massive body of water features dozens of accessible beaches, secluded coves and even one big mysterious secret shared by the citizens of Kelowna.
If you're looking for a beach close to the downtown area, Hot Sands Beach is where to go for a sandy oasis that's right next to metropolitan amenities. This is where to go for a more buzzing environment that's features everything from volleyball and basketball courts, skateboard parks and food vendors to sublime sunset strolls along the boardwalk.
Groups of youthful travellers should head over to Gyro Beach, where activeness is essentially mandatory. Water park playgrounds, rope swings and picnic areas are found in abundance here, and you can find plenty of water equipment ranging from squirt guns to kayaks at the Gyro Beach Watersport Rentals stand. For parties in pursuit of a more placid paradise, Strathcona Park is where visitors can swim surrounded by towering oak trees with sufficient grassy knoll sections to lay out and bask in the Kelowna sun's glory.
If you hear rumblings about a certain giant snake monster slithering its way through Okanagan Lake, it's not the locals just trying to get a rise out of you. The legend of Ogopogo remains a piece of mythical folklore that still captures the imaginations of Kelowna to this day. Since settlers first occupied the area, sightings of a "N'ha-a-itk" or "lake monster" have run rampant, and many people still claim to see the beast swimming about to this day. If you don't get a chance to spot the monster in person, you can always take a picture with the Ogopogo statue in City Park.
After you've conquered a mountain or canoed your way through the waters, it's time to soak in all the incredible culture Kelowna has to offer. From community organized art festivals to strolling through cherry orchards to guided tours of the famous Kelowna wine trails, guests can enrich their vacation by exploring what truly gives the city its signature ambiance.
Wines and Brews
Award winning wines with prestigious credentials from all over the world is one of the qualities Kelowna is most proud of, and exclusive opportunities to tour these acclaimed vineyards are yours to explore. There are more than 30 wineries total within the city of Kelowna, and most of them are available to tour for yourself. Experience Wine Tours is where you can book trips to visit multiple Kelowna wineries, including tastings at Quail's Gate Winery near Mount Boucherie and a fully catered lunch at Sperling Vineyards, with the whole tour lasting around five hours.
If it's the brew that's more your choosing, you'll want to take a trip to the locally owned and operated Tree Brewery, home of some of the best craft beers you'll find in Kelowna. This microbrewery gives visitors a firsthand look at all of the science and care that goes into what winds up in your pint glass, and best of all, you'll get to drink their smooth concoctions as well!
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One element to Kelowna that's hard to find in most cities is the overall sense of cohesiveness that is evident throughout the community culture. No other time is this more apparent than during the wide range of festivals that take place essentially every month throughout the year.
Ring in the spring with the BC Interior Jazz Festival, an event that for 37 consecutive years has showcased some of the most talented jazz musicians in all of Canada. Over the course of three days in mid-April, attendees will be treated to dozens of professional jazz players, as well as experience opportunities to take part in free instrumental and vocal workshops hosted at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.
Mingle with the locals by attending one of several summer festivals in Kelowna that range from beach DJ raves to back-flipping motorbike stuntmen! The youthful members of your travelling party will want to consider attending Center of Gravity, where every end of July, Kelowna hosts a massive get-together bursting with the biggest names in music as well as a spectacle of extreme sports. Only here can you spend one hour dancing immersed in laser light shows to the likes of Calvin Harris and the next dropping your jaw as you witness professional motorcyclists and skateboarders flying through the air in the ultimate competition of supreme skill.
If backflips and fist pumps sounds a tad too intimidating, sit back and relax at the Keloha Music Festival, a three-day event in early June located in Waterfront Park that will offer you a chance to hear the soothing sounds of today's top alternative acts right on the beach! Previous artists have included the likes of MGMT, Cold War Kids, The Naked and Famous, Matt & Kim and much more, and the lakefront Art Avenue is a great place to take a break from the music and engage in interactive arts and culture crafts and workshops.
Fall means food and films when it comes to festival season in Kelowna. This is definitely made clear at the Okanagan Food & Wine Film Festival, where last year's first annual event in mid-September allowed guests to embark on a culinary tour sponsored by the best restaurants in Kelowna and followed by sipping down a few glasses of Kelowna wine while watching a lineup of several British Columbia produced independent films.
Of course, nothing says fall in Kelowna like fishing in Okanagan Lake and gearing your appetite up for all the fresh seafood you can handle at the Kokanee Salmon Festival taking place every mid-September at Mission Creek Park. This free festival is a great resource for bringing the family together for a day of salmon-splurging, campfire-storytelling and basking in the great outdoors.
From untamed toddlers to temperamental teenagers, Kelowna can provide fun and create memories for all age demographics. The EnergyPlex is practically a utopia for exhilarating children's activities ranging from laser tag, trampoline gyms to mini bungee-jumping, and is a great way to have the kids let loose a little steam after too many nature expeditions.
If kiddie games just don't cut it anymore for your adolescent family members, take them out for an afternoon soaring through the Kelowna skies by booking a trip to Oyama Zipline. Panoramic views of the majestic Okanagan Lake are by the plenty as you rip past forest trees and evergreen terrain. Best of all, they feature dueling zipline courses, so you can race each other all the way through the gliding tour.
For wildlife enthusiasts, Kelowna offers families a chance to check out some more exotic types of creatures typically not found in the northern wildernesses of British Columbia. No better example of this exists than at Kangaroo Creek Farm, where for 20 years, Greg Wightman, aka the "Roo Man," has been breeding kangaroos and wallabies at his Kelowna farm, allowing guests to see and pet the typically outback furry critters up close.
Other animals roaming the grounds of Kangaroo Creek Farm include emus, peacocks, fancy chickens, goats, parrots and pot-bellied pigs. Families can also take a trip out to Croc Talk, a Kelowna conservation featuring live crocodile exhibits, as well as experiencing the only way to to see African wild cats and giant tortoises up in the Canadian countrysides.
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When the sun goes down in Kelowna, the merriment is only getting started. With plenty of pubs, music venues, dance halls and casinos, Kelowna has a little something for all adults looking to have a little fun of their own.
Start the night off with dinner for two at Hester Creek, voted one of Kelowna's best restaurants according to Okanagan Life magazine. Hester Creek emphasizes patrons indulging in a true wine experience, which entails splitting a bottle of one of their award winning wines with luscious menu options including wood-fired duck confit & blue cheese pizza, baked little qualicum brie with stewed apricots and pan seared line caught lingcod, with each entree coming with its own paired wine recommendation.
After gorging in incredible cuisine, make the evening even more invigorating with plenty cocktails, music and good vibes all around at The Blue Gator, the place to go to hear the most happening bands in Kelowna. After a round of drinks and the blues, take a cab over to The Mission Tap House, where you'll find plenty of Kelowna microbrews on tap, not to mention some of the best late-night snacks options, such as pulled pork and jalapeno nachos.
If you start to feel lucky, roll the dice and head over to Lake City Casino, the premiere Kelowna location for slot, table games and the best poker action in town. If gambling isn't in your cards for the evening, check out their live entertainment there, which routinely hosts some of the most famous acts in music and comedy every weekend.
As you can see, you can practically achieve and experience everything your vacationing heart desires during a trip to Kelowna. From the great outdoors to the blackjack table, infinite entertainment and memories await your stay!