Bursting with arts and culture, rich heritage, year-round outdoor recreation, exceptional wineries and restaurants, Kelowna is a leisure paradise with a variety of accommodation options, including luxury waterfront resorts. Kelowna's Okanagan Valley location at the northern end of the Sonora Desert brings a semi-arid climate with long, warm summers, and short, mild winters, making golf possible nine months out of the year. When the snow does fall, Kelowna is a great place for skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling, as well as boardwalk strolls along Okanagan Lake.
Much of Kelowna life and activities center on the 68-mile Okanagan Lake, which features a number of sandy beaches, marinas, and endless opportunities for boating, fishing, and water sports. City Park and its Hot Sands Beach, set in the centre of the downtown core, are always buzzing with activity thanks to the sports courts, playground, waterpark, skatepark, boardwalk, and more. Visitors to the lake may even catch a glimpse of Ogopopo, a legendary lake monster that dates back more than 100 years and is sighted from time to time today.
Originating as a settlement by the Sylix and Okanagan people more than 6,000 years ago, Kelowna was first settled by Europeans in 1859 when three Oblate missionaries set up a mission for the area's natives, traders, and new settlers. Realizing the area's agricultural potential, Lord Aberdeen, Canada's Governor General, bought tracks of land in the area, and Kelowna became a city in 1905. Much of the city's early development stemmed from its agriculture and ranching, followed by the success of its orchards and vineyards. Today, Kelowna has a population of 117,000 and is the largest city in British Columbia outside of the Vancouver area, and both visitors and residents alike frequent Kelowna's many orchards and farm-fresh markets, including the Kelowna Farmers & Crafters Market.
Visitors to Kelowna revel in its beaches and parks that dot Okanagan Lake's shoreline, as well as explore the six-block Cultural District, which features galleries, museums, theatres, artist studios, fine dining, unique shops, and a casino. Five museums are set within a two-block walk in the Cultural District; those museums include the Okanagan Heritage Museum, BC Orchard Industry Museum, Laurel Packinghouse, Okanagan Military Museum, and the BC Wine Museum.
Many of the Kelowna area's fine restaurants craft their selections to highlight the region's wines, as well as celebrate fresh, local ingredients in farm-to-table offerings. Waterfront Wines incorporates such ingredients in its comfort food with a twist, while RauDZ focuses on pure, simple flavors, and fun presentations, utilizing organic, sustainable, and naturally raised ingredients. Even the liquid chefs at RauDZ use fresh, local, seasonal ingredients in their expertly crafted cocktails. Old Vines Restaurant at Quail's Gate Estate Winery serves regionally sourced fare paired with their estate wines at a vineyard-wide location on the slopes of the Boucherie Mountain Bench, while Sunset Organic Bistro at Summerhill Pyramid Winery takes its inspiration from the seasons and organic wines. Last but certainly not least, Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill Family Estate serves stylish, seasonal wine country fare, netting it the distinction of one of the top five winery restaurants in the world as named by Travel + Leisure.