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Kelowna is a Keeper: Here's How to Spend Time There

The towns that dot Lake Okanagan's shoreline are relatively new players in the wine space, but the industry has grown significantly in just two decades, and with it has come development, additional tourism, and a flourishing farm-to-table movement. Planning a short stay in this previously rural nook of British Columbia is probably the best idea you'll have in a while. The landscape near Kelowna combines mountains, chalky cliffs, crystal clear lakes, and vineyards in one silky smooth sip. It's a feast for the senses, and you'll want to return for seconds.

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01Okanagan Lake

Colorful, turquoise, vivid lake for countless water sports and lake activities

Do as the locals do and make your way to Lake Okanagan. Once there, your day could go in many different directions. Perhaps you're in the mood to look for Ogopogo, BC's equivalent of the Loch Ness monster. Or maybe, you've come prepared with your waterproof sunblock, and you're ready to wake surf or flyboard with a jetpack. This is your day at the downtown marina, and you can do whatever you like on this 80-mile-long freshwater fjord.

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02Kettle Valley Railway - Myra Canyon

Originally one of 19 wooden railway trestle bridges built in the early 1900s in Myra Canyon, Kelowna, BC, it is now a public park with biking and hiking trails. ronniechua / Getty Images

You can run out of superlatives in British Columbia—places of extraordinary beauty can begin to look commonplace because the entire province is so blessed in the looks department. Whether you zipline through Myra Canyon's Adventure Park or hike the defunct railway tracks, you will see a blue sky, green canopy, and tall human-engineered bridge converge in one pretty picture. It may just take your breath away.

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03Vaseux Lake Provincial Park

Audubon Society Members and birding fans, listen up! You can't make a winter trip to Kelowna and Penticton without going to Vaseux Lake. Not only is the lake stunning, but it's also been a bird sanctuary for nearly a century. The lake hosts rare migrating Trumpeter Swans, those graceful but heavy waterfowls that need about 100 yards for take-off. You'll also find tundra swans, great blue herons, Lewis's woodpecker, and western screech owls, to name a few.

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04Knox Mountain Park

You'll want to venture to the top of Knox Mountain Park for views with an exclamation point. There's a nice breeze at the observation deck, which is perfect if you've been working up a sweat for half an hour, but don't forget to carry your water bottle to stay hydrated. You can drive up if necessary, but the road is closed to vehicles on Sunday mornings. Amenities at the park include tennis and disc golf.

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05Arcadia Virtual Reality Lounge

When the sun sets, and Kelowna's beautiful scenery is plunged into darkness, escape to a virtual world. Think of it as a taster for the Metaverse. Arcadia VR Lounge makes for mind-blowing fun for the young and young at heart. You can choose from over 100 games and play in a virtual space with the friends and family members you take along. An hour session should be enough to immerse you without being tiring.

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06Big White Ski Resort

Big White Ski Resort lies southeast of Kelowna and is a must-do if you love skiing. Mixed skill levels are welcome, and the snow conditions and short line-ups are ideal, especially compared to Whistler during the holidays. You'll have the good powdery stuff to work with. There's also tubing and skating, but not much nightlife currently, and you should anticipate some fog.

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07CedarCreek Estate Winery

Rows of grapes lead down to the waters of Okanagan Lake near Kelowna, with the Rocky Mountains, blue sky and white clouds in the background. John Fader / Getty Images

Kelowna is to British Columbia, what Napa is to California. The climate and conditions are ideal for growing various grape varieties, and no trip to the region is complete without visiting some of the magnificent wineries. CedarCreek is just one example of a world-class estate—even if you don't drink, the venue has ambiance enough to warrant a visit.

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08Peachland

Between Peachland and Oliver, you're spoiled for choice regarding fresh produce. The orchards have an abundance of sweet and juicy stone fruit, including cherries. And wheelchair-friendly Hardy Falls is charming, to say the least, especially when the salmon swim upstream and you get to stroll over seven bridges en route to the mini waterfall.

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09Farmers' and Crafters' Market

Downtown Kelowna is a place for gathering, merrymaking, and tummy filling. Sweet or savory, you'll find something that hits the spot. Be sure to catch the weekend Farmers' and Crafters' Market. It's often held on a Wednesday too, and you can purchase gifts that are cute as a button, as well as artisanal foods to elevate your snacking over the next few weeks or months. Pet an adorable chick, and stick around for the live music.

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10Waterfront City Park

Promenade along the Okanagan Lake waterfront in Kelowna, BC pr2is / Getty Images

City Park and Waterfront Park connect via a boardwalk, and together with downtown Kelowna a stone's throw away, you can while away a morning or afternoon. Sit down in a shaded spot with a book or earphones, or get your vitamin D. Lean into the casual lake lifestyle, and you'll be able to go home refreshed and ready to hit reset.

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