Kelowna is an active and lively city, surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty, in the heart of British Columbia’s wine country. Whether you want adventure, relaxation, shopping, nightlife or world class food and drink there is never a shortage of things to do in Kelowna.
I lived in Kelowna for a couple of years back in the 90’s and was amazed on my recent visit at how the city has grown. Of course growth does bring its share of downsides, like increased traffic and a sprawl of chain retailers and condos, but it still makes for an awesome vacation destination for people of all ages. Plus there is the convenience of being able to find absolutely anything you want or need.
For families there’s the soft sand and calm waters of Okanagan Lake, water parks and a ton of fun Kelowna activities and attractions. For couples there are lakeshore strolls, sunset cruises and beautiful resorts. And for groups of friends looking for adventure, nightlife and wine and craft beer tasting there is no end to the options.
We recently spent three weeks house sitting in this fun Okanagan city and did our best to do as many Kelowna activities as possible. We didn’t even come close to running out of options! So, if you’re thinking of making it your next holiday spot make sure to save this post full of great ideas of what to do in Kelowna next time you’re there.
Getting to Kelowna
If you have a car it’s an easy and scenic drive. From Vancouver, BC to Kelowna takes about 4 hours using the wide laned, speedy Coquihalla Hwy and just over 5 hours using the prettier but slower Hope-Princeton route. From Seattle you can take the faster I-5 route through Abbotsford which takes about 5.5 hours or the more scenic US-97 route which takes about 7 hours.
Kelowna does have an International airport and there are direct flights daily from Vancouver and Seattle. Also, from Vancouver you can take a Greyhound bus to downtown Kelowna.
Fun and Fabulous Things to do in Kelowna, BC
1. Cycle Myra Canyon Trestles
The Myra Canyon Trestles trail is a piece of the 600 km Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) that extends from Hope to Midway, British Columbia. A scenic 24 km drive from downtown Kelowna will bring you to Myra Station where you can park and either walk or cycle the trail. You will cross over 18 trestles and through 2 tunnels with spectacular scenery and wildlife spotting along the way.
If you don’t have your own car or bike there are several tour companies that will take you up and provide bikes. After researching the options we went with Myra Canyon Bicycle Rentals which proved to be a great choice. This family run business offers guided tours and are also the only ones to have bike rentals right on site at Myra Station. They also have a host that rides up and down the trail in case you need help with a flat or just want a selfie!
2. Enjoy a Wine Tour
One of the most popular things to do in the Okanagan is a winery tour and Kelowna makes a great home base for that. There are more than 40 Kelowna wineries and hundreds more in the surrounding area of the Okanagan. You will find everything here from large commercial wineries to small boutique wineries all offering world class vintages.
If you have a car you can grab a wine trail map and venture off on your own but we find it more fun to do an organized tour. Having your own driver and guide to point out the sights along the way and make sure you have a prime spot at the tasting bar is well worth the cost. As always we did our research and chose Okanagan Wine Country Tours. They provided us and another couple, coincidentally also from the Seattle area, with a fabulous day of wine tasting and sightseeing and we were fast friends by the end of it.
3. Pick Fruit
The Okanagan is a fertile valley perfect for fruit growing. Before the wineries starting growing the land between the towns and lakes was full of orchards. Although some of that land is now beautiful vineyards there are still dozens of fruit growers around Kelowna. You will find produce stands everywhere selling fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables and homemade pies and jams.
However, we think it’s much more fun to go and pick your own. Depending on the month between May and October you can go out and pick your own berries, peaches, plums, apples, pears and apricots among other delicious fresh produce. We were in Kelowna in July which is cherry season and we had a great time picking from cherry trees laden with great bunches of the sweet red and yellow fruit at Kempf Orchards.
4. Have a Meal at a Winery
Many of the wineries around Kelowna also have restaurants on site. Venues range from casual to fancy and menus range from simple charcuterie boards to three course gourmet meals. What they all seem to have in common is that they use fresh local ingredients and of course offere pairing suggestions of their own wines.
Two popular options are the Mission Hill’s lovely Terrace Restaurant, open from May-Sept, and the Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate open year round. We had one of the best meals ever at the Red Fox Club at Indigenous Winery. This is one of only two BC wineries that are indigenous-owned and the menu is inspired by aboriginal, native food. We highly recommend the Caesar Salad with Candied Salmon and Bannock Bread Plate with roasted garlic, cheese and herbs to start your meal.
5. Get Out on Okanagan Lake
Kelowna sits on the shores of the large and deep Okanagan Lake which offers all kinds of water activities. The lake strectches 135 km (84 miles) from Vernon in the north to Penticton in the south, with Kelown in the middles. This means there are hours of boating fun to be had.
If you want some exercise you can rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the coastline. For a peaceful afternoon hop on a sailboat and sail into the sunset. Or if speed and water skiing are your thing rent a power boat for a couple of hours. There are also dinner and party cruise in the evening.
6. Play in the Parks and Beaches
There are more than 200 parks and 30 beaches in Kelowna so there is plenty of space to enjoy the beautiful Okanagan weather. In the summer some of the parks are alive with music and entertainment while others have waterparks for the kids and quiet shady spots for a quiet picnic.
Two of the favorites are Hot Sands Beach-City Park and Boyce-Gyro. City Park has a long beach and a boardwalk and is right downtown so is walkable if that’s where you’re staying. It’s home to festivals and beach volleyball and a fabulous water park. Popular Boyce-Gyro Park and Beach is about a 10 mintue drive from downtown and is a great place to spend the day with lots to do for kids and adults.
7. Visit Breweries, Cideries & Distilleries
Kelowna may be in the heart of BC’s wine country but there is no shortage of other delicious beverages. There are quite a few Kelowna craft breweries, cideries and even distileries to explore in the city and some are close enough to each other to make a great self-guided walking tour.
Tree Brewing is probably the best known Kelowna brewery with a good range of seasonal and year-round craft brews and two great tasting rooms. With the abundance of orchards in the area it’s no surprise that cider is a big thing. Check out BC Tree Fruits Cidery and Tasting Bar for some delicious cider that tastes like a freshly picked apple…with a kick. If spirits are your thing you can’t miss a visit to the Urban Distillery for a tasting at their spirits bar and a tasty libation at the Cocktail & Martini Bar.
8. Hike Knox Mountain
Knox Mountain is the popular spot for hiking in Kelowna. This mountin on the edge of downtown Kelowna offers up options for all levels of hikers and a spectacular view awaits both mid way and at the top.
If you want a good workout, park at the base of the mountain and head up the Apex Trail which is rated as moderate to difficult with some pretty steep inclines. You can also park halfway up the mountain, at Crown Lookout, and then hike to the top for a shorter version. Either way your efforts will be rewarded at the end so make sure you have a camera.
For an easier alternative, try Paul’s Tomb Trail which is rated as easy to moderate and is 3 km round trip. This hike is beautiful with very little incline so is suitable for kids and less active people. The view of the lake is just as stunning and there’s also a great spot for a picnic at the end.
9. Explore Downtown Kelowna
Downtown Kelowna with its beautiful backdrop of lake and hills is full of activity and is easily walkable. Take a stroll along the waterfront boardwalk, stop to watch the boats and people going by, pop into one of the many great restaurants and pubs along the way for a refreshment, do a tasting at Tree Brewing, then head away from the water and do a little shopping before finding a deck or rooftop for dinner and/or drinks.
10. Catch a Show or Festival
Prospera Place in downtown Kelowna has an impressive event calendar including concerts, live theatre, sports and festivals. Catch huge acts like Rod Stewart, Elton John and Bryan Adams, join in a big music event like Rock the Lake or watch a Cirque de Soleil performance.
If you like the thought of sipping a glass of wine while listening to live music check for performances at many of the local wineries. There are also a few theaters in Kelowna with live performances of Shakespeare and more modern acts like Mama Mia.
11.Wander Kelowna’s Farmers & Crafters Market
Every Wednesday and Saturday between April and November there is an outdoor farmers market behind the Orchard Park Shopping Mall. Here you will find stalls displaying beautiful farm fresh produce and dairy, delicious homemade baked goods and salsas, lovely hand crafted jewelry, clothes and home accents and food trucks with tasty temptations. Plan to spend a couple of hours here and bring cash as some of the vendors aren’t set up to take cards.
12. Have Some Fun at Rose’s Waterfront Pub
Rose’s Pub is right on the waterfront and has a nice, large deck for sipping a cold one on a hot day while watching the people and boats go by. They also have a great menu for lunch and dinner. At night Rose’s is the place to be for music, dancing, a game of pool, games nights or watching sporting events on the many TVs. We even saw Nicholas Cage enjoying a beverage at Rose’s on our last visit!
13. Get Active at Big White Kelowna
Big White ski resort is just one hour from Kelowna and offers up year round fun and activities. Of course winter is the busiest season with great skiing, snow boarding, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing but there’s also plenty to do in the other seasons such as hiking, mountain biking, and a scenic chairlift.
Big White Village also has all the amenities you need. There are grocery and liquor stores, more than 20 restaurants, nightlife at village bars, a day spa, yoga classes and even pet and baby sitting services.
14. Play a Round of Golf
The many hours of annual sunshine, the beautiful scenery and the fact that there are 19 courses in the Kelowna area make it a great place for golfers. There are courses for various skill levels and as well as price ranges and many of them have spectacular lake views or are surrounded by orchards and vineyards making the experience so much more than a game of golf.
15. Experience the Nightlife
Nightlife in Kelowna is varied offering something for everyone, aged 19 or over. In fact there are more than 30 options for enjoying a few drinks in the evenings in Kelowna. For casual nights out there are plenty of neighborhood pubs and sports bars with music, comedy and karaoke. If you want a romantic pre-dinner drink or nightcap there are sexy lounges with fancy cocktails. And if you’re looking to dance the night away you will find nightclubs with DJ’s or live music.
Kelowna accommodations are varies offering everything from hostels and camping to motels, hotels and resorts. When researching accommodations we always start with Hotels Combined. This site is different than other booking sites as it gathers pricing form all the big names like Expedia and Booking.com and lays them out for you so you can get the best deal out there.
If you’re looking for more of an apartment style accommodation, a great option for families, there are also plenty of Airbnb options. We use Airbnb all the time even for short stays as we love having a kitchen. If you have never used Airbnb before you can use this coupon code for up to $40 off your first stay.
Here’s an idea of recommended accommodations in Kelowna to get you started:
Samesun Kelowna Hostel is the best choice for hostels in Kelowna although it is restricted to 19 years of age and over. Samesun is bright, clean, friendly and in an excellent located right downtown across from City Park. They even have a hot tub, a pool table and a grill for guest use.
The Days Inn Kelowna is a budget chain hotel offering basic but clean and comfortable rooms at a reasonable rate. They also have an outdoor pool and hot tub. The location is too far from the lake and most other activities to walk so a car is needed.
Coast Capri Hotel is a full service hotel within walking distance to City Park and downtown waterfront. There is an outdoor pool and hot tub, fitness facility, spa and two restaurants on site.
Hotel ZED is clean and comfortable within easy walking distance to downtown and the lake. They have an outdoor pool, a rooftop terrace and a games room for kids.
Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort would be our first choice of Kelowna hotels if the budget allows. The large resort is located on the lakefront with easy access to the boardwalk and all the activities of downtown Kelowna. The resort itself is large and beautifully designed with an indoor and outdoor pool, full service spa, hot tubs, sauna, fitness center, restaurant, bar, and even a casino.