The Okanagan might be famed for its fabulous wineries, but the area is quickly becoming a favourite destination for foodies and beer lovers as well. Kelowna, which is about 400 kilometres from Vancouver on Highway 97, takes less than five hours to get to by car, making it close enough for a long weekend but far enough away to enjoy a perfect vacation escape.
“Everyone knows that our wine is travel-worthy, but there’s so much more than that,” says Jennifer Widmer, who handles travel media and communications at Tourism Kelowna.
As the Okanagan Valley’s largest city, Kelowna offers a whole variety of activities that are easily accessible from the downtown core.
“There’s a lot of diversity,” Widmer says. “You can have a very urban experience, like the Great Okanagan Beer Festival on the waterfront, which is quite unique, but then you also have that proximity to an agriculture rich experience, like visiting an alpaca farm.”
Below, Widmer shares a local's top recommendations for a foodie-approved trip to Kelowna this summer.
Festival fun times
Kicking off the summer for the fifth year running, the Great Okanagan Beer Festival (GOBF) presented by The Train Station Pub, returns to Waterfront Park in Kelowna, bringing with it live music, food trucks, interactive games, exhibitor booths, and, of course, beer. Taking place from Thursday, May 9, to Saturday, May 11, organizers promise that this year’s festival will be the best one yet.
With 60+ breweries participating and 120+ craft beers and ciders to sample, all to be found on the beautiful beaches of Okanagan Lake and right in the heart of downtown Kelowna, it’s no surprise that the main event Saturday (May 11) is expected to attract more than 3,500 festivalgoers. Showcasing some of the best beers and ciders that B.C. has to offer, in addition to a few out-of-province favourites, there is sure to be a brew to suit every taste.
Those making the trip for GOBF should also make a stop—or two— at festival sponsor and official after-party spot, The Train Station Pub. Now considered a Kelowna institution, it offers great food, craft beer on tap, Okanagan wines, and the opportunity for visitors to mingle with the locals and enjoy the pub’s relaxed and friendly vibe.
Beer and eats
Visitors to Kelowna in May can continue the revelry beyond the GOBF, since there are plenty of amazing spots in which to indulge in beer, food, and fun times. CRAFT Beer Market has more than 100 craft brews on tap, so take your time making your selection on the rooftop patio. At BNA Brewing Co and Eatery, you can release your inner kid by playing bocce, shuffleboard, or arcade games while you enjoy a brew. Those who like to listen to live music while they drink should go to Fernando’s Pub, and be sure to try out the pub’s famous avocado margarita. Or for something a little different, Jack’s Pizza and Liquor is an L.A.”dive”-inspired joint that serves Okanagan-style pizza with a choice of beers or 26 cocktails.
A cidery adventure? Alpaca my glass
If beer’s not your thing, then the SOMA Craft Cidery offers the opportunity to taste quality craft ciders and enjoy authentic hospitality. Set within the diverse agricultural community of the Okanagan Valley, the property is also home to an orchard and alpaca farm. Sip cider and pet alpacas. What more do you need?
Get into the spirit
If you enjoy your liquor a little stronger, the Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery is the place for you. The local farm-to-flask distillery offers a selection of more than 25 internationally awarded spirits, ranging from B.C.’s first single-malt whisky to gins, vodkas, liqueurs, fruit brandies, and even aquavit and absinthe.
Go on a joy ride
Smile Cycle Tours is a great way of seeing the city while also trying out some of Kelowna’s craft producers. The world-famous Dutch-made community bike takes up to 15 people on craft-beer, wine, spirits, and city tours. One bike, 15 friends, lots of fun.
Take a hike
After all that eating and drinking, chances are you’re going to want to try to fit in some exercise. And Knox Mountain, located just five minutes from downtown Kelowna and the growing north-end brewer’s district, is a beautiful hiking spot to get in some physical activity.
Catch some zeds
No matter how long you plan to stay, the cool and quirky Hotel Zed is a great place to rest your head for the night. Located right in the centre of town, you’re within walking distance of Kelowna’s City Park which has sandy beaches, a waterpark, tennis courts, a skateboard park, a running track, lawn bowling, playgrounds, sports fields, and a gorgeous biking and pedestrian path around the lake. Guests should also be sure to take advantage of some of the hotel’s unique amenities, such as the Ping Pong Lounge, free coffee all day, and the private mini disco.
To learn more about Kelowna and to start planning your trip, visit the Tourism Kelowna website. Main Event tickets (general admission or a limited number of all-access passes) for the GOBF are available at the website now. The full festival schedule—complete with live music, beer yoga, tap takeovers, specialty menus, and more—will be announced soon.
In the meantime, enter to win an Okanagan prize pack valued at more than $600. Prize includes four general-admission tickets to GOBF—each of which gives free access to the event and five beer tokens—in addition to a $100 gift card to the Train Station Pub, one-night’s stay at Hotel Zed, and a "Love for Kelowna" 64-ounce growler.
An Okanagan prize pack including:
- Four general-admission tickets to GOBF
- A $100 gift card to the Train Station Pub
- One-night’s stay at Hotel Zed in Kelowna
- A "Love for Kelowna" 64-ounce growler
This contest has ended.
Contest Deadline: Thursday, April 18, 3:00 am
Winner(s) will be contacted either by phone or email.