Thompson Okanagan an endlessly varied playground for those looking for diversity and inclusion

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      (This story is sponsored by Travelling Out in the Thompson Okanagan)

      Historically speaking, British Columbia’s Thompson Okanagan has long been a place that values diversity and inclusion. 

      And that’s made the area a favourite destination for members of the global 2SLGBTQIA+ community, visitors drawn to the region’s wealth of world-class restaurants, award-winning wineries, breathtaking scenery, and reputation as a safe and super-natural playground. 

      The Thompson-Okanagan has built a reputation as an always-welcoming place where you can après-ski after hitting fresh powder on the slopes of Sun Peaks or Harper Mountain near Kamloops in the winter months, and hike some of the spectacular trails on the planet in the spring in Vernon.

      Instagram-ready destinations include the breathtaking Myra Canyon Trestles of Kelowna, Osoyoos’ awesomely named Anarchist Mountain Lookout, and rock climber’s paradise that is Skaha Bluffs in Penticton. 

      Look back over the years and you’ll find no shortage of grassroots Thompson-Okanagan groups that have worked to support and nurture the region’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community. In the early ’90s, the pioneering North Okanagan Gay and Lesbian Organization (NOGLO) formed, organizing events ranging from dances to garage sales, giving LGBTQ+ folks safe spaces to hang out. In 2001 the Rainbow Women’s Group came together to give the region’s lesbians, bisexual, and questioning women a place to connect amongst themselves. 

      Today, Travelling Out in the Thompson Okanagan (TOTO) works with tourism boards and organizations in Penticton, Kelowna, Vernon, Osoyoos and Kamloops to spotlight the region’s immersive and inclusive travel options. 

      On the high-profile side of 2SLGBTQIA+ activities, Kelowna hosts the BC Interior’s largest Pride Festival, as well as regular events like Kelowna’s Next Drag Superstar. Kamloops and have their own thriving Pride societies. 

      Osoyoos has hosted arts-and-culture celebrations like the Pride Arts Festival in Gyro Park, and Penticton has put a spin on traditional parades with such events as the Walkin’ and Rollin’ Pride Parade along its scenic Lakeshore Boardwalk. 

      The non-profit South Okanagan Similkameen Pride society, meanwhile, is a regional initiative that supports the 2SLGBTQIA+ community of the South Okanagan and Similkameen by providing safe spaces and inclusive events for everyone.

      A big part of the Thompson-Okanagan’s attraction for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is not only the region’s beauty, but endless list of things to do—not just during the traditionally busy summer months, but in the spring, fall and winter. 

      A list of Thompson Okanagan memorable experiences includes the following. See you in one of beautiful British Columbia’s most truly beautiful and welcoming areas.

      While sights like the Tower Point Trail are hugely popular, Kamloops is also known for its booming art scene.
      Dylan Sherrard

      Visit Secwépemc Museum & Heritage Park in Kamloops

      Tourism Kamloops says this about the city which it proudly serves: “We may not be the biggest or most glamorous but what we may lack in style, we make up for in authentic people and adventures.” As a proud declaration, it’s one that will resonate with everyone who values traits like humility, acceptance, and kindness. 

      The “adventure” part of that statement includes everything from golf and horseback riding to water adventures like boating and paddle-boarding (the area boasts over 70 lakes, with 6 Mile, Jacko, and Edith all known for their fantastic fishing). 

      What sometimes gets overlooked thanks to the scenery is Kamloops booming arts and culture scenes. The Kamloops Film Festival showcases the best of the movies, international or otherwise, every March, while the Kamloops Comedy Fest and Words Alive Kamloops spotlight those who have a way with words. Local artisans can be found in thriving shops. Kweseltken Farmer’s and Artisan Market, and the city’s myriad galleries. 

      One of the most powerful and important cultural experiences in the city can be had by signing up for a Kamloops Indian Residential School tour in Secwépemc Museum & Heritage Park., the experience designed to share truths about the realities of schools which ran from 1923 to 1977. Once the largest residential school in Canada, the building has been reclaimed today to also celebrate the rich cultural heritage, traditions, stories, art, and history of the Secwépemc people.

      Enjoy a Haksap Berry cider at Vernon's Cambium Cider Co.
      Tourism Vernon

      Raise a glass in Vernon. 

      The majestic outdoors are a big part of the draw for those visiting Vernon. The city is officially known as the Trails Capital of BC thanks to its extensive network of pathways that snake from pristine lakes up into the alpine. Vernon also boasts five top-flight golf courses (including the award-winning Predator Ridge), a downtown filled with boutique stores and artisanal shops, and a wealth of sustainability-minded restaurants. 

      One of the greatest things about Vernon is its array of breweries, cideries, and distilleries, many of them ideally located alongside scenic orchards in the county. Enjoy a Haksap Berry cider at Cambium Cider Co, an Apricot Elixir mead at the Planet Bee Honey Farm, or a craft Blueberry Vanilla Ale Marten Brewing Co in the city centre.  

      Spearhead Winery in Kelowna.
      Tourism Kelowna.

      Tour a Kelowna winery

      One of British Columbia’s fastest growing, and proudly metropolitan cities, Kelowna is loved for its over 30 fresh-water beaches (highlights including Hot Sands and Boyce-Gyro), 19 golf courses, and beautiful waterfront boardwalk. It’s downtown, meanwhile, offers everything from funky food trucks (Little Tokyo Ramen, The Lobster Pot) to Michelin-starred restaurants (Bouchons Bistro). But what Kelowna is most famous for is its nearly 40 globally-fêted wineries, known for producing not only some of the best vintages in Canada, but also in the world. 

      Get a great overview of the region’s ascension as a player on the world stage at the BC Wine Museum. And then either sign up for a guided winery tour or plot your own path using the informative and essential Wine Trail Guide. Don’t miss the Mission Hill Family Estate with its 12-story bell tower and dramatic limestone arches. And make sure to explore boutique wineries like Spearhead, Tantalus, and Arrowleaf, which is just north of Kelowna in Lake Country. 

      Penticton's Kettle Valley Rail Trail is a reimagined rail corridor originally built for the now-abandoned Kettle Valley Railway.
      Travel Penticton

      Climb a mountain in Penticton

      Sometimes the best thing you can do when trying to get away from it all is chill out. There’s no better place to do that in Penticton than the fabulous Channel Float, where you start at Okanagan Lake and then drift 7km along a lazy winding river to Skaha Lake, the entire beautifully lazy journey taking between three and four hours. Once you’re nice and relaxed and completely de-stressed, you’ll be ready to take in area highlights like the Penticton Farmers’ Market, running every Saturday from April to October in the city’s centre. 

      For a workout, the scenic Kettle Valley Rail Trail is a rail corridor originally built for the now-abandoned Kettle Valley Railway reimagined for hikers and cyclists. Those really looking for a truly unique experience can head to Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park, known as one of the top climbing destinations in Canada. Skaha Bluffs offers over 1,200 established world-class rock climbing routes, ranging from easy grades for beginners to advanced for those with dreams of becoming the next Alex Honnold or Lynn Hill. 

      Watermark Beach Resort on Osoyoos Lake.
      Tourism Osoyoos

      Take a dip in Osoyoos Lake

      Stretching 19 kilometres across two countries (Canada and the US), Osoyoos Lake is famous as the warmest fresh-water lake in Canada, temperatures hitting an average of 24 degrees in July and August. That makes it perfect for anyone who loves swimming, waterskiing, and tubing. 

      Designated as Canada’s only desert environment, Osoyoos is also one of the hottest places in Canada, with summer-like weather starting in the spring and stretching well into fall. During July and August temperatures hover around 28 degrees, with rain falling less than 318mm per year compared to Vancouver’s 145cm. After you’ve finished the day at Osoyoos Lake head to the internationally decorated Nk’Mip Cellars winery, known as the first aboriginal winery in North America, complete with an award-winning restaurant dedicated to farm-to-table sustainability. 

      For more information on Travelling Out in the Thompson Okanagan go to