In October, for our third wedding anniversary, Mike and I took a trip to Kelowna and Vernon, British Columbia! This was our very first visit to the Okanagan – which is shocking because it’s so close to Edmonton – but I think it will be the first of many!
British Columbia is just so beautiful – a day didn’t go by where we didn’t think, ‘yeah, definitely makes sense why so many people want to move here.’ The weather was fantastic and the views were gorgeous.
As with any vacation I take, food was a big part of this visit! We spent a lot of time eating and exploring in and around Bernard Avenue and visited some of the wineries in Kelowna, and ended the trip at the gorgeous Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon.
Here’s our recommended stops if you’re ever visiting Kelowna or Vernon, British Columbia!
- Visit the wineries
- Go on an outdoor adventure
- Eat all of the food
- Bouchon Bistro
- Salted Brick
- Marmalade Cat Cafe
- Okanagan Street Food
- Bluetail Sushi
- Soban Korean
- Fresh Lemongrass
- Hotel El Dorado
- PeakFine (Sparkling Hill)
- Stop at a roadside fruit/vegetable stand
- Find all the bears/public art
- Stay at the Sparkling Hill Resort
Visit the wineries
The Okanagan Valley is often referred to as the Napa Valley of the North. There are so many wineries in Kelowna, it can be very hard to choose which to go to!
I have a friend who – on his last visit to the Okanagan – just spent a whole day stopping at almost a dozen wineries and partaking in their free tastings! I think that’s a pretty common thing to do in Kelowna.
Mike and I visited the Quails’ Gate Okanagan Estate Winery on our first night in Kelowna and later on our trip stopped at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. We were in the Okanagan during the Thanksgiving long weekend, so got a chance to taste the Quails’ Gate Harvest Dinner (with wine pairing) courtesy of Tourism Kelowna.
Since we’ve been back to Edmonton, I’m delighted whenever I see either of the winery names pop up at a restaurant – “we’ve been there!”
Go on an outdoor adventure
Mike and I were happy we got to experience the Myra Canyon Adventure Park before it closed for the season. The adventure park offers rope climbing, challenge/obstacle courses, and ziplining – all with incredible views just 20 minutes from downtown Kelowna.
I wouldn’t say Mike and I are the most athletic types but we’re always up for a good adventure and Myra Canyon definitely delivered on that. It also had great, friendly staff – who really stress the importance of safety.
There are 7 aerial tree top challenge courses but you can choose to do just 4 (which is what we opted to do – though it’s not much more money to do all 7). The ziplines were the most fun (also probably the scariest lol) but we enjoyed doing all of the obstacles. At one point I fell over from an obstacle and was just hanging in mid-air – ha! A staff member had to come and rescue me. It doesn’t happen too often, but enough that they have a ‘rescue kit’ they use.
Even if you don’t sign up for the actual rope courses, you can head to Myra Canyon to hike, bike and just get out and explore the great outdoors!
Eat all of the food
I don’t really think I can do a travel recap without one of the recommendations being ‘eat all of the food.’
Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a great joke about what most people do on vacation: “how about we eat something and then go get something to eat?” There would never be a moment on a vacation where I would turn down the suggestion of eating. I think one of the best ways to learn about and see a place is trying their food.
Mike and I tried a range of places that I’d definitely recommend, including:
- Bouchon Bistro: a wonderful French restaurant with some of the best charcuterie I’ve ever had chicken liver terrine, wild boar rillettes, dry sausage, duck proscuitto and the biggest jar of French pickles (cornichons) that you’ll ever eat. Great, attentive server. Lovely atmosphere. Delicious food. Bouchon was a pricier night out but so worth it. I was tempted to go back on our last day for another round of that charcuterie!
- Salted Brick: this tiny, hip spot on Bernard Avenue gave Mike one of the tastiest sandwiches he’s ever had – their 16-hour roasted brisket sandwich. Charcuterie boards seemed to be my thing during our B.C. trip so I also ordered one at Salted Brick. Charcuterie is the restaurant’s specialty and boy did they deliver.
- Marmalade Cat Cafe: Wherever we travel, I like to see if there’s a cat cafe around. I was really excited when I googled Kelowna Cat Cafe and the Marmalade Cat Cafe popped up!Then I realized it was the Marmalade Cat – Cafe, not Marmalade – Cat Cafe lol. Nonetheless, we had Thanksgiving breakfast at the Marmalade Cat which was really busy for Thanksgiving morning. It’s a really cute spot!
- Okanagan Street Food: Another one of our breakfast stops was at Okanagan Street Food – tucked inside an industrial park. I got the 3 filling egg omelette, with bacon, mushrooms, and chorizo. Lovely!
- Bluetail Sushi: Every vacation needs a stop at a Japanese restaurant. There were a lot that were closed on Thanksgiving but fortunately we found Bluetail Sushi! They had a great seared albacore sashimi and interesting spicy rice.
- Soban Korean: We also tried some Kelowna Korean food! I love getting Budae Jjigae at any Korean restaurant I go to. This Korean stew is made with kimchi and Spam and hot dog wieners (so awesome!), created after the Korean War when food was scarce, so people used ingredients from military bases for their soup.
- Fresh Lemongrass: Another must-food for any trip is Vietnamese. Since my parent’s own a restaurant, I’m quite accustomed to eating Vietnamese food for several meals a week so going without it for too long while on vacation can make me very cranky, lol. Our Vietnamese pick was Fresh Lemongrass when we were in Vernon. I got their bun bo hue (spicy soup) and Mike got their bo kho Vietnamese stew. I also got a lychee drink! Service was quick and our bowls were pretty tasty.
- Pulp Fiction Coffee House: We spent some time reading at the Pulp Fiction Coffee House, a cool, themed coffee house slash book store. They had a matcha latte which is my general go-to if coffee shops got ’em on the menu, I’ll order it! Pulp Fiction wasn’t too far from Mosaic Books, a great book store we also spent some time browsing.
- Moolix: Don’t forget to stop for some ice cream at Moolix!
- Hotel El Dorado Lakeside Restaurant: We stopped at the Hotel El Dorado for a Sunday brunch buffet though there wasn’t anything particularly stand-out about the brunch. I’ve heard better things about their regular menu but also their lakeside view is lovely.
- PeakFine at Sparkling Hill Restaurant: Part of our Sparkling Hill experience was dining at the resort’s restaurant PeakFine. Super delicious, pricy, but great. We had a nice three-course meal there (and if you check out the resort site, certain types of bookings might get you some dining credits!)
Stop at a roadside fruit/vegetable stand
Mike was so excited to learn that British Columbia is home of the Ambrosia Apple – his favourite type of apple. Not only were the ambrosias the best he’s ever tasted, they were also so affordable!
Our stop at the roadside fruit stand also got me a photo op in a pumpkin patch. Too cute.
Find all the bears / public art
Kelowna’s name comes from the Okanagan language meaning ‘Grizzly Bear’ so as you can expect, there are lots of bears around the area – especially bear art! We stumbled upon lots of different bears on our trip and of course, you have to search for the Ogopogo too (even if the only one you find is in art form).
Stay at the Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon
Sparkling Hill Resort & Spa is is a Swarovski crystal-infused resort that overlooks Lake Okanagan. There are more than 3.5 million crystals embedded all over the building – crystal light fixtures, crystal art, crystal embedded into walls.
The resort’s KurSpa features eight different types of saunas and a gorgeous infinity pool! Our lake view room included a bath tub overlooking the lake. It was easily one of the nicest rooms we’d ever stayed in.
I highly recommend a visit to Sparkling Hill. It can be quite pricy but there are ways around that – they post monthly promotion codes that can help alleviate some cost and if you sign up for their email newsletter you also get a discount code. I actually found one night at Sparkling Hill (with the discount code) quite comparable to our stay at the Delta in Kelowna. Use those promo codes!
We loved you, B.C!
So that’s a summary of highlights from our anniversary trip to Kelowna and Vernon, British Columbia!
We enjoyed it so much. It is such a beautiful place and we are so eager to get back there.
Have you been to Kelowna or Vernon?
What would you recommend??