Beautiful Vernon, British Columbia is located in the Okanagan region just an hour drive from Kelowna.
If you’re driving into Kelowna from Alberta, you’ve likely passed through Vernon. If you’ve flown in, maybe your trip has been planned mostly in Kelowna proper, but that would be a MISTAKE because Vernon is an incredible city, well worth your visit—and should absolutely be included in your Okanagan itinerary.
During my road trip to Kelowna, B.C. this summer (2019), I knew I wanted to experience Vernon too!
So I tacked roughly 24 hours onto the trip and thanks to my friends at Tourism Vernon, I got to explore the heck out of this this gorgeous city that features three beautiful lakes, a ton of scenic, rolling hills, and endless activities! I’m excited to share some travel tips for things you should do and where you should stay during your visit to the biggest city in British Columbia’s north Okanagan region!!
Side note: I met the great folks at Tourism Vernon at an Edmonton dinner put on by BONAFIDE Media & PR at RGE RD earlier this year! I love the connections you can make over good food and drinks! Thanks BONAFIDE!
Now before we get into my Vernon visit, you should know that we definitely squeezed in a LOT of activities during our 24(ish) hours here, it was pretty go-go-go so if you want a chiller vacation, I’d recommend you spend at least two nights in Vernon to truly enjoy the region at a more relaxing pace, before you head out to the rest of your Okanagan adventures!
Note: my stay and activities were hosted by Tourism Vernon and their wonderful partners.
24(ish) Hours in Vernon, B.C: What to Do + Where to Stay
Where to Stay in Vernon, B.C.
Oh boy!! You’ve got some really great options! Vernon is actually home to two very unique and stunning resort hotels in British Columbia and I’m so thrilled I’ve been able to stay at both.
On a previous trip to Vernon with Mike for our anniversary a few years ago, we stayed at the stunning Sparkling Hill Resort, home to a world-renowned 40,000 sq. ft spa, 3.5 million Swarovski Crystals (the resort is owned by the Swarovski family), and a stunning infinity pool, among other great amenities.
During this recent 2019 trip, my friend Brittney and I had the pleasure of staying at Predator Ridge, a really cool, 1,200-acre year-round resort community with 700 homes, pet-friendly hotel accommodations, world-renowned golf courses, and some really great food!
Our two-bedroom suite at Predator Ridge included a very spacious living room, kitchen, and balcony overlooking the golf course. I loved taking a moment to sip tea out on the balcony in the morning, taking in the views (and taking photos of the views lol) before heading out on our jam-packed, activity-filled day!
The master bedroom of the suite was also gorgeous, with sort of an open concept bathroom / bedroom separated by a stand-alone (but not full-to-ceiling) partition (I’ve seen this in different show homes so I think it’s pretty trendy lol).
Predator Ridge is so interesting because of the fact that people also live there year-round! So their service is really meant to be even better than your usual hotel stay as they’re also accommodating residents. The resort is also really well-located within the Okanagan, close to wineries, lakes, and other amenities in the North Okanagan—in fact they refer to themselves as base camp for your Okanagan adventure.
As a guest or a resident, you get access to the golf courses, fitness centre, outdoor pool and hot tub, yoga & fitness classes, hiking and biking trails, tennis & pickleball courts, even access to the KurSpa at Sparkling Hill (located just on top of the hill from Predator Ridge!) You can reserve golf carts for transportation (depending on availability), and they also offer e-bike rentals and shuttle services (which is something we took advantage of during our day! More on that in the ‘What to do’ section of this Travel Guide below).
We had a great breakfast buffet and a delicious dinner at Predator Ridge’s Range Lounge & Grill!
PLEASE NOTE IF PANCETTA JAM IS PART OF A DISH ON THE MENU WHEN YOU GO, YOU MUST GET IT!!!
The pancetta jam was part of a seasonal duck dish I tried for dinner at the Range Lounge & Grill that was unbelievably good, I drool thinking about the entire dish. A perfect blend of sweet and savoury, and the duck and seasonal vegetables were cooked perfectly too! The seasonal vegetables also included the cutest mini squash I’d ever seen. We also shared the chili spiced seared diver scallops with pickled vegetables, prosciutto, and avocado mousse and could have eaten at least two more plates of it it was so good.
You’ll also find only impeccable service here, plus the loveliest views from the restaurant’s enclosed patio!
We had a fantastic stay at Predator Ridge and I’m sure if we had spent more time here we would’ve taken in even more of the activities and amenities this resort community offers (like yoga overlooking their gorgeous lavender field!)
What to do in Vernon, B.C.
There are endless activities you can do in Vernon, year-round! In the spring, you might hike and bike, in the summer, you’re hitting the water! Swimming, boating, stand-up paddleboarding. In the fall, they’re all about the harvest and for the first time this October 2019, Vernon will be putting on The Great Vernon Pumpkin Classic—you heard me right, GIANT PUMPKIN BOAT RACES IN OKANAGAN LAKE!!! Really, lol.
I didn’t even know pumpkins could float on water, let alone, float on water with humans inside lol.
Below I’ve outlined a few of the activities we were able to squeeze into our 24(ish) hours in Vernon, B.C:
1. Bike the Okanagan Rail Trail
Vernon (north Okanagan), Lake Country, and Kelowna, are all part of an incredible trail called the Okanagan Rail Trail! This fairly new (officially launched late 2018/early 2019), nearly 50 km-long (that was once a CN rail corridor) features lake/creek views for nearly half of its stretch, and gorgeous natural B.C. topography for and trees for the rest of the stretch.
This trail connects a ton of communities in the Okanagan, includes 22 parks and 21 recreational and cultural points of interest you can visit along the trail, and literally takes you all the way to Kelowna! (That’s really how close Vernon and Kelowna are to one another).
The north end of the Okanagan Rail Trail official begins in Coldstream, a little community near Kalamalka Lake (right by Vernon), and runs directly alongside the lake for over 24 kms! This trail is incredibly beautiful and aims to be very accessible to all hiking/biking skills levels.
We rented electric bikes through Predator Ridge (a wonderful service—and I honestly can’t go back to regular biking after having e-biked in different places I’ve travelled! It’s just so EASY lol!) and took their shuttle service which drops you off and picks you up after you’ve completed whichever section of the trail (it’s officially split into a few stretches so you don’t need to do the entire trail if you don’t want to).
E-biking the north section of the Okanagan Rail Trail (about 8 km) was an amazing way to spend a morning!
I truly felt connected to nature, riding alongside the beautiful, bright blue water on one side of me, trees and boulders on the other side, mountain views in the distance.
It was really peaceful. And we encountered so many different, friendly people along the trail— some friends walking dogs, people jogging, families biking! Everyone pausing to nod, smile or say hello along the way.
I would absolutely love to come back and bike the entire 48.5 km with Mike!! What a fun day that would be, with planned stops at the many recreational/points of interest throughout. If you were planning a trip to the Okanagan, I absolutely recommend making a full day about the Okanagan Rail Trail.
2. Visit a cidery full of B.C. history
Vernon, B.C. is home to many cideries, but the one we visited was a cidery called BX Press Cidery, which grows over 30 varieties of apples on its 40-acre property.
The BX Press orchard has been around for nearly a century but the cidery itself was a more recent development, as a way for the the orchard to diversify its farming operation in the last few years.
Today BX Press Cidery grows about 1.3 million pounds of apples per year, creating 14 different ciders that feature local history and artwork on its bottle labels!
I love the historic angle of BX Press Cidery. They are all about sharing the rich history of the region, particularly stories about Barnard’s Express & Stage Line, one of the oldest, largest and long-running stagecoach companies in North America, which used to run through the Vernon region (before Vernon became Vernon!)
When you visit, there’s lovely outdoor seating at the cidery where you can sit with your drinks and charcuterie. BX Press Cidery also offers tours of the orchard! On the tour you’ll learn all about their Barnard Express historic character labels. I guarantee you’ll want to pick up a bottle of The Prospector or The Crackwhip, The Bandit or The Dufferin after you’ve learned about their history and tasted the ciders!
As a cider newbie on this visit, I learned that there are actually a few different kinds of ‘cider.’ Real cider is not supposed to be sweet as cider apples are not sweet. But during the prohibition when cider trees were burnt, people started making a different kind of cider where they added syrup and sugar. Nowadays, you’ll also find sparkling apple juice will get marketed as cider! There are commercial ciders today that are a mix of real cider with apple juice. So, lots of cider options for you!
I’m definitely more of a fan of the sweeter, inauthentic cider lol!
Pro-tip: BX Press Cidery also sells their own apple juice! There’s nothing better than drinking juice or eating food that uses ingredients picked and processed literally steps away from you. That’s one of the reasons I love visiting farms!!
3. Tour an 80+ year-old orchard
A visit to Vernon, B.C. is not often complete without a stop at the Davison Orchards Country Village!
Davison Orchards is a wonderful family farm and agri-tourism spot featuring a market, bakery, cafe, farm, orchard, kids park and play areas, petting zoo and gift shop.
The family has been running the farm since 1933 (and grandparents still live on the property today). There are four generations of farmers who are active on this farm. Apples are their focus but they also grow pears, plums, apricots, vegetables, and a ton of pumpkins in the fall. In the winter they’re busy making preserves, jams, and sauces! The majority of items sold at Davison Orchards is grown in-house.
You’re encouraged to sign up for an orchard train tour to check out the whole property and learn about its awesome history, pet and play with the friendly farm animals, shop farm fresh Okanagan produce in their market, and definitely grab homemade pie and pure + fresh apple juice in the cafe!
Unique to Davison Orchards is their ‘Applelanche’—a popular, deliciously cold and sweet pure apple juice slush. Careful while drinking, you will likely get a brain freeze, lol.
4. Eat delicious, local food and visit Downtown Vernon
There are a ton of family-owned, independent or unique-to-Vernon restaurants in the region, serving up some damn fine food here, many in the Downtown Vernon region.
Since we had less than 24-hours to play, we didn’t get to dine at as many restaurants as is typical for one of my getaways (lol ya’ll know I love my food!)
I mentioned the Range Lounge & Grill at Predator Ridge—this is definitely a great spot for a more upscale night out (ditto for the restaurants in Sparkling Hill), where they focus on using a lot of locally and responsibly-sourced ingredients).
We also had a wonderful lunch at a little spot in Downtown Vernon called Bamboo Beach Fusion Grille!
This Asian fusion restaurant cooks almost everything from scratch. We shared a Sashimi trio sampler featuring Ocean-wise raw tuna, scallops and salmon. I had a delicious cold ramen noodle salad (if cold ramen noodle salad is on the menu, you can bet I’m getting it lol), with Korean beef, tomatoes, cucumber and a spicy lemon dressing. I also got a side bowl of egg drop soup (one of my favourite and simplest Chinese soups!) And Brittney got their Korean Beef Don rice bowl, plus we cheered our great Vernon visit with Mango Lassis (an Indian smoothie, but with an alcoholic twist. You can also get it non-alcoholic).
Bamboo Beach Fusion Grille’s chef/owner is also very sweet, coming out to check on not only our table but all the tables in the restaurant. We were told she does this with every table after their meal is served!
While you’re in the area, be sure to walk around Downtown Vernon. Depending on when you visit, they often hold free community events (sort of like block parties) downtown. There’s an outdoor art gallery with historic murals you can visit. Plus all the locally-owned restaurants and shops!
I wish we had had more time to explore Downtown Vernon but, I also like having things to come back for!
5. Stand-up paddle board (or another fun water activity) in the Lake!
Vernon is in such close proximity to water, it’s a no-brainer that your visit to Vernon should include some water activities! The Kalavida Surf Shop is a great place to go for water rentals!
We were pretty excited to try stand-up paddle boarding through Kalavida Surf Shop, but unfortunately the outing got cancelled due to rain (bad luck + timing for us!) But I still recommend you try it!!
This surf shop hosts something called Wahine Wednesday every week, launching from Kalamalka Beach (which is so close to the shop there), so you can meet up with a group of ladies to paddleboard, or you can just rent and go on your own! They also offer electric bike (or regular cruiser) rentals so you can access the Okanagan Rail Trail too (if you didn’t want to do the shuttle to the trail from Predator Ridge).
Go fishing, kayaking, or just soak up some sun, these are all great water activity options for your Vernon visit! I actually also think the water at Kalamalka Lake is more Instagrammable than the Okanagan Lake water (depending on what area of it you’re in of course), but would totally want to do beach / water time in Vernon over Kelowna on our next trip!
That concludes my summary of all the things you could do in Vernon, B.C., in 24(ish) hours!
We had so much fun during our short time here, I really can’t wait to come back. Vernon is also quite close to Enderby, home of the famous Starlite Drive-In outdoor movie theatre, so the city would be a great base for you to pop out and catch a movie under the stars too! (That’s on my bucket list!!)
There’s a lot more I’d love to do in the city, and a lot more I think you could certainly squeeze in if you make sure to plan more than 24(ish) hours here!!
And be sure to read my other Kelowna/Okanagan-area blog posts:
Disclaimer: This 24-ish hours in Vernon, B.C. was hosted by Vernon Tourism. Our activities and hotel stay was complimentary. This does not impact opinions stated in this post! Vernon is a wonderful little city in the Okanagan and I had so much fun exploring and can’t wait to come back!