Kelowna is inside the Okanagan Valley in Southern Interior BC, and is the region’s largest city, with 144,576 inhabitants in 2021. It’s located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the syilx/Okanagan people. The word Kelowna comes from the syilx/Okanagan word kiʔláwnaʔ, which means grizzly bear.
It’s right next to scenic Okanagan Lake, and one of Kelowna’s nicknames is “The Orchard City”.
Kelowna is a fun destination to visit all year-round. In the spring, summer, and fall, cycling, boating, golfing, and hiking are popular outdoor activities. During the winter months, many people go skiing or snowboarding at the nearby Big White Ski Resort and Silver Star Ski Resort.
Kelowna, like the rest of the Okanagan Valley, is famous for its vineyards, with more than 40 wineries in the area, as well as craft breweries, cideries, and distilleries. This region also has an abundance of orchards and fresh veggies, thanks to the hot, sunny, and dry climate during the spring and summer months.
Things to See and Do
After arriving in Kelowna, stretch your legs while exploring the downtown area and get a feel for the awesome vibe of this city! There are tons of cool shops and restaurants, as well as the Okanagan Heritage Museum (470 Queensway Avenue), Okanagan Military Museum (1424 Ellis St), and Kelowna Art Gallery (1315 Water St).
Then take a stroll around Kelowna’s parks (City Park, Kerry Park, and Stuart Park), that are right next to the gorgeous Okanagan Lake. Each park is an attraction within itself. City Park has the Variety Children’s Waterpark, playground, skate park, a sandy beach, and the Veterans’ Memorial Square. Kerry Park is famous for the Ogopogo statue and concerts, and Stuart Park is home to the Grizzly bear statue, the Kelowna Yacht Club and an outdoor skating rink in the winter.
Walking around City Park, one of the sandy beaches by Okanagan Lake, and the Grizzly Bear statue (courtesy of tourismkelowna.com – Shawn Talbot photography).
If you keep on walking, you’ll find Waterfront Park and the Rhapsody Plaza, with the famous dolphin sculpture named Rhapsody, created by Scottish-born artist Robert Dow Reid in 1993. Concerts and music festivals happen here as well during the summer months.
A hidden gem in Kelowna’s downtown district is Kasugai Gardens (1435 Water Street). It covers 0.29 hectares, and is known as Kelowna’s Japanese garden. Here you can unwind from the busy city life for a little bit!
The gardens have tons of traditional Japanese elements, like the Japanese Snowbell Tree, Green Panda Bamboo, Japanese Maple trees, and koi fish swimming around a pond, as well as a waterfall, bamboo fountain, pathways, and stone lanterns.
The gardens were completed in 1987 to celebrate the union and friendship of Kelowna and Kasugai, its sister city in Japan. There are sitting benches and a small gazebo to get some shade and just watch the beautiful scenery. The park is open from early March until late October, and most of the trails inside the gardens are wheelchair accessible.
After exiting the park, don’t miss the Circle of Friendship sculpture, which was built by Geert Maas to honour Yukihisa (Roy) Tanaka (1915-1995). Roy worked hard on supporting the harmony and understanding between Kelowna and Kasugai. It stands for the close relationship between the local Japanese-Canadian community as well.
If you like exercising during your Kelowna visit, rent a bike with Kelowna Bike Rentals. Their fleet consists of city (cruiser) bikes, e-bikes, mountain bikes, trikes, gravel bikes, tandem, and adaptive bikes. So everyone gets to enjoy cycling around the city and beyond! All bikes come with a helmet, lock, and maintenance kit.
Kelowna Bike Rentals is at the Knox Mountain Overflow Parking lot (589 Poplar Point Dr) from May to October, and rental rates start at C$ 25 for two hours. You can also rent bikes overnight or even multiple days.
What makes this company stand out is that they support two local charities, Elevation Outdoors and CRIS Adaptive. You can find more information on these organizations here.
I’m renting a cruise bike, and it’s perfect for cycling around downtown Kelowna and the nearby Okanagan Rail Trail. The bike is super light, so it’s not exhausting to ride around, and I’m sad to return it at the end, lol!
Kelowna is a bike-friendly city, with many bike lanes and trails all over. Some other popular bike trails in and around Kelowna are Knox Mountain Park, Myra Canyon, and Rose Valley Regional Park.
My rental bike and the Okanagan Rail Trail.
Book lovers shouldn’t miss Mosaic Books (411 Bernard Ave), which is the Okanagan Valley’s largest independent bookstore. It’s been family-owned ever since it opened in 1968. They are proud to offer fiction and non fiction books, puzzles, diverse reads (also by indigenous authors), and books written by local authors.
There are also journals, greeting cards, card games, and calendars for sale! You can order books online on their website, and there’s a monthly book club as well.
The Mosaic Book store from the outside (photo courtesy of Mosaic Books).
Another great shopping spot in Kelowna is Orchard Park Shopping Centre (2271 Harvey Avenue) with more than 160 retail stores and services. It’s the largest shopping centre between Calgary and Vancouver. A few examples of stores you can find here are Sports Chek, Old Navy, Best Buy, Lush Cosmetics, Sunrise Records, and Purdy’s Chocolates.
I also recommend stopping by the Kelowna Visitor Centre (238 Queensway Avenue) to learn about more things to do in and around Kelowna. The staff are super friendly and there’s a lovely gift shop with many gems made by local artists. Water stations and washrooms are available as well.
The visitor centre is currently open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm, and they also have a kiosk at Kelowna International Airport (open daily from 8 am to 8 pm).
Where to Eat & Drink
Like any bigger city, Kelowna has a great selection of cafés and restaurants.
Here are a few I got to check out during my visit:
Robbie Rare Books & Pulp Fiction Coffee House (1598 Pandosy St). This unique retro coffee house is super charming, especially because of the many antique books and cool posters on the wall! Don’t miss the Robbie Rare Books section, and admire the many antiques around the café (e.g. clocks, a couch, and copper bookends)!
It’s awesome to learn about Pulp Fiction (not the movie 😉 ), which are books printed on cheap (pulp) paper starting in the early 1900s, and became super popular in the 1930s and 1940s! Dogs are welcome too.
Veggie Calzone and Chai Tea Latte, cool antique books, and a cute sign outside of the coffee house!
Marmalade Cat Café (#102 1195 Richter St). This cool café offers healthy breakfast and lunch made from scratch, and vegan and gluten free options are available. They support the community by displaying work of local artists, and there’s often live music on Friday evenings!
I love the vibe and colours of this café (dark blue and yellow), what a great contrast! While there are no real cats to hang out with, they sell some cool cat-themed stuff! They have three locations in Kelowna, so this place must be popular with locals and tourists!
Veggie wrap and some awesome items to buy!
Pick Thai Restaurant (467 Bernard Ave). Although this restaurant doesn’t look super fancy from the outside, it’s very much worth it to give it a chance. They serve authentic Thai food, like Pad Thai, Green Curry, Tom Yum soup, and Cashew Stir-Fry, plus bubble tea! The food and drinks are very affordable, and feel free to grab a book from their small library while waiting for your food!
Ga-On Sushi Restaurant (605 K.L.O. Rd, #3b). This cute little restaurant is next to Mission Park Shopping Centre, and they have a great selection of sushi, but also Udon and Yakisoba noodles, Teriyaki, Donburi, and bento boxes! The light green and light brown colours inside the restaurant create a calm vibe.
I’m having the Veggie Bento Box for lunch, which is nicely prepared, and the food comes out very quickly. Apart from the food, cat lovers like me will love the kitty curtain in the back of the restaurant. 😻
Veggie stir-fry with coconut rice and Thai Iced Tea, Veggie Bento box, and the awesome kitty curtain!
If you’re into pizza, music, and beer, check out DunnEnzies Pizza Co. (1559 Ellis St)! The cool outside street art grabs my attention immediately! Their New York style pizza was voted Kelowna’s Best Pizza in the Best of Kelowna Awards. They also have salads, calzones, nachos, wings, tacos, burgers, and even brunch on weekends!
They often host events, like open mic night, jam nights, trivia games, drag shows, Celtic nights, and Punk Rock Bingo! I also like that they support fundraisers, local charities and sports teams, and the Kelowna Food Bank.
While I only saw this place from the outside this time, I can’t wait to try their food and check out an event when I’m back in Kelowna!
Where to Stay
I’m staying at the Samesun Kelowna Hostel (245 Harvey Avenue), that is only a few steps away from Okanagan Lake and downtown’s many bars and restaurants. Thanks to its bright yellow outside colour, there’s no way to miss this place! It has private and dorm rooms, and I’m staying at a 4-bed female dorm.
After staying in private rooms because of the pandemic, it’s great to finally chat with other travelers again! The room is a bit small, but has everything you need, and the beds are very comfortable. I suggest bringing ear plugs though (or get them for free at Front Desk), especially if you’re staying in a room right next to the busy street!
There’s luggage storage, a spacious kitchen, TV room with a library, laundry room, back patio, and common area for guests to use. Moreover, you can join daily activities, play pool, or get a snack from the vending machines!
Overall, I’d choose this hostel again, especially because of its very positive and chill vibe.
Samesun Hostel kitchen and common area.
How to Get to and Around Kelowna
Kelowna is right next to Highway 97, which is easily accessible from Kamloops (166 km/103 miles) and Vernon (45 minutes). From Vancouver, it’s a 389 km (241 miles) drive, and from Calgary, it takes about 7 hours to get to Kelowna.
Or you can take Ebus from Kamloops (2.5 hours, from C$ 44), Vancouver (5 hours 40 minutes, from C$ 85), or Vernon (1 hour, from C$ 24) to Kelowna. They stop in downtown Kelowna (516 Lawrence Ave), Kelowna International Airport, and West Kelowna.
Kelowna International Airport is about 10 minutes north from Kelowna, and is Canada’s 10th busiest airport. They offer many flights within Canada (e.g. Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and Edmonton), but also from/to Seattle, Phoenix, Cancun, and Puerto Vallarta.
Same as other larger towns and cities in BC, there’s a local bus offered in Kelowna through BC Transit. Fares are C$ 2.50 for a single ticket, and children 12 and under ride for free! If you’re going to different areas in Kelowna, it’s a good idea to take the bus, as the city is quite spread out. The bus goes pretty much everywhere in the city.
Apart from walking or riding a bike around Kelowna, you can also rent e-scooters and through Lime and Spin, and when you’re done, just leave them somewhere for the next person to use!
Of course, Uber and taxi services are available as well.
Well, that’s a wrap on spending an awesome weekend in Kelowna! Thank you for joining me 😉
For more cool places in British Columbia, check out these posts:
Disclosure: I only recommend products that I’ve used in the past, and all opinions expressed in this post are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you use one of the links throughout the page to buy something, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks.
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