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KELOWNA, BC, Jan 21, 2015/ Troy Media/ – Sometimes the best trips are the ones you never planned on taking. We had some vacation rental time that was soon to expire and, much to my surprise, I was able to exchange a one-week stay in a tiny Puerto Vallarta studio condo for a two-bedroom unit at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort and Conference Centre in Kelowna, British Columbia.
Of course, there was a catch; it was for mid to late February and we aren’t really the skiing types.
For those of you not familiar with the city of Kelowna, it’s located in central B.C. on the eastern shore of Lake Okanagan and is the Okanagan Valley’s largest city, with a population of over 120,000. Its summers are hot, averaging around 27C (81F) and winters mild, with temperatures averaging just below freezing.
While Kelowna is a four-season vacation destination, for many people it’s known primarily as a place to golf, boat, cycle, hike and swim while taking in one of the over 100 nearby wineries, vineyards and orchards. Over two dozen, in fact, are within the city itself.
But for skiers, there are three major hills within an hour’s drive.
We landed at Kelowna International Airport and took the Let’s Go! Shuttle ($30 for both of us) to the Delta, situated right downtown on the waterfront and in the heart of the Arts and Cultural District. We had originally planned on renting a car, but discovered that there was so much to see and do all within walking distance so decided against it.
The Delta’s time-share units and vacation villas are in the second tower. Our second floor unit had recently been renovated, and was beautifully furnished with a fireplace and fully-equipped kitchen. There are two bathrooms, with the Master bedroom’s ensuite featuring an awesome glass shower and a Jacuzzi tub.
Our unit overlooked the indoor/outdoor pool with a view of Lake Okanagan and the mountains.
The Main tower has standard rooms but also newer luxuriously stylish oversized “Mode” rooms that feature Sanctuary Beds with elegant duvets, SmartDesks with multiple connectivity docks for your gadgets and more.
On our first night we headed off to Kelly O’Bryans Irish Pub on Bernard Ave. for some tasty fish and chips and a brew. Pleasantly full, we then walked around downtown, scouting out all the different sites and noting places to visit later.
As a Safeway was only a 15-minute walk from the hotel, and we had a fully equipped kitchen, we decided to buy a few groceries to cut our food costs and to balance eating in and eating out.
But we did like to explore and eat out!
We enjoyed the Beef Donburi and Yakisoba at the SS Korean Restaurant, which also offers Japanese Cuisine. Just down the street is the Grateful Fed that offers a warm throwback to an earlier time and a $6.99 Eggs Benny topped with its own version of Hollandaise.
Some locals heard us say the word pizza and immediately said “DunnEnzies” before walking on. I didn’t quite get the name so I Googled it, but now I’ll never Fugh-Gedda-Bout-It – which is also the name of one of their pizza selections. Turns out the name is derived from owners’ Deb Dunnigan and Karyn MacKenzie’s last names. It’s a tiny little pizza joint on Ellis Street with a few bar-style tables offering traditional as well as their “infamous” pizzas. And with selections like Adonis, Carmella, Gambino and Diego’s Inferno, our final choices were quite difficult. We ended up sharing the first two and I can still taste them.
There was no shortage of patrons at the Mad Mango Cafe, which offers up Asian Fusion Cuisine, including Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie for $2.50, Vegetarian Vermicelli Bowls for $5.50 and my favourite, Peaches Prawn Rice for $7.50. They’re closed Mondays and only open until 6 p.m., but the day we visited – a few minutes before noon – it was hopping, with line-ups out the door.
We can’t forget the Delta’s own delightful restaurant, the Grand Bay Cafe. The pan roasted scallops ($26) with green pesto risotto should tickle your taste buds, but for bacon lovers Boucher’s “BBB” Burger ($17) is decked out with grilled back bacon, maple pepper bacon, applewood smoked cheddar, bacon onion jam and other condiments. We discovered that this one was hearty enough to share.
To say our location was convenient is an understatement. The Kelowna Art Gallery (admission $5, free on Thursdays) is across the street from the Delta and the Community Theatre is just down the block. Behind the Art Gallery on Cawston Ave., is the Rotary Centre for the Arts, which features Live Theatre, exhibits, activities and classes. It’s also home to two (Flying Solo and Kelowna Club) of the seven Toastmasters clubs in the city. As a Toastmaster, I decided to visit the latter.
Right behind our hotel is the waterfront boardwalk, while a two-minute walk away is Stuart Park that features a popular free small outdoor skating rink, open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Dec 1st to Feb 28th. You don’t even need your own skates; Bladez Skate Rental offers skates for children from size five to six and men’s up to size 14 for only $3.50 & $4.50.
One of the highlights of our week was watching Rodney Goodchild from Okanagan Spirits (awarded the 2013 Distillery of the Year by the World Spirits Organization) demonstrate how their funky distilling machine works. Okanagan Spirits make over 25 varieties of their all-natural, no additive spirits – from 100 per cent B.C. fruit – at their retail location. Their Gin is so smooth you can actually sip it without tonic. My absolute favourite was their Poire Williams Eau de Vie ($45), a pear brandy (liqueur), which takes 25 Bartlett pears to make one bottle.
About 30 km away is the Peachland Museum, which is housed in a quaint eight-sided former Baptist Church and features an accurately scaled model of the Kettle Valley Railway as it existed in mid-last century. We grabbed an incredible pizza at the Waterfront Grille, then dropped into the Mission Hill Winery on the way for some quick sampling and wine lessons and picked up some fine merlot for the evening’s dinner.
So if you’re looking for a great little getaway, want to avoid the crowds and are not looking to bask in the sunshine on the beach, then you might want to consider taking a cool winter getaway to Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley.
Senior Editor Greg Gazin a.k.a The Gadget Guy is a Syndicated Columnist, Speaker and Author. Why not book Greg to speak at your next event? You can find him on Twitter @gadgetgreg.