When people think of Kelowna, they think of wine.
Located in the southern interior of B.C., in the Okanagan Valley, the city is home to more than 20 local vineyards.
But Kelowna is also surrounded by provincial parks, pine forest, orchards and mountains, and near two ski resorts, providing locals and visitors with activities year-round.
In the downtown area, the waterfront City Park and a lakeside cultural district are popular gathering places. Kelowna is situated on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake.
The Indigenous Syilx people were the region's first inhabitants, and continue to live there.
A French Roman Catholic Oblate missionary named Father Pandosy was the first European to settle there in 1859. In 1905, Kelowna was officially incorporated.
Kelowna experiences the second mildest winter of any non-coastal city in Canada, after neighbouring Penticton. Because of the Okanagan's climate and vineyard-filled scenery, people often compare the region to Napa Valley, California.
In 2019, Kelowna’s estimated population was 217,229 in the metropolitan area and 142,146 in the city proper. The movement of Canadians from B.C. and other provinces to the region has driven population growth. In 2016, Statistics Canada identified the 3.1 percent Kelowna census metropolitan area growth rate as the highest in Canada.
Nearby communities include the City of West Kelowna (also referred to as Westbank and Westside) to the west, across Okanagan Lake; Lake Country and Vernon to the north; Peachland to the southwest; and Summerland and Penticton to the south.
The service industry employs the most people in Kelowna. Tourism in the Greater Kelowna Area had become a $1 billion a year industry as of 2016.
Okanagan College and University of British Columbia are the predominant centres for post-secondary education. In addition to vocational training and adult basic education, the college offers a highly regarded university transfer program. UBC’s Okanagan campus has a population of over 8,000 full-time students enrolled in diverse undergraduate and graduate programs.
There are a number of other post-secondary institutions, including Focus College and Justice Institute of British Columbia (Okanagan Campus), as well as primary and secondary schools, both public and private.
Kelowna’s City Park is home to the annual Center of Gravity Festival. Okanagan Independent Film Festival is annual event that draws movie-lovers from all over the world.
Cultural stops include the Kelowna Art Gallery and Stubbs House, an historic building.
Other popular attractions include the Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm, on the outskirts of town, and the Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery.
Kelowna’s downtown core features several parks and beaches, boardwalks and other walking trails, Kelowna Marina and Yacht Club, the Delta Grand Hotel and Casino, and Prospera Place arena.
Along with winery visits, tourists flock to the region for boating, golf, hiking and biking in the summer, and skiing and snowboarding at Big White and Silver Star ski resorts in the winter.
Hikers and cyclists enjoy the views from the Myra Canyon trestles, a half-day trip that is a 40-minute drive from downtown Kelowna. The train tracks of the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) have been converted into a recreation trail, and the longest rail trail network in B.C. The steep-walled Myra Canyon is Instagram heaven thanks to its two tunnels and 18 trestle bridges.
During hockey season, locals gather to cheer on Western Hockey League team Kelowna Rockets, winners of the 2004 Memorial Cup.
Shops and restaurants designed for both locals and tourists can be found downtown. The Midtown area is a popular shopping destination for locals and encompasses the shopping complex Orchard Park.