Vernon, British Columbia, is not on most people’s radar as a vacation destination and that is what makes it so special. Set in the heart of Canada’s Okanagan Valley, this lovely area is known for its lakes, fruit orchards, world-class wineries and rolling hills. As summer’s warm temperatures begin to cool the shoulder season in September is a perfect time to visit. Enjoy activities like mountain biking at SilverStar Mountain Resort and stand-up paddleboarding without the crowds; eat at farm-to-table restaurants which highlight the bounty of the fall harvest; and tour historical attractions and family friendly farms. You will also get to enjoy what the locals call the American discount. The current exchange rate is very favorable to the U.S. dollar. One USD is worth about $1.30 in Canadian currency and has been for the last six months. This works out to a 30 percent discount on your trip, and you’ll find prices in Vernon much less than the tourist destinations of Whistler, Victoria and Vancouver.
Where to Stay
Vernon has a variety of places to stay from resorts on the nearby lakes, chain hotels in town and vacation rentals. Vernon Lodge and Conference Center is centrally located in the heart of Vernon and walking distance to many downtown restaurants and shops. The hotel has a beautiful three-story atrium with a natural stream incorporated into the design, which flows through the atrium surrounded by more than 1,000 plants. Soak in the pool or hot tub with the sounds of the creek trickling by. The Lodge Kitchen restaurant and bar are located in the atrium as well and make a good location for a first night in town meal.
Where to Eat
The Okanagan Valley is foodie heaven where fresh bountiful produce, handcrafted cheeses and meats are turned into delectable meals made by local chefs. Choices abound from a bus station restaurant to winery bistros with stunning views.
The Chase Winery and Garden Bistro is on the Scenic Sip Trail, a group of eight wineries in Lake Country who joined together to promote this beautiful area. The bistro is an excellent place for lunch. Dine on a patio with views of the vineyard, orchards, Okanagan Lake and the surrounding mountains. This farm-to-table restaurant features a ½-acre organic vegetable garden. Chef Alex Lavroff designs the menu to showcase local flavors which complement the Chase wines.
You’d never guess the Greyhound Bus Station would have one of the best breakfasts in Vernon. Eatology is a popular local café with the crowds to prove it. Service works a little differently here; you que up to the counter to order your breakfast and then are seated. There is always a line but the tables turn over quickly. Once seated, our food arrived promptly and my coffee cup was never left empty. The chicken and waffles was so good! Well worth a stop.
Midtown Bistro is where the locals go to eat dinner. It is famous for its charcuterie boards. Each one is a work of art. Local meats and cheeses are surrounded with fresh-cut vegetables, fruit, a house-made dip, French bread and crackers adorned with edible flowers and herbs. Enjoy with a handcrafted cocktail. The menu is a fresh take on comfort food. Think a gourmet version of meatloaf with mac and cheese. At the bottom of the menu is a list of all the local places Midtown Bistro sources their ingredients from. Truly a memorable meal.
Things to Do
September marks the beginning of the sockeye salmon run, and 2018 is a dominant year which means there will be a lot of salmon. The sockeye salmon are bright red with green heads, making them easily visible in the water. Elements Adventure Company offers a unique way to see the fall salmon run. Take a guided Voyageur Canoe Tour, where the Voyageur Canoes are copied from the canoes built by First Nations Peoples. Each modern canoe holds up to 11 adults or 15 kids, and it takes at least four adults to launch the 250-pound boat. The tours are led by Paddle Canada certified instructors, and you will get to view the salmon at one of their spawning grounds while also learning some canoeing skills.
Take time to stop in the Kalavida Surf Shop, which has the vibes of a Hawaiian surf shop. Although there are no waves on Kalamalka Lake, this area has become one of the top destinations in Canada for stand-up paddleboarding or SUP. The extended shallow entry lake makes for nice warm water even into September. If you want to paddle as a group, check out the 17-foot Kracken, which holds six to 10 paddlers. Kalamalka Lake makes for a very scenic paddle.
The Historic O’Keefe Ranch is a step back in time to the early settlers of the Okanagan Valley. The ranch was founded in 1867 at the end of the wagon road at the site of the stagecoach depot. It became a self-contained small town with a post office, blacksmith, grist mill, general store and a church. Today many of the old buildings still exist and can be explored on a self-guided tour. There is an interesting collection of farm equipment and other museum exhibits. Admission includes a 20-minute tour of the O’Keefe mansion. Children will enjoy all the farm animals and exploring the corn maze. There is a restaurant on site and a gift shop filled with local products.
The Okanagan Valley is known for its orchards and farms. You can’t really experience the area without visiting some of them. To learn more about where food comes from, make sure to visit Planet Bee, which has a bustling bee hive you can observe from in the shop and learn about honey, mead and the importance of bees to the agricultural community. Davison Orchards has been a family farm for over 80 years. This bustling complex has a store, restaurant and bakery utilizing farm-fresh produce, a playground and offers farm tours with samples of produce right where it is grown. What is old is new again at BX Press Cidery, where the cider is natural, crisp and refreshing served with a bit of history of the third-generation apple growers and the cider.
For more information on Vernon, British Columbia, and to help you plan your own trip, make sure to visit TourismVernon.com. This website has a wealth of information on lodging, restaurants and things to do.