“Oh, you’re American? Then everything’s 30 percent off.”
That was the welcome my wife Debbie and I received at a store the first day of our recent vacation to Penticton, B.C., for our 21st anniversary. For every $1 spent in Canada, we only were charged 69 cents in U.S. currency. For example, we ate a very nice meal at Orolo’s for about $100, but it only really cost us about $69.
That wasn’t the reason we went to Penticton, although the nice woman at the store said she’s surprised more Americans don’t take advantage of it. A friend of mine about 25 years ago told me about Penticton, calling it, “The poor man’s Hawaii,” because of its warm temperatures and sandy beaches. When Deb suggested a road trip this year, we decided to finally go to the spot a few hours north of Lake Chelan.
We are so glad we did. Canadians always seem to be nice, but it was even better this trip because we were one of the few tourists there. The end of August usually is their busiest time of year, but because of so many nearby wildfires that wasn’t the case this trip.
We had the most fun at a few of the hundreds of wineries in the area. Instead of Hawaii, it reminded me more of the famous wine country in Napa Valley, CA. We went to different wine tastings each day. Our host at Hillside Estate made that one our favorite, but we also enjoyed Moraine, Poplar Grove, Ruby Blues, Pentage, Dirty Laundry and Time Family of Wines and Orolo restaurant. That is where we had that nice dinner. We also were entertained by local Aiden Mayes, who did a killer version of “Who Will Save Your Soul” by Jewel at our request.
We had plenty of good food, many with water views, at places like the Dragonboat Pub, Salty’s Beach House and Hooded Merganser. I also tasted my first alcohol-infused milkshake a Meeples and Milkshakes Board Game Cafe, which was delicious. There are numerous cool bars and breweries, like the Abandoned Rail Brewery. We enjoyed the Czech bakery Prague, and the lavender ice cream at Tickleberry’s on the Skaha Lake waterfront was the best ever.
We played mini golf, and I even got a birdie on a real golf course, one of only a dozen in my mediocre 50-year career of playing that sport.
Riding on the old Kettle Valley Steam Railway train was another highlight, as was the beautiful historic 1914 ship the SS Sicamous sternwheeler on Okanagan Lake and its nearby free Rose Garden.
We had great views from many of the wineries and also by driving up to the Skaha Lake bluffs. We even took a little hike above where Penticton is written on Munson Mountain.
We saw wildlife like muskrats and deer. Very thrilling for me was seeing bighorn sheep in the wild. I’ve hiked for years trying to catch a glimpse of them. They can be seen around Penticton, but we saw two entire herds at the side of the road near Chelan coming back from our trip.
We only hit on the stuff for us old folks. There is lots more to do for younger and more active groups, too. Not too many people around here seem to know about Penticton. There is so much more to do I won’t wait another 25 years to go, and you shouldn’t either.