Penticton is located in the Okanagan Valley about 100 miles north of the Washington State border and about 30 miles south of Kelowna. Like all other parts of North America, this area was originally settled by Native Americans, referred to as First Nations in Canada. Bands of this group of people still live in the area, and the Okanagans gave the region its name, as Penticton is loosely translated as "a place to stay forever."
There are numerous things to do in Penticton that draw a wide variety of visitors with many different interests. Special events are important here, and the nation's Ironman Triathlon is held every August, with its cycling, swimming, and running events including more than 2,500 athletes from 50 different countries and thousands more spectators.
The Valley is also known as the British Columbia Wine Country, and Penticton wine tours provide some of the most popular things to do here. Another of the special events providing things to do in Penticton are the annual Okanagan Wine Festivals—four of them held during each season, summer, autumn, winter, and spring. There are more than 100 wineries, cellars, and vineyards here, most of which participate in the festivals with Penticton wine tours and special celebrations. The region's many dining spots also get into the act, featuring local vintages on special menus. Several of the wineries specialize in fruity wines, ciders, and liqueurs. These cultivate peach and apple orchards that participate in the August Peach Festival with five days of parades, live music concerts, carnivals, and special children's activities.
There is even a popular jazz festival held in September. Many hotels and tour operators offer package vacations during the special events. These can include Penticton flights as well as accommodations, some tours, and other features. The regional airport is located less than two miles from town, and while there are not a huge number of flights, it is served by two regional airlines that fly small aircraft regularly from Vancouver. Small boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts fill up quickly during these times, so booking as far in advance as possible for the big events is important.
Other things to do in Penticton include the great outdoors and the spectacular natural scenery, the main tourism draw of most of British Columbia. The town lies between Skaha Lake and Okanagan Lake, both of which have superb beaches and which provide opportunities for fishing, boating, and other water activities. There is also rock climbing at Skaha Bluffs, a series of three canyons on the lake that offer excellent sport climbing walls. There is also more traditional climbing available off many of the more rugged hiking trails. Because of it relatively mild weather for such a northerly climate, this has long been a popular rock climbing area. The surrounding mountain ranges protect Penticton from the Arctic air during the winter, meaning this season is relatively brief and relatively warm, with only about eight weeks a year below freezing.
If winter sports are more your thing, there is excellent British Columbia skiing here and several ski resorts. If you want less energetic and more refined activities, you can enjoy leisurely Penticton wine tours broken up by a few rounds on the more than twenty golf courses in the valley.
Top image: keepitsurreal (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0