Fall Festivals and Road Trips in BC’s Thompson Okanagan

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The interior of British Columbia is a rolling landscape blanketed in vineyards and orchards, speckled with warm lakes, and drenched in golden sunlight. Visitors flock to this paradise June through August, but September and October hold their own. 

Come fall, festivals and events are worth the trip. A massive wine celebration brings hundreds of wineries and culinary creators together. A bike ride along a historic railway tempts the adventurous, and evenings of wine tastings under the stars in a tiny community known as the “Wine Capital of Canada” entice the curious. Pick an event, make the journey, and then keep on exploring. There are a few loops and routes for a perfect fall road trip, after attending a lively festival. 

For wine-lovers, the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival from October 3 to 13 is the place to be. Choose your wine adventure, from grape-stomping parties to winemaker dinners at long tables in sprawling vineyards. If stargazing is for you, grab a ticket to the Astronomical Wine & Sky Gazing event for a night of wine paired with close-ups of Saturn, Jupiter, and the Moon at the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in West Kelowna. There are over 80 events held across unique venues in Kelowna, Penticton, Naramata, Lake Country, and Okanagan Falls. 

Oliver’s Festival of the Grape, held on October 6, hosts over 50 wineries to this tiny town at the southern end of the Okanagan Valley. Unlike many wine festivals, this one is family-friendly to boot, with kid zones, live music, and the famous grape stomp. Don’t leave without a purchase from the on-site liquor store, artisan market, or a farm-fresh feast from the local food trucks on site. 

Palate ready for more? Light up the Vines is Summerland’s night time wine event. Held November 23, 30 and December 1 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., samplers can enjoy an evening of wine tasting along legendary Bottleneck Drive. Over 15 wineries, three cideries, one brewery, and one distillery come together to offer up a tasting event filled with twinkling lights, food pairings, holiday décor, outdoor firepits, and live music. 

With days of culinary grazing and nights of wine tasting, a little exercise is advised. Join fellow riders on September 21 for the Kettle Mettle Gravel Fondo and take in the scenery on a cycle along the historic Kettle Valley Railway. This ride is known as the “Dirty Fundo”, a fun-filled event open to all, from seasoned vets to biking newcomers. Choose from 50 km, 100 km, or 135 km+ options on a route from Penticton to East Kelowna. All participants leave with a bottle of wine, which means every rider is a winner. 

Why stop now? Go on, keep exploring. Let curiosity lead the way and continue your adventure with a road trip. If you’re looking to see the Canadian Rockies, grab the steering wheel and head north from Kamloops along on the North Thompson and Columbia Icefields Parkway Loop. On route, visit Sun Peaks for outdoor adventures, Wells Gray Provincial Park to discover waterfalls, including one of Canada’s largest, Helmcken Falls. Do this all before setting your sights on Mount Robson Provincial Park. Gaze at the massive 3,954-metre (12, 972-foot) peak of Mount Robson from afar, tackle the famous Berg Lake Trail to get up close, or opt for a heli-tour to gawk at this impressively steep wonder from above.

Head east from Osoyoos on the Boundary Monashee Route for outdoor adventure. Hike or bike along the Kettle Valley Railway starting at Mile 0 in Midway. Visit Canada’s smallest city of Greenwood and take in the beauty of Jewel Lake Provincial Park from a canoe. If you’re brave enough for a dip come fall, jump in Christina Lake, one of the warmest in Canada. 

Looking for hidden treasure? Head west from Vernon on the Gold Country Loop. Check out the Deadman Valley Hoodoos in Savona to see impressive rock formations and the traditional gathering place of the Secwepemc Nation. Continue to Historic Hat Creek just outside Cache Creek to learn about BC’s Gold Rush history, and head down to Spences Bridge to explore Goldpan Provincial Park.

Spend the fall vacationing in British Columbia’s Thompson Okanagan and pair a one-of-a-kind festival with an adventurous road trip.