Vernon, Canada

Photo: Sparkling Hill Resort & Spa
Photo: Sparkling Hill Resort & Spa

British Columbia has been one of your favorite long-weekend destinations for years. You love to explore Vancouver’s cool neighborhoods and new restaurants. You go skiing and snowboarding at Whistler. While the islands have fresh seafood, windswept beaches, and hiking trails that lead to lookout points with breathtaking views. But don’t stop there. Canada’s westernmost province has an amazing wine region as well.

The Okanagan Valley is known as the Napa of the North. The region sits along the United States’ Washington border and the Okanagan River. The lake-filled area once belonged to the Syilx people. Fur traders arrived in the early 19th century. They were followed by miners and, eventually, farmers who planted fruit orchards. With hot summers and cold winters, it was an easy, albeit recent, shift to vineyards.

After a five-hour drive from Vancouver, you reach the southern Okanagan Valley. Sagebrush and cacti fill the dry land. Apple, peach, and plum trees line the riverbanks. Plus rows of Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have been planted in the vineyards. After tasting the big reds at modern wineries, head farther north into the valley. The dry land gives way to cedar and hemlock trees. The road curves around the eastern side of Okanagan Lake. While the nearby wineries focus on lighter wines like Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir.

Photo: Sparkling Hill Resort & Spa
Photo: Sparkling Hill Resort & Spa

When shadows start to crawl across the valley late in the afternoon, the last thing you should do is return to Vancouver. Luckily, a gorgeous resort sits on a granite hillside just south of Vernon. The fading sunshine bounces off Sparkling Hill Resort in every direction. Glass panels fill the lobby. More than 3.5 million Swarovski crystals look like waterfalls, fire, and stars throughout the resort. The largest spa in Canada—yes, in the entire country—offers innumerable ways to relax, as does the two-person soaking tub in your room. While all of the windows, plus the infinity pool, overlook Okanagan Lake and the Monashee Mountains.

Head to the outdoor pool to watch the sun set. As you approach it from the floor-to-ceiling windows, it looks chilly, but it’s actually heated and open year-round. Move to KurSpa to relax in a steam room or a sauna when clouds block the last of the daylight. Choose between a rose, salt, or crystal steam or an herbal, panorama, or classic Finnish sauna. Reduce your body heat by sitting in the igloo for a few minutes when you’re done. Stop by Barrique & Java for a glass of Crystal wine before dinner. The red blend was specially curated for the resort. Then dine on local specialities, like Fraser Valley duck or pan-seared pickerel, at PeakFine. British Columbia has outdone itself again.

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