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Kelowna is the seat of the Regional District of the Central Okanagan, the third-largest metropolitan area in British Columbia (after the Vancouver and Victoria), and the largest in the British Columbia Interior. With scenic lake vistas and a dry, mild climate, Kelowna has become one of the fastest growing cities in North America. The Okanagan's climate and vineyard-filled scenery, it has been compared to California.
First settled by missionaries in 1859, Kelowna was officially incorporated in 1905. Nearby communities include Westside to the west across the lake, Lake Country and then Vernon to the north, Westbank and then Peachland to the southwest and further to the south, Summerland and Penticton. The service industry employs the most people in Kelowna, the largest city in the tourist-oriented Okanagan Valley. In summer, boating is popular, and in winter, Alpine skiing at the nearby Big White Ski Resort and Silver Star Ski Resort.
Kelowna produces wines that have a worldwide reputation. Vineyards are common around and south of the city where the climate is ideal for the many wineries. Notable ones include the Mission Hill Estate Winery, specifically for its unique architectural design. However, at least two major wineries were damaged or destroyed in 2003 due to the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire. Kelowna is also the home of Sun-Rype, a popular manufacturer of fruit juice and snacks. With roots dating back to 1965, Okanagan College is the predominant centre for vocational and undergraduate post-secondary education in Kelowna. With over 5000 full-time students it constitutes the largest college in British Columbia outside the Lower Mainland and Victoria. The University of British Columbia took over the North Kelowna campus of Okanagan University College (now Okanagan College) on July 1, 2005. While UBCO continues to offer many of OUC's undergraduate programs, UBC Okanagan also offers Engineering and Management undergraduate programs and has developed Graduate programs in most disciplines.
Kelowna was home to the late Premier of British Columbia, W.A.C. Bennett and is the birthplace of his son, William R. Bennett, who also served as Premier of the province.
Former Major League Baseball players, Jeff Zimmerman of the Texas Rangers, his brother Jordan Zimmerman, and Paul Spoljaric were born here. The city is also home to The Grapes of Wrath, one of Canada's most popular rock bands in the 1980s and early 1990s. Evangeline Lilly of the hit TV show Lost was discovered on the streets of Kelowna.
Located in the southern part of BC off the Okanagan Valley, Kelowna is one of the biggest cities gazing across beautiful vineyards and Okanagan Lake. This lush area offers many chances for ecotourism and helps to produce much of Canada’s fruit blossoms. Kelowna is a prominent area for vineyards and wineries.
Nature is a big selling point of the area and this allows for many opportunities to mountain bike, hike, fish, ski or swim in any one of the 200 freshwater lakes located in the area. The Kettle Valley Railway Trail is mainly for hikers and a wonderful cycling trail as well. Golf is also a huge sport. There are over a dozen courses in the city and about 50 challenging courses in the area. The warm weather and many hours of daylight can allow you to golf for hours, at almost any time of the day. If you’re interested in more winter sports, then there are three large mountains located right outside the city and provide a good place for snowboarders and skiers a like.