Aspen Times Weekly: The Next Big Thing is Kelowna, Canada | AspenTimes.com

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Aspen Times Weekly: The Next Big Thing is Kelowna, Canada

ON MY RADAR

Colorado: The historic Broadmoor in Colorado Springs has put together a great program for guests this winter season called “The Broadmoor Passport,” a complimentary selection of activities and programs for guests to enjoy every weekend. Guests of all ages can take dance classes, an introduction to fly fishing, participate in culinary demonstrations, access complimentary greens fees and more.

Caribbean: Once known as the Caribbean’s brightest star, the all-new Malliouhana resort re-opened in November 2014, exactly 30 years after its initial debut in 1984, when it quickly became the go-to luxury hideaway.

Its debut follows a three-year closure and an 18-month end-to-end redesign. With 360-degree views of the Caribbean Sea, the transformed Malliouhana is managed by Auberge, the same resort company that operates the Hotel Jerome, and has 44 spacious ocean-view rooms and suites, a dramatic open-air cliffside restaurant, two new infinity-edge swimming pools and a signature Auberge Spa.

California Wine Country: The Farmhouse Inn is a charming Sonoma wine country inn located in the Russian River Valley with 18 rooms, a Michelin-starred restaurant and spa. Having just completed a $7 million renovation, the new inn includes nine new luxury rooms, a brand new spa, fitness center, impressive property-wide landscaping, a completely re-done pool area, and the creation of a number of outdoor rooms.

A brother and sister team of fifth-generation farmers helm the property and oversee the Michelin-starred Farmhouse Restaurant, where chef Steve Litke and Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth create an ever- changing menu, serving food sourced from the owners’ ranch and local Sonoma farmers.

Everyone wants to know when and where the "Next Big Thing" in travel will be discovered. It doesn't happen overnight, but every few years, a promising destination begins to emerge and starts to gets copious amounts of attention from people like me. Suddenly it's "discovered." It's the hardest part of writing about travel — giving secrets away on places just perfect the way they are. You want people to go and experience these gems, but not so much they are soon raked across the coals, exploited for their natural beauty and the very reasons you fell in love with the location in the first place. (Any destinations close to home come to mind?)

And yet, I'm compelled to share, because to keep it to myself just seems selfish. For people who love the outdoors, good food, wine, a place with history and heart — and for God's sakes, a junior hockey team — Kelowna, Canada, in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia is the place to be. I often describe this small city — 117,000 residents, four hours northeast of Whistler — as the Boulder, Colorado, of 40 years ago. It has a beautiful and historic downtown, incredible mountains surrounding the city ripe with mountain biking and hiking trials, and an expanding outdoor community dominated these days by climbers who can easily access the parallel canyons of Skaha Bluffs. Although the winters here are somewhat mild, averaging above freezing in winter months, there is still enough snow in the mountains surrounding town for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Downhill skiing can be found less than an hour away at Big White Resort, where an adult season pass costs $700. And yes, the real estate is accessible and affordable (compared to Colorado). Sounds perfect, right? Well it gets even better.

What Kelowna also has that Boulder does not is the 124-mile Lake Okanagan. It's Boulder with watersports! (And no, Boulder Reservoir does not count.) Imagine, after a morning of spectacular mountain biking, taking to your SUP, kayak or party boat out for an afternoon of cooling off in the gorgeous and vast waters. Another thing it has on other favorite mountain towns also is a benefit of these waters — 300 wineries that use the slope descending to the lake as a natural location for growing grapes. The humidity and temperatures regulated by the water is paired with rich soil, making Kelowna one of the most exciting, up-and-coming wine regions in North America, and making a name for itself for its Pinot Noir production.

At the top of this winery food chain is the spectacular Mission Hill Family Estate, producing Bordeaux-style reds, aromatic whites and as previously noted promising Pinot Noirs. The St. Peter's of local wineries, Mission Hill is the shining star of the Okanagan Valley, a mecca of food, wine and the arts, with monolithic limestone buildings, the centerpiece of which is a 12-story bell tower, and landscape design of more than 4,000 trees, shrubs and plants in which to highlight outdoor sculptures by a rotating roster of international artists.

The Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill, overlooking Chardonnay vines, is exceptional and has inspired the food scene in downtown Kelowna to ramp up its game. There are new restaurants, breweries, and specialty shops emerging on every restored block, and cool coffee shops like Giobean Coffee, run by Italian-born Geo and British-born wife Lucy, serving up its own blend of coffee and handmade everything — including the creamiest gelato outside of the mother country and putting every affogato I've had since to shame.

Kelowna is a gem of British, Columbia. The only thing you need now is a visa, because a quick visit to this beautiful region just won't do.

Amiee White Beazley writes about travel for the Aspen Times Weekly. Reach her at awb@awbeazley.com or follow her @awbeazley1.

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