Penticton distinguishes itself as a top-tier winter destination in Canada, particularly for those seeking a vacation that goes beyond skiing-focused activities. The winter weather is relatively mild by Canadian standards, the scenery is awe-inspiring, and there are ample activities to enjoy.
And if you do like skiing, Penticton has that aspect of winter covered as well!
In this post, I’ll be revealing the top winter activities to enjoy in Penticton.
Rest assured, each suggestion comes from our personal experience living here for 5+ years. This list is also shaped by our experiences hosting friends and family members during the winter months.
Last updated December 2023. For the most up-to-date information, contact individual businesses before visiting. There may be affiliate links in this post. If you make a purchase, we may receive a small percentage of the sale.
Winter in Penticton: What to expect
Before I get into the best things to do in Penticton in winter, I’d thought it would be a good idea to share an overview of what winter in Penticton actually looks like.
Thanks to the Okanagan’s relatively mild winter temperatures and low precipitation, snow typically blankets the ground at lake level only from mid-December to late January, with occasional appearances in February. Of course, the mountains surrounding Penticton have snow from around December to April.
Located between two lakes, Penticton is a pretty windy city. The winds lift the lightest snowfalls from the ground pretty quickly. Penticton doesn’t get the high snow banks along the highways that you may see in towns like Revelstoke and Nelson.
While the Okanagan Valley is known for winter cloud cover, Penticton stands out as clearer than many other local communities. I believe this is due to Penticton’s unique positioning between two lakes.
Regarding temperature, the thermometer stays close to freezing during the daytime in both December and January, with February being a couple of degrees warmer. However, the presence of wind can make it feel colder.
Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that there is typically a week-long period of exceptionally cold weather each winter. Temperatures can drop to -10°C to -15°C, and even lower when factoring in wind chill.
During the winter of 2021/2, this extremely cold weather persisted for nearly four weeks, setting a record. The coldest day reached -22°C, plummeting to -30°C with wind chill.
Best things to do in winter in Penticton
Time to get into the post and the best winter activities in and around Penticton!
For the best winter view around, head directly to Munson Mountain. Home to the iconic Penticton sign, Munson Mountain offers beautiful panoramas of Okanagan Lake and downtown Penticton. It’s also possible to see Skaha Lake!
Munson Mountain is a quick five-minute drive from downtown Penticton. From the parking lot, it’s only a two-minute walk along a flat, paved path to the first viewpoint.
Please note that the path can get quite icy in December and January so be sure to tread carefully. My mum fell and broke her wrist here after slipping on black ice (I wished she’d had some Nanospikes or Icetrax for extra traction).
Depending on the amount of snow and ice, you might feel confident continuing up the hill. As you ascend, you’ll find benches and improved vantage points with better views.
Walk or bike the Kettle Valley Railway Trail
Originally constructed in 1915, the Kettle Valley Railway originally spanned from Midway in the Boundary Region to Hope. Today, it is a versatile multi-use trail offering abundant recreational possibilities for pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians alike.
Featuring a gentle slope and wide path, the Kettle Valley Rail Trail (KVR) is the perfect destination for a short winter walk or bike ride.
My favourite section of the KVR for winter walks is the 2.5km one-way stretch from Vancouver Place to the McCulloch Trestle. The path is almost completely flat and provides panoramic vistas of the city, Okanagan Lake and adjacent vineyards.
This part of the KVR is located just uphill from downtown. If downtown is snow-free, most of the trail is likely to be as well. There is a short section after the cemetery (2km mark) where snow sticks a little longer. Bring Nanospikes for grip in December and January (and after any snowfalls in February).
Penticton boasts a dynamic downtown area with an impressive collection of restaurants, cafes and boutiques.
The central hub of Penticton’s shopping district is Main Street, where you’ll discover a blend of independent clothing boutiques, specialty stores, and gift shops, interspersed with banks, services, cafes, and restaurants.
One of the most unique places to visit is the Book Shop, Western Canada’s largest second-hand bookstore. Other great shops to browse include Teas & Weaves, Sirius Science and Nature, the Grooveyard (record shop) and vintage stores like Elizabeth O and Fig & Lily.
Front Street extends from the upper end of Main Street, showcasing a row of vibrant and historical buildings. Many of these structures house independent businesses like Dragon’s Den, the Lloyd Gallery, and Eskala Mountain Sports.
Downtown Penticton looks extra pretty in December and early January when colourful Christmas decorations light up the streets.
Go wine tasting on the Naramata Bench
Less than 2km from downtown Penticton, the Naramata Bench is recognized as one of Canada’s foremost wine regions. While most Naramata Bench wineries conclude operations after the October harvest or Thanksgiving, there are still a select few that provide year-round tastings.
One winery that remains open almost all winter long is Upper Bench Winery and Creamery. Enjoy a paired wine and cheese tasting for $15 per person.
If you like strong, French-style soft cheeses, you simply must buy the Okanagan Gold (my favourite). For wine, I consistently like Upper Bench’s Pinot Blanc and slightly oaked Chardonnay.
Upper Bench closes for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day only.
Sip craft beers at one of seven breweries
Prefer beer to wine? No problem, Penticton is one of the best places in British Columbia for craft beer. There are four breweries in the downtown area, with three more spread across the city (a grand total of seven!)
No matter whether you like rich stouts or fruity sours, there’s a brewery to suit you in Penticton.
Tin Whistle Brewing is one of my personal favourites as they brew the iconic Peach Cream Ale, a beer that is the epitome of summer in Penticton! On the other side, they usually have a solid collection of dark beers as well, including the award-winning Hazelnut Coffee Milk Stout.
My top pick for food is Cannery Brewing. They have the best nachos in town (chicken, vegetarian and vegan varieties) and a relaxed taproom with bar service only. The Cannery is most famous for its Naramata Nut Brown ale, though there are plenty of other long-time favourites.
The line-up is completed by Neighbourhood Brewing (Mexican fusion cuisine, 15+ taps), Slackwater Brewing (pub food, best for live music events), Highway 97 (great happy hour), the Barley Mill (British pub theme) and Abandoned Rail (situated on the KVR).
Enjoy a hike with a view
Snow doesn’t necessarily signal a hiatus from hiking; most of our favourite Penticton trails remain accessible during the winter.
For an easy, short hike with unexpectedly stunning views, consider exploring the Canyon View Trail (10 minute drive from downtown). The 1.5km loop offers panoramic vistas of Okanagan Lake and the city.
For a more extended hiking experience, consider the G-Spot Trail, conveniently located near downtown. The 10km loop poses a greater challenge but promises a rewarding payoff.
Another of our favourite hiking trails is Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland, just a 15-minute drive away.
I would recommend bringing a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes on these hikes as ice and snow will likely be present.
Go skiing or snowboarding at Apex Mountain Resort
A hidden gem among BC ski resorts, Apex Mountain Resort is a mere 50-minute drive from downtown Penticton. Expect minimal lift lines, exhilarating runs, abundant powder, and breathtaking summit views.
There are two main chairlifts, with the higher Quickdraw lift better suited for intermediate to advanced skiers. As snowboarders, we prefer the lower Stock’s Chair. Pockets of powder can be found on some of the Stock’s runs even days after a big snowfall!
Apex offers a choice of accommodation options ranging from slopeside hotel-style rooms to cosy lodges with hot tubs.
Another local option for alpine skiing is Baldy Mountain Resort. Even better than Apex, Baldy takes the skiing-to-lift wait ratio to a whole new level. During weekdays, skiing at Baldy almost feels like having your private ski resort!
Thursday is the best day to go to Baldy as the resort is completely closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (think of the powder build-up!)
Looking for cross-country skiing? Nickel Plate Nordic Centre is where you need to go! Located just a few kilometres from Apex, Nickel Plate offers 56km of groomed trails. A free version is the nearby Okanagan Vista Cross Country Ski Trails System
Take to the ice and skate
If you like to skate, Penticton has a host of skating experiences to enjoy.
Penticton’s premier skating experience is found at Apex Mountain Resort. The Adventure Skating Loop winds through the forest for 1km. This unique experience costs only $5. The loop is maintained by Zamboni and is open when the weather permits (check first).
There is a free downtown skating rink situated behind City Hall in downtown Penticton. Managed by a not-for-profit group, the skating rink is usually open every day from December to early March, operating from 8am to 9pm (weather permitting). The ice is flooded by a Zamboni at 8 am and 4 pm.
Skating is also available at no cost on Lakeside Resort’s small waterfront ice rink. Positioned directly on the beach, the views are breathtaking! The rink typically operates from December to late March, from 10am to 10pm. It is recommended to contact the resort first to make sure the rink is not reserved for a private booking.
The McLaren Arena is available for indoor public skating. There is a small admission fee. Rental skates are available.
One of the most accessible winter activities, snowshoeing is a great way to get outdoors.
The best snowshoe trails near Penticton can be found near Apex Mountain Resort. The Okanagan Vista Cross Country Ski Trails System has a great network of snowshoe paths, including the easy Snowflake Loop. Nearby Nickel Plate Nordic Centre has 22.5km of maintained snowshoe trails.
While there are some snowshoeing trails closer to downtown Penticton (such as the Carmi Recreational Trail Network), snowshoes are usually overkill. Unless a lot of snow has recently fallen, a pair of microspikes usually work better.
Enjoy indoor activities
As passionate as I am about highlighting the mildness of Penticton’s winters, it’s important to recognize that chilly days do occur! During those times, exploring Penticton’s indoor attractions can be a great alternative. Here are some ideas:
- Attempt to solve one of the escape rooms at EXIT Penticton
- Landmark Cinemas showcases all of the newest movies (Tuesday is cheap night)
- Take in a show at the Cleland Community Theatre, Tempest Theatre or Many Hats Theatre
- Attend a Penticton Vees ice hockey game at the SOEC
- Learn more about the city at the Penticton Museum and Archives
- Go bouldering at Hoodoo Adventures
- Play unlimited games for one low price at Meeples and Milkshakes Board Game Cafe
- Challenge yourself at the Ethos Parkour gym
Take a free holiday light tour
Penticton transforms with the glow of Christmas light displays starting in late November. Embrace the holiday season by embarking on a self-guided tour of the finest Christmas lights in Penticton. It’s free, easy to organise and guaranteed to elevate your festive spirit! Check out our Christmas lights guide for all the details.
Alternatively, BC Transit runs a special Lights Tour in mid-December. This free bus ride offers a chance to see all of the best Christmas light displays in Penticton. In 2023, it operated on 13th December only.