The Frugal Traveler: Okanagan Valley a true treasure of British Columbia

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A hidden gem of the British Columbia tourism experience lies in a picturesque wonderland known as the Okanagan Valley. A myriad of boutique wineries and charming bed and breakfast establishments, combined with a noteworthy culinary scene make this a travel destination to take seriously. Here are just some of the ways this Canadian travel pearl can take your vacation to the next level.

Agritourism: Farmers play an active role in the tourism scene, providing experiences that are both nostalgic and nutritional. Matheson Creek Farm, overlooking Skaha Lake, is a scenic spot to stop and enjoy freshly-picked fruit and veggies while out for a drive. For a full-on family experience however, be sure to search out Covert Farms near the town of Osoyoos. The venue offers a variety of child-friendly activities such as scarecrow making, organic strawberry picking and corn mazes, leaving grownups free to sip wine and relax. Diners interested in an exceptional farm to fork experience won't want to miss the al fresco lunch scene at P.inc Patio, located at the Red Rooster winery. Not only are the produce items grown within sight of the restaurant, but the seeds for planting are as well.

Accommodations: The Grist Mill in Keremeos, an agritourism experience in its own right and a designated heritage site for the province of British Columbia, has campground lots featuring water and electrical access available for $25. A resort experience, complete with concierge services and full amenities can be had very affordably at Watermark Beach Resort on the shores of Osoyoos Lake. With rates as low as $129 during the high season, guest accommodations can be booked with organic groceries delivered directly to your in-room kitchen. The resort will also arrange any desired activities upon request, and provides washers and dryers in all rooms. Prefer something in between? Benchmark, a boutique bed and breakfast in the town of Naramata provides affordable, private luxury with rates starting at $179 per night based on double occupancy. All rooms come with complimentary gourmet breakfasts and a commanding valley view.

Activities: A variety of high-value options exist for families and couples heading to the region. For example, the Desert Center Osoyoos offers guided flora and fauna tours to its 67 acre living museum for $7 per adult and $16 per family. In the Naramata area where wineries appear around every corner, it's possible to bike your way from venue to venue and pick up your purchases later by vehicle. If you'd prefer to focus on views for your bike ride, the Kettle Valley Rail Trail provides scenic access to the region with the ability to stop off for snacks and accommodations as you see fit. Canines are also welcome at a high percentage of Okanagan Valley venues. The See Ya Later Ranch for instance offers a private off-leash lunch experience for $51.75. The experience starts with an on-leash winery tour and taste testing, and ends with an intimate picnic in the middle of the vineyard where Rover can romp freely.

Affordability: Built-in saving opportunities throughout the Okanagan Valley maximize your vacation dollars. The Penticton farmers' market held on Saturdays is a great place to stroll for free and listen to a variety of live performers while you shop for inexpensive local produce and fresh-baked treats. The food stand for Joy Road Catering for instance, offers artisan pizza slices for $3.75. Similarly, Backyard Beans sells $1.50 organic coffee in large ceramic mugs returnable at one of several collection points throughout the market. Also of note is the booth for Lan Yo Veggie Village, where you can purchase vegan spring rolls for a buck a pop.

Further south in the Okanagan, Seven Stones winery encourages visitors to bring their own picnic lunch to consume on their patio or picnic tables while enjoying a house pour. Rates start at $6.50 per glass and come with sweeping scenic vistas. Similarly, Church and State Wines offers an $8 tasting fee which includes four samples of your choice. The cost is waived with purchase.

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Theriault is the best-selling co-author of the book "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget," and founder of TrekHound.com, a website for independent travelers. She also founded TheLessonMachine.com, a website for teachers.

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