Walking through downtown Vernon is like strolling through a life-sized art gallery. Twenty-seven murals bring the sides of buildings alive with images of Vernon’s development as a centre of recreation, agriculture and culture. It’s possible to take a guided walking tour, but it’s also a joy for individuals to explore this year-round exhibition of outdoor art alone. The ‘Cowboys’ mural at 30th Avenue depicts a tired rancher resting a fence and watching his herd of beef cattle. Just over on 32nd Avenue, one can learn the humble beginnings of Sovereign Lake as a world-class nordic ski centre. Gigantic scenes of life on the Shuswap River as well as Kalamalka and Okanagan lakes make it easy to understand why fishers, sailboats and swimmers love to play in Vernon.
Allan Brooks Nature Centre
A visit to the Allan Brooks Nature Centre can help answer some of life’s more important questions: Where do bears get their food? How do bees make their honey? What can marmots do to avoid birds of prey? Once an old weather station, the nature centre is a perfect living laboratory for learning about Vernon’s three lakes and five ecosystems. One can learn how native plants may be used in yard landscaping to attract wildlife and how these plants can survive in Vernon’s dry grasslands. The nature centre is open from May to October, and it’s a great place to bring budding scientific minds to learn about the birds, the bees, grasses, and the trees.
Okanagan Science Centre
The Okanagan Science Centre at Polson Park in Vernon is a place where adults and children may come to learn secrets about how the world works. The centre is no place to come searching for answers about where to shop or what restaurant meal to buy; but it’s planetarium will explain how Earth and other planets move around the Sun. Young and old alike may certainly visit the Okanagan Science Centre to learn the science of sound, electricity, magnetism, light, optics, and mechanics. Special exhibits will also help to shed light on such things as the process of aging, climate change and the life of a bug. The Science Centre’s Provincial Air Monitoring Station monitors the quality of air breathed by visitors to Vernon when they step outside of their hotel, motel or resort.
Dig for Opals
‘Shopping for jewelry’ takes on whole new meaning when visiting an opal mine near Vernon. Searching the Vernon business directory or classifieds for jewelry is possible any day of the week. Digging for opals is best done on a Sunny Okanagan week-end between June and October; it requires trading high heels for hiking boots and carrying a bucket and pick instead of a wallet and purse. Once found, gemstones may be polished, cut and made into jewelry onsite. What could be more precious than a set of earrings, a ring or a pendant that is made from an opal dug up over the week-end?
Mackie Lake House
In the early 20th Century, Hugh & Grace Mackie and the Reverend Augustine Mackie thought developing young minds through education was as important as a well-aged wine. The Mackie Lake House Provincial Heritage Site is located just South of Vernon on the northern tip of Kalamalka Lake; it is a short drive for anyone staying at a Vernon hotel and offers a worthwhile glimpse into an important part of the area’s history. Visitors may take a two-hour tour of the Mackie House grounds that at one time contained an apricot orchard. There is no restaurant, but tea and treats are served in the living room or on the verandah overlooking a garden.