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Looking for something to do in the next few days? Something that'll keep you warm as the temps plunge in a forecasted post-Christmas freeze-out? Something that'll keep you safe from the newest pandemic variant?
Sounds like the perfect setup for an evening car tour of the Christmas houses of Penticton.
Now, the truth is that Penticton has a ton of houses that go beyond a "normal" level of decoration. Everywhere you look, there are homes with Christmas characters and scenes in the front yard and/or multiple light strings.
But that's not what we're after here. What we're talking about are the most notable places in the city. The prettiest, the brightest, the most tasteful, the most grandiose, and of course, the half-dozen or so that rate as the very best.
Luckily, PentictonNow has been photographing Christmas houses and interviewing their creators pretty steadily since 2017, and we have a suggested route for those who want only the best.
All meat, no filler. And for logistics purposes, it all gets started on the West Bench, where, at 808 Vedette Dr., Penticton newcomers Ryan Lochbaum and Dallas Almond have a big, sloping property and a huge deck they've filled with Christmas treats. There's music too, and it's a great start to your evening.
From there, it's a choice. Those with unlimited time might consider a quick side trip to Summerland. Once there, look for a small cul-de-sac called Beavis Place, just south of downtown. Virtually every house on the street is decorated, a couple of them quite majestically, and at 10102 Beavis you may spot homeowner Ron Smith playing Santa.
Then zip over to 17611 Matsu Pl, where homeowner Eddie Matsu has built an unforgettably wacky homemade Christmas collection that'll have you wanting to get out of the car and walk around.
On the way back to Penticton, drop by Trout Creek. Nixon Road especially has some exceptional displays, and don't forget to cross the highway to the isolated but worthy 5618 Fir St. before you finish.
Back in Penticton, next up is the iconic SS Sicamous and its tugboat buddies. They obviously aren't houses, but they're classic stops nonetheless. You'll find them on the Okanagan Lake waterfront at 1099 Lakeshore Dr. West.
Directly ahead are the two most amazing Christmas neighbourhoods in the city -- the "K Streets," and Sendero Canyon. But before you go, we'll throw you a couple of optional stops on the way.
The first, at 420 Pickering Street, just across the road from Penticton Creek, is small, pretty and a labour of love. The second, just up the road at 155 Walden Cr., is a stunning wall of lights fronted by Santa and buddies.
Now it’s on to the K Streets, so head south on Government Street, turn left at Penticton Avenue, and left again at Kilwinning Street.
You're looking for Armand Grainger's place at 1165. And it's not hard to find.
Grainger is a K Street original whose 9,000 lights make him a strong contender for high-lumen king. He modernized most of his lights this year, and they're all now controlled by a phone app that makes them do cool things.
We asked Grainger if he had anything to tell those uppity folks in Sendero Canyon, a neighbourhood that didn't even exist a decade ago and now vies for the best Christmas spot in the city.
Grainger's response? "Come down and see this one."
And Grainger's is just the start. Hot homes are everywhere in this neighborhood, with one of the most sophisticated just a few doors away at 1111 Kilwinning. Check out the gorgeously decorated tree on the sidewalk out front.
Just a block away from there is the finest side-by-side show in town, at 1116 and 1110 Killarney. Each is top-notch on its own, but together they make night feel like day. Doesn't hurt that Trina and Scott Lindsey at 1116 upped their game for 2021.
"I wanted people to be able to walk underneath the tree and feel the lights even though they're not in our yard," said Trina. "And we have two new (human-sized) nutcrackers at the front door, and we changed up the bulb design."
There are plenty more impressive midlevel houses in the immediate area, and it all depends how long you want to scout around before you make your way up the hill to what may well now be the most dynamic Christmas neighourhood in town -- Sendero Canyon.
Drive up Duncan, veer onto Lawrence, and don’t stop 'til you hit number 2009. It's one of the first homes you can see when you arrive at the development.
Look to your left and way, way up the slope. You may want to pull over when you get the chance and walk back to check it out.
Here, most everything you see is homemade except the lights. Homemade, hand-painted and awesome.
It's a glorious effort, but it may be even more so in the future if the homeowner pulls off his next stunt -- a chairlift running from the sidewalk at the base of the slope to the house at the top. With stuffed animals inside.
Wow. Just wow.
Just a minute past that is the home of Jessica and Jaret Warren at 2034 Lawrence. Red and white with clean lines and dazzling light output, the Warrens was already one of the region's top two or three displays last year when they added an absolutely massive sleigh and reindeer scene at the top of their roof.
This year, they brought in even more, including an enormous (20-foot long) "Merry Christmas" script they say originated "overseas" and was ordered "in the summer."
Just as we left, Jessica laughingly explained that the neighbourhood has a new Christmas tag line -- "Christmas in the Canyon."
From there you'll continue up Lawrence, where there's seemingly something great to see every few meters. Standouts include Jay and Jodi Barner's place at 2095 and Shane and Rhonda Doyon's at 2121.
We visited the Barners last year just after Jay had fallen -- hard -- from a ladder whilst adding new design elements. This year we dropped by the Doyons, where we saw a bunch of slick new stuff, including a giant "Let It Snow" on the roof. Next year, added Shane, there'll also be an "18-foot Frosty."
"I'll put him on the roof," he said, "which will make him 28-feet high."
Leaving Sendero behind, aim for Rick and Sandra Ashley's terraced property at 175 Dewdney Cres.
Not much new this year, but their home was already one of the finest in town. And it works as a good lead-in to the Upper Carmi hood, where you'll find bold stuff like Greg Kerr's neon-edged truck and tree at 1615 Carmi.
Just a couple blocks away you'll also run into the double-barreled powerhouse of 1588 and 1580 Hatfield Drive. The former is amazing, the latter is getting there, and together they're a heckuva sight.
Then it's down the hill. Drive down Carmi 'til you hit Dartmouth, then hang a left and continue on to Wiltse Boulevard.
This is the Wiltse neighbourhood and how you handle it is completely up to you. It's a big place in comparison with some of the others we’ve discussed, and it doesn’t really have any absolute top-tier homes.
But it does have plenty of "almosts." In fact, some will find this their fave zone because it’s just loaded with cool displays.
Wiltse Boulevard, Wiltse Drive, Stevens Crescent -- go ahead and drive them all because they’re all super fun.
Then go back down on Dartmouth and zip over to Balsam Avenue. Turn left and turn left again and you'll arrive at Balsam Place, where virtually every home on the street is nicely decorated.
There's now one neighbourhood to go. We'll call it "Atkinson" because it hovers loosely around Atkinson Street.
You want addresses? Okay, start with Howard Bogle's unique (and humungous) collection of Christmas ornaments at 1980 Atkinson. All around Bogle's home are other worthy stops. Like 84 Okanagan Ave. Or right across the street at 1975 Atkinson. Or the Star Wars-themed display at 95 Roy Avenue.
There's another pocket of quality second-tier homes nearby, just north of Wal-Mart. Addresses such as 2617 Nicholson, 2372 Cornwall and 2447 Cornwall. All guaranteed to elicit an ooh and/or ahh.
But we've saved one of the best displays and arguably the top dog in Penticton for last.
Drive to the home of Kevin and April Hughes at 123 Granby Ave. for starters. Here, the ambience is warm and the decorative items wonderfully unique. You may want to hop out and watch a few minutes of the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which is broadcast on an exterior wall for much of the early evening.
From there it's just a quick jump to the phenomenal, mostly-DIY concoction of Darryl and Debbie Jones at 238 Huth Avenue. We've waxed poetic about this address for many years, but here we'll just say that this is one of perhaps two or three houses in the city you must not ever miss. It's jaw-dropping.
And with that, your tour is over.
Those with tight timelines could still get an incredible show that highlights the city's very best by skipping all but the K Street and Sendero Canyon neighbourhoods and the two final addresses on Granby and Huth.
Those with no other commitments can take their time and see even more.
Whatever you do, stay safe, drive carefully, and have a happy holiday.
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