The ball has dropped in Times Square, the Space Needle’s fireworks have burst into a stunning blaze of color and 2016 is finally here. A recommended resolution for the New Year? Spend more time exploring the Pacific Northwest’s vast and beautiful cities and landscapes right in your own backyard. Lucky for you, Clipper Vacations has 30 years of experience as your local travel experts and are here to help guide you on the best advice for unforgettable adventures, romantic getaways and scenic road trips in our beloved region. Thus, in honor of this year being our grand 30th anniversary, we’ve provided our recommendations for 30 things to do in the Pacific Northwest in 2016.
Do one, do them all…whatever the case may be, we always want to hear from you and see your photos so be sure to share on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #DiscoverClipper. Happy exploring in the year ahead!
1. Take a Bite Out of Seattle
From some of the freshest seafood around to creamy, homemade ice cream, Seattle has a copious amount of phenomenal eats just waiting to be sampled. Tempt your taste buds with bites from local artisans and restaurants on a Food and Cultural Tour of Pike Place Market or treat yourself to the city’s finest sweets on a Chocolate Indulgence Tour.
2. Celebrate Chinese New Year in the Second Oldest Chinatown in North America
Colorful parades, captivating dragon and lion dances, restaurants serving scrumptious handmade dim sum, tea ceremonies and a treasure trove of shops make Victoria’s thriving and historic Chinatown the perfect place to ring in the year of the Monkey.
Trapper’s Run Dogslde Tour. Photo Courtesy Canadian Wilderness
3. Mush Your Way Through Whistler’s Winter Wonderland
When it comes to gliding down Whistler’s icy slopes, typically skiing and snowboarding come to mind. However, navigating the specular old growth forest of Callaghan Valley becomes a lot more exhilarating when four-legged friends are involved. Hop on the Trapper’s Run Dogsled Tour and let your eager and powerful dog team lead you across the land.
4. Spend Valentine’s Day in One of the Most Romantic Cities in the World
With views of sparkling waters, stunning historic architecture, horse-drawn carriage rides and an abundance of beautiful gardens, there is no place more romantic than Victoria to spend Valentine’s Day. Cozy up with that special someone and discover why Victoria has been named the “Most Romantic City in Canada” for two years in a row.
Tigh Na Mara Spa
5. Escape to Vancouver Island’s Tigh Na Mara
Located on 22 acres of evergreen forest and within a stone’s throw from three kilometers of pristine sandy beach, Tigh Na Mara Seaside Spa Resort provides a haven from the daily hustle and bustle. If the fabulous grounds are not enough of a draw, the resort features a beautiful rock-ensconced grotto spa, complete with a whirlpool, sauna and a warm water mineral pool.
6. Have a Whale of a Time in Puget Sound
At 50 feet long and weighing in at 35 tons, the mammoth gray whales dwarf Puget Sound’s other cetaceans, making them a truly magnificent sight. Embark on a gray whale watching trip to catch a rare glimpse of these mammals when the whales make a pit stop in Washington waters during their epic (12,400 miles round trip) migration between Mexico and Alaska.
7. Savor Okanagan Valley’s Award-Winning Wines
In the heart of British Columbia, lies the Okanagan Valley, one of Canada’s premier grape growing regions. Drive through the unique, intimate town and watch as the sun disappears behind the mountains on a while you sip and savor award-winning vintages at three boutique wineries on a sunset wine tour.
8.Travel the Galloping Goose Trail from End to End
Stretching from urban, asphalt paved streets, through loamy rainforest floors covered with ferns and shrubs, to steep, rocky canyons, this former rail line that runs from Victoria to Sooke is the perfect way to view the finest scenery in British Columbia.
Ziptrek Bear Tour. Photo Courtesy of ZipTrek.
9. Fly Through the Trees on a Zip Line Adventure
Get a squirrel’s eye view of frosty, icicle-laden trees as you soar through the forest canopy on five different ziplines ranging between 200-1,000 feet long on the Whistler Ziptrek Bear Tour.
10. Delight in Tofino’s Winter Storms
Live like a true Northwesterner and embrace the cold and damp winter days with a trip up to Tofino on Vancouver Island’s rugged coast to revel in the stormy weather. Don your best waterproof gear and head on the beach to watch giant swells and lashing waves pummel the shore.
11. Climb to New Heights in Vancouver
Venture off the ground to experience Vancouver from a new perspective. At 460 feet long and hanging a jaw-dropping 200 feet over Capilano River, Vancouver’s popular Capliano Suspension Bridge offers spectacular views of the lush rainforest vegetation and canyon below.
Oak Bay Beach Hotel. Photo Courtesy Oak Bay Beach Hotel
12. Pamper Yourself at Victoria’s Five-Star Spas
Slow down, rid yourself of stress and rejuvenate at one of Victoria’s elegant spas. Indulge your senses by soaking in steaming hot mineral pools by the sea at Oak Bay Beach Hotel, treat yourself to nature-inspired spa treatment or relax in a soothing eucalyptus steam room and sauna at the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Empress.
13. Dine Atop Blackcomb’s Mighty Peak
Experience the serenity of Canada’s high alpine wilderness and panoramic views of the Coast Mountain Range as you crawl up Blackcomb Mountain while tucked cozy and warm inside a powerful snowcat. At the peak, relish a delicious and romantic, candle-lit mountain top fondue dinner accompanied by hot, fresh baked fruit pie at the charming Crystal Hut.
14. Scuba Dive & Snorkel in Nanaimo’s Watery Depths
Plunge deep into the cold, clear waters that surround the “Up Island” town of Nanaimo and slip into a different world. Explore the three sunken ship wrecks just outside the city’s harbor to a view a myriad of sea life, including rock fish, wolf eel, octopus and starfish. If you prefer to be less submerged, try snorkeling with the playful harbor seals found in the shallow waters off the coast.
15. Explore Portland’s “Gem” of a Neighborhood
Renowned for stylish shops, world class art galleries, premium restaurants and bars, the chic Pearl District is one of the most vibrant and fun neighborhoods in Portland. Be sure stop at the iconic Powell’s City of Books, the largest used and new bookstore in the world.
Orca. Credit: Justine Buckmaster / Clipper Vacations Naturalist
16. Scout the San Juans for Orcas
Cruise through glimmering waters on a San Juans whale watching and sealife search as you look for the three distinct pods known as J, K and L that make up the growing community of Southern Resident orca whales. These beautiful and highly intelligent animals are curious creatures and will often swim near the boats. If you are lucky, you may even see one of eight claves born during the 2015 baby boom!
17. Take Victoria by Bicycle
With over nine popular biking trails that wind past local vineyards, bucolic farmlands and steep highlands, there is no better way to explore Victoria than by bike. If you left your bike at home, some hotels, such as the Hotel Grand Pacific, will even provide complimentary bikes to guests.
18. Gaze at One of Washington’s Poplar Mountains
Rising tall behind Seattle, the stately Mt. Rainier is one of Washington’s most popular attractions and perhaps one of the most elusive. Avoid waiting for the perfect moment to catch sight of the glacier-carved mountain and head straight to national park itself for a Mt. Rainier Tour that will allow you to view wildflower-filled alpine meadows, crashing waterfalls and the snowcapped summit.
19. Experience Seattle’s Nightlife
The numerous amount of local theaters, lively music venues and trendy clubs provide a seemingly endless source of entertainment. Enjoy a rousing show at Paramount, Moore or Neptune Theatre or check out the bars in Pioneer Square and Fremont to experience Seattle’s vibrant nightlife.
20. Visit Whidbey Island’s Waterfront Towns
A short boat ride across the Sound, or impressive drive over Deception Pass, will land you in the seaside towns of Coupeville or Langley. Experience part of the Northwest you wouldn’t normally see and swing by historic red wharf building or sample the famously delicious Penn Cove mussels and in Coupeville and check out the mix of jewelers clothing boutiques and book stores in Langley’s artists’ mecca.
21. Tour Victoria’s Craft Breweries
Unofficially known as the “craft beer capital of BC” since Canada’s first brewpub, Spinnakers opened in 1984, Victoria features over six exceptional craft breweries. To help narrow down where to wet your whistle, check out the Definitive Craft Brewery Tour, which will transport you to three of the city’s most popular breweries.
Beluga at the Vancouver Aquarium. Photo Courtesy of the Vancouver Aquarium
22. Discover Vancouver’s Natural Beauty at Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium
Stroll through Stanley Park’s glorious green oasis to experience glistening lakes, sandy beaches, grassy meadows, rose garden and an impressive collection of totem poles. Be sure to stop by the Vancouver Aquarium to view their collection of more than 90,000 fascinating and exotic creatures from all over the globe.
23. Wander Pelindaba Lavender Farm’s Deep Purple Fields
Breathe in the sweet, floral scent of lavender as you walk through fields of delicate purple flowers on the 25-acre San Juan Island farm. The blooms are at their peak during July, but you are welcome to visit Pelindaba anytime of the year and delight your taste buds with sweet lavender lemonade, iced tea, ice cream and cookies.
24. Check out Lime Kiln Lighthouse and Keep an Eye Out for Whales
Named after a historic lime kiln, the 36-acre park offers stunning views on the Olympic Mountain Range and Vancouver Island and is one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of the 80 or more orca whales that make the waters of the Haro Strait their home during the summer months. Need a way to get up to San Jaun Island? We’ve got you covered.
25. See Whistler from Peak to Peak
The longest continuous lift system in world, Whistler’s PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola is more awe-inspiring than your average gondola ride. Fly through the crisp mountain air and experience 360 degree views of volcanic peaks, sparkling lakes and frozen glaciers for an unparalleled perspective on British Columbia’s rooftop.
26. Take a Walk on British Columbia’s Wild Side
Situated between Vancouver Island and mainland BC, the secluded Discovery Islands are a prime location for wildlife viewing. Cruise the sapphire waters along Quadra Island’s scenic coastline on a whales and bears nature tour to catch sight of black bears, seals, bald eagles and herons.
Kayaking in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Photo Courtesy of Ocean River Adventures
27. Kayak Victoria’s Inner Harbour
Paddle through the calm, protected waters surrounding Victoria’s Inner Harbour during a relaxing kayak tour that will allow you to experience the city’s fascinating landmarks up close. You may even catch a glimpse of local wildlife such as seals or bald eagles.
28. Soak in Seattle’s Native Heritage
Travel across the waters of Puget Sound to the birthplace of Chief Seattle on the picturesque Blake Island for a Tillicum Village Salmon Bake and experience the Northwest’s tribal culture. Feast on a scrumptious buffet of steamed clams and alder-smoked salmon followed by spellbinding performances by Tillicum village dancers.
29. Tour Victoria’s Castles and Historic Buildings
Featuring streets lined with 19th century architecture such as the elaborate Parliament Buildings and not one, but two, extravagant castles (Craigdarroch and Hatley) Victoria is the perfect place to indulge your inner history or architecture buff and wander through these gorgeous buildings.
30. Chase Oregon’s Waterfalls
While Portland often gets a bad rap due its damp climate, there is nothing more exhilarating than heading out on the Columbia River Gorge Waterfall Tour and witnessing all the rain being transformed into the magnificent and memorable Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls, Horse Tail Falls and more.
With a variety of unique and fascinating regions to explore, the opportunities for amazing 2016 Pacific Northwest adventures are endless. Whether you want to smell the flowers in the expansive and beautiful Butchart Gardens in Victoria or track down some of the famous food trucks in Portland, you are sure to find a getaway that suites your fancy. With so much to see and so in the Pacific Northwest, the hardest part will be deciding where to start.