Aerial view of Whistler Mountain. Photo Courtesy of Eric Berger

Aerial view of Whistler Mountain. Photo Courtesy of Eric Berger

Boasting majestic snowcapped mountains and serene evergreen forests, you will be hard-pressed to find a more magical escape than Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Take advantage of the more than 24 feet of snowfall the twin peaks have received this year and get outside to in the crisp mountain air. Carve your way down the slopes. Trek through untouched wilderness in search of local wildlife or dine at the 6,000 foot level at the quaint and charming Crystal Hut restaurant. Explore the abundance of amazing adventures to be had right in your own backyard with these five unique wintertime activities.

1. Get a Bird’s Eye View of Frosty Forests

Ziptrek Bear Tour. Photo Courtesy of ZipTrek.

Ziptrek Bear Tour. Photo Courtesy of ZipTrek.

Soar like an eagle on an exhilarating high wire adventure over the icicle-laden tree tops of Whistler’s forests. Featuring five incredible ziplines, the Whistler Ziptrek Bear Tour allows you to soak in the region’s stunning winter landscape as you skim above 33 acres of diverse terrain. Take in spectacular views of the sapphire waters of Fitzsimmons Creek as it snakes its way between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain as well as dense old growth rainforests.

2. Mush Your Way Through Whistler’s Winter Wonderland

Trapper's Run Dogslde Tour.  Photo Courtesy of Canadian Wilderness

Trapper’s Run Dogslde Tour. Photo Courtesy of Canadian Wilderness

Step on a traditional wooden dogsled and experience a piece of the region’s heritage as you to navigate the scenic forests of Callaghan Valley. On the Trapper’s Run Dogsled Tour you will learn how to harness, stage and command a team of eager and powerful Alaskan and Pointer racing dogs. Journey to a former trapper’s camp at Totem Lake and discover how Canadian fur trappers used to live.

3. Discover Romance Atop the Mighty Blackcomb Mountain

Mountain Top Fondue at Crystal Hut. Photo Courtesy of Canadian Wilderness

Mountain Top Fondue at Crystal Hut. Photo Courtesy of Canadian Wilderness

Crawl up Blackcomb Mountain’s glistening slopes while cozied up inside a snowcat and soak in rich alpine colors as the sun sets on the expansive Coast Mountain Range. At the peak, delight in a romantic candle-lit Mountain Top Fondue dinner accompanied by fine wine and warm fresh basked fruit pie for dessert. Following dinner, step outside on the deck of the rustic lodge and watch the twinkling lights of Whistler Village below or unwind as you listen to the sweet stylings of local musicians.

4. Cruise the Snow-Filled Callaghan Valley

Snowmobiling on Whistler

Snowmobiling on Whistler

Wind your way past glaciers and stunning mountain peaks on a thrilling snowmobile ride through pristine snow-filled forests. Travel to the abandoned Northair goldmine site, where your guide will teach you about the history of Whistler’s backcountry. Take advantage of this secluded spot and relax at the nearby tranquil frozen lake.

5. Experience World-Class Skiing and Snowboarding

Skiing on Whistler Blackcomb. Photo courtesy of Tourism Whistler

Skiing on Whistler Blackcomb. Photo courtesy of Tourism Whistler

Acres of fresh powder, more than 8,100 to be precise, meet Olympic-rate trails to create a winter paradise for everyone from first time skiers to seasoned snowboarders. Explore Whistler and Blackcomb’s legendary chutes, steeps, cliffs and bowls and speed down snow-covered slopes with the wind in your face and trees rushing by in an evergreen-tinged blur. If you prefer cross-country or Nordic skiing, Whistler features an extensive list of trails that could keep you gliding across the frozen land for weeks. Try traversing Lost Lake Park, Whistler Olympic Park or Callaghan Country for incredible views of the mountains and forests.

From zipping over frozen valleys to mushing your way through snow-covered hills, there are countless ways to explore Whistler’s world-class resort. Escape to this winter wonderland and experience another side of these two fabulous peaks.

View of the Inner Harbour in downtown Victoria

View of the Inner Harbour in downtown Victoria

Featuring an abundance of beautiful gardens, views of sparkling waters, stunning historic architecture and horse-drawn carriage rides through the cobbled streets downtown, there is no better place than Victoria, BC to cozy up with a loved one and enjoy a relaxing weekend escape. With a current favorable exchange rate of approximately $0.72 USD = $1.00 CDN your dollar can go even further, making this the perfect time to get out and play in Victoria. Explore some of the city’s hidden gems, shop the abundance of locally-owned boutiques or dine at fabulous restaurants. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are five ideas for a winter getaway in Victoria that you can mix and match to create your perfect adventure.

1. Discover the Art of Romance

The Parliament Buildings

Leaf through a few of your grandparent’s old letters and you will discover there is no better way to tell someone how much you care than through a handwritten love note. Rediscover this lost art with Hotel Grand Pacific’s Romance Package, which will provide you with a smattering of love quotes for inspiration for your own love letter. Combine this with a bottle of chilled bubbly, decadent chocolate truffles and delicious brunch at Pacific Restaurant for a truly pampering experience.

2. Sip Award-Winning Wines

Photo courtesy of Island Time Tours

Photo courtesy of Island Time Tours

Journey 40 minutes from Victoria, past stunning mountain vistas, seaside villages, ancient rainforests and palatial farmlands and you will find yourself in the heart of Vancouver Island’s wine country. Savor generous samples of the region’s award-winning Pinot Gris and medium bodied reds on the Cowichan Valley Wine Tour, which will take you to three excellent family-owned wineries. You will also stop at Merridale Cidery, where you will be treated to a delicious lunch and the opportunity to sample crisp, sweet ciders.

3. Savor Inspired Cuisine

Photo courtesy of Victoria Food Tour

Photo courtesy of Victoria Food Tour

Embark on a culinary adventure and lose yourself in the rich, aromatic smells and tastes of Victoria’s greatest chefs and food artisans. The Victoria Food Tour will take you to more than six hidden hot spots and invigorate your taste buds as you sample everything from sweet, spicy barbeque to delicate, melt-in-your-mouth macarons. Along the way, you will pick up inside information on all the treats you sample as well as recommendations for other must-visit spots while you are in town.

4. Unwind with a Seaside Spa Getaway

Photo courtesy of Oak Bay Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Oak Bay Beach Hotel

With panoramic ocean views, a luxurious 5-star spa experience and inspired cuisine, it is no wonder Oak Bay Beach Hotel has won the Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice Award as one of the “Most Romantic Hotels in Canada” year after year. Escape the hustle and bustle of urban life and retreat to the waterfront oasis with your loved one to indulge in a little quality R&R together. Take a stroll on one of the many secluded walking trails that wind around Oak Bay and enjoy scenic views of Mt. Baker, gardens, historic architecture and more. Sip on a glass of sparkling wine as you relax and rejuvenate in steaming hot seaside mineral pools or during one of the spa’s luxurious treatments.

5. Cuddle Up with a Cup of Tea

Photo courtesy of the Fairmont Empress

Photo courtesy of the Fairmont Empress

Filled with rich fabrics, vintage furnishings and a roaring fireplace, the opulent Tea Lobby at the Fairmont Empress provides a cozy indoor retreat to warm up in on cooler days. If you really want to feel like royalty, indulge in Afternoon Tea and sip on the Empress’ special blend of full-bodied floral black tea. You will also be treated to a three-tiered plate of exquisite treats such as fresh-from-the-oven scones with strawberry preserves and thick jersey cream, dainty tea sandwiches and decadent desserts.

With the variety of attractions in Victoria, there are countless ways to cozy up with your loved one this winter. Whether you are sampling local wines or relaxing at the spa, you can create an escape that is nothing short of amazing.

Chinese New Year in Victoria

Chinese New Year in Victoria

Brimming with festive parades, enchanting performances, a treasure trove of shops and an abundance of restaurants serving up delectable dishes, Victoria’s thriving and historic Chinatown is the perfect place to experience authentic Lunar New Year traditions. While the vibrant neighborhood offers an array of hidden gems for everyone from foodies to history buffs to explore, here are our five reasons to check out Chinese New Year in Victoria and celebrate the Year of the Monkey.

1. Catch Sight of Authentic Performances

Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria

Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria

Immerse yourself in the magic of the new year and watch as performers take to the streets in colorful and elaborately decorated costumes while dancing to the sound of drums, cymbals and gongs during the ceremonial Lion Dance, which is thought to bring good luck. The festivities also include kung-fu and tai chi demonstrations, traditional dancing and dragon performances.

2. Discover the Chinese Community’s Historical Origins

Photo courtesy of Royal British Columbia Museum

Photo courtesy of Royal British Columbia Museum.

Imagine what life was like in Victoria’s Chinatown in the late-1800s to early-1900s as you wander through “streets” adorned with vibrant red lanterns and banners on a thirty-minute spotlight tour of the Royal British Columbia Museum’s “Becoming BC Gallery.” Learn more about the contributions of the Chinese community by exploring exhibits of Chinatown, the railway and cannery.

3. Shop the Famously Narrow Fan Tan Alley

Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria

Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria

Spanning a width of only three to six feet wide, Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest street in Canada. Stroll through the brick-lined alley, which was formerly a gambling district, to take in a little history while shopping at the unique boutiques, art galleries and cafes.

4. Experience the World’s Oldest Tea Tradition

Photo courtesy of Silk Road Tea

Photo courtesy of Silk Road Tea

Relax and enjoy a ritual steeped in tradition during Silk Road’s Chinese Tea Ceremony. Soak in the peaceful atmosphere and sip on some unique and exquisite teas, from Silk Road’s Rare Chinese Tea Cellar. Once you are finished sampling these tasty teas, save your tea leaves for a tea reading and discover what the new year has in store for you.

5. Explore Historic Streets and Landmarks

Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria

Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria

Located on Fisgard Street, the ornate Gate of Harmonious Interest not only marks the entrance to Canada’s oldest Chinatown, but also houses guides detailing points of interest. Grab a map and journey through the streets to view popular and historical landmarks such as the Chinese Public School, Tam Kung Temple and McPherson Playhouse.

When it comes to Chinese New Year, Victoria goes all out with an abundance of festive events and authentic traditions that cater to nearly every interest. Whether you prefer to check out traditional tea ceremonies or take in captivating performances, you will find no shortage of cultural experiences to help ring in the new year.

Cozy Up in Seattle this winter

Winter has arrived and with it the return of dark, cold and damp days. While your instinct may be to hibernate, it’s actually the perfect season to spend your days with your loved one, partner or close friend and explore all that the region has to offer. From fabulous dining to inspiring entertainment, here are our picks for eight great ways to cozy up and embrace winter!

1. Savor Washington’s Famous Wines

Wine tasting

Wine tasting

Situated about 30 minutes outside of Seattle, the quaint town of Woodinville boasts lush green valleys and nearly 100 wineries and tasting rooms. While there are likely a few too many options for you to explore in one day, you can experience some of the region’s award-winning vintages at three elegant small production cellars on a Woodinville Wine Tour. Sip on bold reds and crisp whites produced from Pacific Northwest grapes and discover the art of viticulture as you chat with the winemakers in an intimate environment.

2. Explore Boutique Shopping in Pioneer Square, Ballard and Fremont

Seattle boutiques

Seattle boutiques

Boasting waterfront promenades and streets lined with designer stores and galleries, downtown Seattle is a captivating shopping area. Skip the bustling department stores and explore some of Seattle’s hidden gems, such as the historic Pioneer Square, the artsy Fremont and the charming Ballard to discover an array of unique boutiques. Check out great stops such as E. Smith Mercantile, Velouria, Camelion Design and Copperworks for small-batch, independently made clothing, jewelry, candles, home décor and even spirits.

3. Taste One-of-a-Kind Local Cuisine

Crab stuffed prawn at Cutters. Photo courtesy of Savor Seattle.

Crab stuffed prawn at Cutters. Photo courtesy of Savor Seattle.

Featuring delicious delicacies that run the gamut from fresh seafood to creamy ice cream, Seattle is a foodie’s paradise. Treat your taste buds from appetizers to dessert on the Savor Seattle Gourmet Food Tour and enjoy a progressive meal at famous restaurants and hot spots. There is even a bonus stop at the renowned “truffle café,” where chefs source fresh truffles as well as aged balsamic vinegars and Italian wines.

4. Catch a Thrilling Performance

Teatro ZinZanni Dinner & Show. Photo courtesy Teatro ZinZanni

Teatro ZinZanni Dinner & Show. Photo courtesy Teatro ZinZanni

Enter Teatro ZinZanni’s blue, spangled building and you will feel like you have stepped inside a vibrant circus big top. The interior opens up into maroon and gold-lined circular pavilion where you can enjoy a delicious five-course feast while a fusion of aerialists, magicians, cabaret artists and musicians create a magical performance filled with comedy, dance and acrobatics. If you are looking for more shows, you can catch everything from hit Broadway plays to local independent performances at the Seattle Repertory, ACT, Paramount, Neptune and Moore Theaters.

5. Curl Up with a Cup of Joe

Latte

Latte

On cold drizzly winter days, there is nothing better than wrapping your hands around a warm mug of fresh coffee and awakening your senses with a sip of the aromatic brew. Luckily, as Seattle is one of the most caffeinated cities America, this magical elixir is in no short supply. Get your caffeine fix while visiting four unique cafes and roasters on the Seattle Coffee Tour, where you will have the opportunity to see the roasting process in action, participate in a coffee cupping and taste rich and flavorful brews.

6. Explore the Arts During Museum Month

Hammering Man at the Seattle Art Museum

Hammering Man at the Seattle Art Museum

Replete with meticulously curated collections of art and memorabilia, the huge variety of museums throughout the region are a great way to soak in Seattle’s culture. Take advantage of Seattle Museum Month in February when more than 40 museums and cultural organizations offer half-price admission. Stop by the Wing Luke Museum and discover more about Bruce Lee’s life in Seattle, view the bright and beautiful blown glass works at the Chihuly Garden and Glass, check the Seattle Art Museum’s rotating collections of famous artwork and more.

7. Escape to a Tropical Garden

Volunteer Park Conservatory. Creative Commons licensed by Rootology

Volunteer Park Conservatory. Creative Commons licensed by Rootology

Modeled after London’s Crystal Palace, the glass paned Volunteer Park Conservatory heats up to toasty 75 degrees Fahrenheit, providing you with a welcome respite from the cold and damp outdoors. Wander through the tranquil rooms of the greenhouse and explore the world-class botanical collection that ranges from orchids to cactuses. If the garden is not warm enough for you, head to the Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and watch more than 800 colorful butterflies flit from flower to flower in 80 degree temperatures.

8. Experience the Best Restaurants in Town

Dining in Seattle

Dining in Seattle

Brimming with an abundance of modern, intimate restaurants specializing in fresh, local ingredients, Seattle offers no shortage of places to relax with a scrumptious meal. The casual late-night joint Tavolata serves up amazing house-made pasta, meticulously crafted drinks and the opportunity to make new friends at the giant communal table.

If you are a cocktail lover, be sure to put the bottle-adorned Capitol Hill bar Canon on your must-visit list. Here you can scan the 100 drink menu-book to find a tasty beverage that suits your fancy or go for the “shrouded roulette,” which will have you picking a base spirit and allowing the talented bartenders work their magic. After a night on the town, stop by Belltown’s best kept secret for breakfast – Tom Douglas’ Lola, which serves up mouthwatering hot, made to order doughnuts with seasonal jam and vanilla mascarpone.

While the weather outside may be gray and drizzly, Seattle is filled with an abundance of fun activities and iconic attractions to explore. Whether you check out the city’s vibrant arts, eclectic music scene, amazing scenery or incredible food and drink, there is an endless supply of ways to brighten and warm up your winter.

30 Things to Do in the Pacific Northwest in 2016

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

Monorail Bunny and Otter at the Butchart Gardens

Photo by Seattle Center Monorail.

Last fall, traveling Seattle Center Monorail mascot Monorail Bunny and newly-found traveling companion Ollie Otter hopped on the Victoria Clipper IV for a weekend of exploring Victoria, BC. They had a wonderful time at the Butchart Gardens during their last trip to Victoria, so this year they decided they wanted to explore the Gardens during the annual Magic of Christmas event.

Decorated tree at the Butchart Gardens

Elaborately adorned tree at the Butchart Gardens Magic of Christmas event. Photo by Seattle Center Monorail.

Butchart Gardens archway

Monorail Bunny and Otter passed through this beautiful archway on their way to the Italian Garden at the Butchart Gardens. Photo by Seattle Center Monorail.

Monorail Bunny, Otter and Junior at the Butchart Gardens

Monorail Bunny and Otter brought their newest traveling companion, Junior, up to Victoria with them. Photo by Seattle Center Monorail.

We’re glad they had such a fantastic trip up to Victoria, BC and we hope to see them again next year!

6 stops for last minute Seattle shopping

With only seven days left until Christmas, it is hard to ignore the sound of the holiday clock rapidly ticking down. Even if you had the best intentions of getting your holiday shopping done early this year, your list likely includes a few people who seem to already have everything they need. As a result, you may still be running around frantically trying to find that perfect gift that will cause your recipient’s face to light up with joy.

Worry no more and shop local to take advantage of the abundance of talented artisans in the Northwest and find something truly unique to give your loved ones. To help simplify your search, check out our picks for six stops for last minute shopping in Seattle.

1.Copperworks

One look at the four gigantic gleaming copper stills located at the heart of Copperworks and you will realize that this small-batch distillery produces more than your average spirits. Delight home bartenders by stocking their liquor cabinets with local flavor from Copperworks.

The group’s award-winning gin is full of bright, citrus flavors and their unique vodka features vanilla notes for a soft mouthfeel and a hint of sweetness. Best of all, you don’t even have to make the trek to the distillery itself to pick up these fine spirits, as they are sold aboard in Clipper’s duty free shop.

2. E. Smith Mercantile

With a buck head, bunting and pickaxes mounted on the brick wall of this artisan boutique, you’ll feel as if you have wandered into an old general store in the center of a gold mining town…with a special Northwest touch. E. Smith Mercantile offers an abundance of small-batch, handmade goods such as sweet smelling essential oils, candles, rich gilded chocolates, American-made denim, antique jewelry, stylish home décor and warm knits are perfect for filling the stockings of friends. If you find the holiday crowds are getting you down, stop at the cozy Back Bar and allow a creative craft cocktail and tasty small bites to fuel your shopping.

3. Camelion Design

Brimming with housewares from cuddly blankets to cushy couches, this unique and stylish store offers great finds whether you are decorating a room, an apartment or a house. While Camelion Design is known as the “go-to” stores for luxe home furnishings, it also offers an expansive selection of novelty accessories, scented candles, clever letterpress greeting cards and books. As an added bonus, your earth conscious friends will be pleased to find the store’s owner hand-picks items made with environmentally safe materials.

4. Fremont Vintage Mall

Located in the heart of Fremont or the “center of the universe,” this funky basement shop is certainly not your grandma’s antique store. More like a museum than a store, the Fremont Vintage Mall offers a collection of trinkets from nearly every decade for a nostalgia-filled experience.

The shop’s treasure trove of curios runs the gamut from vinyl records, to mid-century furniture, to vintage clothing, so you are sure to find a gift that is sure to elicit childhood memories and please lovers of everything vintage.

5. Clover Toys

Step inside the historic storefront of this charming children’s shop and enter a wonderland of toys. Ballard’s Clover Toys offers an abundance of creative-type toys that inspire kids to use their imagination, learn and have fun.

Young artists will enjoy musical instruments and art supplies while budding scientists will appreciate a few more experiments to add to their lab. In addition, unique, high-quality items such as European wooden toys, furry stuffed animals and beautiful dolls from small-name brands will stand out from the generic plastic toys found in “big box” stores.

6. Milstead & Co.

Catch a whiff of the rich, aromatic scent of freshly brewed coffee emanating from this rustic-chic coffee shop, and it is hard not to wander inside. One of the few multi-roaster shops in the city, the modern Milstead & Co, offers a rotation of coffee produced by artisan roasters in order to help coffee aficionados discover and experience a wide variety of roast profiles. Give your loved ones a taste of the Northwest by picking up a fresh bag of coffee from much-loved roasters such as Kuma, Heart, Coava and Stumptown.

Bonus:

giftcard

Perhaps there is an explorer on your list, but you would rather not gift them an assortment of gadgets and tchotchkes they may or may not use. Give the gift of travel with a Clipper Gift Card and provide friends and family with a fun adventure. They can travel to Victoria and soak in the city’s rich history and culture, catch sight of majestic orca whales on a San Juans whale watching tour, ski Whistler’s frosty slopes and more. If you are unsure how much to give, check out our 2015 Gift Guide for inspiration.

While Christmas is rapidly approaching, you are not quite out of luck yet. You still have the entire weekend and a few days next week to complete your list. Grab your boots and put your jacket and pay a visit to these shops in Pioneer Square, Fremont and Ballard and wrap up your shopping with gifts that your friends and family will love.

Pike Place Market. Credit: Joel Ray

Pike Place Market. Credit: Joel Ray

From the scent of fresh cut trees, to the taste of decadent fudge, cakes and cookies, to the sound of festive music to the happiness felt when spending time with loved ones, the holidays provide an endless supply of magic and cheer. However, there is something about holiday lights that brings out the magic of the season in us all. Whether adorning houses or wrapped around trees, the vibrant blubs have the ability to brighten even the darkest winter evenings and turn ordinary neighborhood streets into glowing fantasy lands.

To help shed some light on where to go to see these stunning displays, we have explored everything from enchanting gardens to lavish neighborhoods. Check out our recommendation for five places to go in Seattle to enjoy holiday lights and a festive atmosphere!

1. Holiday Brews and Bulbs Tour

Downtown Seattle

Downtown Seattle

Delight your senses by treating your taste buds to the spices of the season while taking in some of the city’s most popular landmarks all decked out in sparkling lights. “This year our Holiday Brews and Blubs Tour is going to be focusing on the light displays down in West Seattle, which is a beautiful neighborhood many tourists (and even locals) don’t get to see,” said Seamus Hogg, Marketing Manager at Evergreen Escapes.

The trip is made even merrier with stops at three craft or microbreweries where you will be treated to behind the scenes tours and an abundance of beers to sample, including special seasonal brews such as Schooner Extract’s rich and malty Hoppy Holidays or Big Al Brewing’s toffee and milk chocolate malt Winter Warmer.

2. Wildlights at Woodland Park Zoo

Wildlights. Credit: Joel Ray

Wildlights. Credit: Joel Ray

Imagine yourself in another land as more than 600,000 dazzling lights recreate wild animals and wild places from exotic destinations across the globe. As you stroll through the grounds of the Woodland Park Zoo’s Wildlights be sure to keep an eye out for the seven new light-up peacocks hidden in the zoo’s famous greenery.

In addition to new light displays, you can now escape the winter chill with a visit to the Day Exhibit to check out frogs, snakes and lizards or head to the Adaptations Building to sneak a peek at meerkats, sloths and Indian flying foxes.

3. Garden D’lights

Garden D'lights. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

Garden D’lights. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

The frosty weather may have put most gardens into hibernation for the winter, but flowers and tropical animals are in full bloom at the Bellevue Botanical Garden. From November to January, the gardens blossom to life with more than half a million dazzling lights.

Wander this paradise of intricately decorated displays to experience glistening steams and ponds, vibrant fields of flowers, groves of grapes, fluttering birds and butterflies, swimming jellyfish, flowing fountains and more. The scenic grounds are perfect for a moment of quiet reflection or a romantic date. Be sure to take advantage of the stops for photo ops along the way!

4. The Lights of Christmas at Warm Beach

Cascade Splendor. Photo Courtesy of The Lights of Christmas.

Cascade Splendor. Photo Courtesy of The Lights of Christmas.

Travel just one hour north of Seattle to the city of Standwood, to experience a magical wonderland filled with the smell of fresh hot donuts, the joyful sound of carolers and 15 acres of lights. As the largest holiday display in the Pacific Northwest, The Lights of Christmas features an array of breathtaking displays that capture both the traditional and local flavor.

Check out the larger-than-life nativity scene as well as the spectacular, 247-foot long “Cascade Splendor” that depicts glittering snowcapped peaks rising above evergreen forests. Along with twinkling lights, the festival offers nightly family-friendly activities that run the gamut from an entertaining dinner theater to a walk-through maze made of lights that will delight both the young and the young at heart.

5. Candy Cane Lane

Candy Cane Lane. Credit: Joel Ray

Candy Cane Lane. Credit: Joel Ray

Adorned with strings of lights, inflatable Santas and snowmen, prancing reindeer and candy cane-striped poles, the 23 1920’s-era Tudors houses that make up Ravenna’s Candy Cane Lane look as though they have been picked out of a Christmas display. A Seattle holiday institution since 1950, the cheerful street on NE Park Road is often busy throughout the season.

Instead of slowly inching, park on a side street, get out of the car and explore the glowing wonderland by foot. Before you head out on your journey, stop by the nearby Seven Market & Café or Boulevard Grocery for a hot chocolate, hot apple cider or eggnog latte to keep you warm.

When it comes to holiday lights, Seattle really goes all out to create festive displays that will leave your whole family mesmerized. Bundle up and head outdoors for an adventure that is sure to be a new holiday tradition!

White Winter Tower with Golden Putti. Courtesy of Chihuly Garden and Glass

White Winter Tower with Golden Putti. Courtesy of Chihuly Garden and Glass

There are a variety of holiday events taking place all over the Pacific Northwest in the coming weeks, providing a great opportunity to continue an old holiday tradition or start a new one with your friends and family. This winter the Chihuly Garden and Glass is returning with a holiday tradition of their own, the White Winter Tower with Golden Putti.

At 14 feet tall, the White Winter Tower is simply stunning. The tower is created from clear, frosted and white glass spikes, spirals and feathers that have been arranged to form an artistic Christmas tree. In addition, on every few branches are golden cherubs, which are known as “Putti” in Italian. The tower is then illuminated with lights, so it glows warmly. Fully assembled, the Winter White Tower appears as though it is one seamless piece, but in reality it is made up of many elements.

Every spike, spiral and feather is hand forged and each putti was individually sculpted and then attached to the blown feathers. The remaining pieces were then connected together with a series of poles and attachments. From start to finish, the entire creation process of the White Winter Tower with Golden Putti took Dale Chihuly and his team several weeks to create.

Golden Putti in White Winter Tower. Courtesy of Chihuly Garden and Glass

Golden Putti in White Winter Tower. Courtesy of Chihuly Garden and Glass

According to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, the White Winter Tower derives from the Venetian influence on Chihuly’s work and also features elements from the much loved Putti series that combined vessel forms with solid hot-glass figurative sculpture. The idea to create art including the mischievous angels evolved from an invitation to conduct a demonstration at Pilchuck Glass School with Italian Master Pino Signoretto. After working with Signoretto, Chihuly felt glass was an excellent medium for capturing the character of the putti and continued to use them in his Venetian and Ikebana collections. However, it is rare to spot putti in Chihuly’s towers, making this exhibit truly something special.

While you are at the Chihuly Garden and Glass, make sure to stop for a bite to eat at the Collections Café, which is an experience in itself. Named after Chihuly’s collections, the Café provides visitors an opportunity to view some of the objects that inspire Chihuly to create his beautiful artwork. A collection of accordions hangs from the ceiling and each table contains its own shadow box style display case, so you can look underneath the dishes and silverware on your table to view an assortment of objects. To make things more interesting, each table contains its own unique collection, whether it is film canisters, shaving brushes, wooden doll house furniture, glass juicers, clocks, cast iron dogs, ornaments, glass bottles and more.

The White Winter Tower will only be on display until January 1, 2016, so make sure to stop by this holiday season to see this wonderful exhibit in person, before it is gone for the year. In addition to the tower, every Sunday until December 20, 2015 Chihuly Garden and Glass will be offering special holiday programming, such as tours, art activities for kids and musical performances by local choirs that are great for the whole family.

Watch the video below to see the installation process of the Winter White Tower in action.

White Winter Tower with Golden Putti from Chihuly Garden and Glass on Vimeo.

Snowshoeing at Grouse Mountain. Photo courtesy of Tourism Vancouver

Snowshoeing at Grouse Mountain. Photo courtesy of Tourism Vancouver

As the days draw shorter and colder, you might be dreaming of white sandy beaches, palm trees and blistering heat. Before you jet off to an exotic locale, consider the abundance of wintertime fun to be had in your own backyard. Offering some of the most diverse landscapes in the United States, the Pacific Northwest is the perfect area for a holiday escape.

Play outside under clear blue skies while freshly fallen snow crunches underfoot, drive through cosmopolitan cities to take in glittering lights or cozy up in a luxury resort and watch the fireplace roar. The best part? Most of these destinations are just a hop, skip or short drive away. Pack your weekend bag and make the most of the winter season with these five must do Pacific Northwest holiday adventures.

1. Enjoy World-Class Skiing and Snowboarding in Whistler

Skiing on Whistler Blackcomb. Photo courtesy of Tourism Whistler

Skiing on Whistler Blackcomb. Photo courtesy of Tourism Whistler

With crisp mountain air, slopes covered in glistening snow and icicle-laden trees, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything more magical than a Whistler getaway for the winter holidays. The two majestic peaks receive an average of 410 inches of snowfall each winter, creating a paradise for wintertime activities.

Shred some fresh powder. Trek through serene old-growth forests on snowshoes to catch a glimpse of local wildlife. Mush a powerful dog team through Callaghan Valley or feel the wind in your face as you tube down Whistler Blackcomb’s icy slopes. After a day outdoors, experience the resort’s famous après ski activities and unwind at one of the many spas, sample award-winning cuisine or dance until the wee hours at one of Whistler’s legendary nightclubs.

2. Explore Leavenworth’s Winter Wonderland

Photo: Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce

Photo: Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce

True winter wonderlands are a rarity these days, but they are not as scarce as you may think. Travel a few hours northeast of Seattle, to the snowy mountain town of Leavenworth to discover plenty of holiday cheer. During the first three weekends of December, enjoy a step back in time as the quaint Bavarian town hosts their old-fashioned Christmas Lighting Festival. The smell of roasting chestnuts and brats fills the air, Gluhwein tents selling hot spiced wine and cider line the streets and carolers are found on nearly every corner.

The highlight of the festival centers on the evening lighting ceremony. As the last rays of the sunlight fade from the horizon, follow the harmonic sounds of Alphorns to the town Square and watch the parade of stars and bells before welcoming Santa amidst thousands of twinkling lights. The winter fun does not have to end there. Be sure to soak in the festive ambience with a carriage ride through town or relish the chance to enjoy the snow by sledding or snowshoeing in Riverfront Park.

3. Experience Vancouver’s Towering Heights

Capilano Suspension Bridge with Christmas Lights.  Photo courtesy of Tourism Vancouver

Capilano Suspension Bridge with Christmas Lights. Photo courtesy of Tourism Vancouver

From pristine trees to majestic snowcapped peaks, the Pacific Northwest winter landscapes are the stuff postcard designers drool over. Dive into the natural beauty of the region with a getaway to Vancouver, where you can experience these stunning landscapes from a new perspective. Venture more than a hundred feet off the ground at the awe-inspiring and popular Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and get a squirrel’s eye view of the region’s ancient evergreen trees, including the world’s tallest Christmas tree. During the holiday season the grounds are made even more spectacular when strands of lights cause the park’s bridges, trees and walkways to glitter like diamonds.

For more breathtaking vistas, visit the neighboring Grouse Mountain to see the snowy peaks set against the city and ocean. On the mountain, frolic in the snow during the Peak of Christmas celebrations. Take in the crisp mountain air as you glide across an 8,000 square foot skating pond or grab a steaming cup of cocoa and cozy up with that special someone on an unforgettable mountaintop sleigh ride.

4. Tour the Lights of Portland

Christmas at Pittock Mansion. Photo courtesy of Hub World Tours

Christmas at Pittock Mansion. Photo courtesy of Hub World Tours

As if delicious street food and trendy boutiques are not enticing enough, the abundance of sparkling lights lining the city’s streets are reason alone to visit the vibrant metropolis of Portland. To ensure that you catch the biggest and brightest displays, hop on the Portland Christmas Tour, which will take you past historic mansions and neighborhoods decked out in their holiday finest. You will also drive through the breathtaking Winter Wonderland at Portland Race Track, which has been dubbed the “Largest Holiday Light Show West of the Mississippi” and features more than 250 creative and colorful dazzling displays.

5. Embrace the Rain with Storm Watching in Tofino

Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island

Perched on Vancouver Island’s rugged west coast, about a four and a half hour drive from Victoria, Tofino is a prime location to revel in the stormy northwest weather. For a full-on storm immersion, don your warmest clothes, best raincoat and rubber boots and venture out onto Tonquin Beach and Trail. Stand where the beach meets the forest, breathe in the salt sea air and look on as the lashing rain and howling gales stir the ocean into a lather and toss driftwood around like matchsticks. When you feel like drying off, ensconce yourself in the popular Wolf in the Fog or Pointe Restaurant at Wickaninnish Inn, cozy up with a piping hot drink and relax to the sound of pattering rain and crashing waves.

From exploring snow-covered peaks and valleys to reveling in the rain, there are plenty of amazing adventures to be had in the Pacific Northwest this season with no visits to crowed airports or lengthy flights required. Grab your friends and family for a memorable holiday escape and discover the beauty of winter in the Pacific Northwest.

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