Celebrating Canada 150!

Have you heard?  Canada is turning 150 this year! To celebrate Canada 150, they are opening up their National Parks for free!  Order your free pass here.  Pretty sweet, eh?

“The 150th anniversary of Canada, also known as the 150th anniversary of Confederation and promoted by the Canadian government as Canada 150, occurs in 2017 as Canada marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of Canadian Confederation.”

I have been fortunate enough to make several trips to Canada in my lifetime, and I’ve never had a bad time.  There are still lots of places I want to visit, like Quebec, Churchill and Novia Scotia.  Here are some of my favorite places that I’ve visited in Canada. (Some trips happened before digital photography, so these are scans of printed photos – yes, that used to be a thing!)

Banff & Canadian Rockies

I love ski towns, and Banff was no exception.  In 2005, my aunt Donna and I road-tripped from Seattle to the Canadian Rockies and spent 3 days on a horseback trip with Holidays on Horseback, now Banff Trail Riders.  We did the Mystic Valley trip and it was so much fun!  I would love to go back and do a longer trip with them.  The scenery was splendid!

2004 - Canadian Rockies

On our way back to Seattle, we also stopped off at Lake Louise, which is Insta-famous due to it’s turqouise blue waters.  We took a short canoe trip around the lake.  Another place I would love to return, and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise would be a great place to stay!

2004 - Lake Louise


I have made a few trips to Vancouver over the years, most recently to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday. Vancouver might be my favorite city ever – it’s big enough that it has a lot going on, but it’s incredibly clean, green, and easy to navigate.  The mountain/ocean/culture trifecta can’t be beat! It is also super pricy, so beware!

Stanley Park, Vancouver


I first visited Whistler in 2003 when I was contemplating a move out West.  My sister and I drove up for the day (from Vancouver) and I loved it!  I love car-free zones, and it seems to be a common feature in Canadian ski towns.  Super cute.  My ski skills are Midwest Level, so I haven’t sampled the snow here, but it’s supposed to be killer. People were still skiing mid-May on my last visit!

Mont Tremblant

Another ski town!  I’m sensing a theme….they’re just so cute!  I came here in the fall as a side trip from Montreal. I’ve heard it can get brutally cold here in the winter, but it’s a great add-on to a Montreal visit.

The ski village, from our hotel window (with screen)


Montreal is a great place for a weekend getaway, just a short flight from Chicago.  You can stroll the cobblestone streets of “Old Montreal” and practice your French in the shops and cafes. The botanical garden had a cool exhibit of Japanese lanterns at the time, so we visited at night when everything was lit up. Of course, the fall colors were on full display as well.

Vieux Montreal


Toronto feels like a Candian version of Chicago, so of course I loved it.  My BFF and I took a road trip here a week before 9/11 happened.  We took our bikes and just roamed around the city.  It’s been a while, and I’m much more travel-savvy now, so I’d love to visit again and hit the highlights. (And take photos – I don’t have any from our trip!)

Quetico Provincial Park

Ok, technically I haven’t been to Quetico, but I have paddled the US side, the Boundary Waters, and we did stop off in Canada for a potty break, so it counts.  Based on what I saw in the Boundary Waters, I can safely bet that a trip to Quetico would not disappoint!

Day 5 (Leigh - iPhone photo)

How will you celebrate Canada 150?


Pacific Northwest: 7-Day Itinerary

I’ve always enjoyed gifting experiences over things, so when my mom turned 60, I treated her to a trip to the Pacific Northwest. I lived in Seattle for 3 years in the early 2000’s (or noughties, as the Brits say!) and we had a lot of fun exploring the Pacific Northwest.  My mom hadn’t ever visited Vancouver, though, so I thought it would be a great “International” destination that we could reach with fairly reasonable airfare.  Now, before you nominate me for daughter of the year, I did spread this gift out over Christmas, Mother’s Day and a Birthday 😉

Here’s our Pacific Northwest vacation itinerary.

Day 1 – Chicago to Seattle

With a direct flight from O’Hare to Sea-Tac, we landed in Seattle on a Sunday afternoon and took a car service to the Crowne Plaza, where I’d gotten a really great government rate for 1 night.  (My mom retired from the Army, so it’s legit, we weren’t scamming the hotel!) While we waited for our room to be ready, we walked around the downtown area, grabbed a salmon pierogi at Piroshky Piroshky and browsed through Pike Place Market.  We had dinner at my new favorite Seattle restaurant, the Steelhead Diner.  I have dreams about their Dungeness Crab Cakes!

Day 2 – Seattle to Vancouver

The next morning, we were up bright and early at the Amtrak station, where we took the train to Vancouver.  This was my first Amtrak trip and it was awesome!  The ocean and mountain scenery of the Pacific Northwest certainly helped!  We arrived in Vancouver and took a cab to the Sheraton Wall Center, where I’d gotten another great rate for 3 nights.  This was a great location in walking distance of everything, including Robson Street.  Our room had a nice view of the harbor, too!

View from #2913 Sheraton Wall Centre, Vancouver

After unpacking and grabbing a crepe lunch on Robson, we took a taxi over to Chinatown for a walking tour of the Dr Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden.

Vancouver Chinese Garden

We then had a birthday dinner at Francesco’s near the hotel, and it was an early night as we were signed up for a full day of whale watching the next day.

Day 3 – Vancouver Whale Watching

I chose Vancouver Whale Watch for our tour, mostly because they would pick us up right at the hotel, which was super convenient.  It was quite a drive out to their offices and dock, but we made it and after signing a bunch of paperwork, we were loaded onto the boat.  The ride out of the harbor was so scenic, with the mountains in the background.  We immediately saw eagles, sea lions, and eventually, tons of orcas!  Success!

Pacific Northwest Orcas

We saw up to 5 whales at a time swimming together, and our guides were incredible!  They could identify each orca just by the notches on their dorsal fin, or markings on their backs.  They had books with family trees showing how each orca was related to others in it’s pod.  You could tell the guide really loved her job and loved talking about the orcas!

Pacific Northwest Orca

After a long day on the water, we were returned to our hotel, where we then walked down to the ferry dock to head over to Granville Island for dinner under the bridge at the Sandbar, with a unique view of Vancouver!

View of Vancouver from the Sandbar on Granville Island

Day 4 – Vancouver / Stanley Park

The next day we took the bus into Stanley Park and started out at the Vancouver Aquarium.  We spent a full day in Stanley Park, visiting the aquarium, exploring the trails and also eating at a lodge in the park.  This is such a great urban park, I highly recommend adding it to your Vancouver itinerary!  The seawall offers so many great views of Vancouver.

Vancouver Aquarium

Day 5 & 6- Whistler

After 3 nights in Vancouver, we took take the train out to the airport and picked up a rental car for our drive up to Whistler.  It was a beautiful drive on the Sea to Sky highway!  The scenery on this trip was just breathtaking!  We checked in to the Westin Whistler, and set out to check out this cute little ski town. We also took a drive out to the Olympic village, and got a treat along the way when we saw a bear ambling around near the road.

Olympic Park - Whistler

We spent two nights in Whistler, enjoying the scenery and since it was cold and rainy, spent a lot of time enjoying the outdoor hot tub.  I love hot tubbing in the mountains!

Whistler Hot Tub

Day 7 – Whistler to Seattle

The Amtrak schedule was kind of odd for a return trip, so I booked a shuttle bus instead. So, it was back to the airport to return our car, then on the bus to Seattle.  Our last night of vacation was spent at the Marriott Waterfront hotel.  After a final evening of strolling the waterfront and enjoying fresh seafood at Elliott’s, it was time to fly home the next day.


For a 7-day trip, I think this was the perfect Pacific Northwest vacation itinerary.  We skipped a lot of touristy stuff that I might recommend for a first time visit, but it was nice to come back to a place I lived for a few years. With an extra week, I would recommend squeezing in some of the island areas around Seattle or Vancouver!


Pacific Northwest Vacation Itinerary Pin

To see all of my pictures from this trip, click here!