Spectacular Mountains, Lakes, and Wildlife in Banff

The author shows his delight with the Canadian Rockies at Moraine Lake

The author shows his delight with the Canadian Rockies at Moraine Lake

Banff National Park is a World Heritage Site for good reason: It offers some of the finest scenery, wildlife viewing, and outdoor activities in North America—some would say in the world. I experienced this fact firsthand one early morning as I drove the 10-kilometer Lake Minnewanka Loop. At Lake Johnson, my first stop, I stood by the water’s edge in the cool morning air, soaking in the reflected image of serrated mountaintops tinted by the dawn’s rising sunlight. Nearing Two Jack Lake, I was elated to find a herd of large, rust-colored elk grazing on an embankment just 30 feet from me, posing elegantly in the amber morning light.

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Vancouver Island: From One Town to the Next

Maple Bay, on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, provides quintessential Canadian views

Maple Bay, on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, provides quintessential Canadian views

Vancouver Island is often dubbed one of the best islands in the world, though it isn’t studded with towering palm trees or soft white sand beaches. It is a land of steep mountains, cobalt lakes, and dense forests growing right up to the island’s 2,136 miles of shoreline. On Vancouver Island—the largest off the west coast of North America—visitors come face to face with a variety of experiences, from small towns and outdoor adventures to modern city living amid urban landscapes. This quintessentially Canadian terrain also teems with bald eagles, black bears, and orcas. It would make sense then, with so many points of interest, that an oft-preferred way to discover Vancouver Island is to spend several days road tripping through its varied regions.

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Winter Weekend in Whistler

Winter in Whistler at Nita Lake Lodge

Winter in Whistler at Nita Lake Lodge

Take two 30-something women, put them on snowboards for the first time, and embarrassment (or broken bones) will ensue, right? Not so fast. I grew up in Tennessee, which is not exactly a hotbed for winter sports. After living in Seattle for four years and listening to my friends tout the joys of nearby skiing and snowboarding, I decided it was finally time to learn. I recruited my friend Emmie to join me as she was in the same boat, a completely novice snowboarder. We discovered there was an all-women ski and snowboard camp being taught throughout the winter in Whistler, British Columbia. Making fools of ourselves in front of a group of women seemed like the ideal way to learn, so we signed up.

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Visiting Montreal in the Wintertime

Notre-Dame Basilica alter in Montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica alter in Montreal

The last leg of our Canadian winter adventure took place in Montreal. We really only had one full day in the city to explore before we had to head home back to Los Angeles. We were growing weary of the snow and the cold, but something about being in Montreal was exciting and drew us out to explore and spend our last couple of days really enjoying the time we had left in Canada.

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Family Time at Canada’s Niagara Falls

Looking out over Niagara Falls from a Niagara Helicopters Limited ride

Looking out over Niagara Falls from a Niagara Helicopters Limited ride

No one in my family had ever seen Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, so we were very excited for this leg of our winter vacation. Our initial introduction to the falls was by helicopter. We were swept up and away by Niagara Helicopters Limited for a fast but very fun sightseeing tour of the Niagara Falls area. We swooped and hovered over the falls for about 15 minutes while the audio tour guided us through what we were seeing. It’s a great story and a very whimsical way to be introduced to one of the most popular waterfalls in the world. The kids loved it, and since this was their first time in a helicopter it made it that much more special.

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