From sea to sea, Canada is a land filled with fascinating places and amazing adventures.
But, where to travel? Following are five of the best, must-see spots in Western Canada.
Banff National Park
Founded in 1885 after the discovery of the Cave and Basin Hot Springs, Banff is Canada’s first and most famous national park. The park is a Rocky Mountain wonder, a place of blue glacial lakes and alpine meadows, massive mountains and glaciers, canyons and waterfalls, mineral hot springs and abundant wildlife (from elk to bighorn sheep to black and grizzly bears), and breathtaking grandeur.
Lake Louise is a glacial lake named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta and is famous for its stunning emerald water that reflects the surrounding glaciers that formed it.
Other major attractions include Banff Gondola, Upper Hot Springs, Bow River Loop, Johnston Canyon, Banff Park Museum, Lake Louise Gondola, Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks, and Icefields Parkway.
Surrounded by mountains and beaches, Vancouver is both an urban and a natural playground.
The reason for the city’s existence, the splendid deepwater harbor formed by the fjord-like Burrard Inlet, is backed by the often snowcapped Coast Mountains.
Stanley Park, a nearly 1,000-acre park is home to some of the city’s favorite, most-visited attractions. Walk, cycle, or jog around the nearly 14-mile-long Seawall that hugs Vancouver’s waterfront. Family-friendly activities include an outdoor water park and a separate heated, outdoor pool, and the Vancouver Aquarium.
Other local attractions include Capilano Suspension Bridge, Granville Island, Queen Elizabeth Park, Grouse Mountain, Kitsilano and Spanish Banks beaches, Vancouver Lookout, and VanDusen Botanical Gardens.
The Stampede is always a reason to visit Calgary. It is a mega-event that doesn’t disappoint. Cities become most interesting when they embrace what is distinct about themselves. Calgary did that over a century ago when the Calgary Stampede was born (102nd annual; July 4-13, 2014).
Alberta’s largest city launched an intriguing event called Beakerhead (2nd annual; September 10-14, 2014), a festival that celebrates innovation through engineering and science. Engineers show their creative sides, artists get technical, science hits the street, and everyone gets ingenious.
Calgary is also emerging as a destination because of its wealth. Big money from the energy and finance sectors is sponsoring creative projects and helping to sustain the city’s culinary scene.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a thin strip of land along the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. Its magnificent islands, beaches, and dramatic seascapes divide into three geographically distinct park units: Long Beach (the most accessible), Broken Group Islands (about 100 islands in Barkley Sound), and the challenging 45-mile West Coast Trail.
The Long Beach Unit is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island between the villages of Ucluelet and Tofino. Long Beach is an almost mystical place, a broad and—yes—long beach of great waves and breathtaking beauty. One of the best-known and most challenging hikes in North America, the West Coast Trail follows a rugged shoreline where approximately 66 ships have met their demise along this stretch of the “Graveyard of the Pacific”.
Jasper National Park
Picture yourself in a mountain getaway surrounded by towering peaks, untouched wilderness, and turquoise lakes tucked into alpine valleys. Wildlife is abundant, even right in the town of Jasper. Where else will you find a herd of elk grazing on the lawn?
The Icefields Parkway joins the two parks of Jasper and Banff in one of the most breathtaking, beautiful drives that anyone can travel in the world. A series of massive glaciers line the entire length of the Icefield Parkway, with the Columbia Icefield lying along the parkway at the southern end of Jasper National Park.
Other major attractions include the Jasper Skytram, Maligne Lake and Spirit Island ( one of the most photographed locations in the world), Mt. Edith Cavell and Angel Glacier, and Miette Hot Springs.
Hysterically funny, amazingly talented people. That’s what I think of when I think of Canada. That, and cold beer. And mountains.