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© 2017 ROCKY MOUNTAINEER, NOEL HENDRICKSON                                                                     SPONSORED CONTENT

Happy birthday Canada! 2017 marks our country’s 150th year since Confederation and this really is our turn to shine. Stretching from coast to coast, across dense woodland and vast prairies, over soaring mountains and through exciting urban centres, if there ever was a time to explore more of our great country, it’s now. Canada has been named the top travel destination in the world for 2017 by Lonely Planet and the New York Times. Plus, National Geographic named the town of Banff to its Best of the World list! With unique experiences in all of our provinces and territories, some of the most scenic and iconic ones can be found out west. Here are the best ways to celebrate Canada 150 on the west coast.

Discover free National Parks in the Rockies
To celebrate its sesquicentennial, all of Canada’s National Parks are free for the entire year with a Parks Canada Discovery Pass! How’s that for Canadian hospitality? One of Canada’s most iconic symbols, the Rocky Mountains, is home to four National Parks – Yoho, Banff, Kootenay and Jasper – that together have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Rockies offer breathtaking scenery and the opportunity to view incredible wildlife firsthand, plus exciting – and luxurious – activities for travellers of all ages. The relaxing Banff Upper Hot Springs have been one of the Rockies’ most popular sites since their discovery by Canadian railway workers in 1883.

Ride the railway in style
The railway is what united Canada from east to west, and it remains the best way to see this vast land. But for an epic occasion like Canada’s 150th birthday, why not treat yourself to something amazing? Rocky Mountaineer offers over 65 unique packages along four scenic routes through Western Canada, travelling at a comfortable cruising speed of 45km/hr where you can see incredible sights along all journeys (including Rainforest to Gold Rush, First Passage to the West, Coastal Passage, and Journey through the Clouds routes). Guests can sit back and take in breathtaking panoramas through glass-dome windows and an open-air vestibule for intimate viewing experiences in GoldLeaf Service, or through oversized windows in SilverLeaf Service. Plus, the onboard Hosts ensure you never miss an important landmark or natural wonder, so be sure to have your camera ready!

Get active in Whistler
Located in the Coast Mountains, about two hours north of Vancouver, the resort town of Whistler offers year-round entertainment for the entire family. As a host resort of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, the town created new competition venues like Whistler Olympic Park, which are now available for public recreational use year-round. Whistler is as captivating in spring, summer and fall as it is in winter – the resort has four championship golf courses, two mountains for hiking and touring, and a mountain biking park. In addition to its charming central village that features shopping, dining and nightlife galore, Whistler is home to the award-winning Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, which showcases the art, culture and history of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations.

Explore the city of Vancouver
Vancouver is a multi-cultural, bustling metropolis that encapsulates Canada’s inclusivity and vibrancy. Did you know that many Hollywood movies are actually filmed here? As the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada, the city is divided into diverse neighbourhoods, each showcasing a different side of Vancouver and its people. Explore downtown Coal Harbour along the water’s edge, featuring popular Stanley Park, or visit Vancouver’s Chinatown, one of North America’s largest, covering several blocks of Asian specialty stores and restaurants. Immerse yourself in Indo-Canadian culture in Vancouver’s Punjabi Market, or sport your rainbow colours with pride in Davie Village, a lively LGBTQ community. There’s something for everyone in this world-class city.

Go whale watching in the Pacific
Dream of exploring more of our country’s wild western wilderness, and you may imagine landscapes full of moose and bears. It’s true; you will find these animals here in many of our National Parks. But don’t forget about the water! Get an off-shore perspective of the West Coast and meet some Pacific locals including Orcas, humpbacks and seals. Whale-watching expeditions depart from Vancouver and Victoria during the May to October season. For those keen to see more of the Pacific, Rocky Mountaineer also offers Alaska cruise packages in addition to its luxury rail journeys. These travel up the west coast of Vancouver Island towards Alaska, giving you the chance to marvel at sea life – and glaciers! – firsthand.