Would you like a seven-day vacation that combines travel by rail and water, and starts with a fairly inexpensive direct air flight? If so, then you might like an escorted tour to the Pacific Northwest, taking in Seattle, Vancouver, Whistler and Victoria.
The tour begins and ends in Seattle, so a direct flight on Southwest Airlines won’t break the bank. And as yet, Southwest does not charge for checked luggage, and even provides a complimentary snack. All transfers to and from the airport are included in this tour. So, you can take a late morning or early afternoon flight from Phoenix for the three-hour trip to Seattle, arriving in time to check into your hotel, meet your tour director, and choose a place for dinner. Five breakfasts and three dinners are included in the tour, which is available June through September.
After breakfast at the hotel, Day Two starts with a sightseeing tour of Seattle with a local guide, including Pike Place Market, the Pioneer Square-Skid Row Historic District, Chinatown and the Seattle Space Needle.
Pioneer Square is where Seattle founders first settled in 1852, and later became famous for its collection of “box houses” — these were part theater, part brothel, part bar and part gaming house, as well as hash or dope houses and pawn shops.
Today the area is considered the center of Seattle’s nightlife, with art galleries, cafes, sports bars, bookstores, and one part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park — the other part being in Skagway, Alaska.
Pike Place Fish Market is home to the famous flying fish. Salmon, up to 3-feet long, are thrown by employees across the counter, much to the delight of spectators. You can also see the market’s unofficial mascot, Rachel the brass pig. She weighs 550 pounds and brings in between 6 and 9 thousand dollars in donations every year to the 100-plus-year-old market. Take time to enjoy street musicians, including a virtuoso spoon player, jazz, folk, blues music and comedians at the market.
Next on the itinerary is a visit to Seattle’s iconic Space Needle, which was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. At that time it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi at 605 feet. It was built to withstand earthquakes up to 9.1 in magnitude, 220 mph winds, and has 25 lightning rods. It houses a revolving restaurant and an observation deck from which you can see the Olympic and Cascade mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker and Elliott Bay.
The afternoon is taken up with a three-hour bus trip along Washington’s rugged coastline to Vancouver, British Columbia. Passports are needed for this trip.
Dinner is included on the first of your three nights in Vancouver. In the morning a local guide takes you through the 1,000 acres of Stanley Park, Chinatown, and the historic streets of Gastown.
Stanley Park has forests of cedar, hemlock, and Sitka spruce, as well as a collection of statues, memorial plaques and totem poles. The historic Gastown now is home to fashion boutiques, coffee shops, art galleries, and native art stores. But it is most famous for its steam-powered clock. The afternoon is free to explore Canada’s most cosmopolitan city independently. Perhaps you would wish to take in the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain, the VanDusen Botanical Garden or Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden.
After breakfast the next morning, board the Whistler Mountaineer for a scenic three-hour train trip to Whistler, site of several 2010 Olympic events. Travel along Howe Sound, past the Stawamus Chief, the second largest granite monolith in the world, and then wind through canyon habitat of bald eagles, climbing 2,000 feet for breathtaking 195 feet tall Brandywine Falls, Alpha Lake and Whistler Village. Return by coach for an included dinner in Vancouver.
The next morning, you will take a ferry ride from Vancouver to Victoria, the historical capital of British Columbia. Included is a city tour of the beautiful harbor district, the incredible parliament building, and a visit to 100-year-old Butchart Gardens. You will be captivated by views of its Sunken Gardens, Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, and fountains. During your free time in Victoria, stop at the Empress Hotel. You will spend the night in Victoria — and the Parliament building lit at night is a sight worth seeing.
Day six starts with a ferry trip from Victoria across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles, Wash. Be on the lookout for eagles, gray whales and otters. You will drive through the glacier-carved valleys and temperate rainforest of Olympic National Park before returning to Seattle for your farewell dinner. Schedule your return flight to Phoenix after noon the next day.
This and many more land tours are available through Cruise Port Travel, 900 W. Driftwood Dr., Payson.