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The Pacific coastline of British Columbia is among the most spectacular destinations in North America. Skiing and winter sports aside, which are major draw cards to the region, summer is the perfect season to take advantage of the temperate climate, wildlife viewing and a plethora of outdoor activities both on the mainland and on the Gulf Islands.

Vancouver Tours (tel. 800/558-4955; www.vancouvertours.com) offers a number of day trip and city tours out of Vancouver that cover the region from Vancouver to Victoria and Whistler. Their "Victoria by Floatplane" tour is the perfect way to see the majestic beauty of the Pacific coastline and Gulf islands from above. The 13-hour tour departs daily from April 1 to October 16 and from May 1 to September 30, you can choose to add a three-hour whale watching excursion. Enjoy a spectacular 30 minute floatplane flight with stunning aerial views of Vancouver, the Gulf Islands, and Victoria Harbour. Spend additional time in downtown Victoria plus experience all the highlights of the Victoria and Butchart Gardens Tour. Admission to any one of the following Downtown Victoria attractions - Royal British Columbia Museum, Maritime Museum of BC, Miniature World, Bug Zoo, or the Wax Museum is included. The special three-hour optional whale watching component is guided by a naturalist and you will get the opportunity to see Orcas (Killer Whales) and other marine mammals in their natural habitat. Their website offers rates in both Canadian dollars and U.S. dollars but not at a favorable exchange rate, so I would suggest opting for the Canadian dollar rate and letting your credit card company do the conversion. Based on current exchange rates of $CAN 1.11 to $US 1, the tour costs $224 including taxes for adults and $170 for children. The optional whale watching add on is priced at $80 in an open Zodiac boat or $89 in an enclosed cruiser for adults, and $62 for either type of vessel for children aged four to 15.

Pacific Coach Lines Ltd. (www.pacificcoach.com) provides transportation services from downtown Vancouver and Victoria as well as a recently introduced service to Victoria from Vancouver Airport. Alongside basic bus and ferry services, they also offer a range of day trips, tours and mini vacation packages. The "Victoria Experience" package includes two nights' accommodations in Victoria, a Royal Victorian Butchart Gardens tour, a three-hour whale watching tour, and open return transportation to Vancouver. Stay at the Strathacona Hotel with this package (from June 17 to Sep. 30, 2006) and pay $333 per person, at the Days Inn - Inner Harbour (from July 1 to Sep. 30, 2006) for $392, the Chateau Victoria (June 16 to Sep. 30, 2006) for $404 and at the Fairmont Empress from July 1 to Sep. 30, 2006 pay $625. For a quick getaway to Victoria, or as an add-on to a cruise vacation, the "Victoria Escape" offers one night of accommodation in Victoria, and round-trip transportation between Vancouver and Victoria with open return. Rates are $135 at the Strathacona Hotel, $164 at the Days Inn - Inner Harbour, $171 at the Chateau Victoria and $281 at the Fairmont Empress.

Clipper Vacations (tel. 800/888-2535; www.clippervacations.com) has "Seattle to Vancouver" overnight getaways that include one night of accommodation in Vancouver, round-trip train transportation on Amtrak Cascades between Seattle and Vancouver and all station/hotel transfers. This trip is priced at $148 during the month of June, $159 in July and August, $145 in September and $115 from October, 2006 to April, 2007. Prices are per person, based on double occupancy. Their "Fairmont Empress Pure Pampering Getaway" package includes round-trip Victoria Clipper cruise from Seattle to Victoria, overnight at the Empress Hotel and the Pure Pampering Package featuring sparkling Wine, chocolate covered strawberries, Willow Stream spa amenity gift, Champagne continental breakfast in bed, late check-out, round-trip taxi transfers and all applicable taxes. This package is priced at $283 until the end of June, $344 in July and August and $314 in September, 2006.

They are also running an Internet special when you combine a round-trip journey to Victoria from Seattle with an overnight stay. The deal includes round-trip service on a Victoria Clipper ferry from Seattle to Victoria, overnight accommodations in Victoria, hotel/pier transfers, onboard Champagne continental breakfast and applicable taxes. This trip is priced from $115 until the end of June or $144 from July 1 to September 17, 2006 (except for travel Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon which incurs a $15 surcharge). One child under 12 is free per Seattle/Victoria round-trip, full fare paying adult aboard the Victoria Clipper until June 30, 2006 and from September 18, 2006 to June 30, 2007. From July 1 to September 17, 2006 one child under 12 is half-priced per Seattle/Victoria round-trip, full fare paying adult.

WestJet (tel. 877-952-4638; www.westjet.com) has one-way airfares to Vancouver from the following destinations over the summer months starting from the following prices:

  • Los Angeles $173
  • Honolulu $205
  • Fort Lauderdale $245
  • Orlando $245
  • Las Vegas $262
  • Tampa $281

From October 29 to April 30, WestJet also operates flights from Fort Myers, Phoenix, and Palm Springs.

Alaska Air (www.alaskaair.com) is currently offering a special package deal on two-night vacations to Victoria. The package includes round-trip airfare and two nights' accommodations at The Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa, located downtown at Victoria's Inner Harbour. Packages are priced from $379 from Seattle, $459 from Los Angeles and $467 from San Francisco. These priced are valid for travel outbound Monday, Tuesday and Saturday, returning on a Monday, Thursday, Friday or Sunday. Prices will vary on other days of the week. Purchase by June 26, 2006, and complete travel by June 30, 2006.

The Westin Grand Hotel (tel. 888/680-9393; www.westingrandvancouver.com) in Vancouver has the following specials:

  • Grandview Suites rates from $251 per night. Securely located on our top two floors with spectacular views of Vancouver, these exclusive suites include daily continental breakfast, high speed wireless internet and local toll free calling, bottled water and fresh fruit upon arrival and a complimentary shoe shine.
  • Stay five-nights or longer and save 25 percent on deluxe accommodation at the Westin Grand. Seven-day advance purchase required and this deal is available through September, 2006.
  • Refresh your sense of style with a shopping day and overnight stay from $251 per night. Enjoy everything from¿trendy boutique shopping on¿Robson Street and Yaletown¿to the latest¿haute couture at Pacific Centre Mall. The package includes breakfast for two in Aria Restaurant and a $45 Shop! Card for the centrally located Pacific Mall.
  • Their Vancouver Art Gallery Experience starts from $233 per night and includes overnight accommodation, buffet breakfast for two in the Aria Restaurant and complimentary passes to the¿Vancouver Art Gallery¿(including feature exhibitions).

* Prices originally quoted in Canadian dollars and converted to U.S. dollars.

Looking for a way to spend your summer evening in Vancouver? Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival (tel. 877/739-0559; www.bardonthebeach.org), held in Vanier Park from June 1 to September 24, 2006 is a great choice. Some of Shakespeare's most loved plays are performed in tents on the beach overlooking picturesque English Bay. This year's performances include Midsummer Night's Dream, Measure For Measure, The Winter's Tale and Troilus and Cressida. Tickets are priced at $26 or $17 for previews. Tickets and schedules are available online. The festival also runs Young Shakespearean workshops and has student matinees.

TD Canada Trust Vancouver International Jazz Festival (tel. 604/872-5200; www.coastaljazz.ca) will be held from June 23 to July 2, 2006. Some of the biggest names in jazz take the stage at 40 venues in the Vancouver area. In addition, a free, two-day New Orleans-style street festival is held in historic Gastown and at the Roundhouse Community Centre. See the website for schedule and ticket pricing details.

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