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Vancouver

National Park Service

When you think of whale watching, you might imagine sitting on a boat with a pair of binoculars, waiting for the world’s biggest creatures to appear before your eyes amidst the waves. But this isn’t the only way to see whales up close and in their natural habitat — without having to see them in a tank.

Typically known as a winter pastime, you can go whale watching almost any time of the year in places like California and Oregon’s Depoe Bay. Specific regions of the Golden State, including San Diego, Monterey Bay, and San Francisco experience larger numbers of whales mid-December and January to mid-March and April.

If you can’t wait that long, you can spot whales in Maui and Vancouver in the fall. Sightings in Maui start as early as October, running to March or April. There’s still time left to find them in Vancouver, where the season starts in March and ends in late October.

Here’s where and how you can see whales, on boats and from shore, both with and without a tour package.

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Peak Walk

Some of the world’s best views come from the middle of the world’s scariest bridges. That’s not to mention the adventure you’ll get from crossing these sometimes rickety but always thrilling expanses. Here are our picks for the world’s 10 scariest bridges with amazing views, sure to get your heart pounding.

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Granville Island Dusk SkylineCity forests, trendy neighborhoods, and a formidable dining scene make Vancouver one of Canada’s most popular travel destinations. It isn’t the cheapest, though. Without a strategy, you could easily overspend in this seaport city. Here’s how to visit Vancouver on a budget without scrimping on experiences.

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Facebook/AmtrakIf you like to take it slow or love to watch the landscape unfold from a comfortable seat, you should take a look at these three deals from Amtrak. All three require that you sign up for Amtrak’s reward program, but, given that registration is free, its well worth the (small) effort. If you’re already an Amtrak Rewards member, you still qualify. Just register  for this specific promotion on Amtrak’s web site. Read more

Facebook/Fairmont Hotel VancouverIf the January blues are getting you down, it might be time to book a quick, revitalizing getaway. The Fairmont hotel chain is offering winter weekend getaways at its British Columbia properties – some of the nicest hotels in the province – for as low as $149 a night. Compared to regular starting rates of $240, that’s a significant savings.

The Weekend Warm Up Offer is available available for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night stays from now through March 31 at four hotels in Vancouver – the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Fairmont Waterfront, Fairmont Vanvouver Airport, and Fairmont Pacific Inn – and at Victoria’s Fairmont Empress. Click on the hotel names to book.

Hanover, Dartmouth, New Hampshire

Travelers across the US are starting to dust off their ski poles and practice their knee bends, as resorts in the northeast, midwest, southwest – anywhere, really, where there’s fresh powder to be had – prepare to open for the season. But for most of us, skiing is only half the fun. The rest of the trip (finding cozy lodges to sip hot chocolate, visiting local shops and galleries, or maybe even stopping in at a ‘cowboy bar’) should be every bit as memorable as the time you spend on the trails. Below, a few recommendations for towns that provide a quiet setting for your alpine getaway,  and with lower prices to boot, could be a better deal than larger resorts in better-known areas.

Hanover, New Hampshire (above)

On your way to or from the Dartmouth Skiway, set aside some time to enjoy the cultural offerings of the college town of Hanover, 20 minutes to the south. Visit the Hood Museum contemporary art center where interning Dartmouth students help to curate the frequently changing exhibits – current exhibits feature Picasso and Fan Tchunpi. The Hanover Inn, which occupies a building dating from 1780 and overlooks Dartmouth Green, is connected to the Hood Museum via a passageway and is home to a farm-to-table restaurant named PINE, created by celebrity Boston chef, (and James Beard award winner) Michael Schlow.

Across the green, in the college’s Baker library, is the Epic of American Civilization, one Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco’s three grand frescoes in the United States (the others are in California and New York City.) Read more

Point Roberts, WashingtonAt a glance, the 48 contiguous United States seem pretty well glued together. A few oddities may stick out – like Florida dangling limb-like out into the ocean, or that big hole in the northern Arizona desert – but for the most part, with a full tank of gas and the open road, you can pretty much get anywhere you need to go. Which makes it even harder to believe there’s a part of Washington state that can only be accessed by crossing the Canadian border, and then re-entering the country. Located just 22 miles south of Vancouver, Point Roberts, Washington is indeed out-of-the-way, it’s what you’ll find there that makes the trek worthwhile. Read more

Amazing Canadian Train RoutesCanada features more than 3.8 million square miles of diverse landscapes ranging from rolling prairies to pristine glacial lakes. One of the best ways to explore the country is by train. Hop on board one of these lines for the rail adventure of a lifetime.

Rocky Mountain Routes: The Canadian Rocky Mountains serve as the backdrops for several incredible railway trips, including the incredibly popular Vancouver-to-Banff route offered by Rocky Mountaineer. Passengers travel by day, spend the night at a hotel in Kamloops and continue the two-day journey the next morning. Opt for the GoldLeaf package, which entitles you to watch the scenery from the glass-domed upper level and dine in an exclusive dining room in the lower level. Rates for the Vancouver-to-Banff experience begin at $935.

VIA Rail also provides service from Edmonton to Jasper. The scenery can be a little ho-hum as you head south, but once you hit the Rocky Mountains, you’ll “ooh and aah” the rest of the way. One-way travel on VIA from Edmonton to Jasper begins at $110. Read more

Where to go to Experience Vancouver's Best BoutiquesIt’s no secret that Vancouver, BC, is a great place to visit. This western Canada gem is known for having a vibrant nightlife, superb scenery, and a sustainably-minded way of approaching everything from outdoor recreation to the culinary arts (it’s even home to an annual Eco Fashion Week in October). But some of the city’s best assets are perhaps its boutique shops and restaurants, many of which highlight Vancouver’s local flavor through their designs, collections, and cuisine. If you’re searching for independent shopping stops and establishments that are distinctly ‘Vancouver’ in nature, here are five spots you won’t want to miss: Read more

Amtrak Train Rate SaleTake a last-minute trip the old-fashioned way this summer. Round-trip Amtrak fares are as little as $41, saving you 25 percent on current rates. Visit Chicago in full bloom, hit the Big Apple, explore the Big Easy, and more with this great sale. Travel is valid Mondays through Thursdays, and Saturdays, for one to two weeks after purchase. Read more

Looking for a 2013 cruise adventure that won’t break the bank? Set sail into the New Year and save with one of these five budget-friendly cruise picks. Cruising from close-to-home cities to popular ports in Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and beyond, these great-value 3-, 4-, and 7-night cruises all ring in from under $409/person – and one from as little as $199.

Just hurry up and book – prices are sure to spike soon, so don’t miss the boat on these priced-to-go sailings. Read more

Amtrak trainWinter time can prove to be an even bigger headache than usual for air travel. Blustering winds and pesky snowstorms regularly clog major air-hubs from New York City to Chicago (and everywhere in between), causing frustrating flight delays and cancellations. Spare yourself the stress of lengthy, invasive security procedures, and unreliable service by taking the train for your next getaway.

Fares for many of North America’s regional train lines are available for less this season. Here’s some of our favorite deals on rails.

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Via Rail CanadaProof that Canada’s VIA Rail train is so much more than a basic commuter train? When you disembark, you’ll feel sad saying goodbye to the conductors.

Two of our favorites, who held court in touring class on VIA Rail’s “Skeena” route across mountainous, snow-capped British Columbia, were Patrick and Gilbert. They helped us with our bags, sure, but they also offered historical factoids, let us browse the library of provincial history books that they kept on board, and served wine. Gilbert even brought along flowers from his garden for the curved, vintage caboose car.

All the while, we traveled along the thundering Skeena River from Jasper, just over the British Columbia boarder in Alberta, to the charming coastal town of Prince Rupert. The entertainment, besides Patrick and Gilbert? Hundreds of miles of breathtaking scenery – untouched forest, show-capped mountains, the occasional ancient petroglyph, and the rusting remnants of Skeena River canneries. Read more

Vancouver Celebration of LightSummer may be peak season in Vancouver, but a full calendar of free events means a lot less stress on your wallet once you arrive in this idyllic coastal city. Moreover, many of these festivals highlight Vancouver’s distinct international flavor and diverse population that makes it so unique.

Starting this weekend, the Rio Alcan Dragon Boat Festival on June 15-17 draws 100,000 spectators for multi-cultural food, music, and dance performances, as well as the signature boat race.

At the International Jazz Festival taking place June 22-July 1, many of the 150 concerts are free, including performances downtown at the Vancouver Art Gallery and on Granville Island at the Public Market.

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Marriott LGBT Campaign PridePride is upon us. Wherever you hope to travel this summer, chances are you’ll be crossing paths with (or joining) a rowdy parade of L, G, B, and Ts flaunting what they got. So why not save some money while you’re at it? Or make Pride the reason for a trip in the first place?

With that reasoning, Marriott International (long a leader in equality for its LGBT employees) gets in on the action with a new campaign targeted to gays and their allies entitled “Be You, With Us.” Spanning its brands, from the super-luxe JW Marriott to the wallet-friendly SpringHill Suites, the crux rests on a global Pride calendar that denotes celebrations from now – Los Angeles and Boston Pride this weekend, Portland next, NYC and Paris later in the month – and into September when Las Vegas Pride and Key West PrideFest both take a bow. Properties in each city are handily noted, and 22 related LGBT packages both Pride-specific and year-long are called out with amenities such as free Red Bull in the room and glasses of wine or spa credits. For example: Read more

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