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Credit: Tracey Rayson

Hundreds of visitors flocked to the newly opened FlyOver Canada ride at Canada Place for the Canada Day long weekend

FlyOver Canada, a new virtual flight exhibit at Vancouver's Canada Place, lets you experience the sights, sounds and sensations of soaring high above the country's most magnificent landscapes

A young girl runs through a field, arms outstretched, tilting right then left, embodying pure wonder, joy — simulating the act of flying. It's not only a scene in the pre-show of the new FlyOver Canada virtual ride, but a familiar childhood action that was realized by hundreds of visitors (50 every 15 minutes) on the June 29 opening of the 4-D flight ride at Vancouver's Canada Place.

It's an experience on the grandest of scales — a 20-metre half-spherical dome screen and wholly immersive sensation ride that takes you soaring across Canada from coast-to-coast with multiple special-effects including wind, mist and scents.

"What better entertainment than to showcase our country such that participants can fly over Niagara Falls, experience the icebergs off Newfoundland, and the fall colours of Ontario's Muskokas — all without leaving Canada Place," says Andrew Strang, CEO of Soaring Attractions LP, owner, developer, and operator in partnership with company president Stephen Geddes and the Aquilini Investment Group.

Soar over Canada without Leaving Vancouver

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The Character Guys use their high-flying humour to entertain crowds pre-flight (Image: Tracey Rayson)

While guests waited in queue, the FlyOver sightseeing deck buzzed with anticipation. Smartphones were out in full force capturing the sundrenched backdrop of the North Shore Mountains and Burrard Inlet — a natural slice of the real deal awaiting ride-goers.

Guests were entertained by Vancouver's The Character Guys, the roving creative team of Mike Cavers and Nick Harrison, aka the vintage flyers in meticulous period costumes, engaging the crowd with high-flying humour.

Once inside, the pre-boarding zone prepared participants with an entertaining 10-minute pre-flight safety video. Our group entered the ride vehicles, which accommodate 60 passengers per trip, soaring on three levels from 3.5 metres to 15 metres (think four-storey building).

We buckled up, tucked our sandals and belongings in the under-seat mesh pouch and watched wide-eyed, legs dangling, as our seats moved in six degrees of freedom, and in concert with the film.

Take a Virtual Flight from Newfoundland to Tofino

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Among other sights, you'll get to fly over icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland (Image by FlyOver Canada)

From the first thrilling sequence we were hooked. Province after province, we flew from Newfoundland to Tofino, ending on the highest of notes and soaring over the aurora borealis in Canada's north, Churchill, Manitoba, one of the top three places to view the northern lights. The original score hit all the right notes, too, composed by Calgarian Andrea Wettstein (Six Degrees Music), and recorded by the Vancouver Film Orchestra.

For retired Portuguese couple Helen and Carlos Rodrigues, this was their second cross-country trip this week; they drove from Mississauga, Ontario, to fulfill a "trip of a lifetime," arriving in Vancouver for a three-day stay. "We just drove through wine country in the Okanagan and now we saw if from the air — amazing," says Carlos. "The film just took my breath away," says Helen. "The mountains, the West Coast, so majestic, it makes you feel incredibly humble."

The FlyOver film is projected at 60 frames per second, double the imagery, and more than twice as fast as a regular movie, underpinning the authentic visual impression. Captured by B.C. filmmaker Dave Mossop and Whistler's Sherpas Cinema, the custom-made, gentle family-friendly attraction was inspired by Disney's wildly popular Soarin' Over California.

FlyOver filming spanned 15 months and four seasons, over 30 Canadian communities, and is the first of its kind in the country. Sustainably conscious too, FlyOver Canada is partnered with green energy provider Bullfrog Power to reduce its environmental impact, and uses 100 per cent clean, renewable electricity. In B.C., Bullfrog's power comes exclusively from local wind power facilities that have been certified low impact by Environment Canada under its EcoLogoM program.

While opening day intersected the Canada Day long weekend, we felt an irresistible sense of patriotic pride; in the crowd it was palpable. Visitors left the ride in awe, exhilarated, smiling, and some even teary eyed. The experience, we agreed, was the very essence of the "true north strong and free."

2013 admission prices: $19.95 (adult); $17.95 (senior/youth/student); and $14.95 (child – suitable for ages four and up and over 40 inches tall). 10am - 9pm, daily.

Read more about FlyOver Canada.