The Rocky Mountaineer

The Rocky Mountaineer has gained high marks as a "top trip" experience.

The Rocky Mountaineer has gained high marks as a "top trip" experience.

Train and nature buffs alike have quickly elevated travel aboard the Rocky Mountaineer to "top trip" prominence. Travelers leave Vancouver and follow the Fraser River Canyon before ascending high above Hell's Gate, but it's day two when the fun really begins, as passengers leave Kamloops, B.C., overnight to climb steadily into the Canadian Rockies for Jasper or Banff, Alberta. A northern route via Whistler to Jasper is also available. Gold Leaf passengers can observe it all from floor-through-apex windows, though I prefer watching the wild go by from the open vestibules behind each car. Though it's considered an adult-preferred trip, playing UNO and Mille Bornes with my kids in a chugging, unplugged environment provides an awesome family experience as well.

Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad

The history of the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad provides a viewfinder into the glory days of railroading, when more than 20 daily passenger trains were greeted by one of the Upper Midwest's most majestic depots in Spooner, Wisc. Seventy-five percent of the town once worked for the railroad, and no less a dignitary than the future King Edward VII of England once disembarked. Today, a coupling of local train enthusiasts maintain the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad, which has expanded to daily summer service from what remains of the Spooner depot and includes the new Bed & Breakfast Train, inviting passengers to dine, sleep and breakfast aboard the train, an impressive feat for a scenic railroad. Plenty of special-event trains also roll on at Duluth's North Shore Scenic Railroad. Passengers can participate in the popular Murder Mystery and Elegant Dinner trains, as well as a Beer Tasting Train on select dates.

VIA Rail across Canada
Having once traveled from Seattle to New Orleans with a six-month old baby in tow, I still question cross-continental train travel. But scores of friends and colleagues who've traveled much farther--from Toronto to Vancouver--onboard VIA Rail say "absolutely." In fact, endorsements for VIA, Canada's national railroad, poured (i.e. tweeted) in, not just about cross-Canada travel, but for scenic trips from Prince Rupert, B.C. to Jasper, from Montréal to Quebec City and beyond. These comments were so positive, I can easily envision four days spent in a sleeper car as our train courses through Manitoba's sunflowers, Saskatchewan's prairie meadows and Alberta's mountains. Perhaps my first born, now 23 years old, will join me for the journey.

Travel writer Crai S Bower composes scores of articles annually for over 25 publications. Follow him on Twitter @craisbower.

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