Two of IRT editors' picks for "Top 20 Rail Experiences in the World" - the Canadian and Rocky Mountaineer, are featured on this itinerary across the vast and beautiful country of Canada. IRT contributing editor Karl Zimmermann will lead the way. Beginning in Toronto, we will board VIA Rail's Canadian in the deluxe "Silver and Blue" class of service. Settle in to your comfortable compartment where you'll spend the next two nights as the train travels west to Jasper.
Meals on board the Canadian are a memory not soon forgotten, with delicious food and a beautiful setting, followed by after-dinner drinks in the Park Car. Upon arrival in Jasper, spend two nights at the luxurious Jasper Park Lodge. Then take a trip down the Icefields Parkway to Banff, including a stop at legendary Lake Louise. Next rail treat the Rocky Mountaineer, with its panoramic views from the GoldLeaf dome car and open-air observation platform. It, too, boasts delicious meals beautifully served in the dining car. Trip ends in Vancouver.
Day 1: Arrival in Toronto. Arrive into Toronto’s airport today and transfer on your own to our hotel, the Fairmont Royal York, a historic rail hotel. The biggest hotel in the British Empire when it was built in 1929, its location just across from the Toronto train station is a perfect start to our tour. After check-in, you may explore Canada’s largest city on your own. The city offers some wonderful shopping, as well as many cultural attractions including the famous Royal Ontario Museum, the Fine Arts Museum of Ontario and the Science Center of Ontario. For a great view of the city, head to the top of the CN tower, the world’s highest free-standing structure.
In the early afternoon, meet our tour leader, Karl Zimmermann, rail historian and author, who will lead a tour of Toronto’s streetcar system and the Toronto Island ferries. The tour will provide just a sample of this city’s fantastic public transportation system. This evening meet all of your fellow travelers at a welcome wine and cheese reception and slide, lecture given by Mr. Zimmermann, which will feature the history of the Canadian and its route, in preparation of our exciting journey tomorrow. A three-course dinner will follow. Overnight: Fairmont Royal York, Toronto. Meals included: (D).
Day 2: The Canadian. Transfer to Union Station this morning to board the legendary Canadian, VIA Rail’s flagship train. Today you will discover for yourself why IRT’s editors have chosen the Canadian twice as one of the top rail experiences in the world. We will use the top class of service - Silver and Blue Class — on the Canadian.
Today we travel north across southern Ontario’s farmlands. And soon after departure, you can enjoy breakfast in the diner. Settle into your deluxe compartment and enjoy the passing scenery. This afternoon we will enter the great Canadian Shield, a 900-mile region of rock, forest and lakes. Lunch and dinner will also be served on board today. After dinner you may choose to have a drink in the Park Car for more time to chat with other IRT members. Enjoy a restful night’s sleep on board. Overnight, VIA Rail’s Canadian, Silver and Blue Class Service. Meals included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: The Canadian. Watch the scenery change as we continue our journey west aboard the Canadian. After mid-afternoon arrival into Winnipeg, we’ll traverse the great plains of central Canada 800 miles to Edmonton, where we’re scheduled to arrive early tomorrow morning. Enjoy all meals on board again today. Dining in the Canadian’s diner is an experience in itself, a highlight of the trip, with its subtle beauty – linens, mirrors and the golden glow of subdued lighting.
Full-length glass panels are etched with images of chickadees, kingfishers and other birds. The menu is delicious and varied with choices such as veal chop, breast of duck, grilled Arctic char with duchess potatoes, sautéed strips of zucchini and sweet red pepper. Rich desserts top off the meals. Overnight, VIA Rail’s Canadian, Silver and Blue Class Service. Meals included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: The Canadian. Arrival in Jasper. Departing from Edmonton this morning, we begin approaching the Rockies, as the flat terrain gives way to rolling foothills and mountains in the distance. Arrival into Jasper is scheduled for mid-afternoon. Jasper National Park, established in 1907, is the largest of Canada’s mountain parks at 4,200 square miles. Upon arrival, we will transfer to the Jasper Park Lodge, our home for the next two nights. Dinner tonight will be in the hotel’s beautiful dining room. Overnight: Jasper Park Lodge. Meals included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Maligne Lake cruise. Jasper Tramway. Today, we will cruise Maligne Lake, known as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. We will cruise toward the south end of this picture-postcard setting, allowing us plenty of time to marvel at the magnificent shoreline with dense forests and glacial peaks rising abruptly from the water’s edge. Stop at Spirit Island to take photographs of the lake. Keep your eyes open for wildlife, including bears, moose, elk, caribou and bald eagles, all of which are frequently spotted in this area.
We’ll also take a ride on the Jasper Tramway, a gondola running up Whistlers Mountain, for great views of the Icefield and Mt. Robson (elevation 7,497 feet). The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure to explore Jasper. Tonight, after dinner, enjoy a private slide, lecture given by Karl on the history of the dome car – an important feature in rail travel in the Rocky Mountains of Canada. Overnight: Jasper Park Lodge. Meals included: (B), (D).
Day 6: Icefields Parkway to Banff. Today we will head south along the famous Icefields Parkway. Along the way, will see the Athabasca Falls before arriving at the Columbia Icefield Chalet, where we’ll have lunch. After lunch we’ll take a ride on a Snocoach (an enclosed, heated, ice and snow terrain vehicle) to the middle of Athabasca Glacier to learn more about its geological features.
Our driver/guide will explain how glaciers are formed and point out some interesting geological features. Dress warmly if you want to get out. Last time we were there, we took little cups to drink the blue water, said to be a fountain of youth. Afterwards, we proceed south to Banff, stopping for a walk at Lake Louise. Overnight: Rimrock Resort, Banff. Meals included: (B), (L).
Day 7: Rocky Mountaineer. Transfer to the Banff station this morning to board the Rocky Mountaineer, which will take us over the famous Canadian Pacific route. It offers two types of service. You may choose either. In the Rocky Mountaineer's RedLeaf Service, you will be escorted to your assigned seat on the train. You will enjoy great service, meals served at your seat, and wonderful sights you will see from your comfortable, fully reclining seat. On these cars, forward-facing seats are able to rotate to accommodate groups of four. Along the way, experienced guides tell much about the scenery, wildlife and geological features you will admire.
An upgrade to GoldLeaf Service is available on the Rocky Mountaineer and is highly recommended by IRT staff and members. As you check in and walk across the red carpet, up the spiral steps to your seat in the double-decker, luxury-class GoldLeaf Service, you'll begin to understand why. Right away, your attendants start to pamper you. You'll receive hors d'ouvres and a glass of orange juice to toast your departure. Before long, you'll head back down the spiral staircase and admire the 36-seat dining area, with its white linen, gleaming tableware and fresh bouquets. Here you will enjoy elaborate breakfasts and equally elaborate lunches on board.
For breakfast, the menu might include tasty Eggs Pacifica, Eggs Benedict, Belgian waffles and other treats. For lunch, medallions of pork tenderloin and roast lamb are just two of the choices. After dining, you may choose to step outside onto the GoldLeaf Dome’s exclusive rear-end, open-air observation platform.
Or perhaps you’ll repair to the upper level – the largest area of domed glass of any rail car in the world – for an after-meal drink prepared by your steward as you take in the wild beauty that is the Canadian Rockies. The open-air platform, dome car and meals in the diner are strictly for GoldLeaf passengers. We think you’ll agree with Society member David Orwig of St. Louis: "The GoldLeaf Service is totally worth it."
As the train crosses the Continental Divide, we’ll pass through the Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park. Marvel at stunning glaciers, numerous tunnels and snow-capped mountains of Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park. The sights are breathtaking. You will discover why so many call the Canadian Rockies some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
In the evening, we come to the town of Kamloops, gateway to British Columbia’s interior. Upon arrival this evening, we’ll transfer and check-in to our Kamloops hotel. Dinner tonight will be at Two River Junction, a frontier dining experience complete with musical revue celebrating the arrival of the first passenger train into Kamloops. The buffet features many of the culinary delights that British Columbia has to offer. Overnight at Kamloops, hotel to be announced by the Rocky Mountaineer. Meals included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Rocky Mountaineer. Arrive in Vancouver. Transfer from our Kamloops hotel to the Rocky Mountaineer this morning. Breakfast and lunch will again be served on board today as we continue our journey westward along the Thompson River to the Fraser Canyon. Our steward will help us look for birds, animals, and famous sites such as Hell’s Gate, where millions of gallons of water per minute rush through the narrowest point of the canyon.
Upon leaving this region, the train will journey through the fertile Fraser Valley to the coastal city of Vancouver. Upon arrival, transfer to the Sutton Place Hotel. This evening we’ll take a gondola to the top of Grouse Mountain, offering panoramic views of the city and its harbor. Enjoy a farewell dinner at the summit, as we toast a wonderful trip over Vancouver’s breathtaking skyline. Overnight: Sutton Place Hotel, Vancouver. Meals included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: Depart Vancouver. Our tour ends after breakfast at the hotel this morning. We are happy to help you extend your vacation in Vancouver, Victoria or elsewhere. Meals included: (B).
Price Excludes: Canadian goods and services tax of 3.5%.
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Canada Ontario Local Culture Railway Trips National Parks