It’s surprisingly easy to fit a fantastic North American vacation into 6 days and 5 nights. Our “one easy week” trips start on Sunday and end the next Friday. In one calendar week, you get the handcrafted Classic Journeys experience—local guides, amazingly scenic walks, and immersion in the region’s culture and history. Though you’re only a time zone or two away from home, you’ll be amazed at how far away you’ll feel.
The secret to exploring Alaska’s best
“Alaska in a week?” You say. “Too huge to handle.” Oh, no, it’s not! Check a map for the Kenai Peninsula. (It’s the fat protuberance with the serrated bottom edge, just below Anchorage.) As small as it may look, the peninsula is nearly twice the size of New Jersey—and it’s a stunning microcosm of the 49th state’s legendary natural beauty.
Right there on the southern shore, you’ll go walking on Exit Glacier. You’ll cruise spectacular Kenai Fjord. There’s a National Wildlife Refuge where you may spot moose, bear, caribou, and Dall sheep. The peninsula is also the site of Alaska’s richest gold mine, the Iditarod Trail (perfect for a walk), plus salmon fisheries, puffin colonies and Resurrection Bay with its humpback whales and orcas. Wild and empty as it looks from many angles, Kenai is also home to native Aleuts, fishermen, artists, miners and naturalists, and you’ll cross all of their paths.
It all requires a fair bit of logistical support—plans for a salmon bake, rafts if you’d like to take on the Kenai River, tram tickets for the ride up Mt. Alyeska, specialized glacier guides, and the like. But Classic Journeys handles it all so the whole week of adventure runs like clockwork.
Three fantastic parks in one easy trip
For most visitors to these three national parks, gee-whiz geology is the whole story. After all, the Grand Canyon is so nearly bottomless that you can barely see the silver thread of Colorado River down below. Amid the spiky crenellations of Bryce’s hoodoos you feel like you’ve landed on some sci-fi planet. In Zion, a silky smooth slot canyon is only a couple of armspans wide—and a dizzying 2,000 feet to the top.
But faster than you can say “inconceivable eons of spectacular erosion,” our brains shift to: How and why did it happen? How must the first humans have reacted? What is it like to live with these wild, 50-shades-of-red rockscapes out your back door? There’s a flesh-and-blood story in this world of stone. The treat of this trip is how deep your local guides go into the region’s culture from mysterious Ancient Puebloans to cowboy musicians to tubing on the Virgin River. You take your time to explore on fantastic walks (vs. an average visitor who spends less than half a day at any one park, according to one researcher). You step away from the crowds with experiences that include a chance to search for pottery shards at a protected archeological site on private property.
It’s sort of staggering to realize that these remarkable places are no more than a few hours by air from wherever you live in the continental United States.
America’s Switzerland in Big Sky Country
Back in the 1910s, the Great Northern Railway nicknamed Glacier National Park “America’s Switzerland”. Why cross the Atlantic, their argument went, when you can ride our rails to a spanking new park at least as beautiful as the Alps? It’s still a convincing travel idea, especially since you can get to and from Glacier even more quickly, no Pullman reservation required.
These days, one easy week is plenty of time to hunt deep-sea fossils high up in the Rockies, train your eye to spot mountain goats and elk, and walk wildflower meadows with a glacier-cooled breeze at your back. Add in a picnic by Avalanche Lake here, a lake steamer ride there, a walk to Twin Falls later, and you have an all-American week you’ll never forget.
In fact, Glacier is a great experience in western America’s history and culture. You’ll stay in some of the very timbered lodges the railroad built a century ago to lure travelers. You’ll meet a singer, songwriter and storyteller of the Blackfeet tribe. You’ll take a horseback tour of our friends Don and Nancy’s working ranch, and end the day with a campfire dinner cooked by their ranch hands.
Match that, Matterhorn!
At a latitude of 44˚ 39 ̍ N, Nova Scotia perches almost exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole. Useless bit of trivia? Maybe. But it also symbolizes some broader truths about this intriguing Canadian province.
Take its climate, for instance: Nova Scotia is essentially a gorgeous sliver of land surrounded by the Atlantic, which mellows its temperatures to a range ideal for outdoor excursions. We’ll take plenty of these, whether it’s a stroll through historic Port-Royal (founded two years before the Virginia’s Jamestown settlement) or woodland hikes in lush Kejimkujik National Park. The ocean’s calming influence extends to the Nova Scotian people, among the friendliest anywhere. You’ll meet plenty of them, including local craftsmen and a top-rated chef who teaches you how to cook lobsters.
Nova Scotia’s tendencies toward moderation don’t mean you’ll forgo the dramatic, however—rather you’ll find each extreme tempered by the other. The Bay of Fundy—home to the planet’s biggest tidal shift (up to a four-story difference) and 15 species of whales—gives way to the agrarian Annapolis Valley with its peaceful vineyards and 1,000-plus apple orchards. A flood of cultures and histories intersect in Nova Scotia as well, which for you means diverse experiences—perhaps boarding a classic sailing ship one day and touching 5,000-year-old petroglyphs the next. This blend of cultural treasures and natural riches make this vacation a perfect mix of relaxation and adventure—and one of our family’s all-time favorite tours.
Discover beauty above ground and below
You expect to see jagged, sky-piercing peaks and enchantingly blue glacial lakes while vacationing in the Canadian Rockies. And you won’t be disappointed. But you might be surprised to learn that what first attracted droves of visitors to this area isn’t above ground at all, but the sulfur hot springs that bubbled up from below it—discovered by three railway workers in 1883.
Our tour kicks off at the site of this discovery, with a descent into the cave that houses the thermal waters. From there, the journey continues to the iconic Lake Louise, where the first non-native to set eyes on it had a common reaction to this uncommon backdrop: “I never, in all my explorations…saw such a matchless scene…. I felt puny in body, but glorified in spirit and soul.”
That sentiment tarries as you trek through Yoho (a Cree word meaning “wow”) and Jasper national parks, likely catching sight of moose, bear and bighorn sheep along the way. It settles deeper as you dine on delectable local specialties in vintage railway cars or, with the Family Journey, raft down the Athabasca River. And it takes root as you cruise on super-scenic Maligne Lake and trek with a knowledgeable local guide across the sprawling Athabasca Glacier, which scientists speculate could disappear within just a generation or two. Here, you’re bound to reflect on the extremes that bookend this tour—the broiling springs on one end, frozen expanses on the other—and conclude you have a novel’s worth of memories.
Experience European culture close to home
In some places, history fades silently into the past, kept alive only in isolated museums or dwindling memories. In others, it stays present, carried along from one generation to the next, infusing the culture and molding its course. After mere moments in Québec City, it’s clear that history is alive here. Founded by French explorers more than 400 years ago, this riverside burg is North America’s only walled city. Perhaps the walls help contain the enticing French and British cultural tones that have flourished through the centuries, making it one of the only places on the continent where you could be fooled into thinking you’d crossed the pond.
Our tour starts upon cobblestone streets, in cafés and among centuries-old buildings that make it obvious why UNESCO recognizes it as a World Heritage City. In fact, its historical and cultural charms are so engrossing that some travelers miss the area’s natural attractions: 274-foot Montmorency Falls (one-and-a-half times higher than Niagara), an enormous crater that houses seaside villages (including one that birthed Cirque de Soleil), a national park featuring the highest mountains east of the Rockies, and Tadoussac—one of the globe’s best whale-watching destinations.
Many of these sites are in the Charlevoix region, which starts just a bit northeast of Québec City. Here, we drift seamlessly from countryside walks along meandering rivers to a visit with our cheesemaker friends at a local farm (where you can, of course, sample their creations) and then on to tours of art galleries or historic homes. This blend of natural and refined, of past and present, can shift your perspective in a welcome way that lingers long after the journey has come to an end.
BOOK YOUR TOUR TODAY at ClassicJourneys.com/quebec.