Canada’s vast natural beauty is part of its appeal: soaring Rockies and icy glaciers, pristine forests and dramatic coastlines. Yet our neighbor to the north has another allure: Shaped by French, Gaelic and other influences over the centuries, a trip to Canada can whisk you into international cultures, cuisines and traditions, delivered with a unique North American twist.

Here are three ways to feel like you’re overseas—without actually crossing the Atlantic:

A European-style journey through the rugged west

For the sophisticated and utterly enjoyable experience of European train travel, take a multiday train trip in western Canada. From a luxurious car with panoramic dome windows, you’ll take in the grand sweeps of the Canadian Rockies, which many compare to the Swiss Alps.

While you relax in plush seats, professional hosts offer attentive service and fascinating commentary about Canada’s scenic grandeur and how the railway influenced the settling of the West. Between gourmet meals, venture to the outdoor vestibule to breathe in the fresh air as your train carves through otherwise inaccessible terrain (where bear and other wildlife sightings often add to the visual drama).

You’ll stop overnight to enjoy the charms of towns such as Whistler, British Columbia, and Banff and Jasper, Alberta. Explore natural wonders such as the breathtakingly powerful Athabasca Falls; glistening-emerald Lake Louise, encircled by soaring mountain peaks; and the Columbia Icefield, one of the largest masses of ice south of the Arctic Circle.

French flair in Quebec

Canada’s French culture dates to the 1600s, when explorers from France settled in what is now Quebec province. Today, the region offers a delightful blend of French and Canadian influences. In Montreal and Quebec City, cobblestone streets and French-inspired architecture evoke the charms of Paris. But on seemingly every corner, between the boulangeries and patisseries, there’s also a place serving poutine—the beloved Quebecois dish of fries and chewy cheese curds, all doused in gravy.

Discover the sophisticated side of a trip to Canada in Montreal, Toronto and Quebec City.

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Meander through the Old Montreal neighborhood, where you can step into the Notre-Dame Basilica, a Gothic revival church with a history dating to the 1670s. Or stroll back in time on Rue Saint-Paul, where the 18th- and 19th-century buildings house artisanal boutiques, inviting restaurants and chansonnier bars (where you can enjoy live folk music).

The Old Quebec neighborhood is a UNESCO World Heritage treasure with its city wall, cobbled alleyways and Place Royale—an intimate, historic square.

Here and along the Rue du Petit-Champlain—one of the oldest commercial streets in North America, now filled with chocolate shops, bakeries and boutiques—it’s hard to believe you’re not in France. Stay at the castlelike AAA Four Diamond-rated Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac ( blue diamond blue diamond blue diamond blue diamond ), opened in 1893 and thought to be the most photographed hotel in the world.

Highland beauty on the Atlantic Coast

From its colorful fishing villages to its windswept scenery, Nova Scotia evokes Scotland in more ways than one: Here, the phone book is filled with MacDonalds and MacLeods. There are links-style golf courses and whisky distilleries, and the lilt of fiddles and pipes wafts from the doorways of local pubs. Even its name means “New Scotland.”

With its perch on the eastern shore of Canada, Nova Scotia was a welcome landing spot for 18th- and 19th-century immigrants from the Scottish Highlands and islands. In parts of Nova Scotia, you can learn a few words of the Canadian Gaelic dialect, which is still spoken here (though not widely).

Halifax, Nova Scotia’s largest city, is the gateway to the province’s stunning landscapes, including famous Peggy’s Cove, with its granite cliffs and solitary lighthouse. On a trip to Canada’s Cape Breton Island, follow the road signs—in English and Gaelic—to the Cabot Trail, considered one of the world’s prettiest drives. Curving around mountains blanketed in firs, revealing clifftop vistas over the Atlantic Ocean, this winding ribbon of roadway speaks to those of any native tongue.

Be Charmed by Canada

Talk to your local AAA Travel Advisor, who can help you plan a north-of-the-border adventure and find member-exclusive savings and benefits.

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