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Seeing British Columbia From a Luxury Dome Car

April 22, 2001

A rail route little known to American tourists but among Canada's most scenic is likely to gain renown starting next month when an upscale train makes its debut. The Whistler Northwind, with domed cars and gourmet menus, will make weekly 462-mile trips between North Vancouver and Prince George in British Columbia.

The trip takes three days northbound or two days southbound, with prices starting at $400 per person, double occupancy. The northbound prices include overnight hotel stays in Whistler and 100 Mile House (named after its mile posting on 19th century Old Cariboo Gold Rush Trail) and all meals except one in Whistler; travelers sleep at the hotels, not on the train. Southbound prices include an overnight in 100 Mile House and all meals. Among the scenic highlights are Howe Sound, the Coast Mountains, Whistler (known for its ski resort), the Cariboo ranchlands and Fraser River canyon. The same route is plied by the Cariboo Prospector train, which takes 13 hours and costs $142 one way, including meals.

The Whistler Northwind begins operating May 6 and runs through early October.

The Cariboo Prospector and the Whistler Northwind are run by BC Rail, based in North Vancouver. Telephone (800) 663-8238, Internet

Fastest Boat Launched to Channel Islands

A faster way to get to Channel Islands National Park off the Ventura coast was launched April 13. The Islander, a 64-foot catamaran that cuts travel time in half, takes less than an hour to get to Santa Cruz Island, according to park concessionaire Island Packers.

Santa Cruz, which is about 24 miles long, is the largest island in the park and the second closest to the coast. It has hiking trails and sea caves that draw day-trippers and overnight campers.

The Islander, which can reach about 25 mph, is the fastest boat to the islands and gives a smoother ride, said Cherryl Connally, assistant manager for Island Packers. It's also the largest of the concessionaire's four boats, with room for 149 passengers. (Island Packers has the concession out of Ventura and Oxnard harbors; Truth Aquatics, whose boats take about two hours to Santa Cruz, is the concessionaire from Santa Barbara harbor.) For day-trippers, the faster boat allows five to six hours ashore rather than 3 1/2 to four hours, Connally said.

The round-trip fares are the same as on Island Packers' three other boats: $42 adults, $25 ages 12 and under for day trips; $54 adults, $40 ages 12 and under for campers. Tel. (805) 642-1393, Internet

The Eyes of Texas Are on New Museum

The timing couldn't be better: A Texas history museum is opening this week, just three months after native son George W. Bush was sworn in as U.S. president.

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, named after a former state lieutenant governor, isn't the biggest Texas history museum (a distinction claimed by the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, south of Amarillo). But at 176,000 square feet, in a new building, it cuts quite a swath.

Inside are about 700 artifacts, many on loan from the dozen or so other state history museums scattered around Texas. Among the highlights are the diary of pioneer Stephen F. Austin (1793-1836), who founded the first American colony in Texas in the 1820s. There are also an IMAX theater and a multimedia show on Texas history.

The museum opens to the public Saturday. Adult admission is $5 for exhibits, plus $6.50 for the IMAX theater and $5 for the multimedia show; tickets that combine all three are $12.50. Open daily; hours vary. Tel. (512) 936-TSHM,

Traveler's Notes ...

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