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Wednesday, November 26, 2014         

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Up in the air

Cable cars and aerial trams offer adventurous travelers a fun ride and stunning views

By McClatchy News Services

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We're often stuck on cars, buses and trains, commuting to work or trying to get to our next destination. But what about transportation that highlights a destination?

Aerial trams and cable cars take visitors up mountains, over rivers and above cities, often as a means to an end — but sometimes these cable cars are the destination themselves. With gorgeous views and unique experiences as our criteria, the members and editors of VirtualTourist.com have compiled a list of the "Top 5 Aerial Trams."

1. Sugarloaf cable carRio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf Mountain is a landmark both in Brazil and around the world, and there is no greater way to experience the views of Rio de Janeiro than from the aerial tramway to Sugarloaf's summit. There are two separate cable car rides to reach the summit; each ride lasts about three minutes. The first ride is to Urca Hill, and the second, much steeper ride is to Sugarloaf's summit at 1,300 feet. From the summit you can see the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, the Pedra da Gavea and Corcovado mountains, the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the city of Rio de Janeiro spread out beneath you.

2. Emirates Air LineLondon

The Emirates Air Line is the most recently opened aerial tram on our list and began running June 28, 2012, just in time for London's Summer Olympics. The United Kingdom's first urban cable car, the cabins provide a 360-degree view of the city of London, Canary Wharf, historic Greenwich and the O2, the entertainment district and domed arena on the Greenwich Peninsula. In the first six weeks of running, more than half a million passengers used the Emirates Air Line to cross the River Thames.

3. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Palm Springs, Calif.

Located on the northwestern edge of Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has both the world's largest rotating tramcars and exquisite views of the Coachella Valley below. Built into the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon, the 10-minute ride takes visitors from 2,643 feet to the Mountain Station at 8,516 feet. In addition to the ride and views, Mountain Station also includes two restaurants, and adjacent Mount San Jacinto State Park offers 54 miles of hiking trails within a 14,000-acre pristine wilderness. Once visitors arrive at Mountain Station, the choice is theirs.

4. Grouse Mountain Skyride— North Vancouver, British Columbia

Located in northern Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is home to North America's largest aerial tramway, which takes you from the resort base to the plateau on the mountain where visitors can see a lumberjack show, visit a grizzly bear habitat, take a guided or self-guided eco-walk, or enjoy one of the mountain's restaurants. If visitors want to go farther up the mountain, the Peak Chairlift takes 14 minutes to climb to more than 4,100 feet above sea level at the top of Grouse Mountain. In addition to the exceptional nature views, folks can also see the city of Vancouver, the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf Islands in the distance.

5. Mount Titlis Revolving Rotair— near Engelberg, Switzerland

Traveling up Mount Titlis is something many VirtualTourist members enjoy in both summer and winter. There is not one, but three gondola rides needed to reach the top of the mountain. The third ride is the famous "Titlis Rotair" gondola, the world's first revolving cable car, which makes one full rotation during the ride. The floor moves, not the entire gondola, so depending on the adaptability of your fellow passengers, it can be a little awkward. However, the exceptional views atop Mount Titlis, at 9,934 feet, and the Titlis Cliff Walk, a new glacier suspension bridge at the mountain, make any discomfort to get there well worth the ride.






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