Forget cruise or air travel, explore some of the most beautiful USA spots via train trips. From breathtaking vineyards to illuminating skylines, we’ve highlighted seven fantastic train vacations that will leave you mesmerized and satisfied in all areas of travel.
These train rides were selected based on their accessibility, scenic beauty, and leisure. Consider the Napa Valley Wine Train for a weekend getaway with a cherished one, or Amtrak’s Vermonter for a trolley across the splendid New England states. Or, hop on the Alaska Railroad Classic in lieu of an Alaskan cruise. Moreover, escape the crazy crowds of the Grand Canyon by going on the Grand Canyon Railway and enjoy the Canyon’s South Rim this way. Last but most certainly not least, Amtrak’s Empire Builder is a hefty trip for the serial traveler. Venture from Chicago to the great Pacific Northwest to experience some of America’s most beautiful landscapes.
Napa Valley Wine Train Napa Valley, CA
If you’re a wine connoisseur or have a passion for graceful vineyards and the beautiful outdoors, consider hopping on the Napa Valley Wine Train. You can experience all of Napa’s beautiful and elegant wine estates through the glass-encased Vista Dome Car. Perfect for a day trip, there are a few different trains and tours to select from that range from three to six hours. There are full day winery tours and 1⁄2 day winery tours that correspond with either lunch trains or dinner trains, and different tours take you past various vineyards. Moreover, the Napa Valley Wine Train does not omit a classy culinary experience. With four kitchens onboard, you can choose from gourmet meals like yellowfin tuna tartare and pan-seared halibut to add to a lovely experience. In addition, there are hotel and train packages for you to choose from if you’d like to extend your stay in Napa Valley. Rates start at $150 per person.
Alaska Railroad Classic Anchorage > Seward
Ranked one of the Top Ten Train Rides in North America by National Geographic Traveler, the Alaska Railroad Classic is a great way to see exquisite Alaskan scenery in a quaint fashion. From mid-May to mid-September, the train runs 114 miles from Anchorage to Seward, passing the magnificent Chugach Mountains and the glistening Turnagain Arm waterway. Then, the train will make a stop in Girdwood and head to the Kenai Peninsula, where you can expect pretty views of waterfalls and glaciers. Later that evening, it’ll arrive in Seward on the shores of Resurrection Bay, finally returning to Girdwood and Anchorage. For a one-way trip from Anchorage to Girdwood, fares start at $84.
Grand Canyon Railway Williams, AZ > Grand Canyon, AZ
You can avoid the large crowds and tourist swamps of the Grand Canyon by visiting its grandeur via train to the Canyon’s South Rim. This 65-mile trip starts in Williams, AZ and passes you through the mighty San Francisco Peaks. The Grand Canyon Railway is made of six rail cars, including a private bar and a dome for viewing the beautiful scenery all around. Travelers can mesmerize over the scenic landscape, as the terrain shifts from high desert to prairie, and from prairie to pine. If you’re interested in lodging, there’s the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. In addition, there’s a buffet-style restaurant situated across the hotel with a carving station and pasta bar, as well as a bar located in the hotel where you can enjoy cooling beverages and indulge in pub-style food. As far as the cost goes, rates for the Railway range from $67 to $226, but there are fall and winter getaway packages that can save you up to 50 percent off train tickets. In addition, AARP members can save 15 percent on packages that include meals and accommodations.
Amtrak’s Empire Builder Chicago > St. Paul/Minneapolis > Spokane > Portland/Seattle
The American West is a beautiful landscape to gaze your eyes over, and Amtrak’s Empire Builder takes you through some majestic wilderness, traveling between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest along the Lewis and Clark trail. The Empire Builder is Amtrak’s most popular long distance train, running an impressive 2,026 miles. With an end-to-end travel time of approximately 46 hours, the train’s route starts in Chicago and ends in either Seattle or Portland. If you leave from Chicago, you’ll pass by the picturesque Mississippi River and see the illuminating skyline of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Then, you’ll cross over the North Dakota plains and into Big Sky Country Montana, passing by Glacier National Park. Pretty mountain passes and long tunnels will be all around, so you can expect an utterly gorgeous ride. Although lengthy, the train ride will be leisurely as there are plenty of 20 minutes stops along the way. Once the train arrives in Spokane, it will either go down to Seattle or head towards the Columbia River gorge near Portland for nice views of Beacon Rock and Mt. Hood. At about $179 per ticket, the Empire Builder is a train vacation that won’t leave you feeling underwhelmed.
Amtrak’s Vermonter Washington, DC > St. Albans, Vermont
Another great train ride by Amtrak is the Vermonter, which begins its journey in Washington, D.C. and ends in Vermont, running 611 miles in the span of roughly 13 hours. The Vermonter truly captures New England’s charm as it goes through New York City, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire before landing in the Great Mountain State. During fall, this train ride is specifically beautiful, as you’ll pass by charming towns and observe the lovely autumn foliage all around. There are many famous ski resorts in Vermont, so you’ll be in the perfect place to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. You can also pick up some some of Vermont’s specialties, like local maple syrup and cheddar in a country store. Tickets for the Vermonter range from about $100-$150.