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US Train Vacations

Updated on April 15, 2013

American rail travel isn't perfect.

But it's a lot better than people assume. I mean, Amtrak offers a 30 day pass where you can do any 12 journeys in that time, for less than $600. How amazing is that? And something like Washington DC to Chicago is just 1 journey. So I took it upon myself to create the perfect American Rail Vacation on Amtrak's lines. Why, you ask? Well because I can, and because being abroad so long makes me long for the old USA.

My trip starts in Washington DC, but you could start anywhere along the route. It's a giant circle.

Skip down to see some alternative routes for different parts of the country.

my planned route on Google maps.
my planned route on Google maps.
View from the Train.
View from the Train. | Source

Across America By Rail

  1. Washington DC
  2. Chicago
  3. Fargo
  4. Seattle
  5. Portland
  6. Sacramento
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Phoenix (***)
  9. San Antonio
  10. New Orleans
  11. Atlanta
  12. Washington DC

***The train does not go directly into Phoenix, but stops in Maricopa city. There is a bus from Maricopa to Phoenix so make sure to coordinate times!

This is the across America vacation I actually plan on taking as soon as I return to the country. I have friends and family in a few of these cities, which really makes it special. You may want to plan your own across America rail journey this way as well- budgeting extra time in places you are sure to enjoy.

For example, I have already been to LA and Phoenix, but I love the areas and want to take a "break" from vacation by meeting up with my college and high school friends in those cities. Atlanta has a similar appeal for me. Meeting friends means not having to figure out a new transit system or find a hotel close to the train station.

Why Should You Choose A Rail Journey?

What makes rail better than car, cruise or plane? Here are some pros of going across America by train.

  • no TSA or security lines
  • no driving
  • less bumpy than a car- I can read on a train but not in a car.
  • free to look at the scenery without having to concentrate on the road
  • no stopping for gas
  • can sleep on long train rides and save on hotels
  • can walk around the train freely without making a pit-stop or squeezing into a cramped airplane aisle
  • get transported right into the city center- no taxi from an airport 20 miles outside of it.
  • more flexibility
  • more stops possible for lower price
  • monthly pass makes train travel cheaper than ever

An Eastern Route

An option for people wanting to visit eastern cities.
An option for people wanting to visit eastern cities.

In terms of train journeys America is not a country people think of for traveling by rail. The USA is known for its highway system, but America train holidays have an underground following of dedicated riders.

My first route is great for people who already know the New England area and aren't trying to see it again, but if you go to the Amtrak website it's easy to see that they have many trains in New England as well. That is the easiest train trip to plan, as cities such as Philadelphia, Boston, and New York have well developed train systems and there is no need for me to help you there.

Amtrak runs many commuter trains, so it's best to think critically about what time you will go where. For example do not attempt to go north from NYC at 6pm on a weekday. It's important to choose trains that maximize the scenic aspect of the train. Amtrak has many recommendations on their website for the best scenic train tours USA.

US train vacations are totally possible, just not widely advertised. Many people think it is impossible to travel in the US without a car. This is not true at all.

For the most relaxing and "vacation" like experience, look at some of Amtrak's recommended scenic train tours. You can even book all-inclusive packages through Amtrak agents and get car rentals, hotel bookings, and city tours set up across the USA.

Scenic Vacations by Train USA

There are few routes to note for extreme scenic experiences.

The Adirondack line goes from New York to Quebec (yes you can take a rail trip from USA to Canada!) and is beautiful during fall when the leaves are turning.

For those starting in DC, the Vermonter line provides another beautiful experience of forest and mountain scenery.

Want to hit Canada from the west coast? The beautiful Cascades route will take passengers from Eugene OR to Vancouver BC. This may be the most varied scenic vacation route, with views from the tops of mountains, over the ocean, and into Oregon's northern rainforests.


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    • lethag profile image

      Letha G. 4 years ago from USA

      This sounds like a fun thing to do...