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The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

From vineyard routes to mountain passes — and everything in between — the best train trips in the U.S. will ensure you celebrate the journey.

These inexpensive and scenic routes are just what you need.

The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

By Alesandra Dubin, Good Housekeeping

If you hear the word vacation and immediately visualize airport crowds and TSA checkpoints, then it might be time to ditch your next plane trip in favor of a journey by train. The very notion of train travel brings with it a sense of romance and history — it’s all about savoring the slower pace and not rushing to a destination. Train travel is right for all ages, and it’s a wonderful way to see some of the country’s most stunning natural and pastoral vistas, as well as urban landscapes. Plus, it can be a much more affordable option when weighed against the cost of air travel for a family. So if you’re looking for a way to truly celebrate the journey — without the need to remove your shoes and cram your stuff into the overhead bin — consider one of the best train trips in the United States for your next low-stress family vacation. Looking to stay in one place? There's nothing wrong with choosing one of the best all-inclusive resorts for families, either.



Alaska Railroad's Coastal Classic

The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

Alaska Railroad's Coastal Classic departs from Anchorage and winds along the Turnagain Arm before turning off into the backcountry wilderness and eventually ending in Seward. Look for views of the steep Chugach Range mountains plummeting right into the ocean, and the stunning shores of Resurrection Bay; wildlife sightings along the way could include beluga whales, sheep, bear, and moose. Daily service is available seasonally, from mid-May through mid-September. Take a variety of tours in Seward — like glacier treks or sled dog rides — before heading back to Anchorage.



Surfliner

The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

Amtrak’s famous Surfliner route runs between San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego, with multiple daily departures. The route runs along the Pacific Ocean — almost close enough to catch a wave — for gorgeous views throughout the journey. And yes, you can bring along your surfboard; special racks are designed to hold travelers’ outdoor gear.



Napa Valley Wine Train

The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

If you love wine and vintage aesthetics, you absolutely must experience the Napa Valley Wine Train. Century-old railcars traverse a 150-year-old rail corridor on this 36-mile round-trip journey. The railroad once transported guests to a spa resort in Calistoga, and now winds its way across the pastoral California landscape from Napa to St. Helena and back, stopping at the famed region’s wineries all along the route. Four on-board kitchens provide locally sourced, top-end cuisine for a full luxury dining experience.



Grand Canyon Railway

The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

This trip re-creates the historic voyage to the Grand Canyon by rail, which opened to its very first passengers in 1901. Passengers aboard the Grand Canyon Railway depart from Williams Depot and make their way to the Grand Canyon Depot, which is the last operating log depot in the country. The depot is located right in the middle of National Park’s historic district, near the storied El Tovar Hotel, and merely 200 yards from the edge of the canyon’s South Rim. In all, the trip covers 65 miles of scenic terrain, with unmatched views and photo opps.



Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad takes passengers on a scenic rail journey through this beautiful mountain range. Choose from two versions of the trip, named for standout attractions: the Nantahala Gorge Excursion (44 miles) or the Tuckasegee River Excursion (32 miles). Both offer a range of seating classes, including an open-air gondola and first-class dining car. Specialty versions of the trip include wine and dine, fall foliage spotting, and even a Peanuts-theme Easter ride.



Cass Scenic Railroad

The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

The steam-driven Cass Scenic Railroad takes passengers through the mountains of West Virginia on revamped flat cars that hauled lumber to the Cass mill more than a century ago. The 11-mile heritage railroad runs from May through October, offering a trip through both history and scenery. Ride to the overlook at Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia, for unforgettable views and picture-taking spots.



Cape Cod Central Railroad

The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

Cape Cod Central is a heritage railroad that operates on 27 miles of former New Haven Railroad tracks on Cape Cod. It takes passengers through marshes, cranberry bogs, dunes — places you can only access by rail. Come for a historic narrated daytime ride, Sunday brunch, sunset dinner, or a special festive holiday ride.



Sunset Limited

The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

Travel between Louisiana and California on Sunset Limited, Amtrak’s Southernmost route. On the way from New Orleans through San Antonio, Tucson, Phoenix, and Los Angeles, see diverse scenery including the bayou country, Southwestern deserts, and California mountains. Three trains depart weekly in each direction.



Coast Starlight

The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

The Coast Starlight works its way along the west coast from Los Angeles to Seattle. On the route, pass Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and Portland. Catch scenery from verdant valleys and forests to the snow-topped mountains of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta, and Pacific Ocean shoreline to boot. This striking route runs daily.



Empire Builder

The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

Amtrak’s famous Empire Builder route runs daily between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest. It covers portions of the Lewis and Clark trail, following the route of the pioneers. Urban views include the twinkling skyline of Minneapolis and St. Paul; natural landscapes include the North Dakota plains, Big Sky country in Montana, and Glacier National Park. The route runs daily.

See more at: Good Housekeeping
The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.

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Travel Magazine: The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.
The 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S.
From vineyard routes to mountain passes — and everything in between — the best train trips in the U.S. will ensure you celebrate the journey.
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