A Return To Travel Has Us Dreaming Of These Great U.S. Train Trips

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It is not about the destination but about the journey

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Flights get you to your destination quickly and cars give you control over the journey, but trains have their unique benefits. Train rides give you that up-close-and-personal view of the landscape that a road trip does, while relieving you of driving duties. Like a ship, trains can have luxurious onboard amenities like bars, lounges and restaurants – and even sleeper cabins—but get you where you’re going much faster than a cruise. Plus, Eurail reports that trains emit between 66 to 75 percent less carbon than cars, making it the eco-friendly(ish) way to travel.

Train rides are an often forgotten mode of travel but undeniably romantic way to vacay. Here are some of the most memorable and scenic train trips you can take across the U.S.


The Southwest Chief: Chicago to Los Angeles

Police on Horseback at ABQ Balloon Fiesta

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Experience a taste of the great American West on the Southwest Chief. This train trip lasts around 40 hours and traverses eight states, passing incredible desert and mountain landscapes and offering views of ranches, missions and vistas that can only be spotted from this very train. It will make a total of 31 stops so you can step out to experience landmarks like the Grand Canyon, the artsy city of Albuquerque and the desert landscape of Flagstaff, Arizona.


Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Rail Journey


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If you’re going to visit Yellowstone National Park – one of America’s most famous and breathtaking treasures – get there in style. There is admittedly no stop in Yellowstone Park, but this iconic trip will give you some unforgettable views of the park. You’ll pick this train up in Chicago and get off in Salt Lake City. Along the way you’ll enjoy a journey through Jackson Hole to check out Grand Teton National Park before venturing over to Yellowstone. The train itself has sleeper cabins and several dining options on board.


Coast Starlight: Los Angeles to Seattle

Pacific Coast Highway Landscape

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If you want to go from the bustling streets of Hollywood to the iconic coffee shops of the rainy city, hop on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight Train. It will take you along the gorgeous cliffs of the west coast, through some of the most charming beach cities like Santa Barbara and Ventura, all the way to the Bay Area of San Francisco and even through Portland. It’s a pleasant 36-hour trip with views of the ocean the majority of the way.


‘The Ski Train’: Denver to Winter Park Resort, CO


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Locally known as “The Ski Train,” the official name of this ride is the Amtrak Winter Park Express, and it’s the way the city dwellers of Denver get to their mountain getaway for weekends on the slopes. The 67-mile trip will take just shy of four hours and afford passengers views of the beautiful Rocky Mountains, cross the Continental Divide and drop riders off at one of the most popular ski destinations in Colorado. It’s a double-decker train with an upper section dedicated to taking in the scenery.


The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

What to do along the Blue Ridge Parkway

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The Great Smoky Mountain Road winds through the North Carolina Mountains, skimming the Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers and zipping through old tunnels. You can usually view some kayakers or white water rafters along the way. All trains will leave from the depot in Bryson City (a quaint town full of character, barbecue and great beer) and there are several types of trains you can choose from, ranging from open-air options for day trips to those with first-class dining cabins for a romantic excursion.


The Big Apple to Rutland, VT


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Car-less NYC residents wanting to get out of the city for the weekend can hop aboard the Ethan Allen Express and zip off to the charming town of Rutland, Vermont. In New York, you can pick up the train at Penn Station, and enjoy watching the scenery change from metropolitan to rural. You’ll pass the Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden and eventually move onto sites like the Hudson River, beautiful yacht basins and the picturesque Delaware and Hudson Rail Trail before stopping in the charming downtown area of Rutland.


The Crescent: From New York To New Orleans

Neon Signs on Bourbon Street in New Orleans

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Go from the taxi horns of Manhattan to the music-filled streets of New Orleans on the Crescent – a 30-hour trip that takes passengers through historic landmarks – including many that were integral in the Civil Rights Movement like Greensboro, North Carolina and Birmingham, Alabama. All in all, you’ll make your way through 13 states, winding through the Deep South, on this train and enjoy a variety of sleeper cabin options and dining cabins.

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