7. Saratoga and North Creek Railway
Saratoga and North Creek Railway is a heritage railway that began operation in July 2011 in the upper Hudson River area of New York’s Adirondack Mountains. The train ride, fans will tell you, helped connect them to nature. Which sounds strange until you ride it to all of the very rugged destinations the train hits.
No train ride through the Adirondacks is complete without some hiking, fishing, rafting or horseback riding at the other end. Some favorites include a half day of hiking at the North Creek stop, or a weekend of dude-ranching at 1000 Acre Ranch, or some of the best whitewater in the Northeast. In August, The Wine & Rails festival takes gourmands on a scenic train ride on the Saratoga and North Creek Railway before plunking them right in front of a market full of locally made food, wines, beer and spirits.
6. Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad
There is no comparable way to gaze at the West Virginia mountains than from the inviting seats on the New Tygart Flyer. It’s all going down on the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, Elkins, West Virginia.
Several rail excursion companies operate historic locomotives and vintage passenger trains that depart April through December. Most trips include on-board food service options. Excursions range from two hours to half a day and are priced according to this and the season.
5. Napa Valley Wine Train
Get aboard a cozy country tour of California’s most beloved food and wine country when the Napa Valley Wine Train gently rocks you side to side, from Napa to St. Helena. San Francisco’s first millionaire, Samuel Brannan, had a rail line built in 1864 to take visitors to their northern Napa Valley resorts.
Today, Highway 29 runs alongside it, but unless you’re riding on it in a decked-out rock tour caliber bus, then the train is the most badass way to travel the Napa line.
Tickets for winery tours range from $200-269 per person and are apparently made for bachelor and bachelorette parties. I’d say get tickets for everyone you consider hard to buy for. When you factor in the full day of tastings, plus a Napa country meal, and it all takes place on America’s most romantic way to travel—that’s a deal in which no one is losing.
4. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Explore (or discover for the first time, as we did) the majesty of Western North Carolina aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad from Bryson City to Nantahala. The journey starts at the historic depot in Bryson City and doesn’t stray much from the pristine countryside of Western North Carolina.
Choose your train to customize, in a sense, the kind of experience you want. First Class Cars offer private dining with breathtaking views, or you can take in the same view from the biggest selfie opportunity on board, the Open Air Gondola! Tickets hover around $99-105 for one adult ticket on the diesel engine train and $110-116 for steam, but they offer a ton of discounts for kids, veterans, seniors and more.