3. California Zephyr Train
Jack Kerouac would surely have taken the California Zephyr Train from Chicago to Emeryville, CA if he could. Especially because it connects passengers to “Frisco” by way of a Thruway Bus Service at Emeryville, California. The train soars past the Rocky Mountains and snow-capped Sierra Nevadas, the Moffat Tunnel, Colorado’s Gore, Byers and Glenwood Canyons, Winter Park, Truckee River, Donner Lake, San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait. That is some serious bucket list sightseeing for those hungry for the taste of American heritage rails. The total trip ticks just over 51 hours and costs $145 for a seat, $500-900 for a “roomette” and $900-1300 for a bedroom.
2. Coastal Classic
The Coastal Classic was ranked by National Geographic Traveler among their Top Ten Train Rides in North America, and the reasons are plenty. Departing from Anchorage, the train winds along Turnagain Arm, where the Chugach Range of mountains plunges straight into the icy sea. After stopping in Girdwood, the train continues but now through backcountry wilderness — probably the most beautiful part of the trip. The train arrives in Resurrection Bay after morning and turns around for Anchorage at 6 pm that evening.
Seward activities include day cruises in Resurrection Bay or Kenai Fjords National Park or a short trip to a remote island lodge for lunch, a visit to Exit Glacier or a dog sled ride, shopping, dining and the Alaska SeaLife Center.
1. Pullman Rail Journey
Take a vacation with the Pullman Rail Journey and you’ll get cruise-style service while riding the great American South. In 2015, they made it onto National Geographic’s Best Tours of North America list.
Guests are drawn to the nostalgia of traveling in vintage restored cars on historically notable routes, like the one that goes right into the City of New Orleans—you know what you’re doing if you travel the Pullman to the Jazz Fest. Sleep in 1950s sleeper cars, drink old-timey cocktails in the lounge car and eat meals served just as they were then too. Of course, you can enjoy modern necessities, like WiFi and showers, but this is otherwise a step back in time and is best enjoyed with a good book and a coffee or Manhattan, as per your taste.
At the time of writing this, a trip is listed on the Pullman site for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta for $3479, which included two nights accommodation, eight meals, drinks included aboard the train, and several sightseeing experiences around the city and festival. Prices vary per trip and trips can be found here.
Time to Hit the Rails
The next time you are planning a trip or coming up with a new experience for you and your special someone, remember that you can’t see much of anything at 35,000 feet. When you want to feel America moving right from underneath you as she opens up before you, at faster speeds than you can reach in your Prius, you’ve got to give the Rails a chance.