Taking a train across the United States is a dream of several people worldwide. The majestic mountains and open fields of the US are some of the most sought-after landmarks by travelers, and taking the train adds a mystique that rivals the explorations of Lewis and Clark. So is there a train that goes across the United States?
Yes! Train lines run across the United States and feature some of the most iconic landscapes in the country. Some trains go from the East to West coast, and others meander around beautiful areas or national parks.
Taking a train is a thoughtful way of travel that harkens back to the country’s beginning and its Manifest Destiny. But, of course, some people could enjoy the click-clack of the rails and prefer being on the ground to a fast flight on a commercial airline. So read on and learn about the trains across the United States!
Benefits of Train Lines that Run Across the United States
As gas prices climb higher and inflation continues to rise, Americans are looking for ways to enjoy this great country without facing harsh financial consequences. The train has several benefits that most don’t know about, and even fewer people know how train travel works. Choosing a line is the first step in an epic trip around the USA.
Some benefits of booking a train across the country are:
- Budget-Friendly – The most important thing to know about taking the train is that it can be easy on the pocketbook. The rail can carry many people slower than an airplane while still hitting major destinations and scenic routes.
- Destinations – The number of places you can go on a train is ridiculous. There are train stations conveniently located throughout the country, and most have daily trains running to points around the northern hemisphere.
- Environmentally Sound – Going by train is a great way to contribute to the environment. The rails make the trains move with less friction which makes the train easier to push. Trains that are easy to push burn less fuel, which is a great way to reduce carbon emissions.
- Convenience – For some people, sitting back and letting the work of traveling unfold without much effort is worth a steep price. However, traveling by train is as simple as taking your seat and kicking back. The train does all the moving, and all you need to concentrate on is what kind of wine you want with your meal.
Going by train is an excellent way to spend time with your family instead of fighting the insanity on the interstates. It is also a way to travel at a cheaper rate and still have an environmental mindset when taking a family vacation.
Taking a Trip by Train is Simple and Exciting
Going by train seems like an old way of traveling that most have forgotten. However, to take a magical journey by train doesn’t require some beans you acquired from an old woman or even a set of wands. You need to get on the Amtrak and create the train vacation of your dreams!
Choosing Your Destination is the First Step in the Train Ride Process
When people are put on the spot, they often can’t remember the trip of their dreams or rattle off the first destination that comes to mind. But, by looking at the map and knowing a few other easy-to-find facts, you can start to build a dream vacation that you will never forget.
A few things to consider when choosing your destination by train are:
- Location – You need to know where you are before finding out where you want to go. Your location is important because if you live close to an Amtrak hub, your chances of getting a train are easier than in an area with no passenger train stations.
- Length – How long do you want your trip to take? Some trips can take you an hour away, and others will keep the rails hot for over two weeks. The thing to do is start small and build your way into a long trip. Trains aren’t for everyone, and they can be a bit cramped if the line is popular.
- Budget – The amount of money you want to spend on the trip is another thing to look out for. Spending lots of money on a train ride will get a private sleeper cabin for the family and all the important meals they can eat. On the other hand, traveling cheaply will allow you a tiny room for two with a shower and toilet.
- Destination – Now that the intangibles are taken care of, it is time to spread out the map and choose your destination. Keep in mind that if you have to travel to an Amtrak station, you could add hours to travel time. Amtrak goes across the US and Canada; take your time and create a vacation that will hold a special place in your family’s heart.
Now that you have a destination, it is time to get your gear together and throw down the money on your tickets. There are ways to keep the spending to a minimum, and all you need to do is jump through a few extra hoops to get what you want.
Saving Money on Train Fare is Easy if You Know What to do
Some people hawk the train schedule for cheap fares, just like airline tickets. By looking for cheap fares on historic lines or take meandering routes, you find some fantastic deals, but you can also have a great vacation just by cutting a few corners in the ticketing process.
A few ways to save money while buying cross-country train tickets are:
- Rail Pass – The most common way to save money on train tickets is by purchasing a rail pass. These passes are $500 for ten segments. That might not seem like many segments, but for five, you could travel from New York to San Francisco. By combining segments, you can extend your rail pass life.
- Commuter – If you plan on going into New York City from Chicago a few times a month, getting a commuter pass is an excellent way to save some dough. Commuter trains aren’t as fancy as some train lines but provide fast and safe travel to their destinations at a cheaper rate.
- California Rail Pass – California has some of the most sought-after engines and train lines in the United States. They have a Cali Rail Pass that allows people to hop on Amtrak or commuter trains and go wherever they need.
Amtrak is all about saving their passengers money. They provide specials at different times to allow kids to travel in the summer and make an unexpected appearance at the Christmas dinner table. So pay attention to rates and passes for deals that save money and send you on vacation!
Packing for a Train Trip is No Different than Flying
Going on a plane can be a bit of a hassle. The aircraft must be balanced weight-wise below decks, and airlines will charge out the wazoo for taking more than one carry-on piece of luggage. However, when packing for a train ride, you only need to worry about things going into one standard-sized suitcase and a single travel bag.
Some things to take on your train trip are:
- Toiletries – Unlike an airplane, the train will have an area in your sleeper or roomette with a shower and toilet. You should take your shampoo and soap with you when packing your gear, as you might need to freshen up after a night of sleeping on the train.
- Video Equipment – Taking videos is as easy as whipping out your phone, but you might need to break out the big guns when traveling to the National Parks on the Amtrak line. Unlike airlines, the extra room in your cabin will allow you to document the trip with cameras or editing equipment that might not have made it through TSA screening.
When taking a train, the most important thing to bring is your sense of adventure. IF you are a person who likes tons of videos and pictures, the time on the train will allow you to see some of the most beautiful landscapes this country has to offer. Remember to travel light and leave room for tons of souvenirs.
Some Epic Train Lines Across the United States
If you didn’t know much about passenger trains, you are in for a massive surprise because those trains go to some epic locations and emphasize viewing the country with reverence and valuing it for what it provides. Some of these epic train routes are only open a few times a year, and some are boarding as we speak.
The Lakeshore Limited is a Transcontinental Gem
The Lakeshore Limited train route runs from Grand Central Station in New York to Chicago. Some of the largest train terminals in the US are in New York, and Chicago has been a hub of the passenger train lines since their inception. While this line only has three stops, a layover in Boston is also available; it has some serious history behind it.
A few things to know about the Lakeshore Limited are:
- Grand Central Station – The Lakeshore leaves from one of the most iconic train stations in the world. The architecture and design placed into the building make it as visited a sight as the Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty.
- First Link – The Lakeshore is the first link in a chain that will take you across the country. Other segments can be added to a train trip, and when those segments are combined, they can send you on a cross-country vacation you will never forget.
The Lakeshore Limited travels to Chicago from Grand Central. Chicago is one of the main hubs of Amtrak, and most of the scenic and cross-country segments are booked through Chicago. The Lakeshore Limited isn’t the only way to get to Chicago, and the Capitol Limited is another fantastic line from Washington D.C.
The Capitol Limited is a Train with a Rich Heritage and Fantastic Route
Another way to link into a cross-country segment is riding on the Capitol Limited line. The Capitol starts where the name implies, and Washington D.C. is a city full of history and vibrant culture. The train passes through some other unique locations, and you should bring your walking shoes to get out and explore while you have the time.
The other cities that the Capitol Limited passes through are:
- Pittsburgh – The Steel City is the first stop on the route, and the people of Pennsylvania are welcoming and full of life. After traveling through the Allegheny mountains and crossing the Potomac, getting out into the city will be a nice change of pace.
- Cleveland – The home of the Rock and roll Hall of Fame is another stop on the Capitol line. Going through Ohio gives you fantastic views and some of the most picturesque landscapes you’ve ever seen.
- Chicago – Rounding out the Capitol line is a stop-off in Chicago. Illinois is an intoxicating state with landmarks and some of the best pizza ever created. It is also a culturally vibrant city full of music, nightlife, and professional sports.
Taking the Capitol line from Washington D.C. is a trip full of beautiful landmarks and a wealth of history. Taking this segment of the Amtrak rail system gives you a different feel than an NYC trip. The cities are smaller, and the trips into PN and OH countryside are worth a billion skyscrapers to some travelers.
The California Zephyr is an Excellent Train Line for Vacationers
The California Zephyr is one of the main lines leaving Chicago and heading out to the West Coast. The train makes a daily route almost 2,500 miles out to San Francisco and passes through some incredible desert landscapes. The train is also a superliner which means it has many amenities that some trains do not.
A few things the superliner train has to offer that other Amtrak trains don’t are:
- Double Decker – A superliner train is a double-decker with passenger areas stacked atop each other. Most passenger trains have only a single deck for their patrons. The superliner will house more people and give them a place to relax on their journey.
- Extended Windows – Not only does the train have space for more people, but it has some extended windows on the sides of the train. They reach from the chair rail inside and up the side until it reaches the top. These windows come in handy when you are making your way through Colorado and Nevada’s picturesque views.
- Dining Car – While other trains could have a dining car, the one on the California Zephyr is slightly different. The dining car on the Zephyr has been noticed as having some of the best prepared and served food on the Amtrak line.
The California Zephyr covers serious territory in its line. It passes through several National Parks and even through some famous mountain passes that you might recognize from popular movies. But, in the end, you disembark in San Francisco and have the state of California at your fingertips.
Some Other Train Segments That Cross the Country
Something that most people don’t see in passenger trains is the number of segments that can take them across the country. These segments are different from the Lakeshore and Capitol in that they could service various parts of the country while still taking you to fantastic destinations.
The Empire Builder is Another Option out of Chicago
One of the lines you might not have heard about is the Empire Builder out of Chicago. This line runs out to Seattle and Portland. One of the jewels of this ride is going through Glacier National Park and the fantastic coastline of Oregon, and into Washington state.
Some places that the Empire Builder passes through are:
- Portland – One of the hippest and most laid-back towns in North America is Portland, Oregon. While the city has become hotly debated, it cannot be denied that it has a quaint small-town feel backed up by some of the most friendly citizens you will find.
- Seattle – If you are going to Seattle, your first stop should be at one of the many Starbucks in town. Between the Space Needle and the Fish Market, you will need all the fuel you can get in your layover.
- Glacier National Park – Located in Montana’s Rockies, Glacier National Park is one of the more popular attractions on the Empire Builder line. However, hidden Lake is just one of the stops you must make before taking in some top-notch hiking.
The Empire Builder line will take you across the Northern portion of the United States. This route has some great stopping points, and the views rival those you would see in other National Parks like Rocky Mountain National Park in Denver, Colorado.
The Texas Eagle runs from Chicago to San Antonio.
While it doesn’t head out to the West Coast, the Texas Eagle has an interesting line with great history. What makes this one so unique is that you can book a berth on this train at any time during the week, and in a few days, you will be walking the grounds at the Alamo.
Some stops along the Texas Eagle line are:
- Dallas – When you get on a train called the Texas Eagle, you know you are headed into the big D. Dallas is one of those towns that, no matter how many times you go, there’s always something new to try. So a short stopover in Dallas should give you enough time to hit a few spots before getting back on the rails.
- San Antonio – Another bright spot in the Lone Star State is San Antonio. The most popular attraction in SA is the Alamo, and after a sobering tour of the grounds, you could need to attend a sports event or visit the famous River Walk.
The Texas Eagle is fun and has a ton of American history along its rail. The train runs daily and even has a variant that runs out to Los Angeles. It is truly fascinating how many segments can be linked to take a trip that not only has good views but loads of history behind them.
Taking the Southwest Chief is a Line with Hollywood History
Back in the old days, people would deck out entire train cars with the finest furnishings and make them like a home away from home. In the vein, the Southwest Chief is a train that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles and is a former hotspot for Hollywood movie stars.
A few of the stops along the Southwest Chief line are:
- Flagstaff – Flagstaff, Arizona, isn’t one of those places that jump to the top of many people’s places to visit list. The Southwest Chief stops here for a particular reason, the Grand Canyon. Every day when the superliner train rolls into Flagstaff, busses are waiting to ferry people out to the canyon and back.
- Native American Lands – Going through the Southwest gives you a unique option of visiting some popular Native American affluent areas of the country. The Apache and Navajo tribes have tours highlighting their people’s lands and sharing their culture with vacationers.
The Southwest Chief is an extravagant line that will take you to the glitz and glamor our Hollywood. The train is uniquely furnished and features many Southwestern pieces of art and iconography.
Taking a train across the United States is a breeze. Amtrak has stations dotted around the country, and their trains go to some of the most beautiful places this nation offers. With a few clicks on the Amtrak home page, you could book a trip that saves you money and isn’t a massive burden on the environment.
There are several benefits to taking the train across the country. For starters, the financial use of taking a train means you can book more extensive accommodations without having to worry about hotel or airline fees. Then, add in all the time you spend with your family bonding and exploring, and you come up with a winning number.