Although motor vehicles and passenger airlines tend to play a larger role in the nation’s transportation system, one of the best ways to see America is with rail service. It may take longer, but as gasoline prices continue to remain high and airlines find new ways to add fees, rail service is more affordable than flying and offers unique glimpses of America’s vast countryside. All major Amtrak train routes feature dining cars, more leg room in coach, a variety of sleeping cars, two checked-in bags at no cost and a whole lot more room to roam about. The following are five of the best train trips in the United States., some connecting to other historic railroad services far older than automobiles and planes.
Glamorized by the folk song made famous by Arlo Guthrie and years later Willie Nelson, the City of New Orleans is an iconic nightly train service connecting Chicago and New Orleans. Covering more than 900 miles on a 19-hour trip, the train servicehas been in operation for more than 65 years and at its inception, was the longest daytime train schedule in the country. The City of New Orleans is noted for connecting cities and regions that helped shaped American music history, from early blues and the birthplace of jazz in New Orleans, to the fabled Delta blues within the Mississippi Delta, to the Memphis Sound and the Chicago blues. Other notable stops include Jackson, state capital of Mississippi, Carbondale, Illinois, with connections to St. Louis and Kansas City, and Champaign-Urbana, with connections to Davenport and Indianapolis.
Extending nearly 1,400 miles between Los Angeles and Seattle, the Coast Starlight offers passengers breathtaking vistas alongthe West Coast. Considered as one of Amtrak’s most spectacular of all train routes, the 35-hour trip operates daily, serving 29 stations. Notable stops include Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Redding, Eugene, Portland, Tacoma and the King Street Station in downtown Seattle, minutes from CenturyLink Field. Despite the name, the Coast Starlight does not travel entirely along the coast except for a 100-mile stretch between Ventura and Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc. However, the service does afford passengers unforgettable views of the San Francisco Bay Area and towering redwood trees in Shasta National Forest and the Cascade Mountains. The Coast Starlight offers several dining options, including a wine and cheese tasting each afternoon.
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