The romance of travel by rail has endured into the 21st century. From the clickety-clack of steel wheels on steel rails, to the spectacular vistas often on display outside the window, railroading continues to inspire diehard rail buffs and ordinary vacationers alike. For those entertaining the notion of train travel for their next vacation, here—as reported by TravelandLeisure.com—are seven opportunities that shouldn’t be passed up.
• The Napa Valley Wine Train: This train takes riders through the picturesque wine country northeast of the Bay Area. The route follows a rail line originally built in 1864 that goes north to the resort town of Calistoga. Visitors can now take a three-hour, 36-mile round-trip journey from downtown Napa to St. Helena and back. After boarding the train at the McKinstry Street Station, travel through the old industrial section of Napa, then head into the scenery of wine country. Tourists can hop on and off the train along the way and stay overnight at one of the great hotels in Napa Valley.
• The Pacific Surfliner: Venture along the ocean on this Amtrak train that travels 351 miles through southern California. Start in San Diego and head north, stopping along the way in quaint ocean towns like Encinitas, Carpinteria, San Juan Capistrano, and Ventura. Be sure to leave some time to explore Santa Barbara, or head all the way to the end of the line at San Luis Obispo and then head back.
• The Coast Starlight: Ride up the edge of the West Coast on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, which goes all the way from Los Angeles to Seattle, passing through Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and Portland. The scenery along the way includes snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta, forests and valleys, and long stretches of Pacific Ocean shoreline.
• The Grand Canyon Railway: Dating back to 1901, this train offers riders a lesson in history from the Wild West and the opportunity to see the beautiful scenery of one of the U.S.’s most famous regions. Ride in the restored cars, hear folklore and tales from the crew, and be entertained by authentic characters and musicians who bring the Old West to life. The railway can be ridden to the South Rim in a 65-mile trip across the high desert plateau.
• Amtrak Cascades: Cross over the United States’ northern border on Amtrak Cascades, stretching from Vancouver, Canada to Eugene, Oregon, passing through Portland and Seattle along the way. Stop in cities for day trips or overnight stays, and then hop back on a train to pass by Mount St. Helens and across the Columbia River Gorge.
• An Autumn Tour in New England: Take an eight-day escorted rail tour through New England in the fall to take in all the leaf colors. The trip includes three scenic rail excursions aboard the Conway Scenic Railroad, Green Mountain Flyer Fall Foliage Express and Cape Cod Central Railroad. Additional highlights include Boston city sightseeing, a visit to Plimoth Plantation, excursions to Mystic Seaport, Hildene, the Norman Rockwell Museum and Newport Mansion.
• The Maple Leaf Train: Take a train trip that starts at Niagara Falls and ends in New York on Amtrak’s Maple Leaf train. Along the way, riders will travel through the scenic Hudson River Valley, New York’s wine country, and the gorges of the Finger Lakes region. While at Niagara Falls, stop for a cruise on The Hornblower to the rushing falls or take a Journey Behind the Falls tour, which brings visitors 150 feet below ground to tunnels that lead to observation spots at the foot of the Falls.
Any one of these or other scenic rail journeys is bound to leave a lasting impression. All aboard for the adventure of a lifetime!
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