Even though flying is the main mode of transportation for many travelers, the U.S. still holds onto the romanticism and sense of adventure that is often associated with rail travel. Several historic railroad services still operate daily trains that connect North America — some even enticing passengers with unique vacation packages. So skip the busy airports this holiday season and hop aboard one of these five fun train trips this winter.
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight
A trip up the beautiful Pacific Coast should be on everyone’s travel bucket list, and there’s no better way to take in the breathtaking views of the west coast than from the cozy seat of a train. Amtrak’s Coast Starlight runs daily between Los Angeles and Seattle — making stops in Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay area, and Portland — as it chugs along the shoreline and past snow-capped peaks. During the 35-hour trek, passengers can take in the sights of the Puget Sound, the Cascade Range, and the Willamette Valley. Opt to relax in the comfort of the sleeper car or go for business class, which will grant you access to a wine and cheese party in the Pacific Parlour Car; whichever seat you end up in, plan on a restful journey full of stunning vistas.
Winter Park Express Train
If a weekend ski trip in the Colorado mountains is in your forecast this season, then the Winter Park Express train is for you. Operated by Amtrak, this train departs from Denver’s historic Union Station on Saturdays and Sundays (between January 7 and March 26 in 2017), then runs through the snow-covered mountains of Colorado to the charming mountain ski town of Winter Park. Here’s where you’ll find some of the best powder around, as well as affordable vacation rentals, Winter Park Resort, and a hearty dining scene. The best thing about this option is breezing past the heavy traffic that other snow-bound travelers face when hitting the slopes every weekend.
Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple? Jump aboard Amtrak’s Adirondack train, which travels along the eastern border of New York, through rolling hills and classic northeastern scenery, and ultimately ends in Montreal. Depart in the morning from NYC’s Penn Station or other stations in the state and by evening, you’ll be in the thick of Montreal’s diverse dining scene and festive holiday celebrations — like sledding, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing.
New Orleans Holiday Express
The Big Easy is a fantastic place to visit year-round thanks to its warm temperatures and vibrant nightlife, but the holiday season is an exceptionally wonderful time to travel to this fabulous city. The New Orleans Holiday Express is a five-day vacation package that departs from Chicago and travels 1,800 miles to the Crescent City. The tour includes accommodations on the train for one night, three-night Hilton New Orleans Riverside stay, hop-on/hop-off tour, and an evening jazz cruise. Pricing for this package is from $498.
The Polar Express Train Ride
This one is perfect for families. Rail Events, Inc.’s Polar Express — themed to Chris Van Allsburg’s timeless tale of the same name — departs from train stations all over the country (including in Maryland, New York, Missouri, and Washington State). Passengers can wear pajamas on the 60-minute round-trip ride, on which they’ll be given hot chocolate and cookies, hear a reading of The Polar Express, and meet Santa himself.