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Out & About

Ride the rails

Scenic train trips through America’s heartland

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Scenic train trips through America’s heartland

The U.S. is known for its sprawling plains and beautiful rugged mountain terrain, and there’s no better way to take it all in than on a carefree trip along some of the continent’s most scenic railways. 

Railroads have been in the U.S. since the 19th century and, although they originally helped settle the west and aided in America’s industrial revolution, they also allow travelers and families to discover the vast sweeping beauty of the North American landscape. 

From the Great Lakes and Adirondacks to the Rocky Mountains and California coast, here are six train trips – many of which depart from Chicago – to consider for your next big American adventure. 

SIX NATIONAL TREASURES
From canyons to towering mountains, this train trip encapsulates all of the beauty North America has to offer. The 15-day trip departs from Chicago aboard the Empire Builder, and spans 1,620 miles across some of the most scenic spots in the country. Stops include some of America’s most beloved national parks, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks. Pricing starts at $3,695 and includes 25 meals, 12 nights of hotel accommodations, and sightseeing at all of the stops. There are several departure dates to choose from in June, July and August. Visit americabyrail.com for further information on booking a trip. 

AUTUMN IN THE ADIRONDACKS

This train trip is all about enjoying the scenery as the leaves start to change in the Adirondacks. Jump on board the Lake Shore Limited for a seven-day trip that cruises from Union Station to Lake Placid, Fort Ticonderoga, Utica, Raquette Lake and more. 

Noted as one of the most scenic train trips in the world, this fall adventure is one not to be missed. The trip departs Saturday, Sept. 30, from Union Station. Trips start at $1,995 and include four nights in a hotel, food, and sightseeing options. For more information about this package, visit americabyrail.com. 

CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR
For those who would rather not have a set itinerary or simply want to travel across the country and see the sights, the California Zephyr provides the perfect opportunity. It runs daily from Chicago to San Francisco. The trip travels through the plains of Nebraska and the mountains of Colorado to Salt Lake City, before hitting Sacramento and San Francisco. A few of the highlights include the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, Moffat Tunnel, Winter Park, Donner Lake and San Pablo Bay.  For a full list of prices and availability, visit Amtrak.com. 

ALBUQUERQUE BALLOON FESTIVAL

For anyone interested in a quirky yet family-friendly adventure, this once-a-year trip takes guests from Chicago’s Union Station to the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. The 10-day tour, which takes off on Sunday, Oct. 1, aboard the California Zephyr, includes 15 meals during the trip,  seven nights of hotel accommodations, and admission to all attractions along the way. Main stops include Grand Junction and Durango (an old mining town), Santa Fe and, finally, the scenic Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. Prices start at $2,795 with additional fees for upgrades or bedrooms aboard the train. Additional details can be found by visiting americabyrail.com. 

The Rocky Mountaineer (Canada)

This adventure is for mountain lovers and adventure seekers. The Rocky Mountaineer Train, which departs from Seattle, makes various stops in the Canadian Rockies. Trips can range in length from five to 12 days, and are priced at $2,300 and up. Amenities include all food, hotel stays and stops at the legendary Vancouver Lookout, Lake Louise (a must-see) and the rest of Banff Park. A valid passport is required for this trip. For further information on packages and deals, visit rockymountaineer.com or call 877-460-3200. 

GREAT LAKES FAMILY ADVENTURE
Calling all families with young children! Embark on a five-day family adventure that ventures around the Great Lakes and includes stops in the Wisconsin Dells; Holland, Michigan; and at the USS Silversides Submarine Museum in Muskegon, Michigan. The trip departs from Chicago on Friday, Aug. 3. Pricing begins at $1,895 and includes four meals, four nights of first-class hotel stays, admission to all of the attractions and much more. For more information about this package, visit americabyrail.com.