For many Americans, train travel feels like a thing of the past or something you might do in Europe. It’s not an option that easily comes to mind for cross-country treks across the U.S.
But there are trains that will take you from coast to coast in a variety of routes — say San Francisco to New York — and cheaply, too. If you have time and want to see the country without having to drive, this is the way to go.
Here’s more about the trip:
Why We Shouldn’t Forget About Riding The Rails
According to Derek Low, a train travel expert, “The U.S. still has an excellent rail network for visitors that’ll take you to almost all the towns and cities a visitor would want to see.”
Just look at this map of routes from the The Man in Seat 61 travel blog. You can hit up most major cities in the U.S. and all from the comfort of a scenic rail car.
RELATED: This scientist figured out the ultimate road trip across the U.S., where every stop is a landmark, national park, or historical site:
Riding His Passion For Trains Right Into A Business Venture
Low has turned that love of train travel into a business. For $49 he will help you schedule your own train-tastic journey, arranging your entire trip and booking your travel for you. After spending some time trying to navigate the Amtrak site myself, this seems like a deal.
The blogger behind The Man in Seat 61, Mark Smith, shares Low’s enthusiasm for trains.
“California Zephyr is one of world’s greatest train journeys,” he writes. “And in around 48 hours you will cross the farmlands of Nebraska, scale the Rockies beyond Denver while you eat egg & bacon for breakfast in the diner, snake through rocky river valleys in Colorado and pass through the Sierra Nevada mountains to reach Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area.”
And, if that doesn’t sound wonderful, just imagine sipping a cocktail in this observation car.
Travel The First Transcontinental Railroad Route
Still not sold? The California Zephyr route allows passengers to experience the very first transcontinental railroad route, and there is even commentary from historians and park rangers during the most significant parts of the journey.
All of this sounds pretty great, but how much is that California Zephyr really going to cost?
Turns out, it really IS affordable — depending on what kind of seat you choose. You can get from San Francisco to Chicago for as low as $137. But you have to be willing to sleep in a reclining chair for three days. A “roomette” would run you upwards of $500.
From Chicago you can keep the train going and hop on the Lakeshore Limited heading for New York City for $87, bringing your cross-country total to $224.
Now, I bet you are wondering: How comfortable are these seats I’d be spending so much time in? They actually look pretty cushy. And, Derek Low gives them a glowing review.
“The seats are spacious with plenty of legroom and they recline a good 40 degrees. They’re more comfortable than economy class seats on planes; perhaps something more like business class on a crappy domestic airline,” he says.
If you don’t want to sleep in a seat, you can always upgrade to a roomette or sleeping car. But, it will cost you. These sleeping quarters can run as much as a couple thousand dollars for a two-person private cabin.
But, the upgrade does come with some perks. The luxury accommodations will get you a private bathroom, meals in the dining car and even turn-down service.
Really, train travel seems pretty darn great. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to jump on this choo-choo train, kick my feet back and take it all in. All aboard!
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