Katherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Because luxury train travel is making a comeback.
By Maya Kachroo-Levine on August 13, 2019
Blame it on Murder on the Orient Express, or blame it on ever-improving flight paths or cruise amenities, but luxury train travel went out of vogue for a while there. Train travel, of course, has a moment every fall, because they present a great opportunity to see the country’s foliage at its peak. But apart from the leaf-peeping following, the fervor travelers once felt for a well-orchestrated train vacation all but dissipated for a while. Fortunately, luxury train travel has stepped up its game, both from a route and itinerary perspective, and from an amenities perspective. And that’s just one of the many reasons that chic train travel is making a comeback. Here are seven luxury train routes in the U.S. to explore.
Denali Star, from Anchorage to Denali National Park
Alaska Railroad offers a premium class, which means riding in a car with glass-dome ceilings and panoramic views. Their GoldStar Service ticket also provides access to an outdoor, upper-level platform—the only one of its kind in the world. The Denali Star route is a 12-hour trip that leaves from Anchorage and stops in Wasilla and Talkeetna before winding through Denali National Park. You’ll experience unreal views of North America’s tallest mountain before ending the trip in Fairbanks.
Rails to Rim adventure on Southwest Chief
Rails to Rim is a round-trip Vacations By Rail experience, leaving from and returning to LA. Passengers board Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in LA and get into Flagstaff early on day two—and they can watch the sunrise from the Sightseer’s Lounge floor-to-ceiling windows. The Rails to the Rim adventure then arranges passage onto the Grand Canyon Railway, which brings guests to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. After two luxury off-train nights spent in the Grand Canyon, guests take the Southwest Chief overnight train back to LA.
The Adirondack, NYC to Montreal
The Adirondack route is one of the most scenic train rides you can take on the northeast, especially in the fall. The Amtrak route leaves from Penn Station and brings guests on a stunning 10-hour passage through Hudson Valley and the Adirondacks, where the foliage is in full force. Travelers finally wind up in Montreal, Quebec, where they can explore the exceptional culinary scene and gorgeous Quebecois scenery.
Great Lakes & Trains, Chicago to Detroit
This midwestern tour by Vacations By Rail explores the best of Michigan and culminates at Mackinac Island, where guests stay overnight at The Grand Hotel. Mackinac is completely car-free and Vacations By Rail guests get to explore it in a horse-drawn carriage. The rest of the itinerary includes a tour of Sleep Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a quick Canadian sojourn to Agawa Canyon, and then a trip along the Great Lakes. The 11-day rail vacation finishes with a tour of the Ford Motor Company factory—an apt way to wrap up the trip.
Southern Comfort, Northbound from New Orleans to Fort Worth
America’s Trains is revamping luxury train travel in that they are fusing the glory of olden-day train cars with the modern amenities of a high-end hotel. Their cars have lavish accommodations—such as their master suite or deluxe double rooms— and up to five cars travel together comprising a “train set.” Alternately, the cars can travel individually as private cars to create a bespoke, ultra-luxe intimate vacation for just you and your close family or friends. The eight-day Southern Comfort route starts in NOLA and ventures deep into the heart of Texas. Passengers will make stops in Houston and beautiful and historic San Antonio before winding up in Fort Worth.
The Coast Starlight, from Los Angeles to Portland
Widely known as one of Amtrak’s most scenic routes, this ride starts in Los Angeles, and weaves up to Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Portland, among other stops. You’ll follow the Pacific Coast Highway, taking in arguably one of the most beautiful stretches of the American coastline. Best of all, you can take in the views from the Sightseer Lounge car or your Superliner seat, rather than from behind the wheel of a car.
The Vermonter, from St. Albans to Washington D.C.
The Vermonter is one of the most classic trains in the country, and for good reason. The route passes one charming northeastern town after another, all of which can be fawned over through the Vermonter’s wide windows, as the train winds from St. Albans, NY to Washington D.C. Some of the high-points of this luxurious route are the Green Mountain National Forest, and of course, poking around Vermont’s quaint shops for New England exports like hazy IPAs and unbelievably good maple syrup.