Categories: US

The inside track on America’s most magnificent rail trips, from New York to San Francisco

Each week, our holiday hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the work so you don’t have to. This week: Seeing America by train.

The great American train journey will be one of the holiday hits of 2023, with a tempting choice of guided, independent and tailor-made journeys on trains with evocative names, such as the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight and Rocky Mountaineer.

Travel promises a mix of ocean views, national parks, major cities and must-see sights. Flights are usually included in the price, as are hotel stays for nights when you’re not on the road. On the train you normally sit in a double sofa bed where the staff make the beds and serve coffee in the morning.

The great American train journey is set to become one of the holiday hits of 2023, with a tempting choice of guided, independent and tailor-made journeys on trains with evocative names, such as the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight (pictured, hugging the Pacific) and Rocky Mountaineer

Coast Starlight runs between LA and Seattle

Bookings for 2023 are already in full swing, with specialist travel agency Great Rail Journeys saying travel in the US has overtaken all other journeys to become long-haul best-sellers in the past three months.

These trips are relaxing affairs – many trains run at what is called ‘Kodak speed’: slow enough for photos and to enjoy the view.

Route 66 by Rail with American Sky is ideal if you want to get the feel of America’s most iconic road trip, but don’t really want to drive. The 13-day vacation travels from Chicago to Los Angeles, with trains stopping at famous Route 66 locations such as St. Louis, Albuquerque, and the Grand Canyon.

The journey begins and ends with two nights of accommodation in hotels and includes a mix of hotels and overnight trains along the way. All reservations, routes and times are made for you, with extras such as tickets for the streetcar to the top of Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the vintage Grand Canyon Railway and a homes of the stars tour in LA. Costs from £2,449pp (americansky.co.uk

).

American Sky offers a 13-night train journey through classic Route 66 hotspots such as St. Louis (pictured), Albuquerque, and the Grand Canyon

Independent travelers can arrange tailor-made vacations through Freedom Destinations.

These feature large trains such as the Coast Starlight, which hugs the spectacular Pacific coastline between LA and Seattle; the California Zephyr, which crosses the entire country between Chicago and San Francisco; the Maple Leaf, which runs from New York to Toronto; and the Rocky Mountaineer from Denver to Utah – home to dinosaur tracks and mysterious rock formations in Arches National Park.

The staff can put together a package of flights and hotels around any of the train journeys and you have the option of traveling in recliners, ‘roomettes’ for two with shared bathrooms or en-suite cabins.

Ticket prices for the two-night California Zephyr trip, for example, cost £129, £329 and £779pp for each option (freedomdestinations.co.uk).

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The California Zephyr, above, starts in Chicago and ends in San Francisco – book your journey on the train route with freedomdestinations.co.uk

If you prefer to travel as part of a friendly group, with a tour manager taking care of all train tickets and times, then fast selling holidays with Great Rail Journeys are the way to go.

The 14-day Tracks Of The Deep South tour is perfect for music lovers, including Nashville, Memphis, Graceland and the jazz clubs of New Orleans.

Extras include tastings at Jack Daniel’s Distillery, tickets to Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain Incline Railway – one of the world’s steepest – and a tour of NASA’s Space Center in Houston. Costs from € 2,545 pp.

Great Rail Journeys’ 14-day Tracks Of The Deep South tour is perfect for music lovers in Nashville (pictured), Memphis, Graceland and the jazz clubs of New Orleans

The Tracks Of The Deep South route includes a ride on Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain Incline Railway – one of the world’s steepest inclines (pictured)

This fall, Great Rail Journeys is offering a ten-day New England In The Fall trip, which takes in the White Mountains – some of the most beautiful scenery in North America – as well as the North Conway Scenic Railroad and the Mount Washington Cog Railway. Costs from € 2,395 pp

But the ultimate bucket list adventure is the complete America Coast To Coast tour on the California Zephyr.

With 14 nights in hotels and two in smart cabins, the guided vacation rolls from New York to San Francisco and has stops, tours, and excursions in Washington DC, Las Vegas, and more. Costs from £3,795pp (greatrail.com).

Great Rail Journeys’ ten-day New England In The Fall journey covers the Mount Washington Cog Railway (pictured)

The ultimate bucket list adventure is Great Rail Journeys’ America Coast To Coast tour, which runs from New York (above) to San Francisco

Jacky

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