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10 Best U.S. Train Trips to Take with Your Family

Freight Train, Goodnight Train, and of course, The Polar Express, are just a few books that have inspired my family to take more train rides this year. While flying is usually much faster, there is something so fun about just hopping aboard a train. The Surfliner that goes along the California coast was a big part of my childhood. We’d hop on it from San Diego and spend the day at the beach in San Clemente — sometimes we’d even take the train all the way up to Santa Barbara.

With so many trains to choose from, we’ve narrowed it down to a few of the absolute best options America has to offer. Bring the whole family along and experience the magic of The Polar Express. Take a trip along the East Coast and find yourself surrounded by lush wilderness.

Check out the 10 best train trips in the U.S. here …

  • 10 Best Train Trips in the U.S. 1 of 11
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  • Pacific Surfliner 2 of 11
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    See the beauty of California's coast on the Pacific Surfliner that runs from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, through way of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Pack a change of clothes for the kids and a picnic lunch for the whole family to eat by the shore. In it's entirety it's a 350 mile stretch, but there are plenty of places to hop on and off along the way.

     

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • Ethan Allen Express 3 of 11
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    This 241 mile trip from New York to Vermont is a great adventure and offers so much to see. It's the perfect option for a weekend away with the kids. The trip is about 5 1/2 hours, so it's not too terribly long and the lush landscape offers quite beautiful views to see.  

     

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • Coastal Classic 4 of 11
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    Head north to beautiful Alaska and see stunning wildlife on the Coastal Classic Train. This train travels 114 miles through a stunning stretch of nature between Anchorage and Seward. With connections for you to easily explore Alaska via Kenai Fjords National Park, your family can experience whale watching, dog sled rides, and more. 

     

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • Grand Canyon Railway 5 of 11
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    Get a taste of the Old West for a bit on the Grand Canyon Railway.  This 130 mile round trip will take you back to the past; you'll catch performers dressed in old-timey attire and ride in restored trains. Spend some time looking out from the Observation Dome on the train. 

     

    Find out more at Wikimedia.

  • Cass Scenic Railroad 6 of 11
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    The Cass Scenic Railroad train ride is an 11 mile  trip back in time on a 1901 railroad on restored locomotives from Cass to Bald Knob. Experience traveling via a real steam-engine through the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. Turn this trip into a history lesson for the kids and discuss how trains have evolved since they were first built. 

     Photo via Wikimedia.

  • Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad 7 of 11
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    This 45 mile train adventure is not for the faint of heart, but it's so much fun. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad ride in Colorado has a 3,000 foot elevation gain, dropping you off at 9,305 feet above sea level. To say this journey would be a thrill is an understatement. Take the opportunity to show the kids one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Western United States, The Animas River, as your ride right by it. 

     

    Find out more at Wikimedia.

  • Amtrak Cascades 8 of 11
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    Try catching a glimpse of orcas in the Puget Sound on the Amtrak Cascades. That's not all you might get to see; this 466 mile train ride goes straight from Eureka, California to Vancouver, Canada, so don't forget your passport. There are plenty of stops in between, including Portland. Before you decide to book your next summer flight, consider taking the family on a train ride to remember. 

     

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • California Zephyr 9 of 11
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    The California Zephyr is a 2,438 mile journey from Chicago to San Francisco through the rocky mountains, Moffat Tunnel, and much more. Pack your suitcases and make yourself at home in a sleeper car. Pack the kids fun games and surprises to bring out after you board the train. 

     

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • Polar Express Grand Canyon 10 of 11
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    Jump straight into the book on The Polar Express Grand Canyon. Take a 65 mile train trip through Arizona to the "North Pole," where you will be greeted by Santa, Mrs. Claus, and even reindeer. The magic isn't only when you stop; aboard the train you will have entertaining chefs, elves, and holiday surprises. 

     

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • Southwest Chief 11 of 11
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    This 2,256 mile train ride from Los Angeles to Chicago, does not disappoint. Why fly over it all when you can kick back and relax on a train? Just one trip will take you across the Mississippi River, through America's West landscape, past pueblos, ranches, and majestic canyons. 

     

    Photo via Wikimedia.

Jaime Morrison Curtis is author of the bestselling book Prudent Advice: Lessons for My Baby Daughter (A Life List for Every Woman), follow up fill-in journal My Prudent Advice, and founding co-editor at Pretty Prudent, the premier design and lifestyle blog providing inspiration and instruction to help anyone create beautiful things, food, and experiences for their friends and family. Follow Jaime on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

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