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Track Stars: Try These Train Trips

Train travel harkens back to the early 1900s during the Golden Age of rail. Ribbons of steel crisscrossed the nation and made travel efficient, affordable and popular. Today, restored vintage cars capture the elegance of the era, and travelers can opt for this more leisurely mode of transportation.

Groups will find that trains cater to a wide variety of interests, such as scenery, history, food and wine, murder mystery dinners and holiday events. Here is just a sampling of trips that can add delight and depth to any itinerary.

Spectacular Scenery

Alaska Railroad, Alaska

A quintessential experience, the Alaska Railroad cuts through wilderness that showcases shimmering rivers, towering forests and still-frozen tundra. Photographers can hang out on the open-air platforms to capture the stunning mountain scenery and wildlife foraging near the tracks.

The railroad’s packages highlight the best lodges and attractions along each route, from Anchorage to Seward, Denali National Park and Fairbanks. Gold Star service offers a new dining menu and dome cars for excellent viewing, the ultimate in Alaska travel.

Between Anchorage and Seward, the gateway to the Kenai Fjords National Park, the Coastal Classic Train winds around Turnagain Arm where the mountains meet the ocean. Between Anchorage and Fairbanks, the Denali Star Train delivers passengers to this iconic national park and stops at the tiny town of Talkeetna, a charming throwback to old Alaska. Heading south from Anchorage, the Glacier Discovery Train offers noteworthy excursions such as kayaking a glacial lake and salmon bakes.

California Zephyr, Chicago to San Francisco

The Amtrak California Zephyr runs daily between the skyscrapers of Chicago and the waters of San Francisco Bay. In between, it slices through the plains of Nebraska before crossing the front range of the Rockies, the Continental Divide, Glenwood Canyon, the Utah Desert and the High Sierras. Between Salt Lake City and Sacramento, the route follows a portion of the original 1860s Transcontinental Railroad.

A group itinerary can be built to include stopovers including skiing at Winter Park, Colorado; soaking in the hot springs at Glenwood Springs, Colorado; or gaming in Reno, Nevada. Sleeping cars provide a range of private rooms with amenities. Coach offers wide, reclining seats with headrests and footrests. Dining cars feature full-service hot meals.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.