The 5 Best Trains in the U.S. — From the Grand Canyon Railway to the Rocky Mountaineer
For nearly 200 years, the railroads have ferried passengers and freight all across the United States, transforming from just a practical form of transportation to the pinnacle of luxury for wealthy Americans by the turn of the 20th century. But when jetliners hit the scene, rail travel languished.
These days, slow travel is making a comeback, with travelers delighting in the romantic nostalgia of elegantly furnished train cars complemented by fine dining. And while the U.S. has been, admittedly, rather slow to reclaim luxury train travel — particularly compared to the rest of the world — there are a growing number of elegant rail experiences to be found across the country. Here, five of the best luxury train travel experiences in the U.S.
In August 2021, Canadian railway company Rocky Mountaineer debuted its first-ever U.S. route, Rockies to Red Rocks, a long-in-the-making two-day journey between Denver and Moab, Utah, which includes an overnight stay in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The glass-domed cars offer passengers exceptional views of the mountains, canyons, rivers, and hoodoos along the journey. Passengers enjoy multi-course meals, either in their seats or in a designated dining room, depending on ticket class. For those who book the higher class of service, SilverLeaf Plus, there's a lounge car with a bar and an exclusive outdoor observation deck.
The Grand Canyon Railway
The Grand Canyon is a must-visit destination, so why not arrive in style? Instead of sitting in traffic to enter the national park, take the Grand Canyon Railway for a leisurely adventure. The train departs from the Williams Depot in Williams, Arizona, some 60 miles south of the canyon itself, then travels for two-and-a-half hours through the desert to reach Grand Canyon Village, right next to the South Rim. For the most luxurious experience, be sure to book the Luxury Parlor or Luxury Dome class of service — the adults-only cars have private bars and open-air platforms.
Napa Valley Wine Train
Since 1864, the Napa Valley Wine Train has been carrying oenophiles through the eponymous California wine region. Though it originally traveled between Vallejo and Calistoga, the train now makes a three-hour, round-trip journey between downtown Napa and St. Helena. Though there are different itineraries, most include a multi-course gourmet meal served in the sophisticated historic railway cars, and some rides include stops and tastings at various wineries. The most popular car on the train is the Vista Dome, a Pullman from 1952, where you'll dine in a glass-domed car with nearly uninterrupted vineyard views.
Connecting Seward and Fairbanks via 470 miles of track, the Alaska Railroad provides scenic excursions through the state. Book the GoldStar Service for a more upscale experience — it's offered onboard the Denali Star train, a 12-hour itinerary connecting Anchorage and Fairbanks, and the Coastal Classic Train, which connects Anchorage and Seward. The service provides guests with spacious seats in a domed car, access to an outdoor viewing platform, meals in the dining car, and access to a private bar.
A ride on Pennsylvania's Strasburg Railroad might not be long — each journey lasts only 45 minutes. The railroad itself, however, has a long history. In fact, it's the oldest continuously operating railroad in the country, founded in 1832. For a luxurious little joy ride, book one of the historic first-class cars, which include the private-hire President's Car; the Parlor Car, which has tables and sofas; or one of the two Lounge Cars, which are outfitted with velvet-upholstered captain's chairs. Snacks and beverages are available during each ride, but there's also a special wine-and-cheese experience for adults on Friday and Saturday evenings.