4 Fabulous Western Train Vacations

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Ride the rails for a stress-free getaway to iconic sites

Posted by: Xanterra on June 15, 2018

Recline in a spacious seat — perhaps while being served something tempting to eat, your favorite beverage in hand — and watch superlative scenery roll by.

A vacation should be hassle free, with someone else doing the planning and driving. That’s why a journey by rail is so seductive. You recline in a spacious seat — perhaps while being served something tempting to eat, your favorite beverage in hand — and watch superlative scenery roll by. When combined with some land-based guided touring of classic sights, it offers a unique and memorable experience.

Here are four very special summer and fall getaways on famous trains to some of the West’s most iconic spots. Most include tour directors and guided excursions, for the ultimate in stress-free travel. All aboard!

yellowstone-3

Three National Parks, One Memorable Trip

Cross off travel bucket-list entries on a “Glacier, Yellowstone & Grand Tetons” getaway from Holiday Vacations. The 10-night odyssey starts in Seattle, with stops at foodie-favorite Pike Place Market and a ride up the Space Needle for incomparable views of Puget Sound. Unpack in a cozy sleeper compartment on Amtrak’s Empire Builder before dinner (dig into a 100-mile-long meal!). The journey continues by bus to Montana’s Big Sky Country, where you’ll aim your camera at evergreen forests and jagged 6,000-foot peaks. Then board an open-air touring vehicle for a spin on Glacier National Park’s “Going-to-the-Sun Road.” You’ll see ice fields, lakes, and bighorn sheep and, if you’re lucky, moose. Tour Lewis & Clark Historic Trail Interpretive Center and explore Montana’s capital of Helena.

A tour highlight: Yellowstone National Park, including that celebrated geyser, Old Faithful. Thrill to more natural wonders as your driver takes you to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Don’t be surprised if a shaggy buffalo bison blocks the road. Then it’s on to Grand Teton National Park, where you’ll take a covered wagon ride to a Western-themed cookout. Finish with a scenic drive to Salt Lake City and festive farewell dinner.

Banff

Canadian Rocky Mountain Highs

Holiday Vacations’ popular “Railroading in the Rockies” spotlights crown jewels of our neighbor to the north. From Seattle, traverse the mountain-studded Olympic Peninsula by bus before boarding a ferry to Vancouver Island. In the garden-dotted city of Victoria, British Columbia’s capital, take a guided tour of the world-renowned Butchart Gardens, with its themed floral displays. In Vancouver, roam lush and lovely 1,000-acre Stanley Park before lunch at waterfront Lonsdale Quay Market.

Then the rail adventure begins! Enjoy priority boarding on VIA Rail Canada’s recently renovated The Canadian. Stewards settle you into “Sleeper Plus” cabins before freshly prepared white-tablecloth dinner is served. Awake to a memorable sight: the jagged Canadian Rockies. Spend the night in the mountain town of Jasper, Alberta, before a jaunt to a glacier. A two-night stay at the grande-dame Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, followed by a day in Canada’s cowboy capital of Calgary complete an unforgettable adventure.

Kids and Cowboys

The Grand Canyon By Train

Why bother negotiating traffic jams at the must-see Grand Canyon during summer and fall high season? Leave the car in Williams, Ariz., and take a 65-mile trip to the wondrous gorge on the historic Grand Canyon Railway. You’ll pass ponderosa pine forests and prairie, and arrive at the canyon’s South Rim two hours and 15 minutes later. On the way, enjoy frontier-style entertainment and an Old West surprise or two. Choose from multiple classes of service, including restored 1920s Pullman cars, domed observation cars with complimentary sparkling wine toasts, and a luxury parlor car with a popular open-air back platform for up-close views. Snacks are served in top-tier cars, and the café dispenses treats including old-fashioned root beer floats.

You can overnight in Williams at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, about a half-hour drive west of Flagstaff. Or book a package that includes South Rim lodging, a guided motorcoach rim tour, some meals and round-trip train fare.

Golden State Highlights by Train, Bus, and Boat

The 11-day “Great California Train Adventure” from Holiday Vacations puts you on track to explore natural and manmade wonders from San Francisco to Los Angeles, with vistas of Colorado’s Rockies tossed in. From Denver, board Amtrak’s California Zephyr, settle into a sleeping compartment, and cross the Continental Divide via a six-mile tunnel. Leave the train in Reno, for a Lake Tahoe boat ride on the MS Dixie paddle wheeler. Then leave your heart in San Francisco, as you ride cable cars, explore bustling Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf (take home locally made Ghirardelli chocolate). Cruise by Alcatraz Island and under Golden Gate Bridge.

Railway enthusiasts will get a charge out of riding behind one of the USA’s best-preserved narrow-gauge steam engines on the Roaring Camp Railroad, past mighty redwoods. Another thrill: a trip down 17-Mile Drive with the Pacific on one side and hallowed Pebble Beach golf courses on the other. Overnight in Monterey, then drive down the coast to over-the-top Hearst Castle, estate of late publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. In L.A., visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where generations of stars have left handprints in cement and take a V.I.P. tour of Warner Bros. Studio, containing sets from Friends, Batman and current TV shows. Maybe you’ll spot an off-duty celeb near tour’s end, shopping at L.A.’s sprawling Farmer’s Market.

How to Explore

Holiday Vacations is one of America’s most reputable tour companies, with more than 45 years of experience. As a nationwide provider of air, rail, motorcoach and cruise guided vacations to more than 65 destinations worldwide, their packages are inclusive of all airfare, fine hotels, meals and must-see attractions. Expert tour directors handle all travel details, assuring you a carefree and memorable vacation. Visit HolidayVacations.com for more information.

There’s no better way to make a grand trip grander than on the historic train to Grand Canyon. Travel more than 120 round-trip miles through beautiful northern Arizona while being entertained by historical cowboy characters and strolling musicians. The Grand Canyon Railway has been departing daily from Williams, Ariz., since 1901. Spend a night in Williams next door to the train depot at the AAA Three Diamond Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Just walking distance from quaint downtown Williams and Route 66, the modern hotel has a grand lobby, indoor pool and hot tub as well as Spenser’s Pub with its handcrafted 19th-century bar. Packages with train travel and overnight stays in Grand Canyon National Park and Williams are available. Visit TheTrain.com for more information.

For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from the Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.


Kitty Bean Yancey

Written by: Kitty Bean Yancey

Kitty Bean Yancey is a Washington, D.C.-based award-winning former USA TODAY travel writer. She freelances for publications including AARP Magazine and AAA publications.

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