Amtrak trips to Grand Canyon National Park help guests explore the area’s South Rim. // © 2016 iStock
Feature image (above): Amtrak Vacations’ family packages can be customized for every group. // © 2016 Amtrak Vacations
From watching the surrounding scenery go by to playing Uno with the entire family, there are numerous reasons to swap a car ride or plane trip for a train journey. U.S. rail offerings may not be as flashy as some high-speed trains that zip around Europe and Asia, but an onboard adventure in the States still brings family time to the forefront.
“Traveling by train is just cool,” said Frank Marini, president of Yankee Leisure Group. “For kids growing up with Thomas the Train or ‘The Polar Express,’ it’s fun to have the transportation portion of a family vacation be a big part of the overall experience. It’s something they’ll never forget.”
Following are five destinations to consider exploring via train. All itineraries can be customized to best suit the needs and preferences of clients.
A roundtrip train excursion to Chicago with Amtrak Vacations can launch from a number of starting points, including Dearborn, Mich. From there, it takes approximately five hours to get to the Windy City; once arrived, hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tours, CityPass booklets, three nights’ accommodations and multiple meals are included. Don’t leave without exploring Shedd Aquarium and Millennium Park, home to the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture, though it’s affectionately called “The Bean” by most.
Four days from $639 for adults, $349 for children.
Glacier National Park
Naturalist and historian George Bird Grinnell dubbed this national treasure the “Crown of the Continent.” Families can kick off their adventure of the site from the likes of Seattle; Chicago; Milwaukee; and Portland, Ore. Depending on the season, travelers on the Glacier National Park Getaway to and from Seattle will experience a boat cruise on Two Medicine Valley Lake and a scenic drive with Big Sky Circle Tour, during which they might spot mountain goats, elk and deer. Clients should overnight at Glacier Park Lodge, built in 1913. It’s a particularly convenient accommodation for families traveling through East Glacier Park Station, as the lodge is right across the street.
Six days from $1,329.
Grand Canyon National Park
Predesigned Grand Canyon itineraries for families are at the ready for those traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago, although journeys can be customized to depart from numerous other cities. On the Rails to the Grand Canyon Family Adventure from L.A., travelers stop first in Williams, Ariz., for a glimpse of small-town life on historic Route 66. From there, they take Grand Canyon Railway to the national park, riding in a 1950s train car. Highlights inside the park include a tour of the South Rim and accommodations at Maswik Lodge or Grand Canyon Railway Hotel.
Five days from $639.
If Niagara Falls is on Mom or Dad’s bucket list, Amtrak can take them there. One way is the three-day Niagara Falls Family Adventure, which kicks off early at New York City’s Penn Station (it’s about a nine-hour ride). After a night of good rest at Sheraton on the Falls Hotel — the hotel boasts an indoor waterpark, not to mention rooms with waterfall views — travelers will explore the area via bus. (WeGo Passes are included in the vacation package.) Stops at White Water Walk and the Butterfly Conservatory might follow observing the falls.
Three days from $578 for adults $289 for children.
A train ride resonates with travelers of many ages, as does seeing our nation’s capital firsthand . Also departing from New York City, Amtrak Vacations’ Washington, D.C . Family Adventure lets groups hit the sights they want to see, from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House. Hop-on, hop-off transportation is once again part of the package, as is Monuments by Moonlight, a nighttime tour that showcases major sights (the Lincoln Memorial and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, for example) after dark.
Four days from $759 for adults, $299 for children.