Coast to coast USA. Best route?

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by williamn, 21 Nov 2011.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. williamn

    williamn Member

    Messages:
    469
    Joined:
    22 May 2008
    I'm planning a trip with my family travelling across the USA by train. I'm aware there are several routes with the California Zephyr being perhaps the most popular. Just wondered if anyone had any tips for their favourite route etc?
     
  2. Registered users do not see these banners - join or log in today!

    Rail Forums

     
  3. Class45

    Class45 Member

    Messages:
    33
    Joined:
    7 May 2011
    I did this trip 5 years ago. I took the Lakeshore Limited from New York to Chicago, magnificent scenery along the Hudson river between New York and Albany. I then took the California Zephyr to San Francisco ( Oakland to be precise ), the parts of the journey through the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas were breathtaking.

    The California Zephyr is timetabled so you travel through the boring bits at night, my train was several hours late so I saw alot more of the Nevada desert than I really needed to. Overall, a great trip and I'd thoroughly recommend it. I've heard the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle is very scenic too.

    It's worth stopping over in Chicago for a day or two as well.
     
  4. shinkansen1966

    shinkansen1966 Established Member

    Messages:
    1,134
    Joined:
    2 Jun 2009
    Location:
    North London
    I can highly recommend that California Zephyr, too. Broke my eastbound trip by spending a few days in Glenwood Springs. Also did the South West Chief which is less scenic.

    In 2005, went from NYC to LA via Washington DC and New Orleans.

    I do agree with the other poster: break your trip in Chicago.
     
  5. jamesontheroad

    jamesontheroad Established Member

    Messages:
    1,266
    Joined:
    24 Jan 2009
    +1 for the LSL and then the Zephyr. Stop for a few days in Chicago, because it's a fascinating city, and maybe consider a stop in Denver. The Zephyr charges through the prairies until Denver, but the moment it leaves there it starts to climb into the Rockies and the scenery doesn't stop being stunning until California :D
     
  6. Greenback

    Greenback Emeritus Moderator

    Messages:
    15,347
    Joined:
    9 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Llanelli
    I haven't ridden the Zephyr, but I did Chicago to Seattle and LA to Chicago. I preferred the former, although it was longer. I've heard that the Oakland route is the most scenic of all though.
     
  7. theblackwatch

    theblackwatch Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    9,425
    Joined:
    15 Feb 2006
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    I'll add a recommendation for the California Zephyr too. I did think that over two days on one train might become boring, but it didn't. Can't comment on the bit from New York as we did a 2 centre holiday based at Chicago and San Francisco - there's plenty to do at both those places.

    You have a choice of a reclining seat or a berth on the California Zephyr. We did one night in each - the seated overnight was surprisingly comfortable but I'm not sure I would want it for 2 nights.
     
  8. Greenback

    Greenback Emeritus Moderator

    Messages:
    15,347
    Joined:
    9 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Llanelli
    I never had a berth on my USA Rail holiday! 2 night sin a seat from Chicago to Seattle, another night from Seattle to LA, then another two back to Chicago!

    However, I did have plenty of rest in hotels in between the trains! By the end of the three weeks I could sleep anywhere!

    I think doing an Inter Rail trip which invovled lots of nights sleeping on the train was ideal preparation, even though it was a few years previously!
     
  9. Squaddie

    Squaddie Established Member

    Messages:
    1,073
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2009
    Location:
    London
    My most recent journey was on the Empire Builder in mid-winter, which was amazing. It was dark for about 15 hours a day but there was always something to look at as the train passed through countless little towns decked out in Christmas lights.

    Whichever route you choose - and there's something to be said for each of them - make sure that you book a room. Unfortunately, I think the family rooms are on the lower level, with little in the way of a view, but you can book what is called a "bedroom suite", which is two adjacent bedrooms on the top deck with the adjoining door unlocked.

    The bedrooms are fantastic, with two full-size, comfortable bunk beds (the lower bunk is big enough for two children), two armchairs either side of a big picture window and a private shower. We both slept very well indeed every night!

    The Roomettes are really small and claustrophobic, and not really ideal for a cross-country journey, although they are on the upper deck and have big windows. But you could cut costs by booking a bedroom and a roomette, as the bedrooms are big enough for the entire family during the daytime.

    Bookings open about a year ahead of departure, and the sleeping accommodation often sells out quite quickly.

    All sleeping accommodation includes three meals a day and unlimited coffee, tea and cold drinks.
     
    Last edited: 23 Nov 2011
  10. williamn

    williamn Member

    Messages:
    469
    Joined:
    22 May 2008
    Thanks for all the advice.

    It's just 3 of us, me and my parents (I'm 33, so probably not going to share a room!). I was thinking they could get a bedroom and I'd get a roomette which would be ok on my own and I think theirs is big enough for us all to sit in during the day? But you're free to move around and sit elsewhere aren't you too?

    Having said that the idea of two Bedrooms with the door between open is also appealing.
     
  11. Squaddie

    Squaddie Established Member

    Messages:
    1,073
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2009
    Location:
    London
    If there are just three of you then a bedroom and roomette would be fine, as the three of you can use the bedroom during the day (there are only two armchairs, but the lower bunk becomes a sofa) and then you can retire to your own roomette at night. The roomettes don't have private facilities but there are showers and toilets on the lower level.

    But if you have the budget then two bedrooms, adjoining or not, would be fantastic.

    You are also free to wander through the rest of the train, including the observation car. We found the observation car a little spartan, though, and quite busy, so we spent most of the journey sitting in our bedroom armchairs looking through the window. (We also felt that by sitting in the observation car we were denying seats to other passengers who did not have their own accommodation).
     
  12. 175001

    175001 Member

    Messages:
    832
    Joined:
    3 Feb 2007
    Location:
    Between Heaven and Hell
    I've done the Cali Zephyr, Empire Builder, and Southwest Chief, and i'd do the Zephyr again out of all 3!

    I'm doing the Canadian, Ocean and Skeena next year too!
     
  13. stut

    stut Established Member

    Messages:
    1,720
    Joined:
    25 Jun 2008
    Another recommendation for the California Zephyr, too. It was quite wonderful, and I didn't even mind the 6h delay... Just make sure that you have good reading material, as the stretch from Salt Lake City to Reno really is a demonstration of just how far deserts stretch on for...

    (The only downside is that, rather than chugging over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, you get dumped in the rather seedy Emeryville and bussed over. Oh well.)
     
  14. Squaddie

    Squaddie Established Member

    Messages:
    1,073
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2009
    Location:
    London
    Strangely, I'll disagree with stut regarding the reading material.

    I packed several good books, expecting to get through them all, but didn't as much as open a single one of them. Even in mid-winter, and with an entire day taken up with the vast, flat expanse of Montana, there was always something to look at and talk about. (Though we did tend to go to bed shortly after dinner each evening).
     
  15. panowilly

    panowilly Member

    Messages:
    12
    Joined:
    28 Aug 2009
    In the last 5 years I did 3 crossings on Amtrak always starting in Chicago. Once Chicago - San Francisco on the Zephyr and twice on Southwest Chief once to Albuquerque and the other one down to L.A. I love the Superliners. I strongly recommend to book for a sleeper, at least a Roomette. If you book WELL in advance you can get very reasonable prices. And you have to consider: the sleeper supplement is ALWAYS for two beds ( a complete cabin) and ALL food and beverages are included for the whole 2 day trip.

    And don't think you get a lot time for reading during daytime..... you are always busy with watching, eating and chatting with new and interesting people during meal service or in the Sightseer lounge car.

    Ride the Superliner train already here and now and get familiar with all the different coaches and accommodations.

    A 360ยบ interactive tour of the train which requires a fast internet
    http://www.kaemena360.com/home/amtrak-superliner.html


    alternatively you can walk here through the sleeper and dining car only
    http://www.kaemena360.com/360/SuperlinerSleeperTour/
     
  16. mac

    mac Member

    Messages:
    410
    Joined:
    15 Dec 2010
    Whatever way you go you will have a wonderful trip and meet all sorts of people.When i did it i went New York to Washington,chicago,denver,LA and San Franscisco stopping for a few days in each place.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page