The modern-day “Over the river and through the woods” travel is now On and Off the Rails!  Like in by train.

I recently had the pleasure of following my friend & fellow travel industry colleague on a whirlwind vacation across the US visiting 29 states, 8 cities,  4 time zones, and over 7,000 miles of rails all in 18 days! Whew!

From Saint Paul, Minnesota we went over the Mighty Mississippi River which is the second-longest river on the North American continent, and through Wisconsin to the first (short) stop in Chicago Il.  Chicago sits along Lake Michigan and is one of the largest US cities; famed for its bold architecture.  Four hours later we left for Boston.  I did mention that modern-day travel is on and off the rails?

If you’re a history buff, Boston is the city for you!  Paul Revere House, the Freedom Trail, USS Constitution to name a few must-see sites.  You can also even catch a tour to Salem, Massachusetts to learn about the Salem Witch Trials.

For the History Buff

From Boston, we traveled through MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, DE, PA, MD, and on to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.  The first amazing site is the 1907 Union Station & Amtrak’s headquarters.  Our first stop was The National Mall which holds Museums (many free), Monuments, and Memorials.  There is so much history, moving tributes, and the United States’ tumultuous past but you also feel the hope for the future.  Washington D.C. is also a foodie’s paradise. Many, many good restaurants!

On the next stop, Atlanta GA, we saw an interesting renovation.  There are new buildings popping up everywhere and many of the older buildings that have been repurposed (ie. the old Sears building which is now a market, shopping, outdoor space, and a residence).  Atlanta is filled with talented artists showing off their street art, wonderful cafes, and iconic sites such as the World of Coca Cola, Centennial Olympic Park, and Fox Theatre.

From Atlanta, we traveled to New Orleans.  Along the way, there are dozens of small towns you would never think of visiting, each distinctly unique.  We traveled through GA, AL, MS, and finally, arrived in New Orleans.


Step back in time

New Orleans is like a step back in time.  Many buildings have not been updated for 50 years and you see the destruction left by different hurricanes that have hit the area over the years.  New Orleans is the home of jazz music greats and you can still listen to live music in many places. The galleries are beautiful, beignets absolutely delicious (they are like donuts but better), and chicory very coffee strong.  It is also where the famous United States version of Mardi Gras is held each year.  Floats, parades, drinks, beads, and thousands of people line the streets of the French Quarter.

Our train crossed the Mississippi again and headed west through Lake Charles where the devastation of Hurricane Laura can be seen everywhere. We passed through Beaumont then Houston, Texas across the plains in the southwest following the border on to New Mexico.  There are small towns dotted here and there along the way to Tucson, Arizona.  Tucson is a quaint town that’s great for hiking & golf.  From Tuscon, we were off to our next major stop, Los Angeles, California.


California Dreaming

Los Angeles’ train station is grand & beautiful.  Walking in the “city of Angels” you can see so many amazing sites like the Fine Arts Building, Central Library, US Bank Tower, Biltmore Hotel ( made famous by teh movie Pretty Woman), The Broad, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Grand Park, Cathedral of our Lady, Chinatown, Dodger Stadium, Angel Point, City Hall, Angeles Flight Railroad, Bradbury Building, Million Dollar Theatre, and Central Market.  Oh my, there are so many things to see!  You may even O encounter a celebrity or two.  If that doesn’t float your boat you can certainly hike to the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign or head to the beach.

From L.A. the train headed up the coast to Oakland.  If you are lucky enough to get the seats on the ocean side, you may see dolphins playing in the water, deer on the hillsides, and the landscape that changes from ocean to mountains.  In Oakland, the city by the bay, you can take a quick BART ride (that’s the local train) into San Francisco…the Golden City.  Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fishermen’s Wharf, Ghiradelli Chocolate ( a must stop for any lover of good confections), The Walt Disney Family Museum, and Boudin Bakery are all major attractions.

West Coast Wonders

Traveling up the coast, the scenery quickly turns from water to the mountains and forests in Northern California (Redwood trees anyone?) and into the state of Oregon.  Portland which has been making a name for itself in microbreweries and doughnuts is our destination.  Voodoo Doughnuts started here.  The Willamette river runs through the city and converges with the Columbia River.  The Columbia River Gorge, which separates  Washington and Oregon States, is one of the most beautiful, scenic places I have ever seen.

Now back on the train to head back home to Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Seeing the United States by rail is amazing…it’s not necessarily a luxurious vacation but you get to see lots of sites in a relatively short period of time.   There are private accommodations on the trains called roomettes so you can have privacy. You can also build your itinerary as you see fit and it’s a great alternative to driving or flying.

Ready to plan your train-cation then contact me here.  See you on and off the rails!

If you’re new to travel please check out my recent article here.

  • credit with permission by Frank Westpfahl
  • image attributed to

Sandy Haddick

Sandy Haddick

Hi, I’m Sandy Haddick, owner and Travel Dream-Maker of Dreams are Forever Travel. I’m a certified Travel Leaders Vacation Specialist with IATA credentials and several vacation destinations & vacation brands certificates.

With a degree in Business Administration & Marketing, over 20 years in Supply Chain and my passion for planning and travel, the move to open my own agency was a natural fit: instead of moving product, I move people.

Planning a vacation can be a daunting process. There are so many details–flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and activities. The internet is a great place to look, but not the place to book! Working with Dreams Are Forever Travel ensures everything is arranged, scheduled, and paid for before you leave the house, allowing you time to enjoy your vacation. Every detail is taken care of, so you don’t have to worry about a thing. There’s never a cost to use our services, all you have to do is pack your bags!

I love making travel dreams come true; let’s start planning YOUR next dream vacation!