Whether you want to get from coast to coast, or from north to south, traveling by rail rather than road can take you to all kinds of weird and wonderful places.

With all of the many long distance journeys you can take, buying separate tickets will allow you to stop off at different places along the way.

Here is the pick of the bunch:


1. Chicago to New Orleans

Chicago has long been the railroad centre of North America. You can set off across the U.S. in almost any direction from this mid-Western metropolis and with its many museums, its varied architecture and its world class shopping, it is a brilliant starting point for any trip. 

This route is one for the music fanatics and will take you from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Leaving Chicago and its many lively blues bars (try the Green Mill, or the House of Blues), the train heads south, parallel with the Mississippi River.

After passing through Illinois and Kentucky, make a stop at Memphis, Tennessee. Known as the birthplace of both Blues and of Rock and Roll, this place is world renowned for the music genius it has produced – Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison to name just a few.

Roll on through Mississippi and finally into Louisiana, where the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans, awaits. 


2. New York City to Miami

Departed from Manhattan’s Penn Station, the Silver Service gives a grand tour of America’s east coast.

Heading south through 11 different states, stop off for a history fix at Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Richmond. Further along, explore the antebellum architecture of Charleston and get a real feel for the American South in Savannah, Georgia.

Once into Florida, stops at Orlando, Okeechobee, Fort Lauderdale and Miami will give a real flavour for The Sunshine State with its beaches, alligators, theme parks and nightlife. Be sure to check out the best things to do in Miami before you arrive.

A lot of international travel operators offering USA tours include parts of this train journey in itineraries.


3. Chicago to Seattle/Portland

Known as the Empire Builder, this long haul will take you over the endless flatness that is the north of the country before suddenly heading up into the famous Rocky Mountains out to the Pacific Northwest on the other side.

Stop at Milwaukee for its famous breweries and the Harley Davidson Museum, before heading across Wisconsin to the Twin Cities of St Paul and Minneapolis – a real gem of a place and worth stopping at for a night or two. 

The real draw comes later on when you reach in Montana. Glacier National Park rivals the beauty of Yellowstone, its famous neighbour, but comes without the crowds.

Spend some time up in the heart of the Rockies before finishing your trip in either Seattle or Portland – two cities worth the trip is their own right.


4. Los Angeles to Seattle 

If it’s the West Coast you are after, the Coast Starlight is the journey for you.

Starting in the City of Angels, one of the top places to see in California, then travel north to Santa Barbara, and then on to the San Francisco bay area, this will take you to some of California’s most famous hotspots. The scenery is spectacular and hugely varied – you will pass through mountains, forests, deserts, wine-growing regions and along breathtaking coastline. 

Oregon and Washington are both stunningly green states and are often overshadowed by California. Portland is a vibrant city surrounded by mountains and Seattle, your final stop, is a great place for seafood, whale watching and plenty more. 


5. Chicago to Los Angeles 

At a whopping 65 hours of train travel, this is the biggie. Departing from Chicago, the Texas Eagle crosses the Mississippi and cuts through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before reaching the Pacific in Los Angeles.

Be sure to stop off at Austin and Dallas to get a real feel for Texas, the Lone Star State, as well as El Paso from which you can access Big Bend National Park. San Antonio, famous for its Riverwalk and for the Alamo, is also a popular stop before the real adventure begins. 

Continue out into the deserts of New Mexico and then into Arizona. Saguaro National Park, close to Tucson, is the best bet for exploring this rugged scenery, with its giant cacti and bizarre rock formations.

The final stretch of this mammoth crossing takes you across to Los Angeles, where you will finish up by the Pacific Ocean. 


Go Explore the USA by Train

Whether you fancy a dream holiday seeing more of north America, or you want to take a gap year in the USA or even live and work in United States, travelling by rail really is one of the best ways to get around and see the highlights. Trains might not be as quick as in Japan or Europe, but there is an established network taking in some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world.

By Jack Tatham