Daydream Adventure: Cross-Country Train Ride

Please join me as my wanders to…


Train Travel Collage (via Google Images)

Yes…a cross-country train ride!  This daydream started a few years back after I learned that my college boyfriend’s dad planned a cross-country train trip every year to meet up with an old friend!  How cool is that?! 

A 3,000+ mile journey across the United States by train could be one of the greatest travel experiences of time – it’s easy, comfortable, safe, and an affordable alternative to flying. After much research, I have found that many train travelers feel one route stands out as the most spectacular for both scenery & historical significance: the ‘California Zephyr’ from Chicago to San Francisco.  To keep up with the times, you can now book your ticket online, and then find the self-service ticket machine (like the airports!) at the train station.

Amtrak Self-Service Ticket

The trains themselves are like mobile hotels, with gleaming twin-decked coaches, air-conditioning, and uniformed attendants who make you feel you have stepped back in time into a 1930’s Hollywood movie. The reclining seats are thick and soft, with leg-rests so you can snooze after a meal or sleep through the night.  There are also traditional sleeping cars with cozy (a.k.a. tiny, but sufficient) bedrooms that range from single ‘roomettes’ to family size rooms for those traveling with children. Accommodation here includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the dining car, as well as complimentary tea or coffee, and a newspaper delivered each morning!  Oh – a wonderful feeling to be so pampered on your journey!

Coach Seats

Business Seats

Bedroom Suite

Dining Car

Sightseeing Lounge

Zephyr Map (via Holidays by Rail)

Arrive at Chicago’s historic Union Station for your departure.

Chicago (via Wikitravel)

Enjoy the view as you cross the mighty Mississippi River and then on to the farmlands of Nebraska.

Nebraska Farmlands (via Flickr: mdshullaw)

The next morning, you will awake to the magnificent view of the Colorado Rockies on the horizon.

Colorado Rockies (via 3 Scape Photos)

Then you will climb the front range of the Rockies and head on towards the Continental Divide.  The train will travel from Denver to Grand Junction, snaking through rocky river valleys along the way.


By mid-morning, you will be arriving in “The Biggest Little City in the World,” Reno, Nevada. The train will then cross the border into California, climbing through the legendary Donner Pass, the highest point in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

via Google Images

Then you’re in the home stretch – you arrive at the final leg of your incredible train journey – Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area.

San Fran! (via Holidays by Rail)

Check out all these great routes!

A Guide to Train Travel in the US (via Seat61)

My Other Top Picks:
The Sunset Limited – Florida to Los Angeles. The train makes a dizzy crossing of the Mississippi River on the Huey P Long Bridge outside New Orleans before traveling among bayous, white egrets, alligators, mansions and fields of sugar cane. After San Antonio it joins the Rio Grande, taking a day to cross the sagebrush and mesquite prairies of Texas.

The Crescent – New York to New Orleans. This train goes through the Blue Ridge Mountains and idyllic Shenandoah National Park with its dogwoods and cedars. Beyond Atlanta lie sleepy southern towns with quaint general stores and sun-bleached houses. The train also makes a dramatic crossing of Lake Pontchartrain, skimming a few feet above the water on a six-mile causeway.

The Coast Starlight – between Seattle and Los Angeles. This train travels by way of Washington, Oregon, and California. It passes some of America’s highest mountains, such as volcanic Mt. Hood, as well as the emerald forests and waterfalls of Twin Peaks country. Beyond San Luis Obispo it runs along tracks set high on cliffs, with splendid views of the Pacific surf and beaches.

*SIGH* – I do love to daydream…and I hope you enjoyed exploring with me!

My Daydream List is just that – a list of adventures and places that would otherwise fill my bulletin boards, drawers, and notebooks. It includes rugged terrain and serene beaches, oceanic endeavors and oriental exploration — anything and everything that makes my heart beat faster. It is not a bucket list, there is no box to be checked, or expectation to be filled. Instead, it is a list of opportunities, and I hope to take on several of them in my lifetime. ~Adapted from 4th & Flatiron’s Adventure List! She stated exactly what I was thinking!! ~


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