Coast to Coast by Rail
Riding the train is a peaceful and scenic way to take in the USA’s majestic vistas. The United States has a robust train system that traverses the country, transporting travelers to the hearts of major cities from coast to coast. Onboard amenities like sleeping and dining cars and Wi-Fi access make the ride both convenient and comfortable. We followed the path of the Millennial Trains Project to some of the top cities across the southern U.S. Here’s a transcontinental train trip that you can take — or customize your own with Amtrak, the national passenger rail company.
Starting Point: Los Angeles, California
To take this journey, fly into Los Angeles International Airport. Before hitting the rails, devote a few days to exploring Los Angeles, California. Billing itself as the “entertainment capital of the world,” the City of Angels brims with stars and icons of the entertainment industry. Spend the day touring sites such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, TCL Chinese Theatre, L.A. Live and the Grammy Museum, and Griffith Park, where you can hike in the shadows of the Hollywood sign. But there’s more to Los Angeles than Hollywood. Unwind before your cross-country trip by spending a few hours on the beach, perusing the funky shops of Venice Beach or riding the roller coaster at the Santa Monica Pier. Come sundown, mingle with the city’s most fashionable locals and visitors at the Standard Hotel’s rooftop pool and bar.
Train To Texas
Catch a train from Los Angeles Union Station. Trains from the downtown depot depart for cities like Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; and Seattle, Washington. To follow the path of the Millennial Trains Project, catch a train heading southeast to San Antonio, Texas. While roughly 28 hours is a long time to be on a train, the amazing views of the Southwestern landscape make it worth the ride. If you need to take a break to stretch your legs, consider a stop in Tucson, Arizona, located roughly halfway between L.A. and San Antonio. This Arizona city is home to numerous art galleries, delicious Southwestern restaurants and the scenic Saguaro National Park.
Once the train pulls into central San Antonio, you’ll instantly experience its unique flair and blend of cultures. This scenic southern Texas city is home to one of the USA’s most famous historic landmarks, the Alamo, the Franciscan mission where the legendary battle took place in 1836. When you’ve had your fill of history, enjoy a refreshing margarita at one of the many Tex-Mex restaurants lining the River Walk.
After San Antonio, you can take a quick 128-kilometer detour northeast of San Antonio to Austin, Texas’ capital city and home to a delicious food-truck scene and plenty of live music clubs. During the day take a tour of the striking Capitol building, or go boating or kayaking on Lady Bird Lake before spending the evening listening to local bands along Sixth Street.
A Scenic Journey Across The Southeast USA
Hop back onto the train in downtown San Antonio and head a little more than 875 kilometers east to New Orleans, Louisiana (the ride takes roughly 15 hours and features beautiful views of the Gulf Coast and Louisiana’s bayous). The Big Easy grooves to the sweet sounds of jazz at all hours of the day and night. Walk through historic Jackson Square or the iconic French Quarter and you’re bound to encounter a set of musicians entertaining the crowd with a jovial tune. Enjoy the music with a sweet treat in hand at Café du Monde or with a top-shelf cocktail at Maison Bourbon jazz club.
An 11½-hour, 750-kilometer train ride from New Orleans northeast through the Alabama countryside will get you to busy, bustling Atlanta, Georgia. This Southern city preserves a significant portion of the USA’s civil rights history. Pay a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, where you’ll learn all about the civil rights leader’s efforts to secure equality for blacks in the U.S. Take a tour of the World of Coca-Cola to learn about one of the most popular beverages in the world. Also devote some time to exploring the Atlanta Botanical Garden or scenic Woodruff Park.
End Of The Line: Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is a nearly 14-hour train ride from Atlanta through the rolling mountains and verdant forests of Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. The U.S. capital impresses with its world-class Smithsonian museums and picturesque monuments around the National Mall — all of which can be enjoyed for free. Washington, D.C., is also home to a thriving food scene (experience a taste of it at the trendy Union Market), plenty of shopping, historic attractions and exciting nightlife. Take a short drive or a gorgeous bike ride south of the city to beautiful Mount Vernon, where George Washington, the first president of the USA, lived and farmed. From Washington, D.C., you can hop a flight home or continue your train journey from Union Station to other East Coast destinations like New York City, New York, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Basic Route Information