Home on the East Coast, a new Adventure on the West Coast, and a train trip to bridge the distance.
Somewhere in Between
Amtrak Route: Lake Shore Limited -> Chicago Transfer -> California Zephyr Detailed information on how to book from wherever you are in the USA at Seat61, one of my favorite resources for travel.
Trip Time: 4D/3N straight through If you have time, it’s always great to explore rest stops along the way.
Tip: Bring a hot water mug, ear plugs, travel pillow, and silk travel sheets
Wby a hot water mug?
So you can stay hydrated! There’s unlimited free hot water at the cafe. It’s also a lot greener than plastic bottles.
Wby ear plugs?
If you’re sleeping in the coach section at night, it’s great to have these especially if you’re travelling during busy season, the train is full, and you’re a sensitive sleeper.
Wby a travel pillow & silk travel sheets?
A travel pillow is essential for rest if you’re in a seat for 4 days. The seats are spacious with generous legroom and they do extend farther back than an airplane seat though. The silk travel sheets are highly recommended because the train gets really cold at night. You can bring a blanket or an extra sweater too, but silk travel sheets are super light yet still keep you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold.
ITALIAN for “LET’S CROSS OVER”
Leaving New York Penn Station on overnight train to Union Station in Chicago, IL.
Arrive in the AM. You should have some time before transferring to the California Zephyr line to explore Chicago. Union Station has lockers where you can pay to leave your things while you explore.
If you have time, check out the Sears Tower (Willis Tower) or order a deep-dish pizza at Giordano's near Union Station.
Before heading back to transfer to the California Zephyr line, grab some lunch or get dinner to go at Lou Mitchell's near Union Station. The food is great and the staff go the extra mile here. Get free Milk Duds, which I learned originated from Chicago, with your order!
Wake up to rolling green pastures and start getting ready for the consistently beautiful views on the California Zephyr train. Day 3 was probably the highlight for me in terms of beautiful views.
In my experience, the staff were pretty stellar throughout the whole train ride. All of them were so full of energy, passion, and witty announcements. Pay special attention to the announcements where they let you know there's enough time to get off at a train station to stretch your legs.
Another Union Station at the Colorado stop. This is where the train windows get cleaned.
Climbing in elevation after Denver.
More breathtaking views.
Captivating scenery like this means I did not even need to touch most of my entertainment materials. I forget how wonderful and time-consuming it can be to just bask in the serene peace of the gorgeous landscapes floating by. Plus, by this point, I had developed a train schedule routine and was quite busy.
Love catching the train as it rounds the bend. Also, Platform 3/4 - any Harry Potter fans seeing this?
Dinner can feel fancy when you have to make reservations in advance and there's a train car dedicated to it. You will most likely sit with others so it's a great way to meet people. The only other food option is a cafe on the lower level of the sightseeing train car.
Absolutely gorgeous glass dome sightseeing train car. Park rangers hop on at some stops to provide commentary and history on passing scenery.
As you near nightfall, sunsets reflect off these beautiful rugged canyons.
This morning feels like leaving sunrises and heading towards sunsets.
Waking up to mountains.
Landscape becomes lush again and you travel alongside a river for a large part of the day.
Back to rolling plains and sunflower fields.
You end your journey with an Amtrak bus transfer to beautiful San Francisco, California.