Are trips to the beach so last year for you? Get out of the same-ole summer rut and consider traveling by train. Up close and personal views of incredible scenery, a feeling of nostalgia by riding the rails…yup, it’s a recipe for Most. Amazing. Trip. Ever. We’ve scoured these fifty states for the most memorable railway rides that are sure to give your kid a memory promising to one-up all of her friends when she’s back in school.

Yellowstone_ridetherails_oakleyoriginalsphoto: Oakley Originals via Flickr creative commons

1.  Guided Trip Thru Yellowstone
From Glacier National Park to Yellowstone to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this ten-day guided trip covers 2850 miles of our nation’s most treasured land.  Chug thru mountain ranges, watch for bison, explore natural geysers, and step back in time with a real chuck wagon dinner.  Most meals and lodging are included in the price of the trip.

Good to Know:
The trip starts and ends in Chicago.  You can shave three days off your itinerary if you want to meet the crew in Montana and fly out of Jackson Hole.

Cost: $2695/person


PeggysCovePhoto: Dennis Jarvis via Flickr creative commons 

2.  Get To Know Your Canadian Neighbors
Originating in Chicago or the Northeast, travelers venture across the Canadian border into Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island on this nearly two-week-long exploit.  Live out your inner twelve-year-old-self at the Anne of Green Gables house or baffle your kids when your car rolls uphill at Magnetic Hill in New Brunswick.

Good to Know:
In Halifax, you’ll have an evening for individual exploration.  Make a reservation ahead of the trip at Stories for a memorable seafood dinner.  You won’t be disappointed.

Cost: $3195-3595/person


photo: via D&S NG Tour via Flickr creative commonsPhoto: D&S Tour via Flickr

3.  Guided Trip Thru Colorado
Summit as high as 14,000 feet above sea level during this 8-day tour of Colorado’s finest jewels.  Travelers will explore Pike’s Peak, the Garden of the Gods, and board the famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway.

Good to Know:
Talk your daredevil wild child into Bungee jumping off one of the highest Bungee locations on earth at the Royal Gorge suspension bridge.  (Or, if you’ve had too much family time, arrange your own plunge.)

Cost: $1985/person


photo: via Joe Ross on Flickr creative commonsPhoto: Joe Ross via Flickr creative commons

 4.  By Way of Desert to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
Do you have secret dreams of sailing the world in a hot air balloon à la Around the World in 80 Days? Imagine arriving by train to the early morning image of nearly six hundred balloons magically lifting off into the sky. This guided trip tours desert highlights like Arches National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and Santa Fe before ending at the highlighted 44th annual International Balloon Festival in New Mexico.

Good to Know:
While exploring historic downtown Santa Fe, fill your belly with the mole enchiladas at Cafe Pasqual’s during lunch.

Cost: $2399/person


photo: via Harvey Barrison on Flickr creative commonsPhoto: Harvey Barrison via Flickr creative commons

5.  Explore Our Nation’s History
Board the rails in Florida and gear up for a week-long family history lesson.  This eight-day guided trip includes stops in Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Washington, DC.  Your kids will appreciate modern-day conveniences after spending an afternoon in Williamsburg with costumed craftsmen who demonstrate their 200-year-old ways of life.  Suddenly, microwaving that frozen pancake looks pretty spiffy.

Good to Know:
During your unscheduled itinerary time in DC, you might want to check out Capital City Bike Tours where you can be all touristy on either a bike or a Segway while you hit the main Beltway stops.

Cost: $1995/person


photo: via Loco Steve on Flickr creative commonsPhoto: Loco Steve via Flickr creative commons

6.  Blaze Your Own Trail
For families who want to wing-it, the California Zephyr is a great way to blaze your own trail. Following a near identical path as the original Zephyr train, the San Francisco to Chicago route covers several states including Colorado, Utah and Nevada. Imagine chugging by Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and down through the desserts of Utah. Be thrilled by spectacular views in Gore Canyon, Co, a place with sheer drop-offs on either side—it’s only accessible by rail or kayak. You’ll pass by the hometown of Western hero Wyatt Earp and consider stopping off in Princeton Il, near Chicago, to check out the home of abolitionist Owen Lovejoy—it was a major stop on the Underground Railroad and is now a National Landmark Site. A grand total of 2,438 miles, for one amazing journey, phew!

Good to know: Tickets for kids twelve and under are half off everyday. Kids two and under are free.




—Bethany Thomas Jordan