Are trips to the beach so last year for you? Get out of the same-ole vacation 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 the continent for the most memorable railway rides sure to give your kids memories that’ll last a lifetime. Scroll down to see our picks.

photo: courtesy Vacation by Rail

1. Urban Adventure
Explore the urban sights of Canda’s biggest and best urban areas on a nine-day journey that’ll take you from Niagra Falls to Ottowa and Montreal and then, after traveling along the St. Lawrence River, land you in Quebec City, the only walled city in North America. The train ride is done in comfort, via first class accommodations, and you’ll have plenty of time to explore each city.

Good to know: Meals are included in your plan, and on long-haul trains, games and crafts are available for the kids.

Cost: $2,258/person


Yellowstone_ridetherails_oakleyoriginalsphoto: Oakley Originals via Flickr 

2. See America’s Great National Parks
You’ve always wanted to see the Big 5 when it comes National Parks (Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, Arches and Canyonlands), so why not travel by train to them all? Start your journey in either Seattle or Chicago, and make your way to Glacier National Park. You’ll travel the famous Going-the-Sun-Road, explore Upper and Lower Falls in Yellowstone, float down the Snake River, and spend a night explore Jackson Hole. After stopping at what was once part of the Oregon Trail, you’ll make your way to Utah to see the Landscape Arch, before making your way home on the famed California Zephyr, through the stunning Rocky Mountains.

Cost: $3749/person


PeggysCovephoto: Dennis Jarvis via Flickr

3. 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: $3895/person


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

4. 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: $2195/person


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

5. 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 47th 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: $2499/person


photo: via Loco Steve on Flickr creative commonsphoto: Loco Steve via Flickr 

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 nearly 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 deserts 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 every day. Kids two and under are free.



—Bethany Thomas Jordan

Feature photo: Lisa Ouellette via Flickr