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Top 10 Amtrak Vacation Bucket List Experiences

Amtrak Coast Starlight
Dining Room on the Coast Starlight
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An Amtrak vacation is a dream trip for many and we want to break down the best possible bucket list experiences you can have on an Amtrak vacation. Proper planning can be the difference between an amazing and an average experience, so we will take the guess work out of that for you.

10. Riding The Acela Into New York City From the North

New York CIty has an iconic skyline, but it often isn’t visible from the train, especially arriving from the south. From the north however, you have a perfect view of the city out the right side of the train. We love to enter the city on the Acela while sitting on that side. It’ll be the last few minutes of the trip, so have everything gathered up if you are getting off in New York City so you don’t miss the sights.

9. Seeing the Pacific Ocean from the Coast Starlight

The Amtrak Coast Starlight is one of our favorite Amtrak Vacation experiences. On this route north of Oxnard and South of San Luis Obispo you’ll have amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. Views are available in coach, sleeper cars and the observation car, which is available to all passengers.

Amtrak Vacation Bucket List
Viewing the Pacific Ocean from the Coast Starlight

8. Experiencing Traditional Dining While In A Sleeper Car

There is nothing quite like fine white table cloth dining on a moving train. Amtrak has a traditional dining menu that doesn’t disappoint and will make you feel like you are riding in a classic rail car. Check out our menu review to see our favorite dishes from this menu.

Amtrak Vacation Bucket List
Eating the Salmon on the Southwest Chief

7. Riding On The Auto Train With Your Car

The Auto Train is one of the most unique experiences in all of train travel. Travelling from Virginia to Florida you are able to put your car in a special car on the train and ride in the comfort of either coach class or a sleeper car. If the thought of driving down I-95 in traffic is unappealing to you, this might be the perfect experience.

6. Relaxing in the Metropolitan Lounge at Moynihan Train Hall in New York City

Amtrak Metropolitan Lounges are private lounges in big city Amtrak Stations that are open for free to anyone riding in a sleeper car or in First Class on the Acela. Tickets for this lounge can also be purchased for $50 per day. The Metropolitan Lounge in New York City is a beautiful area that overlooks the train hall. Hot meals and drinks are provided complimentary and can be eaten in comfortable seating or a work area.

New York City Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge
Moynihan Train Hall

5. Riding The Longest Amtrak Route From Start To Finish

The Texas Eagle is the longest Amtrak Route from start to finish, clocking in at 2,728 miles and taking 68 hours. This route will take you from Chicago to Los Angeles via Texas. This will certainly be the longest Amtrak Vacation you could take, with some amazing scenery. One thing we love about the Texas Eagle is seeing so many different parts of the country with different climates in one trip. You can start in cold and windy Chicago in the winter and be in warm Arizona a few days later.

4. Being In The Observation Car on the Empire Builder Near Puget Sound

The most underrated Amtrak Route is the Empire Builder, which doesn’t get enough attention due to its northern route. The Empire Builder goes from Chicago to Seattle and back. One of the prettiest sights we’ve ever seen on an Amtrak Vacation is passing Puget Sound on the Empire Builder. You’ll want to be on the north side of the train as you pass, so if your seat or room isn’t on that side head to the observation car.

3. Crossing the Mississippi River on a Train

There are several routes on Amtrak that cross the Mississippi River, but by far our favorite is on the Sunset Limited. There is a very romantic feeling as you cross over the mighty Mississippi on a beautiful bridge.

Amtrak Vacation Bucket List
The Sunset Limited Crossing The Mississippi River

2. Taking An Around The Country Vacation On Amtrak

If you have the time to do a complete roundtrip Amtrak Vacation we highly recommend doing it. Our favorite round trip route would be taking the Empire Builder, California Zephyr, and Coast Starlight together as one 2 week trip. When we did this we spent a few days in Chicago and Seattle to visit some national parks and big cities.

1. Riding the California Zephyr in a Bedroom During the Fall or Winter

The best Amtrak Route is the California Zephyr. If you are taking an Amtrak Vacation and can only pick one route you should make it the California Zephyr. You’ll be amazed by the scenery as you travel through the canyons of Colorado and go through the mountains in California. To make the trip extra special plan to go as the leaves change colors in the fall or after the snow falls in winter.

Amtrak Vacation Bucket List

How many of these bucket list experiences have you done or would like to do? Let us know your experiences!

Robert Marmion
Rob is married to Allie and together they have been traveling the world for the past 5 years. Rob is one of the most published photographers in the world, having published over 1 million images in the last 20 years. He enjoys doing landscape and astrophotography while on the road.