Suggestions for cross-country routes

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mitako

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Hubby and I are considering a cross-country trip next year. We've twice ridden the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Portland and enjoyed that very much, but having already ridden that line, I'd like to try others. I'd love suggestions on the best LD trains/routes to see the most interesting cities and the most states between the coasts.

We will start and finish in Los Angeles, as we live near there. Husband's family is near Baltimore, so that's also a required city. We also have family in Dallas and in lower Florida, so those are possibilities but not necessities.

If you were going to plan this trip, what routes would you take? What cities are worth a night or two along the way? I don't want to just get on the train in Los Angeles and ride nonstop to the East Coast...... we'll stop for sightseeing in at least a couple of cities both going east and coming back home.

Thanks!
 

LookingGlassTie

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Hmmm, here's a possible routing:

Take the Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle to (or near) Dallas. Stop there, then continue on the TE to Chicago and stop there. Then take the City of New Orleans to New Orleans and stop there. After that, take the Crescent to Washington, DC. Then take a Northeast Regional to Baltimore. Afterward, take the Palmetto from Baltimore to Savannah, GA. And then take the Silver Meteor to Florida.

Based on how long you want to stay in the various cities, those trains and routes can return you to LA.
 

Sauve850

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I live in south Florida and spend summers out west. I take different routes back home. I would leave out of Emeryville on the Zephyr to Chicago and spend a day or two there. Its a very scenic route and Chicago has much to offer. Take the Capital Limited overnight to Washington DC for a couple of days. Explore the city as well as northern Virginia.

You can hop a number of trains daily to Baltimore then take the Silver Meteor to Florida. If its a round trip Id go back to Washington on the Meteor and take the Crescent to New Orleans. Another of my favorite cities. The Sunset then will take you back to Los Angeles. I have not been on the Sunset but its on my list to do.
 

SarahZ

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I would take the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago and spend a day or two in Chicago. Then I'd take the Cardinal to Washington D.C. (The eastbound Cardinal is more scenic than the Capitol Limited, but that is also a very nice train.) You could spend some time in D.C. and then take a regional train to Baltimore.

On the return, I would take the Crescent to New Orleans, spending a day or two there, and then catch the Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Los Angeles.
 
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iplaybass

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Avoid the Capitol Limited eastbound for a few months until they get the "fresh new dining experience" running smoothly. Not going to hope the dining car comes back.
 

Bob Dylan

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I second Looking Glass Tie's ideas, except for the trip to Florida!( great place if you're an Alligator, a Retired Gangster or 85!!)
 
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RPC

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I'd propose taking the Sunset Limited from Los Angeles to New Orleans. Spend a day or two, then take the Crescent to Baltimore. Spend time with your family, then take MARC down to DC and take the Cardinal to Chicago. (Cardinal will have the closest thing to real food between the east coast and Chicago, plus in the summer you'll go through most of the New River Gorge in daylight.) Spend as much time as you like in Chicago, then take the California Zephyr to Sacramento or Emeryville. Overnight there, then take the Coast Starlight or (if you REALLY don't want to repeat that route) the San Joaquin/bus combo back to Los Angeles.
 

cpotisch

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This is what I would recommend:

  • Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle - Los Angeles-Chicago
  • Cardinal - Chicago-Baltimore
  • Cardinal - Baltimore-Chicago
  • Southwest Chief - Chicago-Los Angeles
The Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle is three nights, so you get eight meals and plenty of time to relax. It offers a wide variety of scenery, including some very pretty deserts and southern towns, including a run next to the Mexican border. The Cardinal is a small train, and has some of the best scenery east of Chicago (including the New River Gorge and Appalachian Mountains). Finally, the Southwest Chief is a two night ride that that offers beautiful scenery (including the famous Raton Pass).

Overall, I think that combination will offer you a wide contrast in scenery, and should make for a wonderful trip.
 
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ParanoidAndroid

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The Southwest Chief does not run along the Grand Canyon at all... it runs through Glorieta Pass in New Mexico (just north of Lamy), which is still scenic, but it's a different ballpark. If you want to visit the Grand Canyon, get off in Flagstaff AZ, take the connecting bus to Williams, and ride the historic Grand Canyon Railway to South Rim. Going westbound, you'll stay a night in Williams.

The tightest canyon-like section on the SWC is just a couple minutes north of Lamy, so don't miss it.
 
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cpotisch

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The Southwest Chief does not run along the Grand Canyon at all... it runs through Glorieta Pass in New Mexico (just north of Lamy), which is still scenic, but it's a different ballpark. If you want to visit the Grand Canyon, get off in Flagstaff AZ, take the connecting bus to Williams, and ride the historic Grand Canyon Railway to South Rim. Going westbound, you'll stay a night in Williams.

The tightest canyon-like section on the SWC is just a couple minutes north of Lamy, so don't miss it.
Fixed.
 

crescent-zephyr

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The California Zephyr is a can't miss train. Along the way, you could step off around Grand Junction Colorado where you can rent a car and visit Arches National Park, or head down towards durango for the steam train, or visit Mesa Verde.

You could also step off in Granby, Colorado and visit Rocky Mountain National Park.

Chicago is a great city to visit and explore, the art museum, an architectural River cruise, theatre district, pizza, pizza, pizza... Ha.

I always reccomend a visit to the Henry ford in Dearborn Michigan... The Amtrak route from chicago to Dearborn (the wolverine) is ️very nice. The henry ford and greenfield village is really an impressive Museum complex that everyone should see (you'll need 2 days to even start to see it all... If you only have 1 day, focus on the village).

Whichever other routes you take, don't miss the zephyr. After riding all the "western" LD trains in the usa and Canada, it is by far my favorite for scenery.
 

cpotisch

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The California Zephyr is a can't miss train. Along the way, you could step off around Grand Junction Colorado where you can rent a car and visit Arches National Park, or head down towards durango for the steam train, or visit Mesa Verde.

You could also step off in Granby, Colorado and visit Rocky Mountain National Park.

Chicago is a great city to visit and explore, the art museum, an architectural River cruise, theatre district, pizza, pizza, pizza... Ha.

I always reccomend a visit to the Henry ford in Dearborn Michigan... The Amtrak route from chicago to Dearborn (the wolverine) is ️very nice. The henry ford and greenfield village is really an impressive Museum complex that everyone should see (you'll need 2 days to even start to see it all... If you only have 1 day, focus on the village).

Whichever other routes you take, don't miss the zephyr. After riding all the "western" LD trains in the usa and Canada, it is by far my favorite for scenery.
But the OP said that they didn't want to take the Starlight again, and they need to start and finish the trip in Los Angeles.
 

crescent-zephyr

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On my trips to LA I've taken the zephyr and the San Joquin with the bus bridge a few times.

If the OP only wants to start and stop in LA, they only have 2 choices so there's not much of a question which routes to take. Ha.
 

cpotisch

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On my trips to LA I've taken the zephyr and the San Joquin with the bus bridge a few times.

If the OP only wants to start and stop in LA, they only have 2 choices so there's not much of a question which routes to take. Ha.
Three choices (I guess two and a half) - Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle. So the options are to go through Chicago or New Orleans.
 
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On my trips to LA I've taken the zephyr and the San Joquin with the bus bridge a few times.

If the OP only wants to start and stop in LA, they only have 2 choices so there's not much of a question which routes to take. Ha.
Three choices (I guess two and a half) - Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle. So the options are to go through Chicago or New Orleans.
Coast Starlight but that only goes north-south and the OP has been on it. But the CS can connect with the CZ and that is one I'd recommend (but the SWC is one I would too). If you want to get to CHI, the SWC would be the fastest and doesn't require a transfer.
 

cpotisch

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On my trips to LA I've taken the zephyr and the San Joquin with the bus bridge a few times.

If the OP only wants to start and stop in LA, they only have 2 choices so there's not much of a question which routes to take. Ha.
Three choices (I guess two and a half) - Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle. So the options are to go through Chicago or New Orleans.
Coast Starlight but that only goes north-south and the OP has been on it. But the CS can connect with the CZ and that is one I'd recommend (but the SWC is one I would too). If you want to get to CHI, the SWC would be the fastest and doesn't require a transfer.
That's why I was suggesting the Sunset/Eagle one way and the SWC the other way. That way they get to see a wide range of scenery. Remember, people don't take a cross country train trip to save time, so the extra 18 hours on the train by taking #422 isn't really that significant.
 
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Remember, people don't take a cross country train trip to save time, so the extra 18 hours on the train by taking #422 isn't really that significant.
I take the train because I'm afraid of flying. I still want to get there as fast as possible (assuming I don't drive or take buses). For a three day trip coast to trip, a few extra hours wouldn't be a big deal to me but 18 would. And of course I'd love to avoid transfers whenever possible.
 

ParanoidAndroid

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I'd still opt for the CZ to Emeryville or Sacramento, then CS or San Joaquin & bus to LA.

Even the quickest transfer (2:13pm #5 to 2:50pm bus connection to #716) puts the traveler in LA at 11:15pm, which I'd think be undesirable and too fast for a vacation. You could stay in Sacramento and take #702 direct from SAC (12:41pm next day) to Bakersfield then the connection bus to LA, which gets them into LA at 8:30pm (about the same as an early train #11). This would leave time to visit the rail museum in Sacramento, and walk around the old town section there.

Of course, if the Coast Starlight is planned to detour through the San Joaquin Valley & Tehachapi Pass on your travel date, then definitely switch to that if you can! Note that they'll put up a notification on only relatively short notice before the detour dates.
 
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