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Updated: Sep 30, 2022

In The Great Wide travel lifestyle blog cross-country train trip announcement

As you can tell from the title, we are on a month-long train trip across the U.S.! We’ll be gone for 27 days in total – the longest trip we’ve ever done together. We’re going to explore 7 cities, including Denver, Pittsburgh, New York, Washington DC, Boston/Salem, Rockford, and Seattle.

We’re going to spend 196½ hours on trains – that’s just over 8 days (and doesn’t even include other subway trains we’re taking while exploring the cities)!

We’re traveling 9,238 miles by train through 24 states and we are doing all of the train rides for $300 TOTAL per person with Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass! They usually cost $500, which would still be a good deal, but we got them on sale!

Here’s how we’re going to do it:

Starting in Los Angeles, we’re taking Amtrak's Coast Starlight train north to Emeryville (just outside of San Francisco), where we’ll have a quick, overnight layover before we take the California Zephyr train east into the Rocky Mountains to our first real stop in Denver.

In The Great Wide travel lifestyle blog, Amtrak California Zephyr train from San Francisco to Denver

I grew up camping every summer in Colorado and have been back several times since for different occasions in autumn, and I cannot express the anticipation I feel for Adam to see it for the first time…hopefully with the aspen trees all golden and gorgeous! He’s never been to Colorado before (except in the Denver airport, but that doesn't really count), so this is one of the parts of the trip I’m most excited about!

In Colorado, I’ve spent time in Salida, Durango, Pagosa Springs, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and even Tin Cup, St Elmo, and Pitkin, but I haven’t really spent time in Denver; I’ve always just been passing through. I always thought their downtown looked beautiful though, so I’m looking forward to finally getting to explore it. Add in the fact that we’re going to get to spend time with a childhood friend of mine and I am very much looking forward to this stop!

After a few days in Denver, we’re getting back on Amtrak's California Zephyr train to cross the majority of the country and get all the way over to Pittsburgh, with a brief layover in Chicago, where we will transfer to Amtrak's Capitol Limited train. We’ll spend 2 nights back-to-back on the train for this leg: one on the way from Denver to Chicago, then another on the way from Chicago to Pittsburgh. Although we are also spending a night on the train going from San Francisco to Denver, this will be the real test of it.

And yes, we’re doing this all in COACH. The Amtrak USA Rail Passes only allow you to book coach tickets and you cannot pay the difference to upgrade to a sleeper car for specific tickets (believe me, I asked). But more on the rail passes in another post.

Painting of Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh, PA

We’ll spend a few days exploring Pittsburgh (where we’ll be visiting another old friend of mine!), but neither of us have been there before and we honestly don’t know a ton about the city, so we’re not entirely sure what vibes to expect. But we know whatever we do, it will be fun 😊

From Pittsburgh, we’re taking the Pennsylvanian train over to New York City! I am STOKED about this part of the trip because I’ve somehow managed to make it all these years without going to NYC. Yet another friend of mine who was, until recently, a Brooklyn local is coming to meet us there and show us the town! Seeing Central Park in all its autumnal glory is on my bucket list, so I’m hoping that’s going to happen on this trip!

In The Great Wide travel lifestyle blog Amtrak Pennsylvanian train from Pittsburgh to New York City

After a few days there, we’ll take a short 4-hour train ride south, aboard Amtrak's Northeast Regional route, to Washington, D.C. I was in D.C. for President Obama’s first inauguration but didn’t actually get to see and take in much of the city. Adam has never been at all (despite being a politics nerd), so we’re really looking forward to seeing the incredible monuments our nation’s capital has to offer.

From there we’ll ride the full length of the Northeast Regional train to go back north to Boston, another place neither of us have been. Our timeline for this stop is weird because we’re also going to visit nearby Salem, so we’ll only really have two half-days in Boston. I suppose you could count this as visiting 2 cities, bringing our total to 8, but I’ve just been counting it as one because of the weird timeline.

In The Great Wide travel lifestyle blog Amtrak Northeast Regional train from Washington DC to New York City and Boston

I’ve been fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials for as long as I can remember, so Salem is another one of those bucket list places for me. I’m excited we get to be there in October!

And the more I look at pictures of Boston, the more excited I am to visit! It looks like such an incredible city for mixed architecture and tons of history in a very compacted, walkable area. I also have a few friends here that we’ll be meeting up with for dinner here or drinks there (are you starting to see the theme of how we picked where to go on this trip?!), so Boston is definitely somewhere we'll be visiting again for a more in-depth experience!

After all that we’ll start our journey back west aboard Amtrak's Lakeshore Limited train. We’ll leave Boston and travel along Lake Erie to get back to Chicago, where we’ll be spending a bit of time with family in Rockford (a short drive away).

In The Great Wide travel lifestyle blog takes Amtrak Lakeshore Limited train from Boston to Chicago

We’ll spend a short 2 nights recharging there and then we’ll get on our longest single train ride of the trip, clocking in at just over 46 hours. This is the Empire Builder, traveling from Chicago through the northern region of the country (through places like North Dakota and Montana) all the way over to Seattle.

In The Great Wide travel lifestyle blog takes the Amtrak Empire Builder train from Chicago to Seattle, a 46 hour train ride

We’ll spend 2 nights in Seattle before getting on our final train, the Coast Starlight, to come back to Los Angeles, going past landmarks such as Mt Shasta, Mt Rainier, and Mt St Helens.

Watercolor painting of the Seattle skyline

I’m hoping we’ve timed this entire trip right to see fall colors everywhere because we just don’t get that in Los Angeles. It’s been 4 years since I’ve gotten to travel anywhere to see autumn in full bloom, so I think the train rides through the countryside could easily become some of the biggest highlights of this trip! Regardless, this will be quite the adventure! We are both very much looking forward to all the new places we’re visiting and the people we’ll see and meet along the way.

We’ll be sharing our experiences in detail here on our blog, including tips for traveling by train, what we see and do in each city we visit (and whether or not it was worth the time and money), things we want to do next time we’re there, Amtrak station information, and so much more. You can sign up for our newsletter below to receive notifications about new blog posts so you don’t miss a thing 😉

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Meet Phoebe Meador, author of this travel lifestyle blog article from In The Great Wide


In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog Phoebe and Adam at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, Scotland

We’re Phoebe & Adam
the couple behind
In The Great Wide!

This is our travel lifestyle blog where we not only share stories from our adventures while traveling the world, but also our thorough research of the places we visit & practical advice on how to save money so you can travel more too!

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