The Most Iconic Train Ride in Every State (#26 Sounds Like a Blast!)

Discover the heart and soul of each state through the windows of these unforgettable train experiences.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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Imagine a train ride, rolling across the countryside, through the mountain passes, and through historic towns.

While these images may be what Americans commonly experienced when traveling 100 years ago, today, these can be one of the best travel adventures to have.

Whether you’re looking for an affordable way to travel or just want a new experience without a lot of driving, grab one of your best travel credit cards and climb aboard these iconic train rides.

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Alabama: Heart of Dixie Railroad Calera & Shelby Train Ride

rades/Adobe train ride

You can stop throwing money away on pointless trips and instead jump on board The Calera & Shelby Railroad to travel through the Shelby County forests.

The train, which operates along the L&N; Alabama Mineral Railroad route, is a 75-minute stunning trip into the wilderness.

Alaska: Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic

Pattarisara/Adobe traveller girl in jeans jacket

Watch the coast go by as you travel from Anchorage to Girdwood to Seward on the Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic.

It takes you along the Turnagain Arm and deep into the backcountry along the route before stopping at Resurrection Bay.

This daily route takes all day, but the views of the water and wilderness are worth it.

Arizona: Grand Canyon Railway

kravka/Adobe vintage steam locomotive

The Grand Canyon Railway is a historic passenger train that departs Williams, Arizona, and makes its way through Grand Canyon Village.

These tours take passengers deep into the Grand Canyon, across the desert landscape, and into the lush green forests on an adventure that’s been taking place since 1901.

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Arkansas: Arkansas Van Buren to Winslow

MarijaBazarova/Adobe woman travelling by train

Travel through the Boston Mountains and high above the trees on the Arkansas Van Buren to Winslow train ride.

This 75-mile, three-hour round-trip treat also takes you through the Winslow Tunnel and over three valley trestles.

California: Napa Valley Wine Train

Paul/Adobe napa valley wine train

The 36-mile round-trip excursion on the Napa Valley Wine Train is just enough to enjoy some of the most celebrated wineries in the region.

On board a fully restored early 1900s train, you can enjoy a luxurious meal while watching the countryside pass by outside your window.

Colorado: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Nick Fox/Adobe historic steam engine train

Experience the natural beauty of Colorado’s diverse landscape by traveling on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad, across about 42 miles between the two cities.

This vintage train ride aims to create an authentic railroading experience from the 1880s to preserve the history and importance of the region’s railroads.

Connecticut: Essex Steam Train & Riverboat

Nick Fox/Adobe young man looking out of train window

The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat excursion takes you through the Connecticut River Valley, where you’ll see historic small towns, bald eagles, and plenty of forested areas.

You can ride the train back or board the Becky Thatcher at Deep River Landing to take a riverboat back.

Delaware: Wilmington and Western Railroad

The Wilmington and Western Railroad began operating in 1872, taking people between the towns as they worked in the mills.

Today, it operates steam and diesel locomotives across Northern Delaware, creating the best view of the region's fall foliage and spring forests each year.

Florida: Seminole Gulf Railway

MarijaBazarova/Adobe woman looking out the window train

For a different type of iconic fun, try the Seminole Gulf Railway, a passenger train that travels throughout Southwest Florida.

Among the train routes is the Murder Mystery Dinner Experience, which is about 40 miles long along the Caloosahatchee River.

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Georgia: Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

bella.elisichenko/Adobe girl with a backpack sitting in the train

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway in northern Georgia follows the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad line as it runs along the Toccoa River.

This 26-mile round-trip experience takes Passengers to McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee.

There’s a two-hour layover before it returns, allowing visitors to explore the sister city.

Hawaii: The Hawaiian Railway Society

Melinda Nagy/Adobe train from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy

Take a two-hour train ride along the Hawaiian Railway Society train on an educational journey that shares the history of the railroad on the island of Oahu.

Along the route, you’ll hear stories of the history, passengers, and builders of the trains and their importance in helping to develop the area. It also has a railway museum.

Idaho: Thunder Mountain Line

Alex Segre/Adobe girl looking out of a train window

Choose from the executive, first class, or standard class fare on board the Thunder Mountain Line, the only scenic railroad in Idaho.

Pass through valleys and mountains, and learn about the small towns and depots that developed to support the railway over its early history.

Illinois: California Zephyr

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There may not be a more scenic trip throughout the country than this.

The California Zephyr Train begins in Chicago and travels through the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the Colorado River before making it to San Francisco.

Indiana: French Lick Scenic Railway

Drpixel/Adobe children looking out from window

The French Lick Scenic Railway is a 20-mile ride that takes you back in time from French Lick to Jasper.

Special themed train excursions happen throughout the year, including some that are educational and others designed to spur a love of the rails in younger children.

A museum also showcases the railroad’s history, which dates back to 1961.

Iowa: Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

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The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad offers freight and passenger excursions in Boone County, making this an authentic, working railroad.

The train ride is nearly two hours long, or a bit more if you are taking one of their picnic or dinner train excursions.

As it travels through the wooded hills, one of the best parts is the 156-ft Bass Point Creek High Bridge that spans the Des Moines River.

Kansas: Heart of the Heartlands Museum

Stockphotoman/Adobe Big Boy 4014 in Kansas

The Heart of the Heartlands Museum is a rail museum in a former mining community and includes the Missouri Pacific Depot.

While exploring the museum is fun, taking to the Kansas City Southern Steam Locomotive is even more enjoyable, especially for a special event onboard.

Kentucky: My Old Kentucky Dinner Train in Bardstown

Pavel Losevsky/Adobe mother and daughter eats and drink

Kentucky has many exciting train rides, but the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train is perfect if you want a three-course meal and a stunning exploration of the region’s hills and plains.

This is a two-hour trip through the countryside, but you can also book a four-course gourmet meal for a more elegant experience.

Louisana: Southern Forest Heritage Museum

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When you board the M-4 “doodlebug” for a tour at the Southern Forest Heritage Museum, you’ll explore a rail line critical to the timber industry throughout the last 100 years.

The route takes you through the lumber company’s property and past the machine shop and the engine house.

Based in Long Leaf, the train also has a fantastic museum and property showcasing the area’s history.

Maine: Maine Narrow Guage Railroad

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Travel along the Casco Bay on board the Maine Narrow Gauge, and listen to the narration about the area’s history.

You’ll learn about the sites along the way and why the railroad company built gauges measuring just two feet apart in the area to overcome the challenges of the numerous hills.

Maryland: Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

Yaakov Moshe Dek/Wirestock Creators/Adobe Western Maryland Scenic Railroad train in Cumberland's station

You’ll fall in love with the deep forests and mountain views on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and pass by Cumberland and Frostburg along the way.

Operating steam and diesel trains, passing through a 914-foot tunnel, and exploring the mountain vistas are all a part of these trips.

Massachusetts: Cape Cod Central Railroad

lowphoto/Adobe Cape cod railroad bridge with a train crossing

A fantastic way to see Cape Cod is by rail, and the Cape Cod Central Railroad is the way to do it.

Travel through the cranberry bogs, across the dense marshes, and through the forested areas on a traditional or dinner trip.

You can get on board at Hyannis for a two-hour trip or choose the route that starts at Buzzards Bay.

Michigan: Little River Railroad

Ian Danbury/Adobe Approaching steam train on railroad

An authentic experience, the Little River Railroad boasts a 100-year-old steam engine that’s ready for an excursion departing from Coldwater.

Several train routes are available, with many having a short layover in Quincy. Other routes take you to Hillsdale. Both have stunning views of Michigan’s natural beauty.

Minnesota: Empire Builder from Amtrack

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You can depart the Empire Builder route in Chicago and travel through St. Paul to Spokane and Portland, Washington, or simply start your trip in Minnesota.

No matter where it begins, you’ll move through some of the most significant portions that Lewis & Clark trekked through.

Don’t forget to check out the impressive nighttime skyline in Minneapolis or the plains of North Dakota along the way.

Mississippi: Marion County Recreational Railroad

listercz/Adobe young woman traveling by train

The Marion County Recreational Railroad is quite the adventure. The views are beautiful, but the stories the attendants tell are captivating.

Passengers embrace from the Columbia Exposition Center and then spend the next 45 minutes trailing throughout the region’s forested areas.

Missouri: Branson Scenic Railway

Eva/Adobe woman walking at train station

Get on board this vintage passenger train to ride on Ozark Zephyr, the name given to this train that travels through the Ozark Mountains.

It’s a romantic love story the company shares with the natural beauty of Missouri. Enjoy a candlelight dinner to set the tone along this route.

Montana: Charlie Russell Chew Choo

Svetlana/Adobe girl looking out train window

While its name may sound fun, there’s a lot of entertainment on board the Charlie Russell Chew Choo, a dinner train that includes fantastic music and some Western-themed entertainment.

This 56-mile journey spans mountains and the open prairies in the state and offers some intensely expansive views.

Nebraska: Freemont & Elkhorn Valley Railroad

olezzo/Adobe woman in a high-speed train

The Freemont & Elkhorn Valley Railroad has operated rail cars in the area since the 1920s.

Those who ride today get a taste of what it was like back then as they travel near the Indian Road and the 1840s Mormon Trail.

The train ride arrives in Hopper, a town from the late 1800s on the National Register of Historic Places.

Nevada: Virginia & Truckee Rail Road

hedgehog94/Adobe young family travel together by train

With several excursion options available, a trip to the Virginia & Truckee Railroad promises to be fun. The main route is about 1.5 hours long and takes passengers to Virginia City.

Along the way, you can watch as the Comstock mines come in and out of view and the Old West becomes the big city.

Depending on when you visit, this historic train ride is available onboard a steam or diesel train.

New Hampshire: Mount Washington Cog Railway

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The Mount Washington Cog Railway is the first climbing cog railway in the country, and it takes you to the top of the mountain, the highest peak in the country's northeastern area.

The locomotive is powered by seven biodiesel locomotives and can be quite a harrowing adventure.

New Jersey: Whippany Railway Museum

Marco/Adobe grandfather traveling by train with grandson

The Whippany Railway Museum does an excellent job of telling the story of the region’s railroads while providing some fun train rides.

Themed events take place, allowing a narrator dressed in period clothing to tell the story of the area.

The vintage rail cars are beautiful, secondary only to the stunning vistas on each side of the train.

New Mexico: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Brian/Adobe cumbres and toltec narrow gauge

Traveling from Chama, New Mexico, through to Antonito, Colorado, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroads is the highest and the longest steam railroad in the country.

It spans 64 miles, traveling state borders 11 times on its switchback-style route venturing back and forth six days a week.

New York: Arcade & Attic Railroad

SASITHORN/Adobe man looking on the train's window

Numerous trains and rail lines exist throughout New York taking passengers from one side of the state to the other or even across the country.

The Arcade & Attic Railroad, though, is exceptional as it moves passengers along on a World War II-era diesel train. This historic experience starts with the 1800’s style Curriers Depot.

North Carolina: Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

digidreamgrafix/Adobe smoky mountains rail road

Whether you take the “Steam of the Smokies” steam-powered locomotive or the diesel version, you’ll find yourself exploring foliage, historical structures, and stunning landscapes on board the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.

It takes you along the Fontana Lek area, into the Nantahala National Forest, past numerous waterfront parks, and over bridges.

North Dakota: Empire Builder

Maria Sbytova/Adobe family looking out of the window of train

The Empire Builder from Amtrak in North Dakota is one of the best train experiences in the U.S.

Get on board this modern train t visit the cities of Devils Lake, Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot, Stanley, Willison, and Rugby.

It’s an exploration of the state’s hillsides and rough terrain at its best.

Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

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The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad operates both steam and diesel engines traveling two routes, including the National Park Scenic Trail.

You’ll get on board the vintage rail car and follow a slow-moving path that lasts about two hours.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Railway Museum

Kit Leong/Adobe Sunny view of the Oklahoma Railway Museum

Oklahoma Railway Museum offers some fun train rides that take people back in time.

Visit the museum first, then get on board one of the classic trains for a short ride from the Oakwood Depot.

Notably restored to operate as it did decades ago, this experience in the open prairies showcases both the adventure and hardships of those on the roadways.

Oregon: Oregon Coastal Excursion

Dmitry Naumov/Adobe railway journey along Pacific ocean coast

The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad offers the Oregon Coastal Excursion, a trip through Tillamook Bay and the coastline. The ocean views are simply hard to beat on a clear day.

Both a vintage diesel and steam engine offer options. While the trips are just 30 minutes one way, they give you a short layover in between at either station, the Rockway Beach or Garibaldi depots.

Pennsylvania: Strasburg Railroad

CYSUN/Adobe smoke steam locomotive

The Strasburg Railroad is perhaps the best way to see the expansiveness of Lancaster County, from farms to forests, on a historic steam train.

You can also book a mechanical ship tour to see the inner workings of the train depot or settle for a wine and cheese train ride (or a full dinner if you like).

Rhode Island: Newport And Narragansett Bay Railroad Company

Anton Maltsev/Adobe beautiful girl travelling on train

The Newport and Narragansett Bay Railroad Company sponsors several train excursions, including an elegant dinner and a murder mystery experience.

No matter which you choose, you’ll be able to explore the route used since 1864, viewing the waterfront along the way.

South Carolina: The South Carolina Railroad Museum

Carrie/Adobe hub city railroad museum

Spend a Saturday afternoon at the South Carolina Railroad Museum, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Take the Blue Granite Express during the summer months to tour the surrounding valleys and granite hillsides. The trip is about 1.5 hours, and some even offer a fancy dinner with it.

South Dakota: 1880 Train at the Black Hills Central Railroad

jovannig/Adobe train in the black hills central railroad

You can feel the history when you ride the 1880 Train in Hill City to Keystone, not to mention experience the mountains and stunning vistas along the path.

Explore the best of the Black Hills on a steam locomotive and learn how railroads helped develop the West.

Tennessee: Hiwassee River Rail Adventure

EmotionPhoto/Adobe travel of tourist man by train

It’s time to see the river valley to explore its wildlife habitats and seemingly untouched wilderness.

The Hiwassee River Rail Adventure is a loop trip of about 50 miles that takes you across the terrain in a corkscrew-like pattern. Around every bend is a new natural wonder.

Texas: Texas State Railroad – Rusk Depot

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The Texas State Railroad’s Rusk Depot is a fabulous small-town destination. This is where the railroad began in 1883, and in 1972, it was designated a state park.

As you dash through the dusty trail, many themed adventures await, including “Wine in the Pines” and “The Speakeasy Special.”

Utah: Heber Valley Railroad

SNEHIT PHOTO/Adobe heber valley railroad station

Based in Heber City, the Heber Valley Railroad takes over 100,000 passengers annually to Vivian Park and back.

The rails take you through Provo Canyon, creating a spectacular scene regardless of the day or time.

It’s typically only a 90-minute ride on a historic train called the Heber Creeper, but it’s fun, adventure, and beauty rolled into one experience.

Vermont: Green Mountain Railroad

jStock/Adobe new england autumn landscape

Take a memorable ride along Green Mountain Railroad on the Champlain Valley Dinner Train. This 3-hour trip is a fabulous day out.

As you enjoy a fabulous meal, this fast-moving train ride gives you a fun view of the surrounding valleys and hills while relaxing in a 1930s-restored dining car.

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Virginia: Norfolk Southern Executive Train

andreusK/Adobe red retro train in Bulgaria mountains

Take to the rails on the Norfolk Southern Executive train, called that for its black-and-white tuxedo-like colors.

Travel across the Congaree River and through the countryside until you arrive in Cayce, South Carolina.

Washington: Leavenworth Snowtrain by Alki Tours

robertuzhbt89/Adobe woman and man looking through train window

You could take the Cascades train ride from Amtrak to explore the coast, but the Alki Tours, Leavenworth Snowtrain is a much more unique experience.

This train will take you from Seattle to Leavenworth and takes place during the winter months, moving along the Burlington Northern Tracks.

Seeing the mountains and forests under a new coat of snow is stunning.

West Virginia: Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Larry/Adobe passenger train at cass wv

The Cass Scenic Railroad State Park in the city of Cass is a short 11-mile journey, but it showcases the lumber industry in the area.

While there, explore the Cass Historical Theater and Historical Museum to get a better sense of the region.

Wisconsin: East Troy Railroad Museum

Elizaveta/Adobe woman with a backpack uses the phone

The East Troy Railroad Museum guides about 15,000 people each year on trips through the Southwest Wisconsin region.

Jump on board at the East Troy or The Elegant Farmer Depot in Mukwonago and take a short ride into the countryside.

There’s also a depot museum with hands-on exhibits the kids (of all ages) will enjoy.

Wyoming: Big Boy No. 4014 in Cheyenne

Kritchanon/Adobe woman traveling on the train

It’s an impressive train by any measure, but these locomotives date to 1941 and are 132 feet long, making them even more impressive. They also weigh an astounding 1.2 million pounds!

Today, there’s only one location to take to one of these extraordinary trains, and that’s in Cheyenne (which is also a great place to live if you're looking to move beyond living paycheck to paycheck). 

Bottom line

Natee Meepian/Adobe asian female tourist

As you think about your next trip or vacation destination, skip the pomp and circumstances and take a journey along the country’s rails instead.

From a short trip across the state to one that spans from New York to California, there’s much countryside to see.

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