Although often overlooked for other modes of transit — namely, planes and automobiles — trains allow for a kind of romance that never goes out of style. Amtrak covers the United States from sea to shining sea, so you can just look out the window and enjoy the ride — without airport hassles, gas station bathrooms or traffic.
Even better, numerous Amtrak trains wind their way through picture-perfect towns with luxury hotels, stunning scenery and noteworthy attractions so you can embark on a car-free getaway. To find out where to go, what to do and where to stay during your train trip, keep reading.
DESTINATION: RICHMOND, VIRGINIA
How to get there: Via the Silver Service and Northeast Regional Amtrak lines to the Staples Mill Road or Main Street stations. The Jefferson Hotel offers complimentary transportation from Main Street Station and suggests using a rideshare service for those arriving from Staples Mill.
Where to stay and what to do: The Jefferson’s grand beaux-arts façade has welcomed Richmond’s most notable visitors — the names of 13 U.S. presidents, including Truman, both Roosevelts, Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton and Obama, along with the likes of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Charlie Chaplin and Elvis Presley fill the guest book — since the hotel opened in 1895. Revel in this Southern belle of a city with the hotel’s traditional afternoon tea service and a Sunday champagne brunch. Descend the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel’s famous white-marbled staircase (rumored to have inspired the set of stairs in Gone with the Wind) and explore the city’s great restaurants, ample wineries and art galleries.
DESTINATION: NEW ENGLAND
How to get there: Via the Downeaster route, offering daily roundtrips out of Boston and through New England’s coastal region with stops in Brunswick and Portland, Maine.
Where to stay and what to do: For a slice of quintessential coastal Maine, get off at the Wells, Maine Station and venture to the charming beach town of Kennebunkport for an escape at White Barn Inn, Auberge Resorts Collection. A landmark for more than 150 years, it offers rooms at the inn or a cottage all across the street from the Atlantic’s shore. Warm amenities like bouquets of fresh flowers, roaring fireplaces and housemade cookies give the hotel the feel of a secluded beach house, just one that requires you not to lift a finger. Make sure to fit in a meal at The White Barn Inn Restaurant, a Five-Star destination unto itself for the best of coastal Maine’s cuisine served in an unforgettable setting: an elegant barnhouse with original pine flooring, a lofted ceiling and natural light from the floor-to-ceiling picture window.
Not feeling the call of the sea? Visit the town of Lexington, just off the train’s first stop, for a stay at The Inn at Hastings Park. The definition of quaint, the inn consists of 22 uniquely designed guest rooms scattered across three restored historic buildings — The Main House, The Mulliken House and The Barn. Considered the birthplace of American history, the picturesque town will undoubtedly appeal to history buffs. While here, walk Paul Revere’s riding path and hear the echoes of the shot heard around the world at the Battle Green. More literature-inclined travelers will delight in visiting the homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott.
DESTINATION: THE HUDSON RIVER VALLEY
How to get there: Via Amtrak’s Empire Service, with multiple daily departures from New York through the state’s Finger Lakes region to Niagara Falls.
Where to stay and what to do: Stop at Saratoga Springs Station and check into The Adelphi Hotel. The Adelphi first opened in 1877 to accommodate New Yorkers seeking the healing properties of the town’s namesake springs. The hotel still provides respite for city dwellers hoping to relax in nature but not willing to let go of perks like dry cleaning and dry martinis, available 24/7.
South of Saratoga Springs, you will find Hudson, the newly minted “Upstate Brooklyn,” courtesy of the countless restaurant pop-ups, natural wine bars and artisanal-chic vibe. Stay at the new Amelia hotel, an 11-minute walk from the Hudson station. The exceptionally curated (picture art from Warhol and Basquiat), restored 19th-century, Queen Anne-style country house has an abundance of eclectic charm and a convenient location blocks from buzzy Warren Street.
DESTINATION: COASTAL RHODE ISLAND
How to get there: Via the Northeast Regional. Stop at the Westerly station, a 15-minute drive from the shore.
Where to stay and what to do: Spend some nights at one of New England’s last-remaining grand Victorian seaside hotels, Ocean House. Just one look at the Five-Star property’s sweeping grounds transports you to a bygone era. Despite the recent renovation of the guest rooms’ décor and the addition of modern amenities, the hotel remains a beautiful time capsule.
Weekapug Inn, Ocean House’s sister property, provides a more laid-back, yet no less enchanting alternative to its palatial sister. Details like antique furniture, the pond and a traditional summertime Thursday clambake make for a rustic charm balanced by luxuries such as Frette bedding, heated bathroom marble floors and intimacy afforded by the 31 guest rooms nestled in an enclave of Quonochontaug Pond.
DESTINATION: UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT
How to get there: Via the Northeast Regional Line to the New London station, a 20-minute drive from Mohegan Sun.
Where to stay and what to do: Once you’ve arrived at Mohegan Sun, you will struggle to find any reason to leave. The recently renovated casino and nightlife hub offers more than 350,000 square feet dedicated to gaming space, 42 dining options and nightlife that encompasses everything from Vegas-worthy lounges to sports bars and three music venues. Come for a show at the Cabaret Theater, free local music at the Wolf Den or megastars like Fleetwood Mac, Jay-Z and Billy Joel at the 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena. Recover from all the revelry at the 16,000-square-foot Mandara Spa with any of the Balinese-inspired treatments or just enjoy the spa’s facilities — a steam room, sauna, whirlpool and indoor pool — with a day pass. Then at night, retreat to the onsite Sky Tower luxury hotel.
DESTINATION: CALIFORNIA COAST
How to get there: Via a scenic ride on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner through San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
Where to stay and what to do: A journey up the California coast begins in sunny San Diego at The US Grant, A Luxury Collection Hotel. Opened in the city’s Gaslamp Quarter in 1910, the Four-Star grande dame has undergone renovations to maintain its status as the place to stay in San Diego but has retained its sense of history with details like glimmering lobby chandeliers, crown moldings and impeccable service — only natural given the hotel has played host to 15 presidents.
The next stop is Los Angeles’ downtown Union Station. There’s a wide array of hotel options within two miles of the station, which means you can avoid L.A.’s notorious traffic. The trendy Hotel Figueroa provides an abundance of photo-worthy moments with the eclectic décor — a modern mix of Moroccan and California-style interiors — the iconic coffin-shaped pool and fantastic art. As a nod to the building’s past life as a women’s-only hostel, most of the art collection features pieces by local female artists.
The sleek InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown is the tallest building on the West Coast and affords views to match. Enjoy vistas from the 69th-floor sushi bar, Sora; the 71st-floor steakhouse, La Boucherie; or from the comfort of your room — all 889 feature a window wall. The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles helped first put downtown L.A. on the map, with restaurants by chef Wolfgang Puck and its elegant, airy spa — the largest in the area. JW Marriott Los Angeles, LA LIVE shares The Ritz-Carlton’s building and serves as Hollywood’s award show site (it’s hosted the Emmys and Grammys) with its high-tech, high-capacity 100,000 square footage of event space.
Finally, end the journey at the gorgeous El Encanto, A Belmond Hotel, Santa Barbara (the Four-Star hotel offers a complimentary shuttle from the Santa Barbara train station). Take in the beautiful vista of the Pacific coastline from the hotel that exudes old-school, California craftsman glam. The property’s seven acres of landscaped gardens house 92 restored Spanish-colonial and craftsman-style suites and bungalows, a zero-edge pool perched on the cliffside with a view of the ocean, and an incredible spa. Explore Santa Barbara with the hotel’s complimentary bicycles, winding hiking trails and the aforementioned shuttle service.
DESTINATION: COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG
How to get there: Via any line running through the Northeast Corridor or any line pointing south to the Williamsburg, Virginia Station downtown.
Where to stay and what to do: The living museum of Colonial Williamsburg serves as the town’s primary draw, and the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Williamsburg Inn sits across the street from the historic downtown. A piece of history itself opened by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1937, the property feels like an illustrious country home, with guest rooms checked for historical accuracy by historians and amenities like a 2,000-square-foot spa, elevated dining options and tennis and golf courses, ensuring you need not sacrifice comfort for proximity.
The nearby Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Williamsburg Lodge, Autograph Collection provides a slightly more modern alternative. An extensive list of on-site activities and a less formal spirit will appeal to families traveling with children.
How to get there: Via the Hiawatha line, with daily round trips from Chicago to the Milwaukee-Downtown station.
Where to stay and what to do: Built in 1893, The Pfister has endured the test of time as a fixture of the downtown Milwaukee landscape. The 200-room “palace for the people” houses 80 pieces of Victorian artwork — the most extensive such collection of any hotel in the world — and annually hosts an artist in residence, continuing to enrich the city’s culture. The hotel’s location allows you to easily access the city’s great museums. Nearby, the renowned Milwaukee Art Museum boasts 25,000 works of art, with a notably impressive selection of 19th- and 20th-century American and European art and American decorative arts.