Photo: John B Hewitt/Shutterstock

10 Luxury Train Rides in the US That Are Worth Splurging On

United States Train Travel Luxe Travel
by Morgane Croissant Oct 31, 2023

When you think of luxury train rides, you probably imagine something along the lines of the famed Orient Express (the most expensive train ride in the world), or South Africa’s iconic Blue train, or even Switzerland’s GoldenPass Express. But you don’t have to go all the way to Europe or Africa for luxury trains — luxury train travel in the USA is alive and well.

Luxury trains in Colorado

Rocky Mountaineer: Rockies to the Red Rocks

  • Route: Between Denver, Colorado, and Moab, Utah
  • Distance: 355 miles
  • Duration of the ride: Two days
  • What makes it luxurious: Glass-dome cars, gourmet cuisine, excellent service, and luxury hotels

Often believed to be the best option for luxury train travel in the US, the Rocky Mountaineer’s Rockies to the Red Rocks route is meant for those who want to take in the Southwestern scenery in extreme comfort. Passengers can choose between two classes of service: SilverLeaf or SilverLeaf Plus, both of which offer a spacious car with oversized glass-dome windows, reclining seats, and seat-side service. SilverLeaf Plus, however, offers a little more: exclusive access to the lounge car and to a small outdoor viewing area, as well as elevated dining experience with wine pairings, premium alcoholic beverages, and signature cocktails. While the classic journey takes you between Denver and Moab, special packages allow travelers to start or end their journey in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City. The Rockies to the Red Rocks route is a two-day trip, but the Rocky Mountaineer is not a sleeper train. Instead, passengers disembark in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, where they stay in a luxury hotel for the night before getting back on the train the next morning.

Royal Gorge Train

  • Route: Starts and ends in Cañon City, Colorado
  • Duration of the ride: Between 1.5 to three hours, depending on the trip chosen
  • What makes it luxurious: Panoramic windows cars, award-wining dining experience, Champagne.

The Royal Gorge Train runs daily throughout the year, taking passengers on a short but scenic journey along the Arkansas River, through the narrow 1,200-foot-deep Royal Gorge. You can make your trip on board the Royal Gorge Train as casual or as luxurious as you want by choosing the class of service that suits you best. The fanciest way to ride this route is by booking the First Class Dinner Train in Vista Dome which lasts 2.5 hours. You’ll be served Champagne and an award-winning three-course meal while looking at the surrounding views from the huge panoramic windows. Fist Class Dinner Train passengers also have access to a private open-air car.

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

Luxury train travel USA: Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

Photo: PT Hamilton/Shutterstock

  • Route: Between Chama, New Mexico, and Antonito, Colorado
  • Distance: 64 miles
  • Duration of the ride: From 4.5 to eight hours, depending on the trip chosen
  • What makes it luxurious: Restored Victorian Parlor Cars, great service, comfortable seats, snack and beverages served on board.

The steam train of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad runs from early June to late October, six days per week. The most luxurious way to ride the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is by booking a seat in the adult-only, historic Parlor Car, where you’ll be served pastries, hot and cold beverages, and snacks by thoughtful train attendants. The Parlor Car is designed to provide the best views during the long train trip, with strategically placed seats and panoramic windows. Parlor Car passengers, alongside every other passenger on the train, have access to the open-air car. Note that the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad runs the single trip between Chama and Antonito once per day only. You can opt to take a luxury motorcoach back to the departing station or stay overnight in the arrival town and ride the train again the next day to get back to where you came from.

Luxury New England trains

Cape Cod Dinner Train

  • Route: Departs from and ends in Hyannis, Buzzards Bay, or Falmouth, depending on the date.
  • Duration of the ride: Three hours
  • What makes it luxurious: Candlelight five-course gourmet meal served at a private table, formal attire required, full bar, vintage club car with lounge chairs

The Cape Cod Central Railroad’s most luxurious train ride offering is the Cape Cod Dinner Train, a three-hour ride during which passengers are served a candlelight five-course meal while traveling through the peninsula’s charming small towns. To make the most of your train ride, book the Platinum Class: You’ll benefit from a private table, you’ll be served one alcoholic beverage, and all taxes and gratuities will be included. The Cape Cod Dinner Train is only available for travelers aged 12 or older, but if you’d rather have an adult-only train journey, book Cape Cod Central Railroad’s Gourmet Wine Tasting Train in Platinum Class. The Cape Cod Dinner Train operates multiple times per week from May until October.

Green Mountain Railroad

  • Route: Roundtrip from Burlington to Charlotte
  • Duration of the ride: Three hours
  • What makes it luxurious: 1930s train cars with comfortable leather seats, adult-only experience, delicious finger foods and cocktails, limited capacity to 18 passengers

The Green Mountain Railroad, also known as the Vermont Rail System, offers a Cocktails on the Rails ride every Saturday from late June to late October. This adult-only luxury experience takes place in a 1930s train car with plush leather seats and a full bar. The ride includes finger foods and snacks, and passengers can purchase drinks from the bar while listening to live music. The ride only allows for 18 passengers, making for a special evening.

If it’s a fancy dinner aboard a train you’re looking for, the Green Mountain Railroad can do that, too. Every weekend between late June and late October, you can book the Champlain Valley Dinner Train, a three-hour roundtrip ride between Burlington and Charlotte that includes a three-course meal and all gratuities. Make sure you book a private table if you don’t want to share the space with your fellow passengers. (Note that the Champlain Valley Dinner Train is not an adult-only experience, it welcomes all passengers aged five and up.)

Luxury trains to US national parks

The Empire Builder to Glacier National Park

  • Route: Between Chicago, Illinois, and Seattle, Washington
  • Distance: 2,200 miles
  • Duration of the ride: The full ride takes 46 hours
  • What makes it luxurious: Large accommodation with two in-room sinks, toilets, and showers, complimentary meals, dedicated train attendant

What makes Amtrak’s Empire Builder route unique is that from mid-April to mid-October, it serves East Glacier Park train station, located in the heart of Glacier National Park. And because the train station is just a few steps away from Glacier Park Lodge, you can go directly from the comfort of the train to that of a lovely hotel.

While you might think that traveling with Amtrak is far from luxurious, there are ways to make your train ride extremely comfortable. All you need to do is book a Bedroom Suite and you’ve got an all-inclusive and enjoyable train ride. A Bedroom Suite can sleep four travelers by turning the two sofas and chairs into sleeping berths when night comes, but if there are only two of you, you can enjoy all the extra space. There are also two in-room sinks, toilets, and showers so you don’t have to share the facilities with strangers. By booking a Bedroom Suite, you also get a dedicated First Class attendant, complimentary lounge access at the departing train station, priority boarding, and complimentary meals on board.

If you’re interested in visiting America’s national parks by train, check out Matador’s guide to the seven most scenic Amtrak routes through national parks.

Grand Canyon train ride

  • Route: Roundtrip from Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
  • Distance: 65 miles one way, 130 miles return
  • Duration of the ride: Two hours one way, four hours return
  • What makes it luxurious: Dome car with panoramic windows, lounge with plush sofas and chairs, full private bar, complimentary sparkling wine, access reserved to travelers aged 16 or older.

The Grand Canyon Railway offers rides from Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon daily throughout the year. The ride between Williams and the South Rim takes two hours, and passengers are given three hours on site to visit, making for a seven-hour day trip. With six classes of service available, you can make your ride with the Grand Canyon Railway as cheap or as luxurious as you want it to be. If you’re ready to splurge for a very comfortable experience, choose the Luxury Dome Class, reserved to travelers over the age of 16. The Luxury Dome Class consists of a two-story car: on top, there is a dome car with panoramic windows, while below is a parlor-style lounge car with very comfortable seats and a full bar. You’ll be served sparkling wine, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages during the journey.

Luxury trains in California

Napa Valley Wine Train

  • Route: Between Downtown Napa and St. Helena
  • Distance: 36-mile loop
  • Duration of the ride: Between two and three hours on board the train, depending on the experience you choose
  • What makes it luxurious: Beautifully restored vintage Pullman rail cars, Wine tasting on board, gourmet meals, wineries visits, cocktail attire recommended

The Napa Valley Wine train operates year-round and offers a variety of experiences to prospective travelers, all of which have an element of formal luxury for which you need to dress up. The most decadent of the experiences available is the Legacy Experience, a six-hour trip that includes three hours on the train, and three hours visiting vineries. Passengers on the Legacy Experience enjoy breakfast and lunch on board, as well as wine tasting. While most of the trip takes place in the restored vintage Pullman rail cars, the open-air car is also available to passengers.

For a shorter, but no less luxurious experience on board the Napa Valley Wine train, opt for the Vista Dome Dinner (a two-hour, multiple-course journey in the glass-dome elegant dining car), or the Afternoon Tea (a three-hour trip filled with cocktails, tea, finger sandwiches, miniature deserts, and more.)

Luxury Alaska trains

Denali Star

  • Route: Between Anchorage and Fairbanks, via Wasilla, Talkeetna, and Denali National Park
  • Distance: 356 miles
  • Duration of the ride: 12 hours
  • What makes it luxurious: Glass-dome cars, meals and drinks included, comfortable seats, access to open-air cars

The Denali Star route, operated by the Alaska Railroad, is one of the most scenic train trips you can take in the US. Not only is the scenery between Anchorage and Fairbanks beautiful, but you can also take it in in extreme comfort if you opt for the Goldstar Service. The Goldstar Service includes a meal, soft beverages, and two adult drinks in the dining car. Goldstar passengers also benefit from comfortable forward-facing seats, and have access to outdoor viewing platforms and glass-dome cars from where you can enjoy the beauty of the Alaskan Wilderness.

Coastal Classic

  • Route: Between Anchorage and Seward, via Girdwood
  • Distance: 120 miles
  • Duration of the ride: 1.5 hours
  • What makes it luxurious: Glass-dome cars, meals and drinks included, comfortable seats, access to open-air cars

Another iconic Alaskan train route, the Coastal Classic is operated by the Alaskan Railroad. The Coastal Classic is a much shorter ride than the Denali Star and is the perfect route for travelers with a tight schedule. Just like with the Denali Star route, those who want to make their train journey extra fancy should opt for the Goldstar Service — the views from the glass-dome cars never get old.

Are there sleeper trains in the USA?

Yes, there are sleeper trains in the USA, all of them being operated by Amtrak. Amtrak’s overnight and long-distance routes have sleeper cars with multiple accommodation options to choose from, including Roomettes, Bedrooms, Accessible Bedrooms, Bedroom Suites, and Family Rooms. If you want to travel cheap, you can opt for a reclining seat in coach class.

What is the longest sleeper train in the US?

The longest sleeper train in the US is the California Zephyr, operated by Amtrak. The California Zephyr route runs between Chicago, Illinois, and Emeryville, California, a 51-plus hour ride.

What is the most luxurious train in the US?

The most luxurious train in the US is the Rocky Mountaineer with its Rockies to the Red Rock route that runs between Denver, Colorado, and Moab, Utah. The Rocky Mountaineer is not a sleeper train, and you can watch more details on the video below.

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