Road trips are a popular way to travel across the U.S. and see the sights, but the downside is that someone in the group is always stuck behind the wheel. That can mean missing out on the experience of relaxing or taking in the scenery as you travel cross-country. In contrast, traveling by train allows everyone to sit back, relax, and sightsee without needing to drive, stop for gas, or battle traffic. If the thought of getting away using one of America’s oldest forms of transportation piques your interest, here’s a list of must-see railroad stops across the nation.
Los Angeles Union Station
Built in 1939, L.A.’s Union Station has been deemed one of the last grand railroad stations built in America. The station’s late 1930’s architectural style makes travelers feel as though they’ve been transported through time. Surrounded by gardens and patios perfect for enjoying the southern California sun, Union Station is a must-see stop in the Pacific Time Zone.
If you have some time to spend in the area, a number of museums, parks, and other sites of interest are nearby and can be accessed using public transit. You can also use this station as a starting point to travel along the Coast Starlight towards Seattle and soak in some spectacular views of the coast!
Denver Union Station
Denver Union Station was built in the late 1800’s and has seen a number of renovations over the years. Now serving as a transit-oriented mixed-use development, Denver Union Station combines the old with the new. Take a look at the original Beaux-Arts style façade built in 1914 alongside newer developments such as an exposed train hall featuring 11 ornamental steel arches and a 22-gate underground bus concourse lit by skylights. Travelers can also enjoy a number of restaurants, shops, bars, and works of art that make up this Mountain Time Zone rail destination.
Looking to venture outside of the station? Denver Union Station is located near a number of museums as well as an amusement park and aquarium. Sports and music fans will be interested in checking out the schedule at the nearby ballpark and arenas.
Chicago Union Station
Built in 1925, Chicago Union Station is the only remaining intercity rail terminal in Chicago. Though the majority of the station is underground, what can be seen from the streets reflects Chicago’s architectural heritage. Inside the Great Hall, travelers are awed by an 11-story-high atrium featuring a barrel-vaulted skylight ceiling. This, along with two grand staircases and marble flooring has made the station a popular location in the film industry and a great pick for a Central Time Zone train trip.
While in the area travelers can easily access a local aquarium, a planetarium, and a delicious deep-dish pizza either by car or via public transit. The station is also located near the Chicago River.
Grand Central Terminal
Perhaps the most popular of U.S. train stations, Grand Central Terminal draws visitors from around the world to experience its unprecedented architecture and elegance. With a vaulted 12-story high Main Concourse ceiling featuring gold-leaf stars, Grand Central Terminal was built on the idea of being both beautiful and functional. This Eastern Time Zone marvel is the last stop on this cross-country trip and from here you can easily take public transit to nearly any NYC hot spot.
The history of rail travel in the U.S is rich and each of these four stops offers a glimpse into the glitz and glam of traveling by train during its heyday. It also offers a stress free trip without the hassles of getting behind the wheel and going at it on your own. Looking for more train travel destinations? Check out these great resources from AARP:
- America’s Awe-Inspiring Railroad Terminals
- 5 Great Train Journeys Across America
- Scenic Train Trips, Rail Tours Across America