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How to Travel America by Train 

train tracks
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Long derided as an outmoded means of transportation, cross-country trains have recently come back into vogue, with the global push toward high-speed rail transit as a way of reducing emissions and created more interconnected cities. Unfortunately, the United States doesn't yet boast the state-of-the-art rapid-transit rail lines found all over Europe and Asia, but it does have quite an extensive, if underused, rail system.

While these trains won't get you from LA to San Francisco in the blink of an eye, what they do offer is something different — a chance to sit back and take in the scenery from some of our country's most remote locations. Unlike a road trip, train travel allows you the time and comfort to really absorb the landscape and get to know "Real America." If you're ready to see an America unsullied by highways and billboards, then below are three itineraries that will blow you away.

Get to Know an Interstate Train

In a cross-country train, the route is taken care of for you, so you can sit back and relax, but some of these trips span over two days; remember, these are not the high-speed trains of Japan.

While standard airplane-style seats are offered on all trips, and if you're really looking to save money, they can be an uncomfortable but cheap option, Amtrak and many other carriers also offer a whole host of different cars and seating types. These can give you the freedom to move around and a sense of comfort while you ride the rails.

From dining cars with on-board chefs to panoramic viewing cars where the entire roof is glass, giving you a 360-degree view of the scenery, there are plenty of amenities to keep you comfortable on your journey. Many cars come equipped with Wi-Fi, and often there's a club car where you can grab a desk and a coffee. When night comes, you can choose a standard seat, reclining seat or small roomette, some of which come equipped with a bathroom. These cars have showers in the hall, so you can freshen up no matter where you sleep.

Three Can't-Miss Itineraries

1. Adirondack Route (Amtrak: New York to Montreal)

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Amtrak's Adirondack route departs from New York City's famous Penn Station. Moving north, the train takes you on a trip through the Catskills as you follow the Hudson River, offering you a wonderful glimpse of beautiful upstate New York. Highlights of the trip include passing Bannerman's Castle, now in ruins but easily seen from the train, and Lake Champlain. The trip takes about nine hours, so if you leave New York in the morning, you can be in Montreal before sundown to spend the evening in the capital of French Canada. It's an especially beautiful route to take in the fall, when the changing foliage provides a warm glow to everything.

2. The Coast Starlight (Amtrak: Los Angeles to Seattle)

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For those looking for a longer getaway, Amtrak's Coast Starlight, which departs from Los Angeles and takes 35 hours, offers a south-to-north route that is unparalleled. Hugging the coast for the beginning of the journey, you get to see one of California's famous wine regions, Santa Barbara, and on the opposite side, the mighty Pacific crashing against the shores.

Then, trace up along the famous redwood forests into Oakland, where the train skirts around San Francisco, giving you a beautiful shot of the Golden Gate. From there, you cross inland and head toward Oregon, where you pass Three Sisters Mountain in the distance, before cutting through Portland. Stop off at the City of Roses for some artisan ice-cream and craft beer, some of the many culinary delights in the hippest city on the west coast.

The final leg of the journey is perhaps the most beautiful. The trip from Portland to Seattle takes you amid the snowy Cascade Mountains and lush foliage of the Evergreen state. Amtrak trains on the Coast Starlight route are equipped with panoramic Sightseer Lounge Cars so you can soak in all the wonderful views. For this trip, it's best to book one of the sleeping cars, which come with all your meals included.

3. The Empire Builder (Amtrak: Chicago to Portland)

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Loosely following the route of Lewis and Clark as they explored the Louisiana Purchase, the Empire Builder is THE trip to take if you're looking for a long escape into nature. Departing from Chicago, the cars cross the Midwest and the Mississippi River, passing through the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul (where you can spend an afternoon exploring the Mill City Farmer's Market).

But the real treat is the train's journey through Glacier National Park, which begins in Montana. There, you have the chance to see one of the country's greatest and most remote national parks, where you cross the Rockies at the Continental Divide and get to see goats, snow-capped peaks and even glaciers. Along the way, there's a 7-mile tunnel and plenty of historic steeple bridges, making this one unforgettable cross-country trek.

The whole journey takes 46 hours and gives you the option of arriving in either Portland or Seattle. You definitely want to book a sleeper car so you can stay fresh on this long trip, and make sure you get an upper-level seat on the observation car during the day; this is not a ride you want to miss.

If that's not enough of the Rockies for you, then make Seattle your final destination so you can catch another train, Canada's Rocky Mountaineer, whose Coastal Passage route takes you back up into the Canadian Rockies from Seattle all the way to beautiful, snowy Banff.

These are just three of the dozens of stunning train journeys you can book that will show you the less traveled parts of North America. Plus, Amtrak allows you to book partial segments of each leg on longer journeys (like the Coast Starlight and the Empire Builder), which means you can break up the journey and plan some time to stop off in each city before moving on. They also offer rail passes where, for a fixed rate, you can take multiple rides within a given time period — a great choice if you want to use train travel as a way to wander through wider America. While trains may not get you there as fast as possible, they show you that the journey is half the fun, and you'll witness a world not visible from airplane windows. Also, don't forget trip insurance from Allianz Global Assistance for your journey, it's a safer way to travel!

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