Sunday, May 16, 2010;
Amtrak (800-872-7245, http://www.amtrak.com) offers rail passenger service nationwide, as well as Amtrak Vacations packages (e.g., a Broadway theater package; 800-268-7252, http://www.amtrakvacations.com), the Auto Train to Florida, rail passes, multi-ride tickets, multi-city tickets and Acela service. For lower fares, travel during off-peak days and/or times. Discount fares are available to seniors, children (half-price for ages 2 to 15 and free for those younger than 2), students, veterans, military personnel and AAA members with restrictions. The Weekly Specials offer discounts on certain routes, but tickets are nonrefundable.
Acela Express provides daily high-speed service between Washington and Boston and/or New York. Fares are higher than for regular service. Service is available only to select cities, such as Philadelphia; Newark; New Haven, Conn.; and Providence, R.I.
Passenger service from Washington includes some scenic routes. The Vermonter attracts skiers in winter and cyclists in summer. The Cardinal/Hoosier State transports passengers to Chicago through the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, the Shenandoah Valley and the white-water rivers of West Virginia. And while you have to get to New York first, the Adirondack runs from Manhattan to Montreal and has two onboard Trails & Rails programs in conjunction with the National Park Service.
Passengers traveling to select national park sites can find out what the nearest Amtrak route is at http://www.amtraktoparks.com.
The Auto Train operates nonstop service between Lorton and Sanford, Fla. Prices vary according to season and holidays. In early June, for instance, a one-way fare starts at $245 for one car and a reserved coach seat. Sleeper car accommodations are extra.
For info on tourist trains that offer scenic rides and train vacations in the United States and beyond, check out Vacations by Rail (877-929-7245, http://www.vacationsbyrail.com), RailsNW (800-717-0108, http://www.railsnw.com), Routes International Travel (http://www.routesinternational.com/touristtrains.htm) and Rails USA (http://www.railsusa.com/links/Tourist_Railroads). Many chapters of the National Railway Historical Society (http://www.nrhs.com) also organize special rail outings.