Amtrak (800-872-7245, www.amtrak.com) offers rail passenger service nationwide, which it promotes with vacation deals, rail access to ski resorts, the Auto Train to Florida, air/rail packages and Metroliner and Acela service to New York. For discounted fares, travel on Saturdays and during off-peak seasons. Senior citizen and children's fares are available as well as special packages for students and veterans. The Weekly Specials (http://tickets.amtrak.com/itd/amtrak/weeklyspecials), an Internet-only deal, offers discounts on specific routes.
The Acela Express and Metroliner provide daily high-speed service between D.C. and Boston and/or New York City. Reservations are required, and fares are higher than for regular service. Service for both is available only at select stations between D.C. and the Northeast cities. Acela stops in such cities as Philadelphia; Newark; New Haven, Conn.; and Providence, while Metroliner runs only between D.C. and New York City, with stops at BWI; Philly; Wilmington, Del.; and Newark, among others.
Passenger service from Washington includes some scenic routes. The Vermonter attracts skiers in winter, cyclists in summer and leaf-peepers in fall. Heading west to Chicago, the Cardinal transports passengers past luxe resorts like the Homestead and Greenbrier as well as Virginia's Shenandoah Mountains and West Virginia's New River Gorge. And although you have to get to New York City first, the Adirondack, which runs from Manhattan to Montreal, chugs through the Hudson Valley wine country and around Lake Champlain.
The Auto Train operates daily between Lorton, Va., and Sanford, Fla. Prices vary according to season and holidays. In mid-October, for instance, round-trip fares are in the $725 range for two people, one car and reserved coach seats. Add sleeper car accommodations each way and prices run around $1,020 for a superliner standard bedroom or $1,547 for a deluxe bedroom with private shower and toilet.
For info ion on tourist trains that offer scenic rides in the United States and beyond, check out Routes International Travel (http://routesinternational.com/touristtrains.htm) and Rail Serve (www.railserve.com/Tourist). Many chapters of the National Railway Historical Society (215-557-6606, www.nrhs.com) also organize special rail outings.