Amtrak (800-872-7245, www.amtrak.com) offers rail passenger service nationwide as well as Amtrak Vacations packages (e.g., Canadian Rockies with Glacier National Park; 800-268-7252, www.amtrakvacations.com), the Auto Train to Florida, rail passes, multi-ride tickets (including unlimited travel in 15-, 30- or 45-day increments), multi-city tickets and Acela Express service.
For lower fares, travel during off-peak days or times and reserve at least two weeks in advance. Discount fares are available for seniors, children, students, veterans, military personnel, groups and AAA members with restrictions. SmartFares offer 25 percent discounts on select routes that change weekly and are available for purchase Tuesday to Friday for travel every day of the week except Friday and Sunday. Tickets are nonrefundable and cannot be exchanged.
Acela Express provides daily high-speed service between Washington and Boston and/or New York, with stops in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Haven, Conn., among other cities. Fares are higher than regular service along the Northeast Corridor.
Trains carrying nearly 75 percent of all passengers now offer free WiFi. The amenity is available on the Acela, plus 12 other East Coast routes; Cascades service in the Pacific Northwest; and select trains in the Midwest.
Passenger service from Washington includes some scenic routes. Take the Vermonter between Washington and St. Albans in northern Vermont and experience the Green Mountain State’s scenic vistas. The Silver Service/Palmetto trains offer service between New York City and Miami, with a stop in Washington. And the Capitol Limited runs daily between Washington and Chicago following the historic B&O line through the Potomac Valley and past Harpers Ferry and the Allegheny Mountains, before chugging onward through Ohio and Indiana.
Passengers traveling by train to select National Park Service sites (more than 237) can find planning assistance and trip ideas at www.amtraktoparks.com.
The Auto Train operates daily nonstop service between Lorton, Va., and Sanford, Fla. Prices vary according to season and holidays. In early June, for instance, the one-way fare starts at $288 for a reserved coach seat and a regular car. Sleeper car accommodations are extra. Passengers can also pay $50 extra for priority vehicle offloading.
For more info on train vacations with scenic rides through the United States and beyond, go to Vacations by Rail (877-929-7245, www.vacationsbyrail.com), RailsNW (800-717-0108, www.railsnw.com), Mayflower Tours (800-323-7604, www.mayflowertours.com/train-tours) and Rails USA (www.railsusa.com/links/Tourist_Railroads), an online directory. Many chapters of the National Railway Historical Society (www.nrhs.com) also organize special rail outings.