Long considered one of the most scenic routes in the United States, the California Zephyr takes you from the beautiful city of Chicago to the City by the Bay, San Francisco, by way of the spectacular Rockies and Sierras. Before embarking on your 2, mile journey to San Francisco, take advantage of your time in Chicago by visiting the city's famed attractions such as the John Hancock Observation Deck, ride the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier or window shop down The Magnificent Mile.
The city also offers a rich cultural experience with its several museums and the renowned Art Institute. After your stay in Chicago, begin your journey west as you board the California Zephyr towards San Francisco. Along the way, engulf yourself in absolute beauty as you pass through the frontier of the Colorado Rockies. As if that isn't breathtaking enough, as you continue your journey be dazzled by the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When you finally do reach San Francisco, take your final days of the journey to explore this striking city.
Make sure to visit Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, or hop on a cable car for a classic way to experience the City by the Bay. This tour truly encompasses natural beauty so spectacular it takes your breath away - on a dazzling ride that touches the sky!
Itinerary is available Eastbound from San Francisco to Chicago based on your travel preference. Day 1 - Chicago Independent arrival into Chicago.
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Transfer to your hotel, located in the heart of downtown Chicago. Museums, the famous Magnificent Mile, shopping and world-renowned cuisine are all within steps of your hotel. Overnight Chicago. For those passengers with sleeping accommodations, check into Amtrak's First Class Metropolitan Lounge. Once onboard the famous California Zephyr , settle into your private sleeping room as you begin your mile journey to San Francisco. After settling in, you may want to visit the glass-walled Observation Car or head to the Lounge Car to meet some new friends. Enjoy dinner in the Dining Car as you cross the mighty Mississippi River.
All meals on the train are included for sleeping car occupants. Overnight train.
California Zephyr Experience
Day 3 - Colorado Rockies aboard the California Zephyr This morning wake up to a magnificent view of the Colorado Rockies on the horizon. Enjoy your breakfast in the dining car as the Zephyr climbs the front range of the Rockies and heads toward the Great Continental Divide. Be sure to look for wild-life when passing through the ski resort town of Winter Park, Colorado. Continue to take in awe-inspiring scenery and canyons through late afternoon. On board you will enjoy lunch and dinner. Bring some snacks and a beer or two and switch off for a couple of days, you'll fall in love with America even if you don't fall in love with some of its people!
My husband and I had really looked forward to riding on Amtrak. Sitting in a chair for that long with very, very little sleep each night was terribly hard. Climbing up and down narrow stairs on a wobbling train each time you needed to use the restroom wasn't fun. But, actually trying to use the facilities was almost impossible. If you were following a man after he'd tried to pee on a moving train, the toilet was invariably dribbled on. They were as dirty as any truckstop restroom I've ever used. So, It had to be cleaned at least a bit each time before it was used.
There were four bathrooms for all of coach class. Except for ONE handicapped stall, the stalls were designed for children. They were literally twenty inches wide. I know, because I measured. At the risk of being graphic, it is hard for a man or a woman to take care of business with only 20". You measure. And see how many inches it takes for you. We really looked forward to the trip between San Francisco and Salt Lake City and back again but were very disappointed by the quality of the rolling stock.
The trip out especially showed up the standard to be far below that of European stock; dirty surfaces and windows, unwiped mirrors, cracked surfaces, worn carpet, broken seats, torn and tatty harnesses in the top bunk and things that simply didn't work - generally way way too old. After all, these tickets are very expensive and I would say you don't really get your money's worth - as the real value comes from the scenery and relatively little from the efforts of Amtrak!
Announcements about the trip and dining car could not be heard in our sleeper room for two so ruined the point of making an historic trip. The staff were still very friendly, especially Paul our cabin attendant, on the return - and they get full marks for attention to detail even after a long day. The meals were not bad and we appreciated the efficiency of getting everyone seated.
Of course the scenery over the Sierra Nevadas was great, but Amtrak could do so much more by updating the cars. Install WiFi and upgrade the help-yourself coffee and water facilities at the end of the cars. Strip and refurbish all the cars into a much modern and clean look. As an aside, the part that Amtrak played in our experience was not good.
The station agent in Salt Lake City, as Lisa called herself, was one of the most inept handler of the public I have seen. She was rude, impatient, treated us like scum, and didn't give a damn. Our attempts to talk about checking luggage through results in zero, and the confusion over the destination Caltrain or Emeryville? Her behaviour was witnessed by several others in the waiting room and they were as stunned as we were by her attitude and conversation.
It soured the start of our return trip and it was only thanks to the gentle humour and efficiency of Paul on the train that we regained some sort of respect for railway employees that night, Sorry, but in my book many of the problems we found could easily be fixed - such the cleanliness of the cabins - somehow. Amtrak is really not doing a good job.
Some reviews on here made us concerned about this trip. Having done it the advice I would offer is you don't go camping and expect a luxury hotel - you go for the experience. The accommodation is cramped, it is difficult to sleep.
FIND A STATION
It doesn't run entirely to schedule. Those are the negatives. The positives: Relaxing journey, stunning scenery, chance to chat to people from many different walks of life and countries. A chance to see the real America. Unlike other reviews the staff on the trains were all entirely pleasant, courteous and a bundle of laughs. Food is good, the steaks were amazing. On the leg from Denver to San Francisco I woke to the desert in Nevada, crossed the Sierras into the snowline on the same day and was pretty well terrified by some of the views.
I am not keen on heights. However the observation car was alive with the appreciation of all the passengers for the stunning treat of the mountain passes. At the end of the journey I was in awe of both the men who carved this route out of the mountains and also the ioneeers who crossed these lands - or died trying. A stunning way to appreciate the USA. I have never experienced such a range of delight and awe before.
This is the only way to see America. What a wonderful experience! I am normally a "wound pretty tight" type of person, but discovered that traveling by train is a tranquil, relaxing experience. You just learn to go with the flow and let the trip happen.
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We boarded in Chicago after checking into a quite full Metropolitan Lounge. Took some time to explore Union Station and see the beautiful Great Hall from the golden days of rail travel.
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Within a couple of hours of Omaha, you can visit Winnebago Indian Reservation and see the bison herd, buy native American art and jewellery and learn more about life on a reservation. Arrive in Denver early this morning where you will stay for two nights. With a back-drop of the Rocky Mountains the city also offers great nightlife and dining, Western stores, boutiques and shopping malls as well as interesting museums and galleries.
Enjoy the outdoors and take a trip to the spectacular Red Rocks Amphitheatre, or rent a bike and discover some of the miles of bike paths and the numerous city parks. Take a tour including a stop at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave on top of Lookout Mountain and get a fantastic view of the city. Board the train this morning and continue on the California Zephyr through the Rocky Mountains.
You will pass through Moffat Tunnel, 6.
You will arrive in Salt Lake City late this evening and stay for one night. Spend your day in Salt Lake City, before your overnight train to Sacramento. The city is surrounded by mountains and the views are spectacular.
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