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USA Rail Holidays

There are few other countries in the world that offer the sheer diversity of landscapes and cultures as the USA. That's why, for some people, it can seem to be too daunting a prospect to discover and explore. Certainly, you're never going to experience everything the country has to offer on a single visit and at Great Rail Journeys we recognise this fact.

That's why we offer a number of different tours that focus on certain areas or experiences. And, once you've been on one of them, you're certain to want to discover more.

Perhaps you've always dreamed of travelling all the way from East to West. In which case may we recommend our America Coast to Coast Tour? This takes you all the way from New York to San Francisco with stops including Washington DC, Chicago and the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon. Or you might want to explore states like Georgia, Texas and Louisiana in which case Tracks of the Deep South can take you there.

 

 

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We will also give you the chance to ride on some legendary lines including New England's Mount Washington Cog railway that has been taking visitors to the summit since 1869. Or there's the Durango and Silverton Railroad first used to transport prospectors' gold and silver mined from Colorado's San Juan Mountains.

Wherever you travel by train across the USA you can't fail to be surprised and astounded by the sheer scale and variety of the scenery as you pass through it, no matter what time of year that you travel. And, believe us, you'll enjoy no finer view of it than from the comfort of your own reserved seat on a train.

 

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Our Guide to USA

Where to go and what to see

Top 5 destinations

Las Vegas

 

  • Las Vegas
  • San Francisco
  • Washington D.C.
  • New York
  • New Orleans

Find out more

Top 5 sights

Grand Canyon

 

  • Grand Canyon
  • The Empire State Building
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • The White House
  • Yellowstone National Park

Find out more

Unique Excursions to Experience

Durango & Silverton Railroad

 

  • New England's White Mountains
  • Grand Canyon Railway
  • Mardi Gras
  • California Zephyr
  • Durango & Silverton Railroad

Find out more

About the USA

The country itself might cover almost 3,800,000 square miles but It's only when you visit the USA that you can get a true sense of its huge scale. It's so large, in fact, that there are four separate time zones so when Californians are enjoying their evening meal many New Yorkers are getting ready to go to bed.

It's this sheer size that means there is no one element that you could say is quintessentially American. Rather, it is a huge melting pot of races, cultures, landscapes and customs. For a relatively young country it is also extraordinarily rich in history ranging from the day that the Mayflower brought some of the earliest British settlers to the brave new world to the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama as its first ever Black president.

Then there are the enormous cultural influences that America has had on the world. Jazz and the Blues, the movies, artists like Andy Warhol and writers like Mark Twain have all gone to form parts of the kaleidoscopic mental picture all of us have of the country.

Then there are the cities that have come to stand for so much as well as carving out identities all of their own. The fast-moving, hard-working wealth-creating New York, the mid-west splendour of Chicago, the New England refinement of Boston are just three examples.

Impressive undoubtedly, but maybe overshadowed by the stunning scenery and landscapes that surround them. For example, at least once in every lifetime everyone should experience New England in the Fall. And until you have enjoyed a tour like our Yellowstone and Rocky Mountains in Winter you won't have a proper appreciation of what breath-taking scenery really looks like.

The USA is also somewhere that is still home to some of the world's most incredible wildernesses and the perfect way to visit one of these is on our Fjords and National Parks of Alaska. This ten-day tour will show you exactly why Alaska so richly deserves its title as "The Last Frontier".

But the very last thing we want you to feel is alone. This is why you can be sure that your travelling companions on any of our tours will share many of your interests and will be equally keen to explore this amazing country.

At Great Rail Journeys, we also want to ensure that you enjoy a truly relaxing travel experience, that is also very good value for money. We achieve this by taking care of all the arrangements necessary while also giving you the time to go off and explore by yourself, with your travelling partner and even with new-found friends.

For times when we feel we can add insight and context to your trip, a number of expertly  escorted visits and sightseeing tours are included in the trip. You will also have the freedom to book your own excursions, whether it's a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon or a visit to that magnificent feat of civil engineering, Nevada's Hoover Dam.

Eating well is another element of a good holiday so we make sure that fine food is always on the menu. On some days this will include fine dining prepared by chefs on board the train. On others it will be enjoying restaurant meals in places like San Francisco's Zephyr Hotel whose Bistro Boudin looks out over Fisherman's Wharf to the legendary Alcatraz.

At other times you will be left at leisure to choose your own restaurant, café or bar and to sample some genuine US hospitality and service.

To make sure that everything is just perfect, every holiday is overseen by and experienced Tour Manager. They will be as helpful or as unobtrusive as you like - their role is to meet travellers' need precisely, not to stick to some rigid formula of service.  

You can also rest assured that we have taken great care to select the ideal accommodation for tours using three main criteria: location, value and facilities. While we do use certain big names such as Holiday Inn and Marriott, we also favour independent hotels which in many cases are also family-run. That's because we believe that they are more likely to share our ethos of providing a more caring and personal service.

Currency and money

The US Dollar is the official currency and, as arguably the world's biggest and most widely accepted, you should have no difficulty in getting cash before you travel.

The US Dollar it is divided into 100 cents and notes, or bills, come in $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations. 

However, it's far more likely that you'll be using credit and debit cards in the US and both Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, as is American Express. Getting cash from ATMs is also easy with your four digit pin-code, but do remember to let your bank know that you will be visiting the country to avoid cards being blocked as an anti-fraud measure.

Dollar traveller's cheques can be cashed at all major banks, exchange bureaus and airports. You may also be able to use them at some shops providing that you also present your passport.

When making purchases in stores a Sales Tax, the US version of VAT, is added to the price. The amount can vary from state to state. For example, in New York it is 4% and in Nevada it is 6.75%. While restaurant food is exempt from this, you will often find that a discretionary 12.5% service charge is added to your bill on the occasions when you have arranged your own meal.

Food and eating out

The traditional view that American cuisine mainly consists of hamburgers, pot roasts and hot dogs is as out-dated as the myth that in Britain we always dine on meat and two veg. The cultural melting pot that is America means that you're likely to find imported dishes rubbing shoulders with regional specialities.

New York

If a cuisine exists, you'll find it in New York. For example, Little Italy and Chinatown might already be well known. But less famous is the collection of Korean restaurants that cluster round 32nd Street in the shadow of the Empire State Building.

No visit to the Big Apple would be complete without a trip to a typical diner for eggs over-easy and a stack of pancakes with the strangely satisfying combination of bacon and maple syrup. Then there are the famous delis where pastrami on rye isn't just a snack, it's a little bit of the city's history in a sandwich.

The Southern States

If you're someone who likes barbecue then states like Texas and Georgia will be 7th heaven for you. Low and slow cooking is the watchword here, till the meat falls off the bone and comes accompanied by sides like broiled corn on the cob. Down New Orleans way the French influence is given a southern twist with dishes like gumbo and oyster bienville.

California

Californians may have a slightly unfounded reputation for faddy diets and fussy eating. In actual fact, it tends to be the perfect cuisine for the climate. When it's summer all year round all you want are dishes like Caesar Salad and fresh sushi. Up in San Francisco you can also look forward to some of the world's very best seafood. Perfect when washed down with some of the State's famous wines.

Americam specialities to look out for:

  • Biscuits and Gravy: A Southern staple, the biscuits are made with butter and the gravy comes with pork sausage pieces and plenty of black pepper.
  • Maryland Crab Cakes: Perfect fried and bite-sized cakes that purists believe can only be made using blue crabs from Chesapeake Bay.
  • Boston Baked Beans: Haricot beans slow-cooked in tomato, molasses and spices with pork belly to give them an extra rich and satisfying taste.
  • Key Lime Pie: The State pie of Florida, a Key Lime has the biscuity base of a cheesecake and a creamy topping given a bit of extra limey zing.

Whatever your food preference, servings are often generous, so even those with the healthiest of appetites will be satisfied.

Holiday ideas for the USA

USA Coast to Coast
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Tracks of the Deep South
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2023FebAprMayJunSepOct
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New England in the Fall
4.5 stars(20 reviews)
2023SepOct
10 days from
£2,395 pp
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Discover by Destination

From the bright lights and ringing slot machines of Las Vegas, to the steaming geysers and panoramic vistas of Yellowstone National Park, all on a scale that is bolder, bigger and better, the USA has something for everyone: 

14 results matching: USA

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USA Coast to Coast
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2023AprMayJunAugSepOct
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Tracks of the Deep South
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The Trans-American Rail Tour
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Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco
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New England in the Fall
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Washington DC
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Our customers love our USA tours
Tracks of the Deep South
3/Oct
Mr Marnier
5 stars
“A wonderful experience visiting all the music areas of the south
Collected by Trustpilot
Highlights of America's East Coast
23/Sep
hampson
5 stars
“Loved Washington highlight was going inside Capitol Hill. Lots of bucket list places ticked off. Really good trip, good guide with Keith. Lovely travelling group.
Collected by Trustpilot
Highlights of America's West Coast
12/Jun
Albine Patterson
5 stars
“It was a wonderful holiday that achieved all that was set out in the brochure.
Collected by Trustpilot
New England in the Fall
22 Oct 2019
Miss R Palmer
5 stars
“A good itinerary, a good tour guide and a very good crowd------
Collected by Great Rail Journeys
Grand Tour of America
29/Sep
Graham Rex Kenworthy Peace
4 stars
“Very memorable trip.
Collected by Trustpilot
America Coast to Coast
26/Sep
Patsy Lynch
4 stars
“The trip was very scenic and tour manager Ed did a good job . We had a lovely group who got on well together . Just a shame we had no welcome drinks or leaving do. The lack of food not included in the trip adds a big cost to the trip.
Collected by Trustpilot
Grand Tour of Arizona, Las Vegas and The Golden West
24 Oct 2018
Mr F Reader
4 stars
“A very well-planned holiday taking in all the must-see sites yet allowing time for our own activities. An enjoyable group of people, good weather, and an excellent tour manager!
Collected by Great Rail Journeys
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Travelling to the USA with Great Rail Journeys

At the heart of each of our escorted USA tours is a programme of excursions chosen for their particular social, historical, or cultural interest. These short expeditions range from journeys on heritage railways to steamboat cruises along the mighty Mississippi. For example, some of our American tours include visits to Mount Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire and Martha's Vineyard in New England.

When exploring the USA by train, you will be joined on your journey by one of our experienced Tour Managers, who will answer any questions you may have. Our professional staff are very familiar with the places you will visit and know all the essential details, from must-see places to the best eateries in town.

Tour Managers understand the traditions of the American people and can help unravel the social idiosyncrasies of any location on your route, such as tipping in restaurants - in many cases, the gratuity - usually 10% - will be paid for you by the Tour Manager, leaving you to enjoy your holiday.

Local guides are used on a variety of activities to share their knowledge of the immediate area and its attractions. Guests also have plenty of free time for exploring independently on our USA rail holidays, or to enjoy the amenities of their hotel.

Accommodation, flights, rail travel, and excursions are all included in the price of your holiday. The comprehensive nature of our great value itineraries means that our customers have little extra to pay whilst they are travelling through the USA.

Flights to North America depart from London but there may be the option to fly from Manchester, and seats are provided in Economy Class with the possibility of upgrading to Business Class or First Class for an extra supplement. However, you should discuss this with your agent when booking one of our USA rail tours.

Accommodation is chosen because it offers value for money, excellent service, and a good location. Whenever possible we pick hotels that are locally run so guests can enjoy a more personal atmosphere. Often, accommodation can be a highlight itself; for example, selected tours of the USA by rail include a night aboard the RMS Queen Mary.

 

Discover the United States of America

The United States is one of the most environmentally diverse places on earth; the dry climate of the Deep South - Texas, Georgia, Alabama, etc. - stands in stark contrast to the serene, snowy landscape of Alaska and the tropical wetlands of the Everglades in southern Florida.

As part of our brochure of USA holiday packages, Great Rail Journeys offer you the chance to explore as little or as much of North America as you would like.

In the northeast, our escorted tours in New England introduce the passenger to the most incredible sights at times when they are at their most extraordinary; in this case, the autumn, when the local forests are aflame with colour. Visits to Boston, Cape Cod, and the stunning White Mountains are also included on some of our tours of the north-eastern USA.

The Midwest, inclusive of Illinois, Indiana, and the rolling plains of Kansas, is home to an array of awe-inspiring monuments and natural attractions. Chicago and Detroit are arguably the most well-known settlements in the region, and passengers on our USA tours can experience the 'Windy City' for themselves with a trip up the 103-floor Willis Tower.

The West Coast of America is the location of such memorable places as Seattle, Santa Barbara, and the Napa Valley. The latter destination benefits from a Mediterranean climate, and is famous throughout the United States for its wine. The granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park can also be found here on the West Coast, close to Sacramento.

Moving south, the city of New Orleans in Louisiana is regarded by many music fans as the home of jazz. Equally, Nashville in Tennessee has a rich history in country music, and lays claim to the world's largest music museum - as well as the world-famous Jack Daniel's Distillery, a popular destination with USA rail travel enthusiasts.

Visits to Elvis Presley's Graceland and the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway - the world's steepest passenger railway, climbing to an incline of 72.2 percent - also feature in some of our USA rail holidays.

Standing apart from the mainland United States, Alaska is the country's largest state but the least densely populated. Towering fjords and unspoilt scenery, as well as wildlife such as bears, beluga whales, and bald eagles, combine to ensure our USA rail holidays are a memorable experience for guests.

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