Celebrate National Train Day with These 5 Cheap Day Trips

by  Darren Murph | Apr 23, 2014
Niagra Falls
Niagra Falls / Vito Palmisano/iStock

Traveling by rail might not be as popular or convenient as it is in Europe, but it can sometimes provide a nice change of scenery. In celebration of the upcoming National Train Day (May 10), we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite day trips for those who need a break from the usual modes of transportation. From new routes to dirt cheap tickets, these itineraries are sure to excite. And you won't have to worry about traffic jams, either.

South Lake Tahoe, California: If you’re looking for a reason to escape the Bay Area, Amtrak runs a route that will place you deep in resort country within 4.5 hours. As the snow melts and the crowds dissipate, spring is an especially excellent time to visit. Plenty of casinos are a walk from the train station once you get into Nevada, and Lake Topaz – set amongst the breathtaking Sierra Nevadas – is just an hour away by rental car. For those with more time, rent a vehicle and circumnavigate Lake Tahoe. The ride costs about $55 each-way from Emeryville station, which is easily reachable via BART from San Francisco and Oakland, and includes a bus transfer at the Sacramento station.

Palm Springs, California: Over the traffic in Los Angeles? Hop on a train heading southeast to Palm Springs for approximately $41 each way. In a matter of 2.5 hours, you’ll be whisked away to desert paradise, where the crowds are few and the views are stellar. The Amtrak train departs from Union Station in downtown L.A. and drops off at North Indian Canyon Drive, just north of Palm Springs' center. If you rent a car upon arrival, it’s a quick drive over to Joshua Tree National Park – an excellent place to hike and enjoy the sunset. If you're staying nearby, most hotels are about five miles south of the station, with a great many golf courses within walking distance.

Victoria, British Columbia: Seattle residents have plenty of islands at their disposal, but if you’re feeling particularly exotic, why not grab your passport and head to Canada? The port city of Victoria offers stunning water views, exceptional grub, and friendly locals. All told, it'll cost you $92 each way, with a trip time of about 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Niagara Falls: Winter has been brutal in both Buffalo and Cleveland, but a quick jaunt to Niagara Falls is a painless. It'll take you 1.5 hours from Buffalo, or 4.5 hours from Cleveland, making a weekend trip doable for residents of both cities. It’s shoulder season in the region, which means better views, fewer crowds, lower fares, and more hotel vacancies. You can find a 2.5 star hotel in the area for $65 per night, while that same room will run you double in July. Just be sure to bring your passport – you haven’t seen the falls until you’ve seen them from both sides of the border.

Montauk, New York: Those eager to get out of the Big Apple for a bit need only look to the Long Island Rail Road service, which offers trips to the easternmost point of Montauk. The entire ride takes 3.5 hours from Manhattan. Given that it’s also shoulder season here, you’ll find vast stretches of empty beaches and a crowd-free visit to the the town’s famed lighthouse.

Have any great train trips from your neck of the woods? Let us know in the comment section below!

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