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Tristan, an excellent way to see the country, have a great vacation and enjoy the pleasure of coast to coast train travel.
My wife and I traveled from Washington, DC to Seattle Washington across the northern states. We went from DC to Chicago on the Capitol Limited, then the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle. The service was terrific, with good food well prepared, excellent service and the people actually cared that we were on their train. The sleeping accomodations were comfortable, reasonably priced and included all our meals. Out of Chicago the car attendent brought Mimosa's to our compartment and when he found that I was Diabetic and could not drink orange juice, he returned with a glass of champagne. When we were rolling across the western states, they hosted a wine and cheese party for all of us in the first class/sleeper compartments. Excellent wines and a large variety of cheeses.
The scenery was beautiful and showed our great nation at it's very best.
I would suggest that you take our route to Seattle, then down the Western Coast to Los Angeles and across the southern part of the United States to New Orleans, then the Crecent from New Orleans back to DC or whereever you are departing from.
There are other alternate routes but these take you in a huge circle around our country. Take a good digital camera with you to take photos of the scenery. The car attendents will help you with good scenery shots. There is one spot in Montana I believe it was, where we stop for passengers on and off loading and there is an old steam engine there. A great photo opportunity.
Yes I somewhat agree with varnell41. I liked Washingto DC station and the town very much. Seattle was great. Sante Fe is wonderful (my favorite). Southwest Chief has best views of Arizona and New Mexico. You can also step off and do the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff, never having to get a car.
The only train I haven't been on which is rated #1 is Seattle to San Francisco. I've done the coast San Jose to Los Angeles, then commuter Los Angeles to San Diego (fantastic ocean views).
If not 62, there's a discount for AAA club member (you don't need to have their auto insurance just buy the membership). And check Amtrak's web-site, earn points, and can buy up points, for their credit card. And Amtrak has a pass, before the summer season, to travel, it's not published (? ?), so you can call them. It's very reasonable for X (varies) numbers of days, and you can plan to get off at different cities to explore them. The other way to go is to make far in advance reservations (I think 6-12 months?) and you get even better prices.
And I'm not one to spend more than one night anymore, so I try and plan one night on, and I don't waste the money on the "sleepers" as I eat too much then, LOL! For each on/off it's a little extra charge.
I just finished up last year, Chicago-Santa Fe-LA-San Diego. Then San Diego-Flaggstaff-Chicago. Great!