Day 1: En Route
Kaleidoscope of Winter Wonders tour members will meet the Tour Director in the Metropolitan Lounge of Chicago’s Union Station. They’ll board the famous California Zephyr prior to its 2:00 p.m. departure. The Zephyr features double-decker Superliner equipment. Relax in your comfortable private Roomette. Bedrooms are available at an additional cost. After settling in, you may want to go to the glass-walled Sightseer Lounge car. Coffee, juice and water are available in your sleeping car. All meals on the trains are included beginning with dinner tonight.
Day 2: En Route
You will awaken this morning to the sight of the towering, majestic Colorado Rockies in the distance. Plan to get up early, have a piping hot breakfast in the dining car and find a seat in the glass-walled lounge car for the spectacular scenery that will unfold before you.
The Zephyr will leave Denver this morning and begin its climb over the Front Range toward the Continental Divide. About an hour later we’ll encounter the famous 6.2-mile-long Moffat Tunnel and go under the Continental Divide. Throughout the day the train will wind around sharp mountain curves and through numerous tunnels. You’ll look down at roaring streams winding through valleys far below.
Meal(s): B, L & D
Day 3: En Route / Merced
Today’s awesome winter scenery will be spectacular as the Zephyr climbs over the high Sierra Nevada mountains through the famous Donner Pass. From rugged terrain and pine trees to lush greenery and palm trees . . . this landscape contrast will occur in just three hours. Our arrival in California’s capitol city, Sacramento, is scheduled for early afternoon. Upon arrival we will board a San Joaquin train for Merced. Arrival is scheduled for 7:19 p.m. We’ll transfer the Hampton Inn & Suites, our home for the next two nights.
Meal(s): B & L
Day 4: Yosemite National Park
A Continental breakfast is included at the hotel. Today will be one of the most memorable days of your life. We’ll board a sightseeing bus for the 82-mile journey into the Park. A box lunch will be served en route. El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite Falls and Half Dome are some of the most popular attractions. You’ll see these breathtakingly beautiful sites with their coating of ice and snow. This afternoon we’ll embark a two-hour narrated sightseeing tour of the Park.
Once or twice during the winter months, the road to Yosemite may be closed due to snow accumulations. In the unlikely event our group should encounter such conditions, we will spend the day in Sacramento visiting the California State Rail Museum, Old Town and other sites.
Late this afternoon we’ll return to our hotel. Dinner is included at the excellent Branding Iron Restaurant.
Meal(s): CB, L & D
Day 5: En Route / San Diego
Enjoy a Continental breakfast this morning. Today is a relaxing day as we travel about 400 miles by train and motorcoach to San Diego. The first leg is 168 miles by rail from Merced to Bakersfield through the San Joaquin Valley, source of much of America’s fruits and vegetables.
An Amtrak Thruway motorcoach will transfer us 100 miles over the “Grapevine” from Bakersfield to Los Angeles. For the final 128 miles we’ll travel by rail along the beautiful Pacific Ocean coastline to San Diego on a Pacific Surfliner from Los Angeles to San Diego.
Our home for the two nights in San Diego will be the Best Western Inn Plus Bayside. The hotel is conveniently located near a number of downtown San Diego attractions.
Day 6: San Diego
A Continental breakfast will be included each morning in San Diego.
Today is the day we’ll visit the renowned San Diego Zoo, one of the greatest zoological gardens in the world. We’ll depart from our hotel at 8:30 a.m. First, we’ll take a tour of the entire zoo complex on a double-decker conveyance. You’ll have time to explore the zoo on your own and have lunch.
At 1:00 p.m. we’ll strike out on a San Diego city tour. Your stopovers include: downtown’s famed Gaslamp Quarter, the Hotel del Coronado, the Embarcadero, Balboa Park and Old Town.
Day 7: San Diego / En Route
This morning you are free to relax in your hotel or do some sightseeing or shopping on your own.
At 11:00 a.m. we’ll transfer to the Center City Amtrak station where we’ll depart at noon on a Pacific Surfliner train. We’ll travel 232 miles northbound along the Pacific Ocean shoreline and through Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, one of our nation’s most beautiful cities. Sandwiches, snacks and beverages are available on the train. Arrival is scheduled for 5:40 p.m. Upon arrival, we’ll transfer to the Best Western Plus Pepper Tree Hotel.
Day 8: Santa Barbara
Following a Continental breakfast in our hotel, we’ll embark on a two-hour sightseeing tour of what many consider to be America’s most beautiful city. We’ll see many examples of the city’s Spanish past, including The Mission Santa Barbara and El Presidio de Santa Barbara Historical Park. The Court House, with its massive murals and tile floors and walls, is not to be missed.
Our city tour will conclude at the Santa Barbara Amtrak station where at 12:40 p.m. we’ll board the famous Coast Starlight for the 1274-mile journey to Seattle.
Scenic highlights include several mountain ranges and 150 miles of rugged Pacific Ocean shoreline.
All dining car meals are included. You’ll want to spend time in the Sightseer Lounge to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
At night – or any time you want some privacy – you’ll have your private-room sleeping accommodations. Meal(s): CB, L & D
Day 9: Coast Starlight / Seattle
You won’t want to miss the spectacular scenery of the towering, snow-covered Cascade Mountains (with the 22 tunnels and innumerable hairpin turns) that is just outside your wide train window this morning.
This afternoon we will continue to roll through the Willamette Valley, past Portland, and finally arrive in Seattle at mid-evening. Our comfortable accommodations for the night will be at the Mayflower Park Hotel.
Meal(s): B, L, & D
Day 10: Seattle
Breakfast is included at the hotel. You’re free until 11:00 a.m. when we’ll board a motorcoach and transfer to Seattle’s world-famous Space Needle. Enjoy a spectacular panorama of the city, Puget Sound and the Cascade and Olympic Mountains from the 520-foot high observation deck.
Following an “on-your-own” lunch, we’ll embark on a three-hour sightseeing tour of the Seattle area. The journey will include Pike Place Market, Chinatown, concrete floating bridges, Lake Washington, the arboretum, the University of Washington and sweeping views of Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains.
Our travelers will arrive at Seattle’s King Street Amtrak station around 4:00 p.m. Our departure on the Empire Builder for Chicago is scheduled for 4:40. The Empire Builder is one of Amtrak’s premier trains. The dining side of riding the Empire Builder will begin at dinner and continue through tomorrow’s three meals and breakfast and lunch the following day. Sleeping accommodations and all dining car meals are included.
Meal(s): B & D
Day 11: En Route
Enjoy a delicious dining car breakfast and then head for the Sightseer Lounge car. About 8:00 a.m. a dramatic panorama of snow-covered Rocky Mountain peaks will begin to rise above the horizon, becoming increasingly dynamic as we approach Glacier National Park. The scenery is striking as we wind past icy waterfalls, river gorges and other sights. The rest of the day we’ll cross the remote flatlands of eastern Montana and western North Dakota.
Meal(s): B, L & D
Day 12: En Route to Chicago
Breakfast and lunch on the train are included. We pass through Minneapolis this morning and head south along the west bank of the Mississippi River. The train winds between the river bank and high bluffs. The Empire Builder is scheduled to arrive in Chicago’s Union Station this afternoon.
Many of our tour members will conclude their fabulous America by Rail vacation by transferring to other Amtrak trains bound for home cities. Some will spend the night in Chicago and continue home by air tomorrow morning.
Meal(s): B & L