Amtrak offers vacations on the rails

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Getting there can be part of the fun

If you're looking for a different kind of vacation this summer, and would like to avoid the nation's increasingly busy airports, Amtrak is promoting the romance of riding the rails.

The passenger rail line says it has trains going to more than 500 destinations in all regions of the country, each with something unique to offer this summer. Instead of flying or driving, travelers go from train to train. Getting to the destination can be more enjoyable because you have plenty of room to walk around and surf the web, depending on internet availability.

In the Northeast, you can take the train to Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, which is something to see, in and of itself. In the nation's capital there are plenty of museums to see, where the admission is free.

The Smithsonian

The Smithsonian operates 11 museums and galleries on the National Mall and six other museums, along with the National Zoo, in greater Washington area. Across the Potomac you can visit Arlington National Cemetery and Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington.

Also along the Northeast, the train makes stops in Richmond, Va., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Each city has interesting attractions that will appeal to a wide variety of interests. (Warning: Track reconstruction has tied New York's Penn Station in knots and hours-long delays are common).

In Richmond, there are plenty of Civil War sites and nearby battlefields. In the city's oldest neighborhood St. John's Church still stands, famous for the venue of Patrick Henry's historic "give me liberty or give me death" speech.

There's a lot of see in Baltimore and a lot of ways to see it. The Inner Harbor is a tourist attraction with great seafood restaurants, an aquarium, and tour boat cruises.

Philadelphia has the Liberty Bell, New York has the Statue of Liberty, and Boston has the Freedom Trail, a historic walking tour.

Music in the Midwest

If you're starting in the Midwest, you can take the train to summer music festivals in Milwaukee, Chicago and St. Louis or explore the roots of jazz, rock and the blues, in Kansas City, Memphis or New Orleans.

In Milwaukee this summer, the music is free. Throughout the summer the city hosts outdoor concerts nearly every evening. The concerts feature a wide range of bands, with everything from popular local cover bands to classical ensembles.

Memphis also has plenty to see for rock music fans. You can tour Graceland, the lavish home of Elvis Presley, and go by Sun Records, where Elvis was discovered. There are also plenty of authentic blues joints on Beale Street.

On the West Coast, the summer schedule is filled with festivals, from San Diego, to Los Angeles, to Oxnard, Santa Barbara, and Gilroy, Calif. For old fashioned fun, the San Diego County Fair runs through July 3.

LA has a huge line-up of festivals this summer, and not surprisingly, many of them are film festivals. Eclectic radio station KCRW, which has a world-wide audience on the internet, sponsors the KCRW World Festival at the Hollywood Bowl June 25. The music line-up is just as diverse as the station's playlist.

The roses will be in bloom, along with rose festivals, all along the tracks, from Wasco, Calif., to Portland, Ore., this summer.

Seattle will host the annual Seafair Festival along Puget Sound, kicking things off June 14.

And you can get to all of them on the train. You can also bring the family pet along, as Amtrak welcomes dogs and cats up to 20 pounds for trips of up to seven hours on most routes. Check schedules for exceptions.  

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