Christmas on the Rails

Howdy folks!  A couple of people have asked how come we didn’t get a Christmas tree this year and why we didn’t decorate the house.  I wasn’t trying to be mysterious but I figured our Christmas plans deserved a post of their own.

When we got married we instituted a every other year holiday arrangement with Matt’s family.  Every year we would alternate between spending Thanksgiving and Christmas in Fort Wayne.  Matt’s family is used to being together for the holidays (For the most part his extended family all lives in or around Fort Wayne) but Matt and I also wanted to build holiday traditions of our own, in our own home.  As a compromise we instituted the every other year arrangement .  As a side note, we completely failed to take into account my family which, because my parents are divorced, is spread across Washington (Mom) Arizona (Dad) and Colorado (Brother & his Family) so some tweaking to this arrangement might be required in the future. 

You may have guessed that this year is a Midwest Christmas year and so we won’t be home over the holiday.  We don’t have a fake tree and it didn’t make sense to buy a live one when we would be gone.   The lack of Christmas tree meant I didn’t dig out the other Christmas decorations, which in hind sight was a big mistake.  I’m always done with Christmas shopping by the time Thanksgiving rolls around so my exposure to Christmas-ness has been pretty low this year.  The “Christmas Melody” station on Pandora has been my saving grace.

However, we’ve been looking forward to this trip since we booked our tickets 10 months ago.  We are making it a bit of an adventure.  Instead of flying we will board the historic Amtrak Empire Builder train in Seattle and 46 hours later we will get off in Chicago.  I cannot tell you how excited we are for this trip.


The route begins in Seattle and crosses the Cascade Mountains, Eastern Washington, and Idaho. In Montana it will take us through Glacier National Park (YAY!) across to North Dakota, then south through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and finally ending in Chicago.



The train is a double-decker Superliner.  We booked a roomette for a cost comparable to 2 plane tickets to Chicago. The roomette is tiny, but gives us a little privacy and sleeping accommodations. During the day the room consists of two seats facing each other with a pull out table between the two.  At night the seats recline and slide together to create a single bed and a second bed is pulled down from ceiling.  The room itself is only as long and wide as the beds so it is going to be cozy.


From Images on

Each sleeper car has its own attendant who take care of your needs, morning coffee, turn-down service, etc.  Each sleeper car also has private (to the car) bathrooms and a shower. Larger rooms have bathroom and showers in the rooms.  We’re not too worried about the cozy size of our room however, because there are lots of other places on the train for us to spend our time.

I am sure we’ll spend a fair amount of time in the dining car. All of our food is included in the price of our sleeping car ticket and the dining room is beautiful.


Speaking of food, the Empire Builder is one of the last routes to offer dining services like these. The menus are regionally based and we will also be treated to a complimentary wine and cheese tasting on each way (east and west).  We are allowed to bring our own food and beverages on the train, although they must be consumed in our roomette.  I think we might pack a bottle of red wine for the journey.

There is a quiet car where, you guessed it, everyone is quiet (I am sure I won’t be allowed in there).  There is also an observation car with extended windows.  I can envision knitting and sipping on tea while the scenery zips by.



Meeting new people is part of the charm of riding the train. I’m sure we will meet lots of fun folks and characters.  If for whatever reason our fellow travelers are boring, horrible conversationalists we packed some entertainment items.  Here’s what we are taking:

  • playing cards
  • assorted magazines
  • iPad (with kindle app full of books and multiple TV shows downloaded)
  • knitting
  • Nintendo DS

We are really excited about unwinding for 2 days in each direction (we are also taking the train home) and getting to spend time quality time with each other on our way to see family. We can’t wait to embark on this great adventure!

Have you rode the rails for a long distance trip?

PS After scheduling this post to run I came down with a cold. $!@#$$%&! Prayers for a speedy recovery before our train departs would be much appreciated.



Filed under We Travel

5 responses to “Christmas on the Rails

  1. I’ve always preferred traveling by rail over traveling via air, but have never taken a long trip on a train so I’m super jealous! Please be sure to take lots of photos and blog about it when you return!

  2. How exciting! I didn’t realize that this kind of train travel was still an option here in the U.S. I use the train all the time, but here in the Northeast. It’s usually for no more than 4-8 hours. That looks awfully fun. You’ll have to blog about it.

  3. Um, I want to take a train trip now! Those sound amazing! Hope you get to feeling better soon.

  4. This sounds amazing! Definitely adding overnight train ride in a sleeper car to my imaginary “before I die” list!

  5. Pingback: Christmas Train: Seattle to Chicago Pt 1 | Parker Haus Roles

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