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Ride the Rails with TAP

Napa Valley Wine Train

Napa, California

Anyone who has ever visited Napa Valley knows that it can get busy. Depending on the time of year, trying to get to some of the 40-ish wineries along the 26-mile Silverado Trail can be a hassle at best.

But travelers can experience some of the valley’s renowned wineries by rail rather than by road. The Napa Valley Wine Train runs through the heart of wine region, with stops for passengers to tour wineries.

The train runs on tracks that were originally laid in the 1860s to provide access to Calistoga. Today, the wine train departs from Napa and runs north through Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford before reaching its terminus at St. Helena. There, the locomotive reconnects to the south end of the train to make the return trip to Napa.

“It’s just a nice, relaxing trip,” said Michele Michalewicz, president of Western Leisure, which has been taking its tour groups on the Napa Valley Wine Train since the train began running in 1989. “[Passengers] get to see the countryside along the way up into the Napa Valley. They’re not stuck in traffic like if you were doing a bus up the Silverado Trail. It’s a very different experience.”

On board, passengers can enjoy a glass of wine from the full bar or eat a multicourse meal. Guides also provide narration during the trip.

Depending on the day of the week and the particular trip, the train makes different stops for different wineries, but wineries include Grgich Hills, Domaine Chandon, Raymond Vineyards and Castello di Amorosa. Passengers who prepurchase winery tours can disembark to tour the winery and taste the wares.


Rocky Mountaineer: Whistler Sea to Sky Climb

Vancouver, British Columbia

The name is pretty self-explanatory: Riding the Rocky Mountaineer’s Whistler Sea to Sky Climb highlights scenery from coastal fjords to the sky soaring above the mountains.

The train travels about 80 miles inland from the seaport city of Vancouver, British Columbia, to the mountain resort town of Whistler. The tracks closely follow Route 99 alongside Howe Sound for about half of the trip before delving into the Coast Mountains and passing Mount Garibaldi, Cheakamus Canyon and Brandywine Falls.

“What’s fun about the train, even though it’s technically running right beside the freeway, the freeway is above you, so you’re down by the water; you never see the freeway,” said Chris Galloway, director of tour development for Sports Leisure Vacations.

Galloway, who recently took a tour group on the train, said the large, plush seats and the impeccable food service in the first-class car — ham-and-cheese croissants, and fruit and yogurt — all transport passengers to a time gone by.

“It’s a throwback to the ’60s and the feel of luxurious train travel,” he said. “You have really comfy seats, and everything you need is just catered to you and brought to you.”

The onboard staff also narrates the passing scenery and tells stories, including one about a little old lady who waves to the passing trains from her home’s window every day. She even once called the railroad to let them know she had a doctor’s appointment and wouldn’t be at her window that day.

Passengers can also stop by the open-air car “to smell the wind and angle the camera around the corner for shots,” Galloway said.