Day 1 - Chicago
Your vacation begins in Chicago, where you will meet your tour director at historic Union Station, which is within walking distance of Willis Tower and a short taxi ride away from other famous sights. At 2:15 pm, the group will board the Southwest Chief. Settle into your overnight accommodations and prepare for the train's 2:45 pm departure. You will want to spend time in the Sightseer Lounge, which offers stunning views of the passing scenery from its floor-to-ceiling windows. This evening enjoy a full-course dinner in the dining car. Overnight train. (D)
Day 2 - Travel through America's Southwest / Arrive Flagstaff
When you awake this morning the train will be approaching the Colorado border. The remainder of the day will be full of colorful scenery as the Southwest Chief follows the Santa Fe Trail across New Mexico and Arizona. The train arrives in Flagstaff, Arizona, at 9:50 pm. Upon arrival, transfer the short distance to your hotel. Overnight Drury Inn. (B, L, D)
Day 3 - The Grand Canyon / Laughlin, Nevada
This morning travel by deluxe motorcoach to the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is one of the world's most outstanding sights. In form, size, flowing color and geological significance, it is unsurpassed. Your excursion allows you to view the Canyon from several observation areas. This afternoon travel to Harrah's Hotel and Casino, with dinner included en route. This attractive destination features nine hotel/casinos providing over 10,000 rooms, 60 restaurants, a 34-lane bowling center and a variety of boutiques, spas and salons. Overnight Harrah's Hotel and Casino. (CB, D)
Day 4 - Western Frontier to Merced
This morning the group travels west to Bakersfield, where you will catch the 3:45 pm San Joaquin train to Merced. Upon arrival, enjoy dinner at the award-winning Branding Iron Restaurant. Overnight Courtyard By Marriott Merced. (D)
Day 5 - Yosemite National Park
This morning we will board our motorcoach for the 82-mile journey into Yosemite National Park. El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite Falls and Half Dome are some of the most popular attractions. This afternoon we'll take a two-hour narrated sightseeing tour into the Park.
Late this afternoon we'll head back to Merced. An included dinner stop will be made en route. Overnight Courtyard By Marriott Merced. (D)
Day 6 - Zephyr through the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Transfer to the Sacramento Amtrak Station this morning for your departure aboard the California Zephyr. As you travel eastward. the lush green landscape and palm trees of California are left behind and you're met with the rugged terrain, dotted with pine trees, of the high Sierra Nevada Mountains. Completed in 1868, the 1,659-foot Summit Tunnel at Donner Pass was one of the key efforts that led to the completion of the first transcontinental railway in 1869. Arrive in Elko, Nevada, just after 10:00 pm this evening and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Hilton Garden Inn (Shilo Inn for June).
Day 7 - Jackson, Wyoming
This morning travel by coach to the ranching and resort center of Jackson, Wyoming. Tonight the group will travel a few miles outside the city for a chuck wagon dinner followed by entertainment from a Western musical group. Overnight Best Western Lodge at Jackson Hole. (B, D)
Day 8 - Grand Teton National Park
Start the day with breakfast at your hotel before venturing out to see the impressive Grand Teton mountain range. Peaks rise abruptly with no foothills. The day's sightseeing takes you to the Chapel of Transfiguration, a rustic log church with fantastic views of the Tetons. Lunch is included at the Jackson Lake Lodge. At the Colter Bay Visitor Center, you'll see Plains Indian art and exhibits and learn more about Grand Teton National Park.
Later today, travel by coach to Yellowstone, America's first National Park established in 1872. This is the world's most extensive region of geothermal activity. Thousands of hot springs dot the thermal basins. Old Faithful is the most famous geyser in the world. Settle into your hotel, which will be your home for three nights, and enjoy a variety of evening activities including the Playbill Theatre, an IMAX Theater featuring a 45-minute presentation about the Yellowstone Park area, and the Yellowstone Historic Center. Overnight Best Western Desert Inn, West Yellowstone. (B, L)
Day 9 - Sightseeing in Yellowstone National Park
After breakfast begin to explore Yellowstone National Park, a two-million acre national jewel. Today's excursion takes you through Madison Junction, Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Junction and Tower Falls. Following lunch on your own, continue on to Artist Point, Inspiration Point and the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. Return to your hotel by late afternoon with the remainder of the day at your leisure. Overnight Best Western Desert Inn, West Yellowstone. (CB)
Day 10 - Yellowstone National Park
Today's excursion through Yellowstone National Park takes you on a scenic drive through the Hayden Valley, a region of lush forest meadows. Keep an eye out for bison and other wildlife. Old Faithful Geyser and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone are highlights of the day. You'll also have the chance to view the paint-pots, which are bubbling hot springs mixed with clay. Dinner this evening is at Bullwinkle's Saloon and Eatery. Overnight Best Western Desert Inn, West Yellowstone. (B, L, D)
Day 11 - En Route to Glacier National Park
Travel north to Whitefish, Montana, stopping along the way at scenic sites. You'll thrill to the beauty and vastness of this magnificent state. Arrive in Whitefish late this afternoon and settle into your hotel with the evening at your leisure. Overnight Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge (August), Grouse Mountain Lodge (June & July). (CB)
Day 12 - Glacier National Park
Embark on a full-day tour of one of America's most beautiful attractions: the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Highway. Acclaimed as one of the outstanding scenic roadways of the world, the drive affords magnificent views of the mountain scenery. Dense forests, picturesque lakes, brilliant flowers and abundant wildlife enhance the spectacular views. Stop for a leisurely lunch on your own at Lake McDonald Lodge and return to the lodge in Whitefish by late afternoon. Your Tour Director will host a farewell dinner this evening. Overnight Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge (August) or Grouse Mountain Lodge (June & July).
Day 13 - Empire Builder to Chicago
This morning transfer to the Whitefish Amtrak Station in time for the 7:46 am departure of the Empire Builder bound for Chicago. Get settled in and then head to the Sightseer Lounge car to take in the passing scenery. During the day you'll cross the remote flatlands of eastern Montana and western North Dakota. Overnight train. (CB, L, D)
Day 14 - Arrive Chicago
When you awake this morning the train will be departing Minneapolis-St. Paul and heading 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 late this afternoon, where you tour will come to a close. (B, L)