Train Trip: U.S. Southwest Chief
November 20, 2021 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Please help me plan a train trip. The first route is from Los Angeles to Chicago.

My spouse and i plan to take a train trip, probably in early fall of 2022. We will take the Southwest Chief from Albuquerque to Chicago (and then later, from Los Angeles back to Albuquerque). All the stops are listed near the bottom of this page.

If you know of anything special along this route, please let us know!

We expect to stop in Kansas City. Please tell us anything to enjoy there, in Chicago, or in another town we should stop in. Also please tell us if there is an especially good time of year to go or to avoid.

We will also be looking for places to stay (especially a hostel, vacation rental or moderately-priced hotel or motel). And, of course, we'd like to know anywhere you recommend to eat or drink.

Although it is the Southwest Chief, we are unlikely to actually stop in the Southwest (because we are from here and other reasons). But if you know somewhere compelling, please share anyway. Maybe it will help someone else.

About us: Two women about 60 years old. One of us has moderate COPD without oxygen use but gets around pretty well. We have broad interests, but they include:
Dance performance
Gay and lesbian culture
Music (blues, jazz, folk and country)
Outdoor activities
Quirky and offbeat things
Sailing lessons
Watching women's sports
posted by NotLost to Travel & Transportation around Eagan, MN (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This sounds like a fantastic trip! I love that train route, though I've never gotten off in-between Chicago and LA.

One overall recommendation, don't plan any activity that has a scheduled start time. The Chief has an AWFUL on-time performance record. It regularly arrives 8+ hours late into Chicago.
posted by hwyengr at 11:21 AM on November 20, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like Kansas City's 18th and Vine Jazz District would be ideal for you since it includes the American Jazz Museum as well as other activities and some good places to eat.

The Steamboat Arabia museum is a pretty cool and unusual place to visit.
posted by Preserver at 12:23 PM on November 20, 2021

Best answer: I went to Kansas City for work a few years ago and had a great time. The Green Lady Lounge was a fun and atmospheric place to listen to jazz and have a drink, and we ate great barbecue at multiple places. Overall it was a surprisingly walkable and very relaxed city.
posted by MadamM at 3:03 PM on November 20, 2021

The wwi museum in kc
posted by brujita at 3:11 PM on November 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Burnt ends bbq if you eat meat.
posted by brujita at 3:11 PM on November 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

1916 USGS periodical of the route

You may be in time to catch the last Semaphore Signals east of Las Vegas
posted by nickggully at 3:57 PM on November 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm originally from KC, it's a great city! Seconding 18th & Vine since you mentioned blues/jazz.

If you eat BBQ, then you're in for a treat. My personal favorites are Q39, Gates, and Joe's KC but there's a lot of other great BBQ places as well. Another option since you mentioned blues, you might want to check out BB's Lawnside BBQ - it's a bit further out but it has both BBQ and live blues some nights.

Museums: the WWI museum is well worth checking out, and the Nelson-Atkins has an excellent collection if you're looking for art.
posted by photo guy at 5:06 PM on November 20, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers about Kansas City. We are also interested in other stops along the route.
posted by NotLost at 8:49 PM on November 20, 2021

when I took the train between ny and Chicago it only stopped long enough at in between stations to let people on and off.
posted by brujita at 9:51 PM on November 20, 2021

Best answer: Seconding that your train will most likely never arrive in any city at its scheduled time so don't plan anything that has a hard and fast start time.

In Chicago you could make me very jealous by going to visit Sue at the Field Museum. She's been on my bucket list for years and the rest of the Field Museum is good as well.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:24 PM on November 21, 2021

Best answer: We took that ride last June. 27 hours late!
posted by charlesminus at 3:37 PM on November 21, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help! We will put a big fudge factor on timing into our plans.
posted by NotLost at 7:25 PM on November 21, 2021

When I took this in the Before Times, there were volunteers from the National Park Service Trails & Rails program who gave little mini-lectures in the observation cars and had baskets of artifacts and NPS handouts for the areas that we were passing through. (They'll even stamp your NPS Passport!)
posted by yeahlikethat at 11:25 AM on November 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

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