9 Most Scenic Train Rides In Minnesota, USA

scenic train rides in minnesota

Rail is an economical, convenient, and one of the most preferred mode of transport in the world. Also, in some parts such as Minnesota, trains have become a major recreational activity that continues to attract thousands of local and foreign tourists. The railway excursions in Minnesota take you through beautiful landscapes that boast an array of fascinating features, including streams, rivers, swampy areas, lakes, nature parks, and wilderness, among others. Whereas some of these excursions are seasonal, others are perennial. So, read through this article of the most scenic train rides in Minnesota, USA, to identify an excursion that coincides with your holiday plans.

1. North Shore Scenic Railroad

Source: Photo by user Lake County Histo... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Every year in summer and fall, the North Shore Scenic Railroad offers exhilarating train excursions between Two Harbors and the historic Duluth. The distance between the destinations is 42km (26mi), which is quite sufficient for a half-day trip as there are countless attractions along the route to fill up your time. The tour takes you through the Canal Park on the shores of one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, Lake Superior, and the beautiful north woods. Along the way, expect to see unique architecture, vast lakes, pristine rivers, and lush forests that are packed with different species of wildlife.

North Shore Scenic Railroad

Website: North Shore Scenic Railroad

2. Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad

Saturday & Sunday June 18th &19th is our first weekend of the 2016 season. What a great way to recover from running or...

Posted by Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad on Friday, 17 June 2016

Discover the history of the railroad industry and magnificent sceneries in Duluth with a two-hour scenic train tour through beautiful countryside, which is packed with a variety of things to see and do. The route is famous for many things, among them, the beautiful fall colors of maple trees, the scenic Mud Lake, and a variety of wildlife including birds, geese, and turtles that have learned to coexist with humans and can be seen lingering along the railway in search of food and water. For a better experience, the last coach of the train has an open-top to give passengers the best views. You should record videos and take many pictures of the great sceneries along this route.

Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad

Website: Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad

3. North Shore Scenic Railroad - Music & Pizza Train

Posted by North Shore Scenic Railroad on Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Another excellent train excursion for families by the North Shore Scenic Railroad is their special Music & Pizza Train trip. The Music and Pizza Train operates from the famed Union Depot to the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior during weekends in summer. This fun-filled adventure to the North Shore is unique in that the passengers are served light meals, including a 20cm (8”) pizza, soda, candy, chips, beer, and wine, among other snacks and beverages. The cost of some of these goodies is included in the ticket and therefore little, or no extra charge is imposed in the course of the trip. Just sit, relax, and enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the North Shore.

North Shore Scenic Railroad

Website: North Shore Scenic Railroad

4. Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway

Business Car A-11, currently assigned as auxiliary Dining Coach on the Osceola & St Croix Valley Railway.

Posted by Osceola & St Croix Dinner Train on Saturday, 9 March 2013

Create an unforgettable experience with Osceola and St. Croix Valley train excursion. Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway offers two trips: to Dresser WI and another one to Marine on St. Croix MN. If you are looking for adventure and knowledge about the history of the area, the one heading to Marine on St. Croix MN would be a great fit for you, considering the variety of attractions along the way and those that await you at the destination. In this light, passengers can watch the beautiful sceneries of deciduous trees, that exhibit different shades of colors during autumn, over a glass of wine or juice served on board.

Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway

Website: Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway

5. North Shore Scenic Railroad - Two Harbors Turn

Streamliner to Two Harbors 2014
Source: Photo by user Keon McGarvey used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Besides the trips to Canal Park and its environs, the North Shore Scenic Railway provides another exciting train excursion from Duluth to the Two Harbors Turn. This six-hour trip is the longest and probably the most exciting journey by the North Shore Scenic Railway. On the way, the train makes a few stops in some of the most notable recreational spots in North Shore, including Lake Superior Railroad Museum, which holds crucial information and exhibits about locomotives and other rolling stock. Also, in Two Harbors, the train will station for a little bit to give passengers ample time to shop, eat, and explore the lakeside town.

North Shore Scenic Railroad

Website: North Shore Scenic Railroad

6. Excelsior Streetcar Line

(Left to Right) DSR #78 and TCRT #1239 Standard Gate Car Excelsior Streetcar Demonstration Line at Excelsior, Minnesota

Posted by Minnesota Streetcar Museum (MSM) on Thursday, 6 May 2010

Excelsior Streetcar Line offers tourists a unique chance to relive the days when streetcars used to ferry people from the hot urban centers to the beautiful shores of Lake Minnetonka. Today, Excelsior Streetcar Line provides 1.6 km (1 mile) round trips through the old Minneapolis and Saint Louis Railway. Along the way, the car will stop by the carban for visitors to check out the beautiful display of paddlewheel boards, hotels, landmarks, and trains dating back to the 19th century. The train also makes another stop at Lake Minnetonka Historical Society for guests to view the beautiful artifacts and many exhibits detailing the rich heritage of the south.

Excelsior Streetcar Line

Website: Excelsior Streetcar Line

7. Friends of the 261

Milwaukee Road Engine No. 261
Source: Photo by user Greg Gjerdingen used under CC BY 2.0

Join Friends of the 261 for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride a vintage train, the Milwaukee Road 261. The steam locomotive offers several scenic rides, including the famous fall color excursion, which operates from St. Paul in Minnesota to Lacrescent through Winona and back. The route features a beautiful landscape comprised of extensive plantations, grasslands and lush canopies which are inhabited by different bird species. With the 261’s Skytop lounge and open vestibules, the views are unbeatable. What’s more, the guides are very knowledgeable and they take great pride in explaining the history of the railroads and steam locomotives in Minnesota. Clearly, this is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the evolution of trains.

Friends of the 261

Website: Friends of the 261

8. The Zephyr

Posted by North Shore Scenic Railroad on Monday, 14 May 2018

Explore Duluth this summer aboard the famous tourist train dubbed Zephyr. With an all-window seating, the Zephyr guarantees some of the best views of different attractions in downtown Duluth, along the shores of Lake Superior and the picturesque Congdon Estate. Also, depending on your preferences, you can move back and forth on the train, admiring the mansions, forests, and other beautiful features along the route. Luckily, the passengers in the Zephyr are not assigned specific seats, and so you can sit at any spot that pleases you. The trip is suitable for all ages and therefore, it would be a good idea to bring your kids for a slice of this fun and adventure.

The Zephyr

Website: The Zephyr

9. Amtrak Empire Builder

Amtrak "Empire Builder" @ Two Medicine Trestle Montana
Source: Photo by user Loco Steve used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Besides ferrying passengers across three major cities namely Chicago, Seattle, and Portland, Amtrak’s Empire Builder provides six-and-a-half-hour trips through a variety of highlights in Minnesota heartland. In this regard, the train traverses the vast plains of Minnesota, its pristine lakes, rivers, and lush forests that are home to species of plants and animals. To better explore these attractions, the Amtrak Empire Builder offers alternative routes within or outside the state. For those who do wish to go beyond Minnesota, you can start your trip at Winona in the South and head northwards to Detroit Lakes, a city where you can do your shopping or have a quick lunch. Along the way, the train will also take you through other cities, including St. Paul and St. Cloud, among others.

Amtrak Empire Builder

Website: Amtrak Empire Builder

Most scenic train rides in Minnesota

In conclusion, the train tours in Minnesota make the state an excellent destination for lovers of nature and great outdoor exploration. Plan your trip to embark on our article’s most scenic train rides in Minnesota, USA, for a chance to get up close with the state’s beautiful countryside.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Josiah Ndung'u is a Mechanical Engineering graduate and a travelling enthusiast who loves networking with new people, learning new cultures, having fun (especially at the beach), and sampling new...Read more

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