Amtrak Tourism: Trains, Cities, & Sustainability

Hop on board Amtrak for a three-week faculty-led tour of the Western United States. Work alongside tourism professionals in Red Wing, Minnesota, hike Glacier National Park, interact with students at Portland State, explore the public transport and destination infrastructure of Aspen, Colorado, and visit the railroad legacy cities of Sacramento, California and Galesburg, Illinois. Return to the Keweenaw and share your experiences with local stakeholders in the tourism industry.  View the program flyer here .

  • Travel Dates:  May 9 – 29, 2022
  • Course Dates: May 9 – June 24, 2022
  • Application Deadline: December 5, 2021
  • Deposit Deadline:  December 17, 2021
  • Earn 6-10 credits, including 9 in HASS


Students register for 6-10 summer session credits (Track A) through Michigan Technological University and pay the associated tuition costs. Students are required to take SS 3240 Reading the Landscape (3 credits) and then choose one or both courses: SS 4390 Sustainable Tourism (3 credits) and SS 4530 Deindustrialization and the Urban Environment (3 credits) – all HASS courses. We also hope to offer optional PE courses (PE 0175- Hiking; PE 0166 Moving for Fitness). All courses meet General Education requirements and meet major requirements for Social Sciences majors. Research opportunities may also be available - contact instructors if you are interested.

Instruction will occur both on-board the train in a unique but relatively traditional setting with set aside time for discussion, debate, and journaling and in the field. Students’ involvement with partner institutions and personnel and within the larger group in exploration and discussion will replace the traditional lectures or examinations of the courses. 

Upon return to Houghton, students will meet twice a week for four weeks to develop a sustainable tourism chalet for the local community where they will present their experiences and apply them to tourism in the Keweenaw. 

SS 3240 Reading the Landscape

Landscape is a lens through which scholars study people, environment, and place. The concept transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries. Students apply different approaches to landscape throughout their time both onboard Amtrak and within the communities serviced by the train. Through various creative means students will apply landscape concepts relevant to sustainable tourism and deindustrialized urban environments.

Course Description

SS 4390 Sustainable Tourism and Planning

Sustainable Tourism and Planning provides a sustainable and systematic approach and critique to tourism planning and development. How do we maximize the benefits and minimize the economic, social, and environmental costs associated with tourism? Topics include the goals of tourism development, tourism planning processes, accessible and equitable tourism planning, multi-scalar tourism policies and impacts, tourism resource assessments, destination development models, and alternative tourism strategies for the Keweenaw Peninsula. We will utilize the unique tourism agencies and destinations along our Amtrak routes to consider such questions and topics, including applying our experiences back into considerations for the Keweenaw’s tourism industry. 

Course Description

SS 4530 Deindustrialization and the Urban Environment

This course examines economic, environmental, and social problems associated with deindustrialization in postwar North American cities and the strategies adopted to ameliorate them. Major topics include segregation and housing, environmental regulation, environmental justice, industrial heritage, and economic and urban development policy. We will explore these concepts through the post-industrial river city of Red Wing, MN, the heavily gentrified port city of Portland, OR, the nationally significant railroad hubs of Sacramento, CA and Galesburg, IL, and the rust best city of Milwaukee, WI.

Course Description


We will leave Houghton by bus on May 9th to catch the train in Milwaukee and return on May 28th. Once on the train we will stop in six cities for 2 nights each. 7 nights will be spent in transit with the option of either sleeping in coach or upgrading to a sleeper car. 

Day Location
May 10th Milwaukee, Wisconsin
May 10th-12th Red Wing, Minnesota
May 13th-15th Glacier National Park, Montana
May 16th-18th Portland, Oregon
May 19th-21st Sacramento, California
May 22nd-24th Aspen, Colorado
May 25th-27th Galesburg, Illinois
May 28th Arrive in Houghton, Michigan
May 31st-June 23rd Meet twice a week for 1 hour to plan local tourism chalet
June 24th Sustainable Tourism in the Keweenaw Chalet


Students pay a $100 application fee, plus a $500 deposit by December 17, 2021. Students then register for summer Track A credits with MTU as normal and pay the associated tuition. Tuition will include a "lab fee" of approximately $1,000 if there are 10 or fewer students. The additional program fee will be $500 with 11-16 students and zero if we hit 17 students. The deposit plus the lab fee covers the costs of the program in addition to the instruction. This includes transportation, lodging, activity expenses, program administration, travel insurance, and at least one meal (lunch or dinner) a day. 

Study Away Information

Have questions about studying aboard? Study abroad staff can help you with your pre-departure. Here are some other resources that will help you with your visit:

View the program flyer here .