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 15 – June 3, 2023
  • Course Dates: May 8 – June 23, 2023
  • Application Deadline:  January 13, 2023
  • Deposit Deadline:  January 13, 2023
  • 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 4450 Sustainable Tourism and Planning (3 credits) and SS 3990 Civic Communications (3 credits) – all HASS courses. We will also 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 three weeks to develop a sustainable tourism charrettes 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 4450 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 3990 Civic Communications

This applied course gives students practice producing professional communications for policy-makers, community leaders, and other decision-makers. It focuses on translating research for decision-making by writing policy briefs, creating infographics, visualizing data in charts, tables, and other graphics, and giving professional presentations to decision-makers. It also includes community meeting facilitation and implementing strategies for community engagement, such as design charrettes, world cafes, and design thinking. We will explore these applications alongside policy-makers, public officials, and tourism stakeholders in each community visited and students will apply them via an event in the Keweenaw upon return.

Course Description


We will leave Houghton by bus on May 15th for Redwing, MN and return on June 3rd. Once on the train after two days in Redwing we will stop in five additional cities for at least 2 nights each. 5 nights will be spent in transit with the option of either sleeping in coach or upgrading to a sleeper car. 

Day Location
May 15th-17th Red Wing, Minnesota
May 18th-20th Glacier National Park, Montana
May 21st-24th Portland, Oregon
May 25th-28th Sacramento, California
May 29th-31st Glenwood Springs, Colorado
June 1st-3rd Galesburg, Illinois
June 3rd Arrive in Houghton, Michigan
June 3rd-23rd Meet twice a week for 1 hour to plan local tourism charrettes


Students pay a $500 deposit by January 13, 2023. Students then register for summer Track A credits with MTU as normal and pay the associated tuition. Tuition will include a "lab fee" of $500. 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, and at least one meal (lunch or dinner) a day.  

Study Away Information

Here are some other resources that will help you with your visit:

View the program flyer here.

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