By train: beautiful destinations, no car

Amtrak, the nation’s passenger rail service, has had its own share of pandemic challenges. Intensified cleaning protocols, mask requirements and the closure of international borders are some of the issues he faces.

Nonetheless, much of its network is operational, offering travelers a wide range of prime vacation destinations, many of which are within hours of the Capital Region.

A couple of caveats: you’ll probably need a car or at least a shuttle service to your destination, unless you’re heading to major cities – Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, or Chicago. – where public transport is readily available.

“Philadelphia is a great city. Washington is a great city, ”said Jean Gagnon of Plaza Travel in Latham. “You don’t need a car.

Amtrak offers what it calls Thruway Connection Services – coaches, ferries, van services – that bridge the gap between the station and your destination. You will want to confirm that they are working.

And delays, especially where Amtrak operates on tracks operated by freight railways, can be a headache. Barbara Urban, frequent train traveler and resident of Troy, says, “Be flexible. “

The retired teacher also advises beginners to take a few short trips before embarking on longer overnight trips that may involve a change of train.

One travel source is, which lists tour packages throughout New York and Vermont. His magazine can be found on trains serving Amtrak’s New York routes.

Some New York by Rail travel packages include car rental arrangements, often with Enterprise, publisher Thomas Martinelli said.

And the site describes the attractions near the station stops that make up the Empire Corridor connecting New York, Albany, and Buffalo.

Bikes are now permitted on many Amtrak trains, a boon to those who travel the Empire State Trail’s 750-mile network. You will need to reserve a seat on the train and pay a fee. Details:

“It’s the largest trail system of the lower 48,” said Bob Provost, who heads the New York State Tourism Industry Association. Amtrak’s Empire Corridor line runs parallel to much of the trail, especially where it runs alongside the Erie Canal.

Another branch heads north into the Champlain Valley.

With the fall foliage season quickly approaching, vacationers might also consider the Ethan Allen Express, a daily service via Albany in Rutland, Vermont. After a long suspension during the pandemic, trains resumed in July.

Kim Rupe of the Rutland Region House and Economic Development said the nearby Killington Resort offers warm-weather activities such as golf and mountain biking. In winter, of course, there is skiing.

A shuttle service was suspended during the pandemic.

The Ethan Allen Express, meanwhile, will be extended to downtown Burlington by next summer. Previously, Vermont’s largest city could be reached by ferry from the Port Kent stop in the Adirondacks, but that link is another victim of the pandemic.

Daily Adirondack service to Montreal, suspended when the Canadian border closed, now ends in Albany, while another train, the Maple Leaf to Toronto, ends in Niagara Falls.

But while Canada’s largest cities are off-limits, there are many domestic destinations.

You’ll see plenty of Berkshires fall foliage on the Lake Shore Limited as it travels from Albany to Boston daily. And although the journey takes a few hours longer than driving, once in Boston you can change to the North Station to take one of Amtrak’s Downeaster trains that serve the Maine coast. Resorts such as Wells, Old Orchard Beach, and Saco will give you access to some of Maine’s best beaches and coastal scenery.

Bruce Becker, a longtime advocate for passenger rail transportation, also suggests Portland, where passengers can take a cab or cab service to reach that city’s bustling downtown waterfront, and Freeport, where the LL Bean’s flagship store is a short walk from the station.

The Downeaster service offers five daily round trips, as well as a late night departure from Boston when major concerts or sporting events are scheduled. Details:

Or take the Lake Shore Limited west of Albany overnight to Chicago, the farthest point you can reach from here without changing trains. The long-distance train includes a dining car and coach seats, as well as the luxury of rooms and small bedrooms.

Urban says that while a room on the train “isn’t cheap,” it does offer meals as well as a “hotel” room for the night with a compact toilet and shower.

She suggests travelers search YouTube for “Amtrak sleepers” for videos describing the bedroom and smaller bedrooms.

Amtrak’s Empire Corridor service offers trains to Penn Station up to 10 times per day.

And while you can change to trains at Penn that will take you through cities from Boston south to Washington, Miami, Atlanta or New Orleans, you can also take the Long Island Rail Road to beaches and resorts. resorts, or New Jersey Transit to that state. riparian communities.

Check out the newly opened Moynihan Train Hall with its expansive glass ceiling. This is probably the first time the sun has shone anywhere at Penn Station since the aerial part was demolished in the 1960s.

One night my wife and I took a few weeks ago included a stay at the TWA Hotel at Kennedy International Airport. The hotel, a favorite of aviation geeks and airline crews, includes the restored Eero Saarinen TWA terminal with Café Paris and Lisbon Lounge. Outside, a vintage Lockheed Constellation serves as a cocktail bar.

The ’60s set and soundtrack is a throwback to a time when the terminal made air travel something special. Now everything is accessible by train. Three, in fact, including Amtrak, LIRR, and the AirTrain connecting Jamaica station to Kennedy terminals.

Eric Anderson covered transportation for The Times Union before retiring from his post as editor in June. Contact him at [email protected]

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