All Aboard for New York City
In the past six years I’ve traveled to New York City four times, three of those times have been by Amtrak train. Traveling by train eliminates the stress of driving or the hassle of flying. And when you arrive at New York’s Penn Station, you are in the middle of midtown Manhattan; you don’t have to worry about taking a long taxi ride from the airport or wondering where you’ll park your car. An added bonus is that there are many hotels within walking distance from the train station.
Planning the trip
The first time I traveled to New York City by train was six years ago with several friends; we were celebrating the Big 5-0. About a month before the trip we gathered at one friend’s house to plan our itinerary; we had a basic plan but allowed to do thing spur of the moment. We pre-purchase our train tickets online. While you can buy tickets the day of departure at the station, you are taking a chance, as they do sell out during peak times, especially during the summer.
When I traveled to New York by train this past summer with my husband and our two youngest kids, the total price of our four train tickets was less expensive than the price of what one airline ticket would be. Amtrak offers a AAA discount and kids are half price. In addition, parking at the Depew station is free.
What to bring
Travelers are limited to two carry-on suitcases measuring 28” x 22” x 14” and weighing less than 50 pounds. The smaller the suitcase the better, as you must be able to lift it to store it in the overhead compartment. When traveling to New York City from Buffalo checking your luggage is not an option; not all trains are equipped to handle checked luggage. Purses, camera and computer cases, and diaper bags don’t count towards the carry on limit, although you do have to store them under your seat or by your feet, so again, the smaller the better.
I would also recommend bringing a small pillow and blanket, especially if you travel on the train that departs the Depew station at 4:30 am, since you’ll probably doze until the sun comes up. The scenery is actually pretty mundane until you get past Albany and travel along the Hudson River. Expect to arrive in New York City around 12:30 pm, just in time for lunch!
You can bring electronic devices such as laptops, kindles, and ipads to use on the train. Electrical outlets are available and there is free Wi-Fi on the train traveling to New York City. Unlike the airlines, you can bring liquids aboard, so feel free to bring water, juice, or coffee, as well as snacks for the journey. In the early morning there is a snack car with a very limited menu of beverages and foods like bagels, packaged pastries, and cereal. Sandwiches are available in the late morning and early afternoon, but I would hold off eating lunch until you get to New York, since there so many dining options in the city.
When traveling later in the day (I’ve always taken the train home that departs New York around 3:30 pm) a dining car is attached to the train. Full dinners, including chicken and steak are offered; you can even enjoy a glass of wine or beer. Be sure to make a dinner reservation with the hostess after boarding the train, as seating is limited in the dining car.
Once you arrive
When you arrive at Penn Station, you’ll be amazed at the number of people traveling by train; it’s quite a contrast to the sleepy little Depew station. If your hotel is within walking distance, drop off your luggage (you can always check it if your room isn’t ready) and have lunch before exploring the city. Keep in mind that hotel rooms in New York are rather small, especially the more reasonably priced ones. I always try to find a hotel that offers a complimentary breakfast, a real time and money saver.
Things to do in New York City
I found the optimal time to allow for a trip to New York is four days and three nights. However, since there is so much to see and do in New York, you won’t possibly be able to do everything you’d like in one trip. Here are some things I’ve done that you might want to check out; many of these attractions offer pre-purchase tickets, especially helpful during peak tourism times.
Even though it’s a bit pricey, I recommend the double-decker bus tours of the city. One company offering these is Gray Line (www.newyorksightseeing.com). For a bird’s eye view of the city, visit the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. While at Rockefeller Center, check out the many shops, ice skate in the winter, or catch the Today Show in the morning. Across the street is the iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
A visit to the Statue of Liberty will take most of the day, as there is much to see on Liberty Island. This summer we took the ferry over to Liberty Island at 11:00 am and we did not leave until after 4:00 pm.
Of course a visit to New York would not be compete without going to Times Square, with all its bright lights, shops, restaurants, hotels, and the many theaters. Just a note, when I visited New York back in the 1970’s, Times Square was a rather seedy, scary place; rest assured it is not like that anymore.
You may also want to check out Central Park, the Intrepid Air & Space Museum, and the Ground Zero Memorial where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood.
Let’s not forget shopping and food. Visit Macy’s Herald Square, the “World’s Largest Store” or some of the upscale and designer stores on 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue. Every kind of food imaginable can be found in the city, from traditional deli sandwiches and pizza, to Asian specialties in Chinatown and Italian cuisine in Little Italy. One of our favorite lunch traditions is to get deli takeout and eat it in Bryant Park, located behind the New York Library. There are also many interesting ethnic restaurants located along, “Restaurant Row,” 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue.
For more information about traveling by train:
Here are some links to information about New York City: