Sometimes the delays Amtrak trains face when working through heavy freight traffic are a little rough if you have a specific schedule. Let’s just get that out of the way right now.
Aside from that, Amtrak is amazing for travelers looking to get a taste of urban life in New York. The most compelling and also most overlooked reason is that Amtrak stops smack in the middle of so many downtowns across the state.Buffalo, Rochester, Utica, Schenectady, Hudson (close enough, a few minute walk) and New York City feature stations that literally put you in the middle of the action.While Buffalo’s downtown train station isn’t much to look at, a short walk takes you to Main Street, where you can take Buffalo’s light rail/subway to downtown destinations , or just walk to the harbor or nearby Elmwood for some of the best restaurants and shops in the city.
Or, you can stop in Rochester and take a ten minute walk to the Genesee Brewery and Brew House, as well as the most magnificent view of High Falls, one of Upstate’s most inspiring downtown sights. A walk in the direction of downtown showcases Rochester’s surging restaurant and nightlife scene. What about your family? The Strong Museum of Play, home of the National Toy Hall of Fame is a great place to take your kids for the day, just a short Uber ride from the station.
In Utica, disembark from the train and take that special someone of yours to Bite Bakery and Cafe for breakfast or lunch. After that, a tour of the Saranac Brewery, a midday cocktail at Ocean Blue, and an extraordinary dinner at The Tailor & The Cook, one of New York’s top farm to table restaurants are all lovely options. Later, head down to Varick Street for an evening of excellent nightlife.Oh, and don’t forget the Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute,Utica Zoo, and maybe some tickets for a Comets hockey game… they love their hockey there! All of this, by the way, is within a mile or two of the downtown train station.
How about Schenectady? There are more possibilities than I could possibly list here. While the Rivers Casino is a fine destination, Schenectady boasts one of the most walkable downtowns in the state, filled with independent shops, restaurants nightlife. I cannot recommend Schenectady enough as a place to spend a day!
If you’re into antiques, shops, art and all the things Brooklyn used to be before gentrification, Hudson, New York is your destination. There’s a bookstore that has a bar in it… dare I say more? All of this is just a short walk from the Hudson Amtrak station.
And New York City? Well, if you arrive in New York via plane, it’s two trains and nearly an hour and a half of travel just to get back to Manhattan. When you take Amtrak, you arrive at Penn Station, which is just blocks from Time’s Square, The High Line, and a million amazing New York destinations.
Many other attractive New York cities also feature Amtrak stations that are near their downtowns… Albany, for example, is a short Uber ride across the river from the Rensselaer Amtrak station. Syracuse’s train station is a 15 minute walk to the Destiny USA Mall, one of the largest in North America. If you take your bike on the train (which you can on some!) take a ride from the Amtrak station down the Onondaga Trail (one of my favorite urban trails!) to Armory Square for a fantastic day of shopping, breweries, bars, restaurants and more.
Take your bike or pick up a ride share after getting off at Rome and enjoy an experience in local history at Fort Stanwix, or a few cold ones at one of my favorite New York breweries, Copper City Brewing, not too far from the station.
The fact that Amtrak stops in or near so many New York downtowns makes it a fantastic option for those who are looking to get a little more personal with cities across the Empire State.Watch out, the fun you have in these places just might surprise you!! Remember, all the cities I just mentioned are undergoing their own urban revivals and have something very special to offer. Most of these options are reachable without having to drive for hours… on Amtrak, you can sit back, enjoy a ton of leg room, or the comforts of the cafe car. Yes, they have booze in the cafe car.
Amtrak is a wonderful way to see urban life across our state, and as someone who loves the experience of traveling to hotspots you might not expect, I highly recommend giving it a shot. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!