There is something undeniably romantic about travelling by train. While planes may offer convenience, and cars provide the more free-spirited driver with the potential to make unexpected side trips, trains are increasingly popular amongst luxury travellers for the simple reason that they provide a spacious and comfortable experience with incomparable views.
Small affluent villages upstate provide an oasis of sorts for commuters from Manhattan. If you are unable to escape the gridlock permanently at this point in your life, you can still plan a luxury getaway that will incite creative and intellectual curiosity.
For today’s metropolitan dwellers, leaving the Upper West Side for a weekend excursion into the picturesque countryside of upstate New York and Vermont has never been simpler, all thanks to Amtrak’s wide variety of preplanned train trips through these particular regions. Ride the rails on any of the following express trains.
Ethan Allen Express
If you’re from New York, you have probably at some point dreamed of leaving. In 1967, Joan Didion’s seminal essay “Goodbye to All That” revealed the paradox of the New Yorker and the struggle faced by many of the city’s literary and cultural elite. Dating back to the 1940s, New York counterculture dreamed of retiring to the lands further north.
Starting in New York City, the Ethan Allen Express train provides daily service by way of Albany. For five hours, passengers can sit back and relax on a trip through the stunning Hudson River Valley and step off in Rutland, Vermont, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Situated in the shadow of the majestic Adirondack Mountains and only a few hours outside of the city that never sleeps, this is truly one of the most iconic train routes in the northeast, no matter which of the four seasons it happens to be. Farm-to-table restaurants thrive in this part of the country, as do wineries, which occupy a great deal of the valley.
In the spring and summertime, the farmlands upstate come alive, with wildflowers dotting the fields and the crystal-clear blue skies inspiring awe in passengers whose city life has deprived them of wide-open space.
In autumn, the changing leaves make this one of the most beautiful train routes on the continent. If you’ve long craved a fall weekend getaway with striking views and moody ambience, this is the trip to take.
For a slightly lengthier journey, look no further than the Vermonter, which runs from Washington, D.C. to St. Albans, Vermont. This trip runs daily for approximately fourteen hours, taking urbanites out of Washington and northward into some lesser-known — but beautiful — regions of New England.
The train runs through New York to Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, finally ending in northern Vermont’s quaint town of St. Albans, population 5,000.
Though the first several hours of the trip are more routine than scenic, you can easily take advantage of the Amtrak’s free Wi-Fi to get work done on your laptop, or take a leisurely nap until you reach the final stretch. You’ll want to be awake as you pass through central Vermont, where farms, orchards, and Green Mountain views will put you in a daze.
The mythology of Vermont still looms large amongst those who call New York home. There are, in fact, still quite a few modern New Yorkers making the exodus to Vermont, and you might feel inspired to do the same after witnessing the sweeping, mountainous landscape that draws many writers, artists, and craftsmen annually.
Anyone aboard the Vermonter after Labour Day will understand why, when making her debut appearance at the Brattleboro Literary Festival, New York poet Sharon Olds expressed deep reverence for the Green Mountain State: “I lift mine hills to the hills from whence my deliverance comes.”
Ten hours after departing Penn Station, you will set foot in Montreal at dusk, having crossed the northern border and hopefully gained plenty of new memories and photos to document the dizzying array of scenery in the Lake Champlain Region of upstate New York.
The Adirondack has been rated one of the top ten most scenic train rides in the world and becomes particularly popular once the summer fades to a close; as you may have expected, the autumn foliage around Lake Champlain is some of the most beautiful in the world. Local farmer’s markets and art galleries now flourish brilliantly in the historic region where American revolutionaries once captured Fort Ticonderoga.
In summer, this train route will expose you to lush wilderness, but we suggest making an early-winter adventure if you’re a birdwatcher. Just after Thanksgiving is when you’re most likely to catch sight of some of the most unique birds, who begin their migration from Canada in late fall and pass through the Northern Champlain Valley. Glance outside your window as the train passes by, and you might be lucky enough to catch sight of a loon, red-tailed hawk, or bald eagle.