In the U.S. – traveling by train isn’t typically the first vacation plan that comes to mind. But if you find yourself TDY to Fort Meade, you might be surprised at just how easy it is to take a relaxing and affordable trip by rail.
Trains have a storied reputation as one of the most glamorous and picturesque ways to travel. And unlike other modes of transportation – particularly airlines – trains have maintained their sense of relaxation and luxury. With large panoramic windows, plush seats (even in coach!), and affordable upgrades, trains offer a unique travel option – where the journey is actually part of the vacation.
Located less than thirty minutes from our Fort Meade Crashpad, Amtrak rail offers several direct routes throughout the east coast, all departing from Washington D.C.’s Union Station – perfect for a spring break getaway!
New York City
When you arrive in the heart of the city at Penn Station – the sky is the limit. There are a plethora of hotels in close proximity, with accommodations to fit any budget, along with every variety of restaurant imaginable.
Catch a Broadway show at one of the 41 theatres near Times Square, take a 360-degree gaze at the world from the “Top of the Rock” skyscraper at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, or simply soak up all the major sights from one of the many hop-on, hop-off bus tours that traverse the city. Make sure to carve out time for a stroll through Central Park as the sprawling grounds come to life for spring.
- There are several direct departures to Penn Station from Union Station. On average, trains depart two to three times per hour.
- Duration: 3 to 3.5 hours
There’s no shortage of things to love in the “City of Brotherly Love.” Start the day with a Philly cheesesteak (Pat’s Steaks is an excellent choice), then head out to explore. The Independence Visitor Center is the perfect place to begin your sightseeing – and is also the only place to buy same-day tickets to view Independence Hall, and see the rooms where the both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed. Nearby is the Liberty Bell Center. While no tickets are required to view the Liberty Bell, the center does have seasonal hours.
In addition to history, Philadelphia is also a beautiful city of art and boasts over 2,000 outdoor murals – making it the world’s largest outdoor art gallery!
- There are several direct routes from Union Station, departing on average twice per hour.
- Duration: 3 to 3.5 hours
Step back in time and take a trip to Colonial America in Williamsburg, Virginia. As one of the nation’s first cities, Williamsburg played a significant role in the American Revolution. You’ll see why Forbes “Travel Guide” has rated Williamsburg in the “14 Top Destinations of 2019” as you walk through the town’s historic center and admire original 18th-century buildings, historical sites, and taverns.
- Two direct departures daily: morning at 7:30 a.m. or afternoon, 3:30 – 4 p.m.
- Duration: Just under 4 hours
Boston is a wonderful city to explore, with many of its top sites in a compact, easily walkable area. Wear your favorite pair of walking shoes and wander through the charming narrow cobblestoned streets of Beacon Hill, then on to ‘The Freedom Trail’ – a two and half mile route that showcases 16 of the city’s major sites – including Boston Common, the USS Constitution, the iconic golden-domed Massachusetts State House, and more. You can book a guided tour to walk the trail, but there are also free Boston Walking Tour apps, available on both iTunes and Android – giving you the flexibility to tour at your own pace.
Set out from Washington D.C. in the morning – and be in Boston by late afternoon, just in time for happy hour at the oldest tavern in America, the Bell in Hand. Opening its doors in 1795, this tavern is a must. Even Paul Revere thought so, and was a regular customer.
- Approximately a half dozen morning departures, direct from Union Station
- Duration: 7 to 8 hours
Few cities in America can rival the timeless beauty of Charleston. Bursting with antebellum and Colonial architecture, time seems to move just a bit slower here.
Head to Battery Park and stroll along the waterfront as Palmetto trees sway in the gentle humid breeze. Admire the delightful pastel-colored colonial homes along “Rainbow Row” as you walk down East Bay Street and into the lovely red-brick historic heart of the city. Do as the locals do and “freshen up” with some of the best cocktails in the south, before sitting down to a must-have dinner of shrimp and grits. And you simply must try Husk Restaurant, it is a Lowcountry favorite.
- From Union Station, Charleston is the longest of trips mentioned here – but free from the hassles of an airline – or worry of a traffic jam, it’s actually a perfect fit for a long weekend. There are two routes from D.C. on the Palmetto Line; a mid-morning departure of 10 a.m. where you’ll arrive at 7:30 p.m., or the unique adventure of an overnight trip in a roomette, departing at 7:30 p.m. and arriving just in time for breakfast at 5 a.m.
- Duration: 5 hours
Train travel tips
- Baggage: Checked bag service is available only at some stations – meaning, more often than not – you’ll need to physically carry your luggage on and off the train. Pack light, ensure you are able to carry and lift your suitcase, and potentially walk up a flight or two of stairs in the stations if a service elevator is out. But … with Amtrak, there are also no baggage fees.
- Boarding and Departing: Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure, 60 minutes provides a comfortable cushion. Once on the train, gather your belongings and luggage approximately 10 to 15 minutes prior to your final stop, to ensure you are ready to depart the car.
- Seat selection: A variety of options are available, including; Coach, Business, and First-Class. Coach class offers panoramic views, access to the dining car, and comfortable seats. Business and First-Class offer more exclusive seating sections of the train, and cars are traditionally quieter, with reduced foot traffic in the aisles. First-class typically includes a complimentary meal and beverage service.
Serving over 500 locations, (and offering a 25 percent savings deal on spring break travel) Amtrak is the perfect way to explore the east coast and set off for adventure!
Written by: Kristi Adams