With holidays reserved for time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and summer normally busy with camps, sports and other activities, my kid’s time off from school for Spring Break has become, over the past few years, the one time my husband, myself and our two boys can take a vacation, and hang out together just the four of us. Spring Break has become a time that our family looks forward to, and sometimes getting there is just as much fun as the actual destination. Which lead us to the time we took the train….
We decided that we would go to New York City for Spring Break a few years ago. It would be the first time my kids would get to see the Big Apple, and we were excited to show them all that the city had to offer. The one problem was we knew we would be either walking or taking the subway to all the places we wanted to go in Manhattan, and we didn’t want to have a car (or more importantly pay to park a car) for the time we were there. We thought about flying, but after a little research we decided to take an Amtrak train. It was economical, would only be a little bit longer than driving, and plus was a different alternative that none of us had ever done before.
Our journey began actually on the T. We live in the South Hills, so we had a friend drop us off at the station near our house very early one morning. We then took the light rail into the city. After getting off at the Steel Plaza station, we walked about 10 minutes to the Pittsburgh train station. We made it just in time to board the Amtrak train called the Pennsylvanian. The first thing I noticed as we settled into our seats was how much leg room we had. As someone who has made a few trips on planes where I felt crammed in with no space of my own, I really appreciated this little bit of extra space to stretch out and relax. It is the little things in life! Plus my kids loved that they could get up at anytime and wonder around the train cars. It helped get the wiggles out and break up the trip for them. We sat back and enjoyed watching all the beautiful scenery and the small town’s train stations go by. By late afternoon, we were getting off in New York City at Penn Station. Overall, I was surprised how much we enjoyed the train, and how it made our trip that much more special.
There were a couple things we learned that I didn’t know going into this. First, the food on the train was really bad. I expected it to be fairly basic, but the sandwiches we purchased were soggy, and one item was still a little frozen. Hopefully, this was just a bad experience we had, and not the norm! We did fix that for our return trip, by stopping in a grocery store and purchasing food to take with us on the train. Also, I saw that they had Wi-Fi listed as available on the train, and thought we could use that during the journey. It turned out that it was actually only available in the dining car, and you could really only sit in there while you were eating. Definitely not a deal breaker, but it is something that is worth knowing when planning activities to keep everyone occupied during the trip.
Overall we loved taking the train, and would look into doing it again. Besides New York City, there are other cities that are easy to get to by rail from Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvanian, the train we took, also stops in Philadelphia. The Capital Limited goes one way to Washington DC, and the other to Chicago. These are all destinations that have several activities and things to see that families will enjoy. Would you and your family ever consider taking the train?