Riding the Acela Train

Riding the Acela Train for the First Time: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re looking to travel between Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, and other cities on the Northeast Corridor, the Acela train is a comfortable and convenient option.

When it comes to trains, as a Midwesterner, we tend to rely more on cars for transportation. But if you want to see more of the country, and want the option to stop in multiple places, you may want to consider the train.

One thing I loved about the train, was it gave us the opportunity to hop off and explore a city we wouldn’t have normally done. And with the kids in tow, it was a fun treat for them too!

As someone riding the Acela for the first time, here are some tips to make the most of your trip:

Riding the Train from Boston To DC

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Why Choose Acela?

There are actually two trains that run through the Northeast Corridor. The Northeast Regional train and the Acela.

The Acela offers a smooth and speedy ride, with trains traveling at speeds up to 150 mph. It shaves a full hour off the regular train. The trains feature more legroom and space compared to flying coaches.

There’s free WiFi and power outlets at every seat to stay connected and charged.

Plus, you can relax and enjoy the scenery along the route.

The tickets cost about $50 – $100 more than the Northeast Regional, but the time savings make it all worth it.

Where Will You Stop?

The Acela makes stops in major cities between Boston and Washington DC, including Providence, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and others. Each stop is about 5 minutes with a longer stop in New York.

You will not see much of New York from the train, just a brief view in and out, but you’ll go underground before you get to the actual city. And the Statue of Liberty isn’t visible. You’ll need to plan a day trip for that.

New York City View from the Train

Can You Hop On/Off the Acela Train?

The Acela Train is not a Hop On/Off train. Because you reserve your tickets and seats ahead of time, it’s often filled to capacity, not allowing for this flexibility.

If you want to get off the train and explore, you’ll need to purchase separate tickets. In our case, we purchased tickets from Boston to Philidelphia, and Philidelphia to Washington DC.

Amtrak does sell Multi-Pass rides, just not on the Boston to Washington DC route.

How to Choose Seats on the Amtrack Train?

Since the Acela Train is all Business Class, you can select your specific seat assignment when booking tickets online.

For the best views along coastal sections between Boston and New York, aim for seats A or C. Most seats face forward, except some bulkhead seats.

NYC View from the Train

How do you know where to find your train?

To find out what track your train will be on, you’ll need to check out the schedule board. Both stations in Boston and Philadelphia had large displays to view, right at the entrance, telling you what tack the train was on. it’s very similar to an airport.

South Station Boston Train Departure Sign

When the sign switches to boarding, head on out. Most people are waiting around the sign for it to flip.

The Boston’s South Station, had all trains outside, to the right of the main entrance of the station. New York’s platform is underground. Philidelphia’s platform is underground as well. DC’s platform is outdoors, through a set of doors to the right as well.

Each train car is marked clearly, and you can enter any car. In most cases, it’s easier to just get on, on your particular car.

If you have any questions once you get to the station, find an agent and they’ll give you the lowdown of the station.

When do they check your tickets on the train?

Your tickets will be checked onboard after the train departs. Sometimes it can take a full stop before someone comes by. Have your phone ready with the QR Code.

They check again after New York due to passenger turnover.

I liked that all the tickets were on one QR code versus having to swipe through each one. It was convenient for families that way.

How do you know when your stop is coming up?

Amtrak’s app will give you an estimate of when your train will arrive. In both cases, our train was delayed slightly, so it was necessary to listen to the announcements.

Before stops, you’ll get a 5-minute warning that it’s coming up.

On this train, they mentioned that all car doors would open. Sometimes they only open a select few cars, requiring you to move to another car to exit.

Will Amtrak Hold your Bags while you explore a city?

Yes, Amtrak stations hold bags for you for a $10 charge. Most stations, including Philidelphia and Union Station in DC, will hold bas for 24 hrs. at a time.

Give yourself an extra 10-15 minutes to store your bags when arriving at the station.

Everything in the bag has to be inside the bag. Any water stuffed in a side pocket will need to be zipped inside.

Amtrack Baggage Storage

Can you eat on the train?

Yes, the train has a dining car. In our case, it was car 4. They sell drinks and snacks, breakfast sandwiches, and more.

You can also bring your own food.

I get motion sickness, can I take the train?

Yes, the train is relatively smooth, but if you have serious motion sickness, you may want to consider Dramamine. I also recommend a forward-seating car.

I have no problems flying, and only seem to get motion sickness when I’m in the back of a van on a bumpy road, I’m a passenger and pregnant, or if I get on one of those rocking rides at amusement parks.

Immediately after we got rolling, I started to feel my stomach turn, but after about 2 minutes I hardly noticed it.

Walking around on a moving train was a whole other skill.

I found later that day, similar to getting off a boat, there was a distinct train-riding sensation when I was motionless.

Is the Train Kid Friendly?

The Acela is very kid-friendly! The seats are large with spacious legroom, there’s a cafe car, and you’re free to move about the train.

The booth-style seats are ideal for families. Kids will love gazing out the windows and may even spot some wildlife along the way.

Having assigned seats was great because we didn’t have to worry about getting up and losing seats together.

Are trains Kid Friendly Travel?

Would I take the train again?

Immediately after doing this trip, I started researching additional routes. It was a fun way to explore a new part of the country. If you do, take the trip, make sure to pack light, have some entertainment, and don’t forget to look out and enjoy the view.

The Acela offers a comfortable, easy way to travel between major cities without the hassle of flying or driving yourself. Let me know if you have any other questions – I’m happy to share more Acela tips!

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