Here’s the trick to avoiding the line when boarding the Adirondack in New York City: tote a tot.
People begin queuing early for the train’s 8:15 a.m. departure out of Penn Station. A conductor spotted my husband and me with our precious cargo: an eight-month-old. He escorted us away from the crowd, past another conductor checking tickets, and found us a four-person family seat on the train, even though we are technically 2.2 people. Just eleven hours and 613 kilometres to go.
Every day the #69 leaves New York City, with a scheduled arrival in Montreal at 7:11 p.m.; the #68 leaves Montreal at 10:20 a.m. and arrives in New York at 8:50 p.m. There’s no overnight service, but you wouldn’t want one with views like these.
Celebrating its 45th anniversary this summer, the Adirondack has been voted one of the most scenic train routes in all of North America. During its inaugural trip on August 5, 1974, people donned paper engineer hats and waved as it made its way from NYC to Montreal.
Riding the route today might offer fewer festivities, but the incredible scenery remains. New York City's concrete and steel gives way to spacious houses on square acres, which eventually become the gorgeous fields, farms, and forests of the Hudson Valley.
For the best sight lines, sit on the left side of the train for the first several hours, as the train follows the mighty Hudson River. Parts of the ride will make you feel as if you’re seeing what Henry Hudson saw as he sailed up it in the seventeenth century. During the summer and fall, volunteers from the US National Park Service’s Trails & Rails program encourage these kinds of flashbacks. They climb aboard to give short talks about the region’s history, such as the defeat of the British during the Revolutionary War and the frolicking of the uber-wealthy during the Gilded Age.
Beginning in late September and continuing through early November, Amtrak adds a special glass-domed observation car on select days. It’s first-come, first-serve, but totally worth snagging a seat for the bodacious bounty of fall foliage you’ll see.
My family and I took the Adirondack on New Year’s Day. And as the miles clicked by, we went further and further into winter, where all was white. We used the Wi-Fi to keep our kid calm, played music, sipped wine from the café car, and felt as if we were witnessing the north in its purest state. About halfway to Montreal, we switched to the right side of the train to glimpse Lake Champlain. A light, icy snow glittered as it fell past dramatic cliffs to the waves below.
The border crossing at Lacolle, Quebec, into Canada can take more than its allotted 90 minutes since the passports of every passenger must be inspected by border agents. Note that Amtrak requires passport details when making your Adirondack reservation, and you must bring those same documents with you. Unfortunately, you probably won’t get a stamp as you leave one country and enter another.
We built Baby a tent using some blankets so he could fall asleep, much to the relief of our fellow passengers. Great vistas are, after all, wasted on an infant. The warmth coupled with the train’s rocking worked better than the fanciest baby swing. As people exited at Gare Centrale, they wished him well: “Au revoir petit bébé et bienvenue à Montréal!”
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