Train Travel Tips

Amtrak Crescent Review: From New Orleans to New York City

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In the United States, there are few means of travel that inspire more romanticism than the prospect of a road trip. Since the authorization of the Interstate system in 1956 and the publication of Kerouac’s seminal On the Road, our obsession with finding ourselves “on the road” has grown exponentially. Most homes in the U.S. own an average of two cars, and there are 253 million cars and trucks on the road (a huge proportion compared with our 323 million residents).

Funnily enough, I love a good road trip as much as anyone but I’m increasingly distressed by the high rate of accidents (your chances are 1 in 18,585) and the impact of fossil fuel use on the environment. As often as I consider renting a car, I also look for trains that can take me from one destination to another. Blame the inner European in me – I believe the world is far better served by fuel efficient trains connecting places.

It was therefore a great opportunity when Mr. V and I needed to get from New Orleans to New York at the end of April. We also happened to need just one extra night’s accommodation, too. My mind immediately turned to the possibility of taking a train north, instead of a plane or bus or car.

Taking the Amtrak Train from New Orleans to New York City

Amtrak Crescent Train Car

We decided to book the Amtrak because – for once in my life – the timetable for the train was perfectly convenient for our travels. The Amtrak Crescent line departs New Orleans at 7:00am Central time, and arrives at New York’s Penn Station at roughly 1:46pm Eastern time, barring unforeseen delays along the route. They make stops in many towns, including Atlanta, Charlottesville, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia, and the route runs every day.

Related Content: 17 Hipster, Alternative & Crazy Things to Do in NYC

Tickets start from as low as $124 per person for reserved coach seats under Amtrak’s ‘Saver’ price class. ‘Roomettes’ can be as low as $387 per room and ‘Bedrooms’ start around $560. (I found these prices by checking several dates in the coming months.) Amtrak pricing is demand-based, similar to airlines, so pricing depends on both the number of available seats and how soon you want to depart.

Knowing we would have a somewhat restless night, Mr. Valise and I opted to save on the upfront cost and booked coach seats together. After a charming and gluttonous week in the Big Easy, we stuffed our packs, and boarded the train. Settling in for the 30-hour journey, I loved having a tray table to work on* and the chairs reclined a surprising amount.

*There was a super grumpy guy on the first portion of our journey who hated me using my tray table. Why do people have to be so unpleasant while traveling? Doesn’t he know he’s got a super famous travel writer sitting behind him who’s always behind on deadlines and needed to catch up on work?! ?

Onboard the Amtrak Crescent

Amtrak Crescent Dining Car

30 hours in a single seat is a long time, my friends. You might remember that last summer I took the Rocky Mountaineer, a two-day journey from Vancouver to Banff that should be on your bucket list. On that trip, I spent most of my time in the vestibule between cars, breathing the open air and taking in the scenery. In part because I had a better view, and also because I found that sitting in the train seat lead to me taking roughly 12,398 naps because the rocking of the car was so relaxing.

Unfortunately, the Amtrak vestibules are not open, so I spend the majority of this ride in my seat. Mr. Valise was on the aisle and the window beside me flashed green scenes of the South flash by punctuated by muddy brown rivers and the occasional small town with a characteristic church steeple.

Our fellow passengers changed throughout the ride. Most New Orleans riders got off somewhere before Charlottesville. A new batch of people joined the stretch between Washington D.C. and New York. Mr. Grumpy (see above) left before nightfall, while a noisy group of teenagers at the front of our car provided a soundtrack the next morning with their excitement about seeing The Big Apple.

When it came time to sleep, the lights dimmed (not entirely off), most people reclined, and the car fell into a mechanical silence of wheels on rails and gentle creaking. As predicted, I didn’t get a great night’s sleep. I can’t sleep well on my back, to begin with, and certainly not sorta-upright.

Luckily a combination of napping earlier, wrapping my head in my Encircled scarf, and ZzzQuil helped do the trick. Before I knew it, we were waking up to a new day in the Eastern Seaboard. A few hours later, we pulled into Penn Station; I stretched my wobbly legs on the platform as we disembarked. We were about 30 minutes early. Barring emergencies, the Amtrak’s reputation for delays is clearly overstated.

Food, Drink, and Amenities Aboard the Amtrak Crescent

Amtrak Crescent Pasta

Can I offer one tip for riding the Amtrak for longer than a few hours? Bring your own drinks and snacks. You’ll probably want to purchase meals, but having your own snacks helps keep the food cost onboard down.

There are two cars where you can purchase food onboard the Amtrak. The first is the cafe car, typically open on shorter train journeys and offering cheap eats, drinks, and breakfast foods. The other is the dining car, open for main mealtimes. Onboard, there is a breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu that is prepared fresh to order. Choices include omelets, burgers, and pad thai, and there are plenty of drink choices.

Meal prices are pretty high – roughly the same we had been paying in New Orleans, though obviously not the same level of quality. The table service was good; our server was friendly and attentive even as his stern supervisor surveyed us all. My only other complaint was that mealtimes were quite narrow windows, making it tough to fit to my super-busy nap schedule. (Kidding! Though they actually are small windows of time for some people, so be alert for announcements about mealtimes.)

Enjoying Your Trip on the Amtrak Crescent

Here are some final/review tips for your trip, if you’re taking the Amtrak Crescent or another of their lines:

  • Like I said, pack your own snacks and plenty of water. The Cafe Car is acceptable, but we saw people with coolers and delicious homemade treats that were far more appealing.
  • Bring an eye cover, scarf, blanket, something to throw over your head so you can get a fully dark sleeping experience.
  • Consider booking your seats in the middle of the car so you aren’t bothered by door noise throughout the trip.
  • If you are booking well in advance for more than one person, consider booking a room in the sleeper car. You’ll have far more privacy, plus a bed to sleep on. I’m hoping to do this going forward, on overnight trips.

The next time the open road is calling your name, consider hitting the open rails instead. You won’t have to argue over who picks the music, wonder where the nearest restroom is (there’s one in every car), or be in trouble if you doze off while traveling. You can see the whole U.S. just as easily, and possibly enjoy it more. Let’s get on board with this whole train thing, okay?

(Get it, ‘on board’ and trains?)

I’ve previously ridden the California Zephyr from Ottumwa, IA to Denver, and have an upcoming trip from Chicago to Milwaukee aboard the Hiawatha. Check out Amtrak’s website to see all routes, plus specials and discounts they’re running (they always have at least some!). This post was not sponsored or endorsed my Amtrak in any way. Happy riding!

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.


  • Ophelia

    I am so glad to read about ur trip in New Orleans!
    im going there via Amtrak Crescent on my 60th!!!
    can u recommend a safe place to stay while there?

  • Thomas Sills

    In New Orleans, to be safe, go where the tourists are many. The police are many there. Tourism is critical to New Orleans.

    • Valerie

      I’m a bit confused by your comment, Thomas. Can you provide data that suggests that you can only be safe if you go where the tourists and police are? New Orleans is as safe as many other cities across the U.S. so it’s unfair to characterize parts of the city as unsafe just because there are no police.

      • unkown

        I am from New Orlenas and to say it isn’t any more dangerous than other cities just is not true. The. crime is higher than most of the US and some neighborhoods should be avoided by tourists or those who don’t know about the city. It has nothing to do with police presence. There are high crime neighborhoods that tourist wouln’t be wise to go. Please don’t ingnore the high crime because you romatnize the city . Especially the violent crimes like car jackings and rape. I saw some Dutch torusits who were idiots and thought it was ethical to take a “Hurricane Katrina ” bike tour. They were going to ride in Central City and Lower 9ths and 7th ward. Not only is it insensitive but really unsafe.

        Many locals avould certain areas becuase being car jacked by gun isn’t fun. i wroked as a delivery driver there and my coworkers had been car jacked by gun point. I heard shots sometimes on my delvery route . Let’s not prtend it is a safe city becuase it suites you as a tourist. It is also not unfair to classify parts of the city unsafe. It is a very high crimes city and far more dangeorus than most cities in the US and you can search the violent crime rate and see this is true. It may seem safe until you yourself are vicitm of crime.
        Even tourist areas have more crime than most other cities .

        • Valerie

          Thanks for reading. I wish you had put your name on this, because it seems like you aren’t willing to actually stand by your statements.

          Actually, having checked data, New Orleans *is* safer than some (though obviously not all) U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Houston, and even Cleveland where I live – for both violent crime and property crime. I’m not saying there is no crime in NOLA or that there aren’t safe or unsafe areas, but using your subjective experience as proof that New Orleans is dangerous isn’t responsible. (source: using their compare feature)

          If you have data or sources you’d like to share, I’m happy to approve that comment too, but for now I hope people reading will have context to understand that there is crime in NOLA like everywhere, but it’s no less safe than visiting many other major U.S. cities.

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