Why you should Take the Train from New York to New Orleans

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train from New York to New Orleans - amtrak crescent review

When I told people I was going to take a 30 hour train from New York to New Orleans, they mostly thought I was crazy. Everyone wanted to know why I wasn’t flying.

For me, the answer was simple. I had time, I wanted to see a bit more of the USA while I was there, and I really love slow travel. If you do it right, the journey itself can become part of any trip – and a gently rocking rain slowly chugging though America’s southern states is doing it right in my book. This is my review of the Amtrak Crescent – a thirty hour train ride from NYC to NOLA.

READ MORE: 6 of the Best Train Trips in the USA

Taking the Train from New York to New Orleans: My Amtrak Crescent Review

Honestly – I loved the experience. Just me, alone with my thoughts and the spectacular views, as we travelled down through the Eastern Seaboard. Below are my seven best things about the Amtrak Crescent – and why I think you should consider taking the train from New York to New Orleans instead of flying…

train from new york to new orleans
The Amtrak Crescent. Photo Credit: Amtrak

See 13 States in One Go on the Amtrak Crescent Route

From New York’s iconic Penn station, you’ll wind your way south through thirteen states on the Amtrak crescent – including Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama. Gliding through iconic southern American countryside, you can see the country – and even the weather – changing as you head from north to south. Things warm up, the cities become less frequent, and the countryside more expansive. I left New York and it’s snow behind me, and woke up outside Atlanta to a wintery sunrise flickering through an autumnal forest.

Of course, by riding the rails you’ll only see these thirteen states and their sights briefly. But this is a simple and relaxing way to get a glimpse of a part of the states that most British tourists never visit.

Epic Southern Scenery

As it rolls down into the heart of the American South, the Amtrak Crescent passes through iconic cities like Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, as well as epic scenery. As it heads south, the train from New York to New Orleans crosses rivers and cuts through forests. It passes the the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia and the cotton fields and Civil War battlefields of Alabama. Finally, the Crescent arrives into the bayou country of Louisiana.

30 hour train from New York to New Orleans
The view from my window was almost hypnotic!

The Amtrak Roomette

Although it’s possible to book individual seats on the Crescent, I don’t recommend it if you’re travelling the full route. Instead, there are a couple of different cabin options. I stayed in a Viewliner Roomette in the sleeper cabin.

Amtrak Crescent Review
Inside the Viewliner Roomette

Roomette is a pretty accurate name; this is a very small cabin but the compact design means everything fits in really well. During the day there are two seats facing each other across a small table, and at night they cleverly fold out into a bed while another bed pulls down from the ceiling. There’s also a toilet inside the room and a fold-down sink, which feels a little bizarre as it’s right next to the bed. It also might make sharing the room awkward so bear that in mind!

Some of the other bedroom options have more discrete toilet options and in-room showers, which is something the roomette lacks. But for a thirty-hour train ride, I didn’t really need it.

Amtrak Crescent
Sunset from the train window

Sleeping on a Train

This was my first time sleeping on a train, and I wasn’t sure what to expect! But it was really pleasant experience and I found it quite easy to drift off to the rocking motion of the train. It was noisy, but not in an annoying way – just the general chugging and clanking of a train, which I actually found almost soothing.I fell asleep somewhere in Virginia and woke up in Georgia to a weak December sunrise. It was fabulous, and I felt so happy that I’d opted to take the train from New York to New Orleans instead of flying!

Amtrak Crescent review
Waking up to sunrise in Georgia

Fantastic Service

From the moment I boarded the Amtrak in New York I was treated fantastically. That train just oozes the warm southern hospitality that the states it passes through are known for! James, my sleeping car’s attendant, was particularly lovely and took care of me so well. As did all the staff in the dining car – especially my waiter William. Warm, friendly, and seriosuly welcoming – service on the Amtrak Crescent was genuinely wonderful.

READ MORE: More recently, I took a week-long luxury train ride in India. Read all about the Maharajas’ Express in this post

Amtrak train from new york to new orleans
Potomac River in Washington, DC. Photo Credit: Amtrak

Enjoying the Amtrak Food in the Dining Car

Speaking of the dining car – that’s one of the most important questions, right?! How was the food on the Amtrak train from New York to New Orleans?

It was actually pretty good. I had low expectations, because I figured preparing decent food in a tiny, rocking train kitchen must be a nearly impossible task. But all my meals were tasty and well presented. And compared with plane food, the Amtrak wins every time. Wine that doesn’t taste weird, real plates and cutlery, and food that wasn’t microwaved in a tin foil box – it’s basically heaven! Don’t expect Michelin starred dining, but the food is good and you really can’t beat the views as you dine.

amtrak crescent review

There was one thing I didn’t like, because I’m a shy, socially awkward weirdo. Travelling solo meant that I was often sat with other travellers at mealtimes. It’s a nice way to meet people, but personally I’d have preferred some time by myself.

READ MORE: Unmissable food and drink experiences in New Orleans

train from new york to new orleans
Sunrise out the window

Travel for the Journey, not the Destination

I’m not a massive fan of travel quotes, but there is one I do like. “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”.

Although I don’t always get the chance to these days, I always prefer slower travel whenever possible. There’s something so romantic and nostalgic about journeying by rail. Watching the scenery roll by the window on my train from New York to New Orleans, I saw a whole new side to the USA that I’d never glimpsed before. For me, it was a new way of seeing the country – and an experience I treasured just as much as my time in either city.

Amtrak Crescent
Alabama views!

Have you ever taken a long distance train like this one, or travelled by Amtrak? Share your experiences in the comments below! 

My trip was kindly supported by Amtrak, but all words and opinions are my own. 

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Why you should take the train from New York to New Orleans

45 thoughts on “Why you should Take the Train from New York to New Orleans”

  1. I have not taken the amtrak from NYC to New Orleans, but few years ago I amtraked 38 hours from Twin City to Portland Oregon and it is equally a great experience. I just booked a economic seat and that is it. The scenery outside the window is really beautiful and I also love waking up on the coast under the sunrise. Thanks for this post. Brought back so many great memories.

  2. I traveled by train roundtrip from Los Angeles to Oakland a few years ago. I also chose a roomette for the 10 hr ride each way but there are no toilets in the roomettes on that route. The larger rooms have a private, tiny, restroom with a shower so I may try that next time. There were two of us and the roomette still worked.

    Each person needs a ticket which isn’t expensive, maybe $75 at that time, and then you pay one price for the room. Our room was $99. Prices vary by season. The Amtrak agent booked us in a room on the ocean side of the train each way. The agents are very helpful and I recommend calling to book vs online for that reason.

    The train north was so scenic as we hugged the ocean. If you can only take that route one way take it north to the bay area. Going south it’s dark by the time the train travels by the ocean. The NYC to New Orleans train is now on my list. I also want to go all the way to Seattle one time as well as LA to Chicago. I’m a train geek for sure.

    Thanks for the great read!

    1. Hi Jeri :) How was it travelling without a toilet? I think as long as there was one on the same carriage as me I could cope – it might even be nicer to not share a room with a loo!!

      I love the idea of hugging the ocean all the way. Definitely adding that route to my wish-list. Maybe I can try to take every Amtrak route in the USA – could be a fun way to see more of the country. Thanks so much for all your tips!

      1. Hi Emily! There was a restroom a few cars from our roomette. It’s a public restroom so it is heavily used but adequate on a trip like this. I would prefer a family room with a restroom but you pay quite a bit more for that. So it’s a trade-off. I would definitely pay for it on a longer, 2 or 3 day trip.

          1. I am taking this exact trip in November for Thanksgiving. I know this may seem weird but me and my fiancee are flying from Raleigh, NC to NYC, do a little sight-seeing and then on to Penn Station for our 31hrs trip to NOLA for 6 days. We frequently visit New Orleans and we took Amtrak from Chicago to NOLA, only 18hrs, but we sat in coach. This time we went all out and got the Deluxe Bedroom (plus it was the only way to convince her to do it). But I booked the trip way back in February for $747, that same ticket now is double that! Nonetheless, we are prepared, bringing the laptop, tablet, got some new ANC Headphones, a small surge protector, we both picked out novels and will grab a couple magazines, let’s not forget the alcohol! One of the perks of getting a bedroom or a roomette for that matter is you can just about do whatever you want. Even though the meals our included, we will definitely be picking up snacks in NYC. Got my Olympus ready! Can’t wait!

            1. You definitely sound prepared! What a fab trip you have planned, I hope you enjoy it. I loved travelling on that journey – and you’re so right about the roomette/bedroom. You can do whatever you want and just relax and enjoy yourself. Adored it and would definitely do it again!

          2. Nice! Hope to tour the USA by train someday. I did go on VIA’s Ocean to Halifax and hope to go out west on the Canadian next!

          3. This looks like such a great experience, and – from the beautiful light in your photos – seems the perfect time of year to have done it as well. ☺️

            1. It was definitely the perfect time of year!! Gorgeous winter sunlight all the way – and it was so cool to go from snow in New York to sunshine (almost) in New Orleans. Definitely one of my top experiences of last year :)

          4. Thank you for this review ! A friend of mine is having her 50th birthday bash in New Orleans in September, and I have booked a Roomette on the Crescent and will meet there rather than flying down with the rest of them. (I live in Richmond, VA but will pick up the train in Charlottesville, my hometown) I have done the Silver Meteor from Richmond to West Palm Beach by Amtrak, but always went Coach so this will be my first Roomette splurge. Thank you for helping me get excited about it ! Some of the other reviews I’ve read or watched on You Tube have not been as complimentary of the trip, but I think a lot of it depends on your attitude. Are you looking for the disappointments or are you looking for the positives ? You’ll generally get whichever one you look for, in my experience. Nice article…thanks again !

            1. Awww thank you so much Beth :) I know exacly what you mean. My reviews tend to be pretty positive and I’ve been accused of bias in the past – but I tend to enjoy everything. I never go looking for the things that are wrong, so I tend not to even notice them. And if the positives outweight the negatives then I tend to only remember the positive stuff.

              The views from the Amtrak were sensational and I loved the novelty of sleeping on a train for the first time. And I honestly can’t fault the service – those guys really looked after me. So freindly.

              Hope you have an amazing trip – and enjoy New Orleans too. I have a post about some of my favourite foodie discoveries there if you need any tips :)

          5. I love train travel and this one’s on my list! Years ago I did the trip from Vancouver to Edmonton across the Rockies and it whet my appetite. This year we did New York to Chicago on the Lake Shoreline and then from Chicago to San Francisco which was three days on the Californian Zephyr. Later we took Coast Starlight up to Portland. I loved every minute of the journey. Like you we got a cabin for the 3 day journey but slept in our seats the two other overnights. It wasn’t too bad! You can’t beat sitting back and watching the scenery change. Thanks for your insight, it’s really made me want to do the Crescent. Well all of the trains really!

            1. Oh WOW that journey of yours sounds epic. Added to the wish-list!!! I’m terrible at sleeping in a seat anywhere so for me the cabin was preferable, but I have a feeling most people could manage it. And the best part is watching the scenery as you said.

              Got me planning another trip now haha!

          6. Thank you. You have just made our minds up about which route to take next October we will enjoy this leisurely way of travel to New Orleans, then on to Los Angeles. No airport hassles, so much to be seen and experienced.

            1. Oh YAY that’s so exciting. I loved the journey down to New Orleans. And I LOVED skipping the airports and long waiting times. October should be a lovely time of year for it too, you’ll be able to see the weather heating up as you go south! Hope you enjoy your trip :)

          7. Thanks for sharing. I haven’t taken that train, but have done Empire Builder several and love everything about it. The trip is a big part of my vacation of on the train. I really love riding the train!

            1. Thanks so much for reading Sandy! I agree – the travel itself can be a big part of any trip and I love makign a long overland journey, especially on a nice train. This was one of my favourite things I did last year!

          8. Leonard Earl Johnson

            I have taken every Amtrak Train, over my 75 years, and enjoyed it. Though the on-time problems are major, the food, the crew and the view are all as good as you glowingly indicate.

            I’m headed Sunday from Los Angeles to New Orleans, on Amtrak ole # 2, the SUNSET LIMITED, to attend the 2018 New Orleans Film Festival.

            This is the first train in the World to carry a name (like ships) ~ Westbound it is Amtrak ole #1, and the train aboard which a famous Dashiell Hammett novel and movie take place, THE THIN MAN. I write a column called “Yours Truly in a Swamp,” often about Amtrak, at http://www.LEJ.org

            1. Wow, every single one? That’s quite the achievement. Which was your favourite?

              I’ve heard bad things about the timing but I guess that has a lot to do with circumstance and stuff – especially with such long distances. My train was delayed by a couple of hours but it wasn’t significant enough to spoil my trip, I was just happy with the extra time in my cabin to be honest!

              I never knew there was a novel set on an Amtrak train, I will have to read it. Sounds interesting!

              1. Leonard Earl Johnson

                Dashiell Hammett is a towering figure in American mystery letters. Do read him. The movie version of THE THIN MAN (1934 ~ Myrna Loy and William Powell) takes place aboard the Sunset Limited heading to California. Today’s Sunset Limited from California (I should say yesterday’s train) arrived at sunrise this morning. Sigh!

                As for my favorite of all the Amtrickles? Each has its charm, but perhaps the City of New Orleans, because it trundles up and down the middle Mississippi Valley region of my Youth. From Memphis to Carbondale, Illinois I can hardly sleep for peering out the window searching those years gone past. Their are no finer destinations than New Orleans and Chicago. (if you like, this self indignant obit for my Mother and a ride on that train to New Orleans: https://leonardearljohnson.blogspot.com/search?q=November+2014) ~ LEJ.org

              1. Thanks, I will definitely read it! Love the sound of the City of New Orleans train ride, I’ll have to take that one next time. Chicago is high on my list of places to visit.

                One of my favourite things about trains is the memories they can trigger. Every time I take the train home from Portsmouth to Weymouth here in the UK, passing through the New Forest, it’s the same thing. Although our train rides here in the UK are much much shorter than yours – that whole trip is less than three hours. No sleeping, just watching for familiar sites out the window. I love it!

            2. i am glad you enjoyed your trip.i have taken the canadian train from toronto to vancouver,amtrak across america a few times.it is a fun experience,but the food leaves alot to be desired.it is basically the same on all amtrak trains.if you want a real train experience,take the canadian.great scenery,well kept older trains,and the food was simply awesome.lamb chops on a train.wow!God Bless

            3. Thank you for the review. As a now-retired Amtrak employee, it’s heartening to hear such positive comments. Once again, Amtrak’s national system is targeted for removal–not only by the Trump Administration, but apparently by Amtrak’s Chief Executive Officer, Richard Anderson, formerly of Delta Airlines. Last summer Amtrak’s officials were planning to replace part of the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief with buses, which was clearly a first step toward killing the service. After a lot of public pressure, the corporation announced it would keep the service as a train through the end of Fiscal Year 2019, but the fight to maintain expand the Amtrak system continues.

              1. Thanks so much for commenting Stephen :) Must have been interesting to work on the Amtrak trains! Or maybe I’m just saying that because of how much I love riding trains – perhaps it gets dull when it’s your job!!

                It’s a shame to hear some of the system might shut down. It just wouldn’t be the same with busses would it? Hopefully it won’t come to that and their rail services will remain open.

            4. Hi Emily! Loved your blog on taking Amtrack NYC- New Orleans. I’ve traveled through Europe by train- there is no better way! Now I’m beginning to plan my first trip traveling in the US, from NYC to Pheonix. Maybe Albuquerque. I’d love to connect with you.
              Catch me on FB. Thanks!

              1. Hi Barbara!! Thanks so much for commenting (and sorry it took me a while to reply – the last couple of weeks have been busy!). How exciting that you’re planning such a massive trip. When do you think you’ll go?

            5. Loved reading this Emily, however ever so slightly jealous! My partner and I did the California Zephyr, Chicago to San Fran in 2015 it was without doubt the best thing we did, we saw so much and watching America change over 3 days was Amazing.
              Train travel is so relaxing almost soporific.

              1. Thanks so much Helen! I totally agree with you – it’s such a great way to watch the country change. You also really get a sense of the scale of the USA – a long time on a train like that really makes you aware of how much distance you’re covering and how much the country varies from state to state! I’d love to do the California Zephyr next!

            6. Willam Abernathy

              Road round trip from Birmingham to DC. Was the worse experience ever. The bathrooms were atrocious. My wife would not use the bathroom for 18 hrs. Will never ride again if trip more than 6 hrs

              1. Oh dear, such a shame you had that experience! In my experience the bathrooms were fine, perhaps it’s worth giving it another try. Or next time you can book a roomette which has its own toilet :)

            7. I am planning to travel to the US, hopefully by ship, in a year or two and travel across to California by train, returning to New York via New Orleans, so this was a most encouraging post, thanks. So far I have only travelled overnight within the UK, and even the longest trip, to Fort William from London, was less than a whole day.

              1. Oh wow that sounds very exciting!!! I’d love to arrive in the US by ship, what a beautiful way to travel. The train from NYC to NOLA is long but I loved it, especially if you splurge on a private compartment so you’re not stuck in a seat the whole time!

            8. January 2018 – 12 yr old son, 52 yr old me, 3 nights, 4 trains, 5 stations, 73 hours and 33 minutes (plus a major delay causing us to miss a connection). We traveled from Norman Oklahoma- Chicago Illinois- Washington DC- Kissimmee Florida. We spent a little over 2 weeks in Disney World, and then did the reverse trip. We plan to do again in 2021, or 2022!

              1. Oh wow – now THAT’S a trip!!! What an epic journey. Despite the delays I bet it was a really fun way to travel together and see so much of the country. Plus Disneyworld is always a brilliant end goal!

            9. Jacqueline Buchanan

              I have traveled alone on Amtrak a number of times and I felt much safer in a roomette. A couple of times, in coach, a man who had found some place to drink wound up snuggling up to my shoulder. There’s none of that with a roomette. And nobody can get to your purse either. Lock the door, and stretch out and sleep if you can. Also, the food available with a sleeping compartment is actually worth eating, but that cafe food…..

              1. I definitely think a roomette is worth it if you’re travelling overnight. Not just to get some sleep, but also the safety aspect as you mentioned. Although I’m sure the coach is completely fine, you get peace of mind in your own small room with a locked door :)

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