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Amtrak Northeast Regional Train Review Washington DC To Boston In The Great Wide Travel Blog

Northeast Regional Amtrak Train


The Northeast Regional Amtrak train route runs all through the northeast corridor of the United States, but is it worth it to take the busiest Amtrak route in the country?


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Amtrak Northeast Regional Train Route

The Northeast Regional train runs between Newport News, VA in the south, to Boston in the north, with alternate routes that start/end in Virginia Beach or Roanoke, VA, in the south, and Springfield, Massachusetts in the north.


The route runs through several major cities in the northeast corridor including New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Richmond. Given that there are an incredible amount of stops and stations between the two major endpoints, plus the fact that the trains run multiple times a day, this is the most-used Amtrak train route in the country, servicing upwards of 8.5 million riders a year.


The most popular stretch between New York City and Washington, D.C, which we took during our month-long Amtrak USA Rail Pass adventure, takes around 4 hours. After a few days in D.C., we used the Northeast Regional again to travel all the way up to Boston, which takes around 8 hours (if there aren’t major delays, but more on that later). If you want to travel the entire main route, from Newport News to Boston, the travel time is around 12.5 hours.


Northeast Regional Amtrak Train Route Map In The Great Wide Train Travel Blog

Sights on the Northeast Regional Train from Washington, D.C. to Boston

The Northeast Regional, both ways, offers views of historic churches, colonial buildings, and an amazing amount of water ways such as crossing the Hackensack River and the Delaware River, and following the Long Island Sound for quite a while, north of New York.


It’s quite fascinating to see just how dense the population is on this side of the country, and to see so much of it along the waterfronts. It’s obvious that there’s a greater sense of history there than where we live in Los Angeles. However, you also go through quite a lot of industrial areas on the Northeast Regional train, some of which are run-down.


To catch the best views, sit on the east side of the train, but don’t forget to look out the west side between Penn Station and New Rochelle in New York for some great city skyline views!


Amtrak Northeast Regional Views Review Train From Washington DC To Boston In The Great Wide Travel Blog

What is the Amtrak Northeast Regional Train Like?


Types of Seats

The Northeast Regional is a true commuter train. It is a single-deck train, unlike the leisure trains like the California Zephyr or the Coast Starlight, which are double deckers. This train only offers coach and business class, although we found several articles online claiming that Amtrak is now offering sleeper cars on select Northeast Regional trains (as some of the trains travel overnight), but we couldn’t find any tickets for sleeper cars available.


Business class costs 30% - 75% more than the coach class, but really only offers extra leg room, which would be nice to have on this train. With business class, you will also receive complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and you can reserve your specific seat ahead of time, which is not offered in coach.


Amtrak Northeast Regional Coach Seats

The coach seats on the Northeast Regional are by far the smallest coach seats on any Amtrak train. They’re a little bigger than a coach class seat on an airplane because it’s still just two seats on each side of the aisle, so you at least know you won’t get stuck in a middle seat, but they are much smaller than the seats on the leisure trains, or even the Pennsylvanian, which is another commuter-style Amtrak train.


Each seat has a tray table that folds down (and actually lays flat, unlike the ones we had on the Pennsylvanian), but they are also smaller than on the other Amtrak trains. You’ll have nice, big windows to take in the views and there’s an outlet with 2 plugs (1 per seat) under them.


Pro Tip: Take a short extension cord to use just in case you sit in the aisle seat next to a stranger so you don’t have to drape charging cables across their lap.


The biggest downside to coach seats on this train, apart from the minimal leg room, is that they don’t offer seat selection, which means if you’re traveling with someone, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get to sit together.


Amtrak Northeast Regional Coach Seats Review Train From Washington DC to New York City And Boston In The Great Wide Train Travel Blog

Cafe Car

There is a Cafe Car on the Northeast Regional that has several four-top booth tables for eating or working on. The tables are prioritized for those who are eating, so be aware that an attendant might ask you to give up a table if you’re just working. The Cafe Car offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner options (you can see the current selections on the Menu tab in the middle of this webpage) with both cold and hot meals, as well as snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, and beer, wine, hard seltzers, and liquor. We found the menu selection on the Northeast Regional to be the best variety from all of the trains we’d taken, which is ironic seeing as how you’re on the leisure trains for a much longer period of time.


Amtrak Baggage Policy on the Northeast Regional Train

As the Northeast Regional is a commuter train, there is no checked luggage service available, but you are allowed a generous two carry-on bags and two personal bags. There’s an overhead shelf for small carry-on items and storage areas near the doors for larger items; you cannot put carry-ons in empty seats because this is a very popular train and someone will most likely need to sit there. You are also allowed to carry-on a bicycle on the Northeast Regional, but it must be reserved before arriving and there is an additional $20 bicycle fee.


Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi is available on the Northeast Regional train and it was the strongest we found during our entire month-long Amtrak USA Rail Pass adventure. You’re in urban areas for a LOT of this train route, so it makes sense that the signal would be stronger compared to the rural mountain areas that some of the other Amtrak trains go through.


Pets

Surprisingly, you CAN take your small dog or cat on the Northeast Regional train! However, there is a limit to 5 non-service animals onboard each train, and it will cost an additional $39 ticket, so make sure you reserve that spot well in advance too. See this page on Amtrak’s website for the fine print.


Northeast Regional Amtrak Train New York City Skyline Views of The Bronx In The Great Wide Train Travel Blog

Our Experience

We spent a few days in New York City with a good friend (and former NYC local) to show us around the East Village and Brooklyn. When it was time to move on to our next destination, we took the Northeast Regional south to Washington, D.C., to explore the rich history and impressive monuments there. The route south took 3.5 hours and was relatively smooth. We didn’t have to check-in when getting on the train, and it actually took a couple of stops before an attendant came by and scanned our tickets.


You’ll pass by a ton of waterways on the way down to Washington, D.C. and get to see a bunch of historic churches and colonial buildings. It’s very obvious that this section of the country is much older than we’re used to in our home city of Los Angeles. You can really feel the history as you pass by neighborhoods and businesses that are older than the state you live in.


After spending a few days in Washington, D.C., we took the Northeast Regional back north to Boston. Again, you get to see a ton of historic churches and densely populated areas that provide an amazing perspective of how old the country really is.


Colonial Lake House Views on Northeast Regional Amtrak Train Review by In The Great Wide Travel Blog

Unfortunately, there was a major delay on the route north because there was a bridge fire in Philadelphia that halted our train for a good 2.5 hours. There was obviously nothing that Amtrak could do about this, but it completely killed our time in Boston, as our schedule was fairly tight even before a long delay. By the time we got into Boston, we had enough time to check into our hostel, find an Irish pub around the corner to get some food, and then sleep, exhausted from an 13-hour ride that should've been 8. We were really disappointed because we’ve never been to Boston before, but we’re looking forward to returning and actually spending some time there in the future.


Once we finally got going again after the bridge fire issue was resolved, we passed ‘under’ New York City heading north and we were finally able to get the skyline views of the city that we were hoping to see from the Pennsylvanian. Granted, they weren’t the typical Manhattan skylines, but seeing the enormity of Upper Manhattan and the Bronx was pretty amazing even though it was a gloomy day. I can only imagine what it would look like on a clear day!


After that, we followed the Long Island Sound for quite a while, and it was pretty mind-blowing to realize that we’d traveled from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic by train. Sure, it took a couple of weeks (with several stops in-between), but the fact that you can travel across our enormous country by train is amazing.


Northeast Regional Amtrak Train Views from Washington DC To Boston In The Great Wide Travel Blog

How to Get Tickets for the Northeast Regional Amtrak Train

You can make a reservation on the Amtrak Northeast Regional train through Amtrak’s website or the Amtrak app. We’ve heard from multiple people that they had problems with the website (although we did not) and that their app is far superior. We used the app a lot during our trip and recommend you do the same, but we booked our USA Rail Passes and all of the individual legs of our trip using their website. We have another blog article in the works with all the details about the USA Rail Passes, so sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this article to be notified when it comes out!


For the main stretch of this route, between Newport News and Boston, coach seats start at $37 one-way and business class starts at $105 one-way, but if you wait until the last minute to book, prices go up. These are the Fare Saver prices, which are good if you book 21 days or more before your trip. The most popular stretch, from New York City to Washington, D.C. starts at $31 for coach seats (depending on how far in advance you book and the time of day you depart), and $92 for Business Class. The stretch from Washington, D. C. to Boston starts at $31 for coach and $92 for Business class.


Food and drinks will cost extra (except for non-alcoholic options if you’re in business class), but since you’ll be on this train for less than a day, we advise you to pack a lunch and then eat dinner when you arrive at your destination. If you don’t want to bring your own, expect to pay around $8 for a sandwich, $3 for a soda or coffee, and $8 for an alcoholic beverage. You are not allowed to bring your own alcohol on board the Northeast Regional, but you are allowed to bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages. Our Amtrak food and drink suggestions is another blog article we have in the works, so keep an eye for it and sign up for our newsletter if you’re interested!


Northeast Regional Amtrak Train From New York City To Washington DC Church in New Brunswick In The Great Wide History Travel Blog

Our Verdict

There’s a reason that this train route is the most popular, but it’s definitely a train designed to get you from point A to point B, rather than sightseeing. If you’re using this as part of the Amtrak USA Rail Pass, it will come in very handy, as you can get to a ton of destinations along this route. If you do just need to get where you’re going, you can find plane tickets that are equivalent to the prices offered and will get you there much, much faster.


New England Countryside Views By Train Northeast Regional Review By In The Great Wide Amtrak Travel Blog

Quick Reference Guide

What

Where

Newport News, Virginia to Boston, Massachusetts, with alternate routes to Virginia Beach and Roanoke in the south, and Springfield, Massachusetts in the north

Major Stops

New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Richmond

Time Commitment

The full route takes 12.5 hours.

The most popular stretch, New York City to Washington, D.C., takes 3.5 - 4 hours.

Washington, D.C. to Boston takes 8 hours.

Types of Seats

Coach and Business Class are available

Cost

Newport News to Boston: coach seats start at $37 one-way and business class starts at $105 one-way.

New York City to Washington, D.C. starts at $31 for coach seats, and $92 for Business Class.

Washington, D. C. to Boston starts at $36 for coach and $107 for Business class.

Reservation Info

Amtrak.com or through the Amtrak app

Book as far in advance as possible, because the prices will go up significantly and the trains often sell out!

Wi-Fi

Free and strongly consistent through the route

Pets

Observation Car

There is no observation car on the Northeast Regional

Checked Luggage

There is no checked luggage on the Northeast Regional

Our Verdict

If we lived in the Northeast Corridor, we may take this more often, and it’s worth taking the route at least once, but if you need to get where you’re going, a plane will be similar in price and much faster.


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Couple Travel Blogger Adam Neubauer for In The Great Wide Amtrak Blog

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