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August 25, 2012 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I would like to know if the Amtrak station in your city is right in the heart of the city or requires additional transportation (i.e. more than a mile or two of walking, bus or taxi) to get to the "things to do."

I have discovered the fun/relaxation of traveling by train and I am interested in finding cities I can go to where the train station is located nearby interesting things to see. I don't want to have to take any additional transportation to get to the fun stuff. By fun stuff, I mean decent restaurants, hotels, museums, parks, stadiums, etc..

I just don't want it to be like an airport where, in most cases, you have to hop on a bus or taxi and then be taken into the city.

Spill as many details as you want, or experiences in other cities.
posted by thorny to Travel & Transportation (97 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Amtrak terminal in Vancouver, BC is right in the middle of downtown. And it's close to the Sea Bus which will take you to North Vancouver which has a lot more stuff to do.
posted by deborah at 8:26 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


South Station in Boston is near some of the interesting stuff (good restaurants, the New England Aquarium, the Children's Museum, the Boston Tea Party Museum, Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market) but farther from other interesting stuff (Fenway Park, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Public Library, the Newbury Street fancy shopping). The Institute for Contemporary Art is just past that mile from South Station.

I don't think there are many cities where all the interesting stuff is in a mile's radius from each other, though.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:29 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Seattle terminal isn't in downtown, but it is between the International District and Pioneer Square. Plenty to do there, and there isn't much to do in downtown proper.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:30 PM on August 25, 2012


All the other things I mentioned are easily reachable by subway from South Station, though. Also the Boston Common and Public Garden, and various historic sites like the Paul Revere house and Old North Church.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:31 PM on August 25, 2012


In San Diego, it's really close to the heart of downtown, but there's not much to do downtown. Our biggest tourist attractions, the zoo and Balboa Park, are a couple miles away. Beaches and Sea World are further. Lots of restaurants, bars and concert venues relatively close to the station, though. The ballpark is also in downtown, but basically on the other side. Luckily, our train station also serves as a light rail station, and the light rail system can take you right to the ballpark.
posted by LionIndex at 8:31 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Amtrak station in Flagstaff, Arizona is smack-dab-literally in downtown, which is a charming, fun city with some great restaurants and other stuff to do.
posted by disillusioned at 8:31 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The train station in Tampa is right at Ybor city; couple of blocks walk. There is public transportation all around down town; there is a hotel in walking distance from which you can see where the trollies park all night. Food & entertainment complex walkable.

West Palm Beach station is walkable to City Place; movies, food, comedy club, Kravis Center for the Arts IIRC.
posted by tilde at 8:33 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I can think of a few examples where a switch to light rail is all that's necessary.

My current town is about 100 miles from an Amtrak station. But the central Greyhound station is downtown! Where there's... not all that much to do.
posted by SMPA at 8:33 PM on August 25, 2012


The Amtrak station in San Antonio is at Sunset Station (an attraction in its own right) -- it's a hop, skip, and a jump from the Riverwalk and the Alamo. The Greyhound station is also downtown.

(The zoo, the amusement parks, the botanical garden, and most of the museums are not downtown.)
posted by muddgirl at 8:38 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow thanks for the above already -- yes -- I meant to say that not ALL the good stuff has to be right near the train station, but as long as there is *something* nearby instead of a corn field or the bad part of town, I'm interested.
posted by thorny at 8:38 PM on August 25, 2012


30th street station is located across the Schuykill River from Center City Philadelphia. It is probably a 15-20 minute walk (or a 5 minute cab ride) to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 10 minute walk to the University of Penn, 10 minute walk to Center City.
posted by scalespace at 8:38 PM on August 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Los Angeles Amtrak station is in Union Station, and there's lots of interesting things to do that are walkable from Union Station. Additionally, it's very easy to take the underground metro from Union Station - which gives to access to quite a lot of the city.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:39 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chicago! Union Station is an easy walk to all the good stuff.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:39 PM on August 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oakland's Amtrak station is located in Jack London Square. San Francisco is only served by their bus routes, but the station is at the Ferry Building. Plenty within walking distance of each, even more if you take light rail or bus.
posted by expialidocious at 8:39 PM on August 25, 2012


Washington, DC's Union Station is convenient to the National Mall, and New York's Penn Station is in the thick of Manhattan.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:40 PM on August 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Amtrak in New York is in Penn Station, right under the Garden, bounded by 7th and 8th Avenues and 31st and 33rd Streets. You really can't get any more "in the middle of it" and you can grab a subway to hundreds of interesting places without even leaving the building.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:42 PM on August 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


St. Louis is right next to a metro stop and Union Station, which is a really beautiful rehab of a historic train station. One metro stop down is the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium, and two stops down is the majority of the downtown restaurant and site seeing district.
The Amtrak station itself is a bit odd and can be a tad sketchy late at night but it's pretty convienent to a lot of the city.
posted by teleri025 at 8:42 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Amtrak terminal in Vancouver, BC is right in the middle of downtown.

Well, it's on the edge of the Downtown Eastside, but that's about a 1-2 km walk to what I would call downtown proper. But it is within a half-hour walking distance of lots of stuff like Chinatown, Gastown, the Art Gallery, etc. (The major local transit hub, including the Seabus, is in Waterfront station, which is right in the middle of downtown, but intercity rail uses Pacific Central, at Main and Terminal).
posted by junco at 8:42 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


portland, or: in the heart.
posted by violetk at 8:43 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just to come in and state the obvious: the Amtrak station in NYC is right in the heart of midtown, in easy walking distance to excellent Korean food and a variety of tourist activities, and right next to half the subway lines in the city. I live way out in Brooklyn, but $2.25 and 40 minutes would get you to my front door.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:45 PM on August 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I lived in Chicago for several years. Union Station is within about two miles of the lakefront, Millennium Park, a fair stretch of the Chicago river, the Art Institute, the Field Museum (barely), the Civic Opera House, Symphony Center, the big downtown theaters where the touring Broadway shows usually perform, the Chicago Theater and the House of Blues (two venues that host rock/pop acts, if more mainstream ones), the southernmost portion of the Magnificent Mile (the main downtown shopping district), and more restaurants than you can shake a stick at.

Of course, now I live 30 minutes away from the nearest Amtrak station, which is in a town with not terribly much to do anyhow. But that's as may be.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:45 PM on August 25, 2012


Austin, Texas. It's on 4th (or 5th) street, only across the street from the flagship Whole Foods store, in the downtown area and only a few blocks from the famous 6th Street which is full of bars and music.

Kalamazoo, MI is also in the downtown of Kzoo, though I don't know that I would ever plan a weekend in Kalamazoo for the sake of going to Kalamazoo.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:45 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Denver's train station is blocks from downtown. Very close to Coors Field and all the associated bars and restaurants.
posted by lilac girl at 8:47 PM on August 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cincinnati's Union Terminal is a destination in and of itself. It features a giant half dome filled with large mosaics. Since the facility doesn't get a lot of train traffic a large portion of the building has been repurposed as a series of museums. A short walk would get you into the Over the Rhine neighborhood that has a lot of old architecture and is rapidly filling up with restaurants and shops. A some,what longer walk south would lead thou into the heart of down and the riverfront which has more museums and restaurants.
posted by mmascolino at 8:55 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The booming metropolis of Whitefish, MT has their Amtrak station right in town. And the West Glacier stop that's nearby may not be in the middle any town but it is right at the entrance to a national park so, ya know, it's not too bad.
posted by adorap0621 at 8:59 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it might be more useful to mention which cities don't have their train stations in a centrally-located part of the city. Are there any cities that have their train station in "a corn field or the [remote, inaccessible] bad part of town"?
posted by deanc at 9:00 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Davis, CA station is right in the heart of downtown. Also near stores and stuff: Martinez, Emeryville, Berkeley (I think--never got off there and I'm not sure on the neighborhood, but it's not on the fringe).

Stations that are in the middle of damn nowhere that I've been to: Stockton, Modesto.

Station on the fringe: Sacramento. It's on the very fringe of Old Town, but I heard that the new remodeling going on makes it even farther out or something like that.

Kind of in the middle: Suisun--there's city, but you'd need to walk for a bit.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:03 PM on August 25, 2012


The station in Edmonds, Washington is in the middle of a nice part of Edmonds... which is not a city, but is a pleasant place to spend the day.

The station in Olympia, Washington is nowhere interesting, unless things have changed greatly since I lived there.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:05 PM on August 25, 2012


The Tucson stop is downtown, and it dumps you right on a nice little farmer's market on the platform. If it's running on time, the Sunset Limited stops for a good 45 minutes or so, going both directions. I've only been on the eastbound train, and it stops pretty early in the morning, so it seemed like a lot of the vendors were just getting set up. (The westbound train stops in the early evening.)

There's also a restaurant and market in the historic train depot, but I didn't go in there, myself.
posted by SpringAquifer at 9:07 PM on August 25, 2012


Spokane, Washington:

Riverfront Park is within a mile of the station, as well as several art centers and the local stadium. The river is really pretty if you don't get to see a lot of those. :) Ferris Wheel, Loof Carousel and other attractions at the park during good weather. Lots of little bakeries and cafes in the area, as well as hotels, too.

El Paso, Texas:

Kind of a hard to walk from (need to go around a lot of tracks and highway) in a bit of an interesting part of town, but there's a performing arts center, orchestra hall, science museum, san jacinto park, el camino real hotel, public library(? memory fuzzy)

Las Vegas, NM:

They have the Las Vegas Carnige Public Library, Golf course, Rough Riders Museum.

St Louis, MO (downtown):

near downtown and their big stadium, Scott Trade center (another stadium) City Museum (AWESOME but I have little kids), Aquarium (didn't have time to go), Campbell house museum (I think we went, was interesting), YMCA (shower? ;)), parks, opera house, repitory companies (going by map now).

Fort Lauderdale, FL:

On the wrong side of I-95 outside downtown, doubles as a light rail station. Walkable to river area and museum district (but it's two miles) and eh, I wouldn't walk it at night. Kid science museum, IMAX theatre, regular theater (I think?), performing arts center, bars, clubs, historical museum houses.

Okeechobee, FL and Orlando, FL:

There's not really anything there, sorry. Businesses and freight and no "attractions".

East Lansing, MI:

Practically on MSU. The Botanical Gardens are just 1.3 miles (google map walking beta) but the whole campus is really nice as far as college campuses go. :) Red Cedar Natural area (driven by), and a few parks.
posted by tilde at 9:09 PM on August 25, 2012


San Francisco, as mention above, is probably one of the only cities where Amtrak's station isn't right in the center of things. Amtrak will sell you a ticket for SF but you get off the train in Emeryville or Oakland and take an Amtrak bus across the Bay Bridge to the Ferry Building, right downtown. Which is fine, but getting back to the Amtrak station can be a pain unless you have an Amtrak ticket which gets you on the Amtrak bus.
posted by Quietgal at 9:13 PM on August 25, 2012


Everett, WA is nothing more than a commuter stop.
posted by Ardiril at 9:14 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amtrak takes you right to Union Station in downtown Denver. Bonus: next stop after Denver on the California Zephyr route is in the heart of Glenwood Springs, home of a huge natural hot springs pool. The route there is truly gorgeous.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:24 PM on August 25, 2012


The Amtrak station in Memphis is downtown, and a few blocks from the National Civil Rights Museum, and a few more blocks from Beale Street. You can also walk to the FedEx Forum (basketball stadium) and Autozone Park, home of the minor league Redbirds. Plus other downtown restaurants and attractions are in the area.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:25 PM on August 25, 2012


In the San Francisco Amtrak case it is often better to get off in Richmond and then hop right on BART (e.g. the subway to SF downtown and other places)
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:28 PM on August 25, 2012


Sacramento's is actually pretty close to the center of downtown/Old Town and not much farther to Midtown. But like Kalamazoo, I can't imagine why you'd want to come here.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:29 PM on August 25, 2012


I would say the Berkeley Amtrak station is out on the fringe of things, but that may just be because it's in a neighborhood (4th Street) that I personally don't know well. Downtown Berkeley is a couple miles east.

I second that the Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and Washington Amtrak stations are centrally located, but that seems barely noteworthy in these large, old cities. Also Providence, Rhode Island.

Oh, and one time I had a long layover at LAX and took a bus to Union Station, which is the Amtrak station. I wandered around and saw some historic stuff and had a sandwich. It seemed like there were things to see but I didn't have much time.

(For San Francisco: depending on the train that one is taking, and one's final destination, it might make sense to connect to BART at Richmond or at Oakland Coliseum. Why do I know this?)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:32 PM on August 25, 2012


In Salt Lake City, UT the Amtrak Station is at 340 South 600 West. Which is 9 blocks (1.5 miles) from Temple Square (the heart of downtown).
posted by zinon at 9:36 PM on August 25, 2012


Right downtown in Eugene Oregon :). Come visit!
posted by purenitrous at 9:46 PM on August 25, 2012


I know it's been said before but you can't get much closer to the heart of Denver than Union Station. It is currently undergoing a massive renovation project that will make it even more of a transportation hub - you can catch the light rail, a city bus, or the 16th Street Mall free shuttle or just walk to the best restaurants and sights in the city. Union Station itself is a destination, and there are dozens of hotels, museums, parks, stadiums, etc. within easy walking distance.
posted by caryatid at 9:58 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't been to either personally, but the Dallas Amtrak station is just on the edge of downtown and close to the museum and arts district. The New Orleans station is similarly on the edge of the CBD, close to the Superdome and actually just a couple of blocks from where I live. On the other hand it's also adjacent to a slightly sketchy part of town. And of course, walkability is never a given in any Southern city.

Amtrak I've been to: South Station in Boston is very central, as mentioned above. The station in Pittsfield, Mass is um, kind of central? You can walk to things from it but Pittsfield doesn't exactly have a lot to offer no matter where you are. The station in Amherst, Mass is a short walk to the charming central square sort of area, IIRC.
posted by MadamM at 10:15 PM on August 25, 2012


The Berkeley, CA Amtrak station is easy walking distance to the 4th Street neighborhood, which isn't remotely representative of Berkeley but has a lot of good places to eat and shop. The Takara sake brewery (they make the Sho Chiku Bai label) is right there, too. If you're willing to walk a little farther than I am, you can get to downtown and the UC Berkeley campus area on foot, too. (Or it's a very, very short ride on a bus that comes very frequently, but I know you said no additional modes of transit.)

The Raleigh, NC Amtrak station is easily walkable to downtown Raleigh, where there's a great coffee shop, a bunch of good places to eat, and some parks and historical sights to see.

I think Boston's South Station has already been covered.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:20 PM on August 25, 2012


The station in St. Paul, MN, is not walkable to anything noteworthy right now, other than a diner that advertises "best breakfast in the Twin Cities," but it's just a couple blocks from a light rail line being constructed, which will run to the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis and through the University of Minnesota. Scheduled opening is 2014.
posted by lakeroon at 10:21 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Savannah, Georgia's Amtrak station is about three miles from downtown, unfortunately. Orlando, Florida's Amtrak station is also not particularly near any attractions.

Emeryville, California's station is next to a neat "Public Market" that has a multi-ethnic food court, but I don't think it's a day's worth of stuff to do, though there is, as mentioned, a connecting bus to San Francisco. Sacramento, California's station is located literally one block from Sacramento's Old Town, including the California State Railroad Museum. There is both a decent motel and a neat riverboat hotel a couple blocks away. Highly recommended. Santa Barbara's station is located downtown, but it's also a big downtown, so it's hard to say if you might not want a car anyway.
posted by wnissen at 10:48 PM on August 25, 2012


I don't know if you would consider Trinidad,Colorado a city, but it is a great old west town that is becoming a destination for art galleries,etc...The train station is a bare bones trailer and a porta potty, but it is an easy walk into the center of town, where there are B&Bs and good restaurants. It is on the Southwest Chief line.
posted by Isadorady at 10:53 PM on August 25, 2012


Austin, Texas. It's on 4th (or 5th) street, only across the street from the flagship Whole Foods store, in the downtown area and only a few blocks from the famous 6th Street which is full of bars and music.
posted by raccoon409 at 10:45 PM on August 25
You're within easy walking distance of the flagship Whole Foods, which is an interesting field trip, even if you're dead set against giving them any money; just seeing the place, it's Disneyland, of sorts. And REI right across the street also, and a damn good bookstore right next to that, and a very, very good record store right there, too. Good stuff, but it's all retail stuff.

The capital complex is about a forty minute walk -- don't do this in July. Downtown is a 35 minute walk. There's a couple of fairly interesting places to visit on UT campus, another five minutes past the capital complex. And as raccoon409 pointed out, there are fun bars and restaurants on the walk there, also.

Alternately, head east but then south, rather than north to the capital, and you'll be on South Congress, which is full of fun shops and great restaurants and great people watching. I sit out there every Sunday evening with a friend of mine who is also a sortof mentor to me, we sit for an hour and watch the world go by, talk it all out -- great fun, and a great place to do it. It's same walk as the capital, just south instead of north.

The point is that it sortof depends upon how long/far you're willing to walk. If you're up for walking a few hours, you can see lots of great things here; if you're willing only to walk five or ten minutes, retail experiences, some bars and restaurants, too.

***

The Tucson stop is downtown, and it dumps you right on a nice little farmer's market on the platform. If it's running on time, the Sunset Limited stops for a good 45 minutes or so, going both directions. I've only been on the eastbound train, and it stops pretty early in the morning, so it seemed like a lot of the vendors were just getting set up. (The westbound train stops in the early evening.)

There's also a restaurant and market in the historic train depot, but I didn't go in there, myself.

posted by SpringAquifer at 11:07 PM on August 25
The Tucson station really is in great location, it really is dead in the heart of town. Now, what is there to do in downtown Tucson? Um, well, that restaurant SpringAquifier mentioned is my favorite in Tucson, a great little place, interesting wait staff, good US food, plenty of vegetarian options, desserts to kill for, or die for -- fun place. And the bar often has good musicians, touring musicians, a real nice surprise one night was to find out Joe Ely was playing there -- sweet. Some nights it's just a dj or juke or whatever and some nights the band sucks no doubt but it's right there. And staying in that hotel -- Hotel Congress -- it's just great fun, and if you go on the off season you can stay half price, which I just love to do. No A/C but big windows to open and really you don't need to open them, high ceilings and ceiling fans and thick walls and it's plenty comfortable. No TV in the rooms -- Hurray! -- instead of TV they've got a small radio in each room; isn't that the best? Fun.

There's some galleries close-by, and some fun shops, and fun restaurants. I don't know anymore what else might be there, not stayed in Tucson in maybe a decade, though I've been through, twice on the train. It *was* sortof undergoing a downtown renaissance and I hope that continued and suspect is has but I can't say for sure.

Tucson plays Austin to Phoenix plays Dallas, Tucson a fine little city, changing fast, Californication, but still sweet. They truly do roll up the sidewalks at like ten pm, if that late, pretty much in both Tucson and Phx, a real surprise to me, that was. Phoenix pretty much sucks, IMO, and in any case the train doesn't stop in Phoenix, if you can believe that; the "Phoenix stop" is an hour south of Phx, in some hokey, horses-ass nowhere town. But Tucson is a sweet town, maybe a day or two without wheels though, and determined not to take a cab or rent a car. (Quite frankly, I'd hate to see you go to Tucson and not get out into the desert west of town, saguaro cactus all over the place; a drive through the Saguaro National Park, maybe half hour outside of town, a great loop to drive, the heart of the desert, maybe my favorite place on the planet.)
posted by dancestoblue at 10:53 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


And yeah, Chicago -- I stay in a hostel downtown, maybe a fifteen minute walk from the station, throw my shit into a locker there and out the door and BAM !!! I'm *exactly* where I want to be, Michigan Avenue, my fave building right there, and the Art Institute right there across the street, and most everything else I want to do in the city, walking distance; if you rent a bike, you can see it all.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:58 PM on August 25, 2012


There's an Amtrak in Champaign, IL located at the heart of Champaign downtown. There are bars, coffeeshops, and restaurants nearby, and you can catch a bus to campus or to Urbana (over on the other side of campus). I recommend the coffeeshop Cafe Kopi and the Blind Pig brewery. The Blind Pig has a great beer menu, if you enjoy that sort of thing :)
posted by yaymukund at 10:59 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Little Rock's station isn't right in the heart of downtown, but it's an easy bike ride/long walk away.
posted by box at 11:06 PM on August 25, 2012


Omaha, NE is a great example of this. Step off the train, and the Old Market is just across the tracks, maybe four blocks away.
posted by Sfving at 11:12 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Buffalo's is a shack beneath an overpass, but yeah it's pretty much downtown.
posted by troika at 11:23 PM on August 25, 2012


Staunton, Va. Not a big city but cutey-cute. Station 2 minutes from center.
posted by Namlit at 11:27 PM on August 25, 2012


Lincoln, NE also has the station put you downtown near restaurants, galleries, museums, a ballpark, the university - the area is called the Haymarket. Of course, the train stops here in the middle of the night, but there are hotels within walking distance as well. And in a year, the new arena.
posted by PussKillian at 11:37 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal is in the heart of downtown, next door to the New Orleans Arena which is next to the Superdome. It's 12 blocks, less than a mile to the French Quarter. The terminal is on city bus lines and you can transfer to other busses and to the streetcar which will get you to any place one would usually want to visit in the city. The streetcar ride up St. Charles Avenue is an attraction in itself.

The French Quarter is far more than Bourbon Street. There is the Cabildo and the Old MInt--both house museums. There are many historic houses and locations to make up walking tours. The Riverfront attractions include the Aquarium and the ferry at the foot of Canal Street is the best free tour in the city, providing the best view of the river itself and the Cathedral and Jackson Square from across the river. In the Quarter also is the Historic New Orleans Collection, rare objects and documents from the history of the city.

Within walking distance of the Quarter is Frenchmen Street, a bustling music center and the surrounding Faubourg Marigny with it's burgeoning art enterprises. Across Canal Street from the Quarter is the Warehouse District with art galleries, upscale restaurants and night life. Accessible by bus is Magazine Street with miles of antique and specialty shops.

The old New Orleans is stretched in a crescent around a bend in the river and is therefore built on the highest ground around. These parts of town for the most part do not flood and so have remained and retained the charm of the old city. No city in this country that I have visited has quite the same atmosphere. The European and Caribbean influences created a unique city with many customs and traditions that are still maintained.

Was it Mark Twain who said, of cities in this country, there is just New York, San Francisco and New Orleans--everyplace else is just Cleveland? I like a lot of different kinds of places, cities and small towns, and I'd stretch the list to at least include Boston and Washington but the inclusion of New Orleans is right on.
posted by Anitanola at 11:40 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd say the station in San Jose California is one of those about a mile, maybe less, but it wold be a long walk to "things to do". In Portland and Seattle, it's closer.
posted by Rash at 12:16 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Amtrak station in Rochester, NY is located in a weird part of the city, desolate feeling, though technically outside the Inner Loop. While I have been to a few of the places it's within walking distance of, a tourist would find it a bit odd, I think. To be fair, all of Rochester's downtown is a bit odd.

I've also been, several times, to the Syracuse, NY train station, which is not downtown but is right by the CNY Regional Market and what will always be called the Carousel Mall. So you can take the train in, get some wholesale priced meats and some retail priced shoes, and then be back on your way to Albany or whatever. If that's what you're into.
posted by knile at 12:17 AM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't just consider location, consider arrival-departure times. A central location is of less use if you get in when everything is closed (which includes the public transit system in most cities.)

Speeking of Cleveland, which someone upthread was, the Cleveland Amtrak stop is not terribly located (downtown near the stadium/science museum/Rock Hall, probably about 1-1.5mi from stuff in Ohio City and the Flats & within fairly easy access of Euclid Ave. transport to the Art Museum/Symphony Hall/CWRU/etc.) The location is a bit awkward - sandwiched between the Shoreway and a bit of a bluff that most of downtown is perched on - but it's still near things, and not in a particularly sketchy area. There's one big problem, though: trains get in/out from about 1-6am. Capitol Limited and Lakeshore Limited, both directions. So you're stuck sitting around until the city wakes up (Rapid included), getting a taxi to a place to crash (though actually there are probably hotels downtown you could head to), or wandering around aimlessly and on foot in an empty downtown.

Chicago and Boston both have central locations, as mentioned above, and on the Lakeshore Limited route, the arrival/departure times are more reasonable for catching public transit to a cheap place to stay or going out and seeing the city, depending on whether you are coming or going. Departure and arrival times are optimized for stations in the big cities at the ends of lines, so Chicago and Boston win and a lot of the cities in between lose.
posted by ubersturm at 1:35 AM on August 26, 2012


For the second time in 24 hours, I'm recommending Pittsburgh. The Amtrak station is very much downtown, and a thriving downtown it is. A 2-mile walking radius from the station can put you in PNC Park (one of the best baseball stadiums in the country, used in the recent Batman movie), the Andy Warhol Museum, the National Aviary, the Strip District (tightly packed shops and restaurants), Carson Street (restaurants, clubs), kayak rentals for use on the rivers, the beautiful campus of Duquesne University ... plus a lot of other stuff I'm not all that familiar with because I've only lived here since January. Really, it would be hard to beat.
posted by jon1270 at 3:18 AM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Providence Stop is kind of fun. The building is a bit clunky, but tries to seem grand with a nice dome. It's a short walk from the RISD museum, a few historic houses, some nice restaurants, and some shopping. You can also hit the State House with a baseball from one of the station entrances (well, if you have a good arm). The downtown is right there but kind of struggling.

The only city I have lived in where the Amtrak station isn't downtown is Minneapolis/St. Paul, where it is pretty isolated from anything you might want to do.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:20 AM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Santa Barbara's Amtrak station is a short walk - 3-4 minutes - in either direction from downtown State Street or Stearns Wharf.
posted by WasabiFlux at 3:50 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


New London, CT. The station is right smack in the middle of downtown, very much walking distance (like feet, not miles) to restaurants, shopping, galleries, many (though not all) historic sites and museums, and the riverfront. It's also right next to the bus station, cabs, and ferry terminal.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:11 AM on August 26, 2012


Amtrak crosses the border and goes up to Montréal, and the station there is right downtown.
posted by kmennie at 4:12 AM on August 26, 2012


Hartford, CT: fairly downtown; the city is so small you can walk anywhere from it.
New Haven, CT: a bit farther out from things you might want to see as a visitor, but still in the city.
posted by smalls at 4:30 AM on August 26, 2012


Kansas City qualifies, although the city itself isn't that walkable. Union Station is a destination in and of itself but I can't think offhand of other touristy things in the vicinity. There are some restaurants nearby within walking distance.
posted by jeffhoward at 4:41 AM on August 26, 2012


The main Milwaukee stop is just a few minutes walk from the heart of downtown.
posted by drezdn at 5:04 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Amtrak Kansas City station is going to depend a lot on time of day. I stopped at that station for years at either 6 am or midnight and there was never anything going on. I guess you could stop and just wait for the right time of day, but I imagine you would need to take a taxi to a hotel or hostel. I really dont think you would want to stay in that part of kc.
posted by aetg at 5:26 AM on August 26, 2012


You can take Amtrak to Orlando, FL or Kissimmee, FL - and then if you have reservations at a Walt Disney World Resort, a Disney shuttle will get you to your hotel. And, once on Disney property, there is great public transportation between the parks, shopping areas, and hotels.
posted by Flood at 5:36 AM on August 26, 2012


The Kingston, RI station is not within walking distance of anything. Well, you could walk to URI, but its a couple of miles and the lack of sidewalks make it a pain. And unless you're visiting the school for some reason.... well, there's not much to do/see. The beach is a short taxi ride away though!
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:53 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to respectfully dissent on Pittsburgh. It's a wonderful town and all the listed attractions are great, but the Amtrak station is not located in a walkable place or anywhere near the things visitors will want to see. Carson St, the National Aviary, the Mattress Factory and other great things are inaccessible from the Amtrak station without a car.

Union Station in Washington DC is also not really in the heart of the city in the same way that Penn Station or South Side Station are. You can walk to the Senate buildings and you can see the Capitol, but that's sort of it. Changes are coming to that part of town, but it's currently pretty uninteresting for visitors.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:28 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


the worcester amtrak stop is union station which is pretty central to downtown. it's a 5 minute walk to shrewsbury st with tons of good restaurants and bars. 3 minutes in the other direction brings you to the city common and CBD. steps away is the canal district with more bars and restaurants plus some walking tours, galleries and the infamous kelley square, a seven-way intersection with no traffic lights. all in all, not a lot to do in the woo, but what little there is, is there.
posted by ps_im_awesome at 6:37 AM on August 26, 2012


I know there have been a couple of mentions of the South Station stop in Boston, but I actually like the Back Bay stop better. It's close to Copley Square, the Boston public library, Newbury street shops, shops at the Prudential Center and Copley mall, the historic homes in Back Bay, the Esplanade, the Commons, the Boston Public Garden.

If you don't mind walking a bit, you can easily get to Fenway, Faneuil Hall, the North End, etc.
posted by murfed13 at 6:38 AM on August 26, 2012


St. Louis was already taken (almost anything you'd care to see downtown is within a mile radius, and there's a light rail station literally next to the Amtrak station for everything else), so I'll go with Carbondale, Ill., home of Southern Illinois University.

The station is located downtown, on what is affectionately known as "the strip", which has a lot of restaurants, bars, nightlife, that sort of thing. A half-mile's walk will get you to campus or to the Buckminster Fuller "dome home".
posted by brentajones at 6:41 AM on August 26, 2012


The Springfield, MA station is right in the middle of downtown and walking distance to several museums. It's a little sketchy, but most of Springfield is a little sketchy. Insofar as there is stuff to do in downtown Springfield, there is stuff to do near the train station.
posted by mskyle at 6:57 AM on August 26, 2012


Atlanta, GA: On the northern end of Midtown. 15 - 20 minute walk from several restaurants and some shops, the big art museum, several hotels, and a Marta station which will get you to the majority of the cool places you want to go.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 7:06 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Baltimore, MD.: Union Station is downtown, and is connected by light rail to downtown and the Northern and Southern suburbs. Also, bus and cab is available. Metro Subway is a short walk away. Also a short walk, the Station North Arts & Entertainment District, Opera and Symphony venues. Many resturants covering a wide variety of cuisines.
posted by Fferret at 7:19 AM on August 26, 2012


lakeroon:
The station in St. Paul, MN, is not walkable to anything noteworthy right now, other than a diner that advertises "best breakfast in the Twin Cities," but it's just a couple blocks from a light rail line being constructed, which will run to the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis and through the University of Minnesota. Scheduled opening is 2014.
However, they're currently renovating the old St. Paul Union Depot, and Amtrak is scheduled to move there later this year. The depot is on the edge of downtown St. Paul. It will have bus service immediately, and the aforementioned light rail connection to Minneapolis in 2014.
posted by yuwtze at 7:31 AM on August 26, 2012


Richmond, VA's train station is not only gorgeous, but in the middle of Shockoe Bottom - plenty to do around it. Unfortunately, most of the train trips are routed through Richmond's other train station, which is about 10 miles out, in the burbs. No idea why.
posted by Vhanudux at 7:51 AM on August 26, 2012


In Rochester, NY the Amtrak station is a small ugly building North of downtown and on the edge of a sketchy neighborhood. You will require transportation to get to any lodging and the traditional touristy places. Cabs are available but you must phone for them, there's no taxi stand and you can not hail a cab in Rochester.

There's a planned intermodal station that will make getting around a little easier but no plans to move the tracks or the station.
posted by tommasz at 8:11 AM on August 26, 2012


Oklahoma City’s Amtrak station is right in the middle of things to do. It is downtown, in the Bricktown entertainment district. It’s one block to the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder’s arena. Within a few blocks there are dozens of restaurants and bars, excellent hotels, minor league baseball, the Civic Center Music Hall, OKC Museum of Art, the OKC National Museum and Monument (1995 bombing). And lots more!

Amtrak service is limited to a daily 4-hour run between OKC and Fort Worth, TX on Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer. The Heartland Flyer connects with the Texas Eagle, serving Chicago to San Antonio and Los Angeles.
posted by Snerd at 8:13 AM on August 26, 2012


San Francisco, as mention above, is probably one of the only cities where Amtrak's station isn't right in the center of things. Amtrak will sell you a ticket for SF but you get off the train in Emeryville or Oakland and take an Amtrak bus across the Bay Bridge to the Ferry Building, right downtown. Which is fine, but getting back to the Amtrak station can be a pain unless you have an Amtrak ticket which gets you on the Amtrak bus.

Here's another vote for the SF Amtrak. It's easy to get there -- if you buy a ticket for SF, you hustle off the train and onto a bus for a short ride to be right downtown. To get back, you can either bring a ticket to the station, or you can also take BART (light rail) to Richmond.

Los Angeles's Amtrak is also right downtown.
posted by slidell at 8:24 AM on August 26, 2012


Indianapolis, IN - within 4 blocks of the center of the city.
posted by pjern at 8:57 AM on August 26, 2012


The Northeast Corridor ends in Portland ME but the (new) station is in an undistinguished area not near downtown. The old Romanesque station, infamously torn down in the early 60s and replaced by a strip mall, sparking the historic preservation movement, was in only a slightly better location though.

Theoretically by the end of this year, train service will extend to Brunswick ME and that station is downtown, near shops, inns, and restaurants, Bowdoin College, the Joshua Chamberlain museum (the defender of Little Round Top among other achievements), historic homes on the town mall (park). Really a lovely area.

Note that Amtrak from NYC to Boston comes into South Station but leaves for Maine and NH from North Station.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:40 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I forgot to say that the coolest thing is that Amtrak will hold the departure of the last train of the night to Portland until the Red Sox game finishes.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:47 AM on August 26, 2012


Ah, forgot Delray Beach. It's also on the wrong side of 95 from things (similar to Ft Lauderdale, doubling as a light rail transit point). You have to walk a mile along Atlantic before you start getting places (they're doing some kind of construction with art stuff), but there's a big tennis center (I've light railed and trolley bussed there) where matches are played (watched Roddick a few years back), lots of restaurants, arts district, little museums and parks two miles east. The beach is another mile east. If you get tired of walking that far you can take the free shuttle trolley bus back.

Deerfield Beach, FL. There is a railway museum maintained by volunteers open for limited hours, a public library, some hotels (the one closer to the station looks iffy and the restaurant is open on and off).

Miami, FL. Nothing much. It's moving? Or the rest of the intramodal is moving to them, I read some articles on it and it was not clear. Haven't been there in a few years so I'm not sure.

Alpine, TX. Sul Ross State university, the downtown is fixed up to be kinda touristy looking, lots of places to eat.
posted by tilde at 10:01 AM on August 26, 2012


The Springfield, IL Amtrak station is in downtown Springfield, 2 blocks from Old State Capitol Plaza, and walking distance to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the State Capitol, and all sorts of other things.

If you want to go up to Canada, Toronto's Union Station is as in the middle of things as it gets: it's on the PATH, and you can also catch the subway without leaving the station.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:32 AM on August 26, 2012


You will not want to visit Charleston, SC or Greenville, SC or Savannah, GA if you don't have a ride arranged from the dismally located, miserable Amtrak stations in the wastelands. You can also forget the NC mountains, because Greenville or the strange little stop in Clemson are the only stations within a hundred miles. This is a shame - and I am ashamed for all of us in the Southeast who would really, really like to take trains.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:36 AM on August 26, 2012


I came in to mention Baltimore's train being near Station North and Mt. Vernon. And it's Penn Station, not Union Station.
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:54 AM on August 26, 2012


New York, NY: Obviously, the Amtrak is in Penn Station, in the middle of Manhattan at like 36th and Broadway or something.

Williamsburg, VA: I don't know if you'd ever want to go here, but apparently Colonial Williamsburg is popular with the tourists. The Amtrak is pretty close, and it's about a 15-minute bus ride to the "main street." And the buses are always just parked right there at the station.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 10:56 AM on August 26, 2012


Spokane, Washington: Right downtown, some pretty cool stuff nearby including interesting shops and the astonishing Riverfront Park with Spokane Falls.
posted by LarryC at 11:21 AM on August 26, 2012


Providence station is right by the State House and Providence Place Mall -- both visible from station and around a 5 minute walk away.
posted by jorlyfish at 11:29 AM on August 26, 2012


Since it's downtown, the Providence station is right by the main bus hub and also a short walk from anywhere in the city, as it is quite compact. Also, you can take the Boston commuter rail from there.
posted by Kattullus at 12:08 PM on August 26, 2012


Kansas City, MO: I'll agree with another poster that Kansas City is not generally a pedestrian-friendly city, nor is it a tourist magnet. However, the station (Union Station) is certainly worth seeing. It's a beautiful historic building, at one time the second-largest train station in the US.

Nearby is Liberty Memorial, home to an excellent World War I museum and a good place to take in some nice views of the KC skyline. Beyond that is Crown Center. There are also a number of excellent restaurants and shops in the Crossroads District, just north of Union Station. All more-or-less within walking distance.
posted by photo guy at 1:02 PM on August 26, 2012


Wow, all great info. Thank you very much to everyone who contributed so far!
posted by thorny at 1:42 PM on August 26, 2012


I would point out that the California Zephyr stops off at Salt Lake City at 11:30 PM (Westbound) or 3:00ish AM (Eastbound), so...late. Hotels are close to the area, though, if you weren't down for night romping.
posted by vivid postcard at 2:32 PM on August 26, 2012


Union Station in Washington DC is also not really in the heart of the city in the same way that Penn Station or South Side Station are. You can walk to the Senate buildings and you can see the Capitol, but that's sort of it. Changes are coming to that part of town, but it's currently pretty uninteresting for visitors.

Yeah, there may not be a lot within the first half-mile from Union Station, but within the OP's 1-2 mile radius you get half the Mall and pretty much all the Smithsonian museums, the White House, the Verizon Center, and the Penn Quarter area with tons of restaurants and bars and other stuff going on (among other things.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 5:55 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]



I'd say the station in San Jose California is one of those about a mile, maybe less, but it wold be a long walk to "things to do". In Portland and Seattle, it's closer.


A few notable things nearby the San Jose Diridon station:

HP Pavilion--Sharks Hockey across the street.

Hotel De Anza

Henry's High Life

Guadalupe River Trail

Schurra's Candy Store.

There are also Caltrain and VTA stations next to the Amtrak station. I think it definitely meets your needs.
posted by JDC8 at 6:39 PM on August 26, 2012


Sacramento's station is downtown, but it is on the northwestern edge of downtown. Contrary to what's been said above, Sacramento's central city has a lot going for it.

Less than a quarter mile away is Old Sacramento, which has an excellent railroad museum and two nice restaurants (Delta Queen and Rio City Cafe) where you can eat lunch outside, overlooking the river. Though Old Sac is underused and touristy, you can also rent a bike, which you can use to bicycle 30-plus miles along the American River, on one of the best bike trails in the country.

A half mile or so down the river from Old Sacramento is the Crocker Art Museum, which recently completed an expansion that's beautiful inside, if a bit drab on the outside. The California Museum is another half mile or so from the Crocker, and is interesting and under-appreciated. They've got a Terminator robot prop in the museum, which is pretty cool.

From California Museum, you're only a five minute walk from the California State Capitol, which does interesting and informative tours (depending on your guide) and has beautiful grounds.

Certain blocks Downtown are a little run down, but don't let that fool you. Most of the other interesting stuff is in Midtown, which starts roughly at 15th street. There are dozens of great restaurants in Midtown, along with amazing chocolates at Ginger Elizabeth, and lovely gelato at Divine Gelateria. There is a thriving art community in Sacramento with galleries scattered around Midtown. There's also way more theater than you would expect in a city Sacramento's size.

Have dinner at one of the local Midtown restaurants and get a drink at one of the bars at 28th and J, 16th and L or 10th and K. If you make it as far as 28th and J, you've walked less than two miles.
posted by cnc at 2:29 PM on August 28, 2012


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