Sightseeing between Chicago and PA
September 16, 2005 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Is there much to see out of the window of a Greyhound between Chicago and, say, Pittsburgh? Or will I die of ennui en route?

I'm going to be travelling around Pennsylvania early next month doing an art project. My only two options are as follows:
1. Fly into the States via Chicago, in which case I'll likely get a bus to Pittsburgh. It's an 8 hour journey, and a round trip is $100.
2. Fly into the States via Washington, in which case I'll likely get a bus to Philadelphia. It's a 3 hour journey, and a round trip is $50.

Given that I have no time pressures, is it worth spending a day each way (and an extra $50) travelling cross country just for kicks, or will it be a thoroughly boring journey? Interesting scenery (pastoral or/or urban) is my idea of heaven: concrete freeway embankments and strip-malls is my idea of hell.
posted by nylon to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
Best answer: I wouldn't recommend Chicago - Pittsburgh: it's a deadly boring trip.
posted by cbrody at 3:56 PM on September 16, 2005

Gary, Indiana. You know Gotham in the first new Batman movie...

Bring an easy to read book.
posted by 517 at 4:01 PM on September 16, 2005

Best answer: I've done this bus trip a number of times (I live in Chicago, and my parents are in Pittsburgh). It's really rather uncomfortable and boring. Gary, South Bend, Toledo, Cleveland (where you'll most likely sit for two hours waiting for a transfer), Akron, and Youngstown are about all you'll see beyond highways.

I've done Amtrak between the two as well, and while it offers quite a bit more to look at, I wouldn't recommend it either.
posted by aiko at 4:16 PM on September 16, 2005

Best answer: You'll die of ennui. On the other hand, it gives you time for all those things you've been putting off until you had nothing else to do.
posted by puddinghead at 4:18 PM on September 16, 2005

You might find your fellow passengers interesting. This is where Amtrak can offer an advantage: you can hang out in the club car, have a beer, play cards with other travellers, etc.

For either Greyhound or Amtrak, try to double-check the timetables online. Even if the scenery has potential, some of it may pass by after dark.

I've done Amtrak on the Chicago > Cleveland > Pittsburgh > D.C. route, and the northern Indiana countryside can be nice at times. Clumps of trees, picture-perfect barns and silos, the occasional deer.

Greyhound routes that do local service sometimes offer views of "bygone small-town America" as they stop in one little burg after another...they can also be deadly slow.
posted by gimonca at 8:48 PM on September 16, 2005

Best answer: Okay, I just ran over and checked the respective websites. Some Greyhound options take as long as 14 hours. Amtrak promises 9 hours 30 mins, but only leaves Chicago once a day, at 5:30 p.m. Couple of hours later, it's gonna be dark.

Note that Amtrak could also be taken from D.C. -- Union Station is walking distance from the U.S. Capitol and tons of other stuff. Going from D.C. to Pittsburgh (and then back to Chicago), the train goes up the Potomac past Harpers Ferry and some really great (and sometimes historic) scenery.
posted by gimonca at 8:59 PM on September 16, 2005

Best answer: It's certainly not worth $50 and two days to sit and watch what's between Chicago and Pittsburgh on Highway 80 -- a route I've driven alone several times now. You'll see straight roads, flat land, crops, toll booths and the occasional rest area. There really isn't anything of interest on that drive once you get outside of Chicagoland, not *even* strip malls.

Driving within Pennsylvania, on the other hand, is much different; Pennsylvania is often hilly, lush and beautiful, with curvy roads and tunnels through mountains to break up the monotony. The landscape changes rapidly from dull to lovely just a few miles after you hit the PA border.

The drive from DC to Philly, which I've also done several times, is pretty boring but pretty painless.

Don't do the Chicago to Pittsburgh thing, really.
posted by eschatfische at 12:04 AM on September 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Amtrak promises 9 hours 30 mins
posted by ryanrs at 1:19 AM on September 17, 2005

Greyhound bus rides should not ever be thought of as entertainment, even in jest.
posted by cillit bang at 5:14 AM on September 17, 2005

I've driven from Philly to Washington about 80 billion times -- I used to do it once or twice a week. I haven't ever done it on greyhound, but it's not bad at all doing it with Amtrak.

In fact, the train is a lovely way to travel up and down the eastern seaboard. You can stare out the window, plug in your laptop, stretch out a bit, etc.. Washington to Philly, in particular, takes you through some of the nicer parts of northern maryland, delaware, and southern pa. It's actually kind of an interesting trip -- you go from the worst parts of baltimore to epic views of havre de grace and back into the city again. And then you'll be in Philly and you can eat Cheesesteaks and run the Rocky stairs!
posted by ph00dz at 6:05 AM on September 17, 2005

Best answer: I realize it's not one of the options you gave, but have you considered flying to Pittsburgh? Southwest has one way flights from Chicago (Midway not O'Hare) to Pitt for $29. Airtran is also cheap to Pitt.
posted by Xalf at 11:50 AM on September 17, 2005

Best answer: I frequently take Greyhound from Newark, NJ to Elyria, OH, via Cleveland, OH (and sometimes NY Port Authority). I die a little every time. Expect to spend several hours sitting on a dirty floor in line at Cleveland. Also, don't try to leave the station -- the surrounding area is dangerous, especially at night (it's always night...) and especially if you're carrying any sort of baggage. Avoid at all costs.
posted by Ptrin at 4:40 PM on September 17, 2005

Best answer: I've gone from Cleveland to Iowa City (through Chicago) via Greyhound. What Ptrin says about Cleveland is true. Also, I was "bumped" from my first bus because they overbooked. Plus, I was almost bumped from the second bus.

At best it will be a long, boring trip. Pray you don't end up next to the lady with five kids.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:05 PM on September 17, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone - gold stars to all of you. As it turns out, there aren't any seats available to DC, so I have to fly to Chicago. Given the unanimous thumbs down to the Greyhound, it looks like Xalf's suggestion of flying is the winner.
posted by nylon at 8:27 AM on September 18, 2005

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