NJ Transit the day before Thanksgiving
November 9, 2018 8:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm considering making a day trip to New York to see a matinee the day before Thanksgiving. How crowded will the NJ Transit northeast corridor line to/from Hamilton NJ be? Will I be able to find a seat? I will of course do my best to avoid rush hour, but I've been worried it might be super busy leaving New York in the evening if everybody is trying to go visit their families in NJ.
posted by interplanetjanet to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (10 answers total)
I've taken the NJ Transit from Metropark into the city many times on the day or two before Thanksgiving (mid-day), and it's always been a breeze.

Took it out to Orange on Thanksgiving day last year, though, and it was crowded but bearable.
posted by General Malaise at 8:35 AM on November 9, 2018

Many, many people will be leaving Manhattan via Penn Station on the day before Thanksgiving. It will be a little chaotic. Your train will also most likely also be packed and there will probably be people standing.

Inbound shouldn't be bad.
posted by pilot pirx at 8:45 AM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding pilot pirx. Coming back may be a madhouse - the actual NJ Transit train may be okay, but Penn Station will be packed with people coming from college on Amtrak along with commuters and New Yorkers all going home for the holiday. If you stay in the city for dinner after the matinee and leave the city after 8 you'll probably have an easier time.
posted by Mchelly at 9:11 AM on November 9, 2018

Agreed that inbound for a matinee show should not be crowded but NJ Transit has been *incredibly* unreliable lately in terms of cancelled and late trains. If you are coming in for a timed event like a show, I would try to leave earlier than you normally would, and make liberal use of the NJ Transit app to watch train arrival times and delays.

If the matinee show gets out anytime between 3:30 and 7 pm, leaving the city will likely be a little nuts.
posted by rachaelfaith at 9:12 AM on November 9, 2018

Yeah, Penn Station will be a zoo. However, if I were to guess (no guarantee), I'd guess that the crowd would thin around 9 pm, so if you wanted to chill in the city for the rest of the day, you could just leave later.
posted by praemunire at 10:08 AM on November 9, 2018

Thanks for the advice. Maybe I should try the Tuesday night show instead. Although I don't mind staying in the city for dinner. I've done it before on a regular Wed. matinee and I either head for the train ASAP after the show or hang around until after 7.
posted by interplanetjanet at 10:14 AM on November 9, 2018

You want to avoid taking a train from Penn Station the day before Thanksgiving if at all possible.
posted by Automocar at 10:16 AM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm not familiar with NJ Transit, but I am unfortunately very very familiar with Penn Station the day before Thanksgiving. I'll be there this year because I don't really have a choice, but I'd rather not be.

In my experience, Penn Station starts getting crowded early to mid-afternoon, because people take a short day or have the day off and head home/to Amtrak at that point. And it continues to be crowded well into the evening, with people also coming in to see the balloons for the parade get blown up and to go drinking in the city. About a decade ago I got stuck late at work and my 8:30pm LIRR train was standing room only, and Penn Station was still very crowded. Google for pics of Penn Station the day before Thanksgiving and see if you want to participate in that. (Though, to be fair, one of the past few years there was a disabled train at some point, so it was even worse than usual, but it is still not pleasant.)
posted by Caz721 at 10:34 AM on November 9, 2018

Thanks for all the help! I'm buying tickets for Tuesday!
posted by interplanetjanet at 12:27 PM on November 9, 2018

Good move. I know it's resolved, but I have made this trip many, many times as I used to live in New England and have to come home to family in NJ that day. A seat is definitely not guaranteed, and crowding is high. It's a little nuts - you're smart to avoid it if you don't have to go that day. Also, do allow extra time. NJT is really unreliable and has track delays every day. I expect it will be worse over the holiday travel period.
posted by Miko at 6:58 PM on November 10, 2018

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