Train options from Connecticut/neighboring areas to Montreal?
February 7, 2008 12:11 AM   Subscribe

The S.O. wants to go away for a weekend to Montreal. I'm pretty much sold on the idea except for one glaring issue - how are we getting there? Point of origin would preferably be in Connecticut.

Her car isn't reliable enough to drive from where she lives {Middletown, CT} and we're fairly budget-conscious, as people in their early twenties sometimes are. I did a little bit of poking around online and I'm thoroughly flustered and confused by Amtrak and Greyhound. Before I call both of them, I thought I'd ask you ever-helpful folks. Some specifics:

1. She'd like to depart from Connecticut but I can't find anything.

2. There was also the idea to drive somewhere {she suggested Vermont} closer and take the train from there. I've looked into Vermont and though she insists there's a way, I can't seem to find anything that suggests a direct train to Montreal exists. Is there any neighboring area to Connecticut that has effective service to Montreal?

3. We're not trying to spend a whole lot of money...or entire days on the train.

Is this even plausible? I'm getting dejected. Does anyone have personal experiences? Suggestions? Promising things they've seen scrawled in public bathroom stalls? Also, I've already trawled askMeFi, but if there's one thing looking for these train schedules has taught me, it's that I'm not so great at finding stuff. Sorry in advance if there is a related thread that is relevant and recent.

And just in case this does work out, any of you MF-ers have personal favorite activities/pretty places/good eats in Montreal? I definitely found a couple threads on that stuff, but I wouldn't mind reading extra/new opinions.

Thank you thank you thank you hive mind.
posted by rmrudy to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Either you drive to Albany and take the Adirondack to Montreal, or take the Vermonter from Hartford to St. Albans and catch a bus from there. Either way, it's going to be a PITA.

Greyhound will take nine hours and you will spend a few of those in the rancid bus station at White River Junction.

Air Canada flies direct from BDL, and takes only an hour, but that's not for the budget-conscious. You can connect through Washington-Dulles for 200 bucks roundtrip.

Sorry to be a downer, but Montreal is really a driving trip (and a beautiful one at that).
posted by Saucy Intruder at 12:32 AM on February 7, 2008

From Connecticut, driving to Montreal is easiest. If your SO's car isn't reliable, you could rent a car. I know that Hertz, for instance, will let you drive their cars to Canada as long as you tell them in advance and fill out some paperwork. A 2 or 3 day rental would probably cost less than $150 most weekends, assuming you decline the insurance. If her car can make it to Bradley, just park there and pick up a car at the airport.
posted by blue mustard at 12:38 AM on February 7, 2008

Don't take the Adirondack to Montreal. Did the round trip twice in two years: the toilets were broken and we were stuck on the train for 18 hours both times on the return trip, due to track problems.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:12 AM on February 7, 2008

Definitely look into renting a car - the drive is pretty beautiful and Amtrak, man, Amtrak can really bring you down. I suspect Greyhound could ruin your week-end.

I've rented cars just for the day to drive from NYC to VA before as it was the cheapest, most comfortable way to get from point A to B.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:24 AM on February 7, 2008

I did exactly this trip recently. We were planning to travel just before Christmas and since I am from the UK where the country does not know how to deal with snow my initial instinct was to try to fly or go by train. It is only about 330 miles so how hard could that be?

It turned out that flying was going to be pretty expensive and train travel was going to take the sort of time which would be impressive only to somebody in sub-saharan Africa (and be pretty expensive). So we hired a car and drove - a beautiful journey taking about a day. So I would agree that this would probably be your easiest option. Alternatively maybe you could borrow somebody's car.
posted by rongorongo at 2:52 AM on February 7, 2008

I agree with renting a car.

If you like beer and are coming up through MA via 91, I encourage you to stop at The People's Pint in Greenfield. It's a hella awesome brewpub that specializes in organic and local foods that only throws out two bags of trash a night (For example, the spent grains from making the beer are sold to a goat farmer for the goats to eat, the goat farmer sells the goat milk to a cheesemaker, the cheesemaker sells the cheese to People's Pint). If you have the time, there's a few nice B&Bs in the area to help break up the trip. You can reach Greenfield afterwork, have dinner at the Pint, sleep/be romantic, and have a much shorter trip the next day.

If you like beer and don't have the time to stop in Greenfield, then Montreal has you covered. Brutopia, Le Cheval Blanc, L'amere a Boire, and Le Reservoir are all great. You can't throw a rock without hitting a Les Trois Brasseurs (which is a nice chain, but pales next to something like Brutopia). You can find addresses and reviews from the same page where I learned about these places while planning a Montreal trip last summer.

If you are a more sober sort, that's fine too. I had fun being the only English speaker at the table at the Montreal Casino (and I won 400 bucks while the French gramma next to me kept offering me bon-bons). Be careful about confusing the Biosphere and the Biodome. The Biosphere is the sucky one. Don't make the same mistake we did.

If the weather is nice, you can head up Mount Royal. Be prepared for a lot of a lot of lots of stairs. But if you're like us and end up eating and drinking your way around the city, you'll feel better for it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:09 AM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with Blazecock Pileon; I've done Montreal <> New York by Amtrak twice, and there have been gigantic delays both times.
posted by Jeanne at 6:50 AM on February 7, 2008

I don't recommend the train. The track north of NYC is antiquated and the ride is extremely long. The best option, other than renting a car, is probably Greyhound from Albany (quick and not expensive).

Ah, and hope you're planning this for this spring or this summer. Montreal is not at its best in winter...
posted by bluefrog at 7:02 AM on February 7, 2008

Just thought I'd mention that Montreal has had way more than usual snow this year, although temps have been average. A walk on Mount Royal is still possible, but expect to be outnumbered by cross-country skiers and snowshoers and not to go off a few well-trodden paths, or you'll be up to your necks in it.

Getting here: there's actually nothing wrong with the bus. I'm a Montrealer and have travelled down into New England and as far as New York City by bus, and it's always been fine. I've also experienced some delays and problems with the Adirondack, but it does have a superb view over Lake Champlain for part of its run.
posted by zadcat at 7:09 AM on February 7, 2008

If you can manage to pass through Burlington stop at The Vermont Pub and Brewery, it totally rocks.

In Montreal the Pointe-à-Callière Museum is one of the better local history museums I've been to, if you'd be into that sort of thing. There's this crazy multi-screen multimedia show thing that does a whole presentation on the city's history. The Québécois take on North American history is definitely... interesting. And lots of interesting and well-documented exhibits. I was amazed that they could pack so much into a relatively small wierd-looking building.
posted by XMLicious at 7:13 AM on February 7, 2008

There's also a major show on Cuban art at the Museum of Fine Arts – an opportunity to see some work that's unlikely to tour the U.S.

Depending when you're here, you also might want to consider the Montreal High Lights festival at the end of the month, which includes the all-night Nuit Blanche extravaganza.
posted by zadcat at 7:42 AM on February 7, 2008

I live in Vermont and even I wouldn't take the train. The rails in Vermont are, in many places, substandard and this is a total headache in spots as the train has to slow down frequently to 10-15 MPH to go over them. Snow makes this totally sketchy as well. Your best bet is to rent a car. Good ways to do that are via Priceline (check Biddingfortravel to get an idea of what to bid) or some mega search site like (I have actually used them to find decent rates at off-airport lots and the one time I reserved a car that wasn't available I had no problems saying "this isn't the reservation I made, please do not keep me on the hook for this rental"). Also keep a close eye on the weather since we've had a ton of snow up here lately which will affect timing for just about everything.
posted by jessamyn at 7:54 AM on February 7, 2008

Depending where you're staying in Montreal, having a car with you can be a nuisance. You don't need to drive to see Old Montreal or get around downtown, and parking can be like this when we get a snowstorm. And parking signs can look like this...
posted by zadcat at 9:21 AM on February 7, 2008

or this... or this.
posted by zadcat at 9:24 AM on February 7, 2008

I'd recommend renting a car too. I've had good luck getting really cheap rental cars with unlimited milage on low as $20-$30 a day. I'd think from a price and convenience standpoint, this would beat air or rail.
posted by slogger at 10:33 AM on February 7, 2008

Well, heck! I drove from Mtown to Montreal a few years ago. Agreeing with everyone else that it's a beautiful (and fairly straightforward) drive. What about carpooling? With Wesleyan around, I bet you could find some students or recent grads who might be interested in a trip--maybe someone would have a car, or with several people you could afford to split the cost of a rental and just go your own ways once you're in the city.
Sounds silly, but posting a comment here might well get you some responses. Depends how picky you are about company.

I stayed at the hostel Auberge Chez Jean. Not a ton of privacy, but really friendly people. They were celebrating some friends' marriage one night and insisted we join in the carousing. :)

Montreal's a great city to just wander around. Keep your eyes open for the graffiti and murals--fantastic!
posted by hippugeek at 8:12 PM on February 7, 2008

Oh, meant to add: have you checked out bus or trains options through Boston?
posted by hippugeek at 8:15 PM on February 7, 2008

wow, you guys are great.

unfortunately my repeated mentions of a frozen dead of winter montreal fell on deaf ears - she was thinking of us going away for the valentine's day weekend. great idea, not so great past being an idea. thankfully, you guys are so persuasive and knowledgeable that she's coming around. it could be a great weekend, but there are so many variables right now it just doesn't seem smart.

i think that maybe i can persuade her to go on this adventure later on, when the weather is more hospitable and her car less cantankerous. i'm definitely looking forward to visiting, when we do.

thank you all so much for your replies - when we go i'll be referring back to this post among others, without a doubt.
posted by rmrudy at 11:54 PM on February 7, 2008

If she gets impatient again there's the Carnaval de Quebéc (Winter Festival of Quebec, going on right now until Valentine's) and also the Festival Montréal en Lumière (The Montreal High Lights Festival, starting the weekend afterwards.)
posted by XMLicious at 11:18 AM on February 8, 2008

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