Amtrak’s Great Dome Car Returns To The Northeast For Fall Foliage Runs

Amtrak’s Great Dome Car Returns To The Northeast For Fall Foliage Runs

By Korky Vann, The Hartford Courant (TNS)

With Labor Day in the rearview window, fall foliage is just ahead. If you’re like me, you love the great colors of the season, but hate the bumper-to-bumper traffic on backed-up country roads.

There’s an interesting alternative that offers leaf-peepers, train lovers and history buffs an unusual vantage point for some of the Northeast’s most beautiful landscapes.

Passengers aboard Amtrak’s Adirondack service between Albany and Montreal can view upstate New York’s fall foliage from the line’s historic Great Dome car, which returns to the Northeast each year for a six-week run — this year, it started Sept. 25 and runs through Nov. 3.

The vintage Dome car, built in 1955 and the last of its kind in Amtrak’s fleet, features an upper level with windows on all sides (including the roof), which provides unparalleled 360-degree panoramic views of the autumn vistas, says Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

“This route offers postcard views every season, but it’s even more breathtaking in the fall, especially from the Dome,” says Magliari. “The train runs along the cliffs of Lake Champlain and you can see the Green Mountains of Vermont across the lake.”

Travelers also get views of the Hudson River and the Adirondack Mountains.

“Trains go places cars can’t,” says Magliari. “You aren’t going to get these foliage views from the road.”

He’s not kidding. The Adirondack route was named “One of the Top 10 Most Scenic Train Trips in North America” by Conde Nast Traveler.

Amtrak, the New York State Department of Transportation and the National Park Service Trails and Rails program partner to offer the special service and, on most Saturdays and Sundays, Park Service volunteers are aboard and offering commentary on local towns and historic events.

Close to 134,000 passengers traveled the Adirondack route in 2014, and Amtrak expects as many or more this year.

“This particular route is a real favorite,” says Magliari. “Every summer, people start calling for dates.”

The Dome Car operates northbound from Albany to Montreal on Thursdays, Saturdays and Mondays and returns south from Montreal on Fridays, Sundays, and Tuesdays. The Dome car doesn’t operate on Wednesdays.

(You can begin the Adirondack route in New York City’s Penn Station, but the Dome Car isn’t attached to the train until the Albany–Rensselaer Rail Station stop. On the southbound route from Montreal to New York City, the Dome Car is detached from the train at the Albany–Rensselaer Rail Station.)

There’s no surcharge for riding the Adirondack service during this period, but advance reservations are required. Seating in the Great Dome car is unreserved.

“Folks get their regular seats and then they tend to go up and rotate in and out of the Dome car,” says Magliari. “It’s a rolling social experience.”

The train departs from New York City’s Penn Station about 8 a.m. and the Albany–Rensselaer Rail Station at 11:10 a.m. It arrives in Montreal about 7 p.m. (If you’re taking the train all the way to Montreal, don’t forget your passport and be sure to book a hotel room before you leave.)

A one-way ticket from New York City to Montreal starts at $68. Climb aboard at the Albany–Rensselaer Rail Station in New York, (about a two-hour drive from Hartford), and one-way ticket prices start at $58. Book your trip online with the “See New York and Save” promotion and you’ll save 15 percent. Up to two children, aged 2 to 12, travel at half-fare with each adult fare purchased. Information and bookings:

(c)2015 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: J. L. Nelson via Flickr

Free Travel Apps That Save You Money, Time

Free Travel Apps That Save You Money, Time

By Korky Vann, The Hartford Courant (TNS)

After a winter getaway to Florida and the Caribbean, I returned with a new appreciation for what travel apps can do to ease glitches along the way. We organized travel information in the updated Tripit app; found free Wi-Fi with Wifi Finder; and used Cost Split to tally up our tabs at the end of our journey.

If you’re planning vacation or business travel in 2015, download these free travel apps to help you deal with any unexpected bumps in the road.

  • Having trouble keeping track of your trip details? Just forward all those confirmation emails for your flights, hotels, car rentals, and cruises to and Tripit will organize it all into an easy-to-use itinerary for you. The app syncs your travel plans with your online or mobile calendar and will forward details to others. Available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Blackberry.
  • Missed a connection or stuck somewhere unexpectedly overnight? Hotel Tonight, available for iOS, Android, and Windows, lists same-day deals for hotel rooms in more than 500 cities and lets you book from your phone. Hotels are rated Basic, Hip, or Luxe, so you have an idea of what you’re getting. (A new feature now lets you book deals up to seven days in advance. Prices aren’t as good as the same-day deals, but there are savings to be had.)
  • On the flip side, ever booked and paid for a hotel room in advance and then had a last-minute change of plans? Roomer, available for Android and iOS Free, helps you sell that reservation to someone who is looking for a last-minute deal.
  • Stay in touch, but don’t get stuck with huge data bills. Wi-Fi Finder provides a listing of hotels, restaurants, airlines, stores, and other locations across the country, throughout Europe and around the world that offer free Wi-Fi hot spots.
  • Traveling with a group and sharing expenses? Cost Split, for iOS, lets you set up a budget and keep track of who spends what throughout the trip. Each person can add expenses (from their own device), as they go along. At the end of the trip, the app generates a report outlining who owes what and to whom.
  • Here’s one of my travel resolutions — never pay full price for a drink. With Happy Hours, an app for iOS and Android, you can find the best food and drink deals wherever you are in the U.S. Search by day, time, location, and other features, like free Wi-Fi or type of cuisine.
  • Still not sure what is and what’s not allowed in your carry-on bag? To help clear up questions, the Transportation Security Administration has created a free mobile app, “My TSA,” available for iOS and Android. The app includes tips on how to prepare for various security lanes before getting to the airport and a “Can I Bring…” tool, which lets you know what items can and can’t go through security in checked or carry-on baggage. Users just type the name of the item in the search field for information.
  • If you’re driving to Boston, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, or one of more than 100 other cities, download the Best Parking app before you go. Once you arrive at your destination, plug in an address, cross street, neighborhood or attraction, and the app will direct you to the cheapest nearby parking lot. Rates are updated regularly, and links to any available discount coupons are provided. The app also lists airport parking deals. Available for iOS, Android, or BlackBerry users.
  • When you gotta go, you gotta go. Airpnp, (no, that’s not a typo), lets residences and businesses rent out their bathrooms to people who need to use them. You plug in your location and the iOS app lists nearby restrooms and the charge to use them. Payment is made through the app. Charges generally range from $1 to $5 per, well, tinkle. Users rate their experience afterward so you can see how each restroom stacks up.
  • Waze, a traffic and navigation app for iOS and Android, posts real-time traffic info from drivers in your area. The app alerts you to any accidents, road hazards, road, or bridge closures or traffic jams ahead, posts area gas prices so you can find the cheapest fuel and lets you coordinate arrival and departures times when you’re traveling with friends.

Photo: David Shumaker via Flickr