I had been wanting to take an overnight train journey on Amtrak for a long time. I fondly remember the sleeper cars I took across Europe during my younger years and I wanted to see how things compared on Amtrak. When my friend Susan and I decided to visit Atlanta, I figured it would be an opportune time to take the train and check it out.
Similar to airlines, it’s hard to get a direct train to your destination in most instances, so we would catch the Northeast Regional in Norfolk and take a ride up to DC, see some of the sights, and then ride the Crescent down to Atlanta overnight, arriving by mid-morning.
Since Amtrak was doing track work south of Atlanta during the week, I was able to book one of the sought after sleeper car bedrooms with a little more than two weeks notice. The total came to $615 in total for two people, which was definitely a steal as far as Amtrak sleeper cars go.
Catching a Ride to DC
Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 84
Norfolk to Washington, DC
January 24, 2018
Depart: 6:10 AM
Arrive: 10:39 AM
Car: Amfleet I
I’m no stranger to Amtrak’s Northeast Regional, having taken a few trips to NYC over the years. This was my first time taking an Amtrak train that would land me somewhere else though, and I was excited to experience the sleeper car on the second half of my journey.
We arrived shortly before 6AM, walked down the platform, and made our way onboard.
With Norfolk having a low platform, only two of the doors were open, as the crew had to put down step stools for passengers to reach the first step to climb aboard.
Everyone sat down in the car they entered on, so thinking it might get crowded, we moved to the next car and had it all to ourselves for the first hour of the journey.
The ride was rather uneventful overall. We departed on time and passed through central Virginia as the sun came up and eventually had a few more people join us in our car by the time we reached Richmond. We picked up speed and made a timely arrival at Union Station in Washington, DC.
Checking Out Some New Places in DC
Once in DC, I left it up to Susan to pick where we went, since I had seen a lot of DC and it was her first time exploring the city.
First up was the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, one of the few places I actually had never seen yet. Inside, we found some really cool pieces, including a sculpture made entirely out of tin foil.
As it was restaurant week, we decided to check out a special deal they had going for lunch at Del Frisco’s steakhouse. After lunch, we decided to stop by the Tesla store, where I got my first chance to sit in the driver’s seat of a Model S.
As we headed towards the National Mall, we made a stop at the Chinatown Archway for a photo. I still can’t believe I hadn’t seen this on all my trips to DC thus far.
We made a quick stop at the White House before heading south towards the Washington Monument.
We stopped on the mall to take one of those cliche pictures that everyone does.
Obviously, a trip to DC wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the National Air and Space Museum too.
Once we’d walked enough, we hopped aboard the Metro and made our way down the line to the Wheaton Station, where you can take a ride on the tallest escalator in the Western Hemisphere.
After seeing as much of the city as we could, we made our way back to Union Station to wait our the remainder of our layover at the Acela Lounge.
Amtrak Acela Lounge
After passing through an unassuming set of doors, we made our way inside and grabbed a seat to wait for our train to board.
Although it’s nothing too fancy, it’s certainly a pleasant respite from the hustle and bustle in the main terminal.
We grabbed some drinks and snacks and waited for our train to board.
One of the biggest benefits of waiting in the lounge is that once your train arrives, the staff will come get you, take you out a side door, and walk you to your train before the general public make it to the platform. Although we had an assigned room, it still was nice to not have to wait in line at the gate.
Overnight to Atlanta
Amtrak Crescent Train 19
Washington, DC to Atlanta
January 24, 2018
Depart: 6:30 PM
Arrive: 8:13 AM
Car: Viewliner I
Seat: Viewliner Bedroom
We were greeted at the door by two friendly Amtrak crew members and made our way aboard.
Although the room was definitely a tad smaller in person than in the pictures I had seen on the Amtrak website, it certainly had enough space and storage to fulfill our needs on this overnight trip.
Once we got settled in, our attendant came by to show us all the features of our cabin and announce that we were welcome to make our way to the dining car at our leisure, as our train had a light load this evening.
Once underway, we headed over to the dining car for dinner. Lucky for us, this train had one of the recently renovated dining cars, so we were in for a real treat.
Our server came by to introduce himself and tell us about the menu. One awesome perk of booking a sleeper is that it’s considered first class, so all your meals are included.
Since price was no object, we both ordered the steak and seafood cake along with a salad.
Overall, the food was incredible. As the crew has a full kitchen at their disposal, everything can be prepared fresh, unlike most things you order on a plane.
We were both quite stuffed at this point, but we went ahead and ordered dessert as well. I went with a delicious pecan tart, which turned out to be nearly on par with something that my mother could whip up.
Finally, it was nearly time for bed. With all the walking and eating we’d done, I was glad I’d booked a sleeper car so we could get some semi-decent sleep. I summoned our attendant, who quickly came by and made up the beds for us and showed us how to use everything.
I will say that I remember sleeping better on my train journeys when I was younger, as I awoke nearly every time we passed a major switch along the way. Nonetheless, I definitely enjoyed the novelty of falling asleep in a bunk on a train.
We awoke early for the 6AM breakfast service, the one and only seating time, as we were scheduled for an early morning arrival in Atlanta, and due to track work, that would be the final stop.
We made our selections and the chef went to work preparing our meal. For this meal service, like most on Amtrak, we were seated with two other passengers; a lovely couple who had traveled the entire country by train and spoke fondly of their journeys.
Just like dinner, the breakfast was fantastic. Certainly better than every breakfast I’ve had on a plane, possibly with the exception of this one.
I had a bit of free time, so I went decided to test out my new GoPro Karma Grip and film a tour of our accommodations.
Although we were due to arrive in Atlanta at 8:13 AM, we had multiple delays. Ordinarily, I would be bothered, but this just meant more time in our sleeper and a quick nap for me.
By 10:30 AM, we were finally in Atlanta. We made our way to our hotel and then were off to the Georgia Aquarium for a shark dive!